Like most of us, I wasn't always vegan. In fact, far from it. I was an unapologetic meat eater.
A meatless plate was as good as an empty one, as far as I was concerned.
I also grew up being told the animals on my fork were different from the animals I was supposed to care for. I wasn't told why, just that they're different.
After all, that's just the way it was, the way it had always been to me, the harsh reality of the circle of life, I was told.
There was a disconnect so deep, that it's frightening to look back now.
My first connection
At the end of 2016, still unconsciously eating animals, I decided to leave my corporate job in Australia, throw what I could into a backpack and, as cliche as it sounds, "find myself" out in the big unknown.
It was 6 months later I found myself in dizzying India where I made my first connection.
You see, going vegan wasn't a sudden epiphanic moment of clarity for me. It was a series of connections occurring over time.
In South Asia, it's common to see uncooked, bloody animal flesh laid out in the sun for hours on end. Eating meat is a health risk and vegetarianism is widespread throughout the colorful country.
Against my learned instinct to eat meat, I decided to go temporarily vegetarian in India... for health reasons.
I was apprehensive about the decision, so you can imagine my surprise when I ate the best food of my life as a short-term vegetarian in India. In fact, I spent the following 6 weeks in Nepal as a vegetarian too and loved every minute of it.
I realized how meat doesn't make a meal.
My time in South Asia took me like a chaotic whirlwind sweeping through, dizzying me in the moment, and dropping me off with somehow more clarity, more life. But it's easy to slip into old habits, and I left Asia for one of the most eat-heavy regions I'd ever visited, Eastern Europe, and animals were, once again on my plate.
Despite this, India and Nepal introduced me to the fact that vegetarian meals could be complete, filling, and tastier than I ever knew possible. I didn't know it at the time, but this would be the first of many connections that would change my life forever.
Exposure to veganism
Traveling has a wonderful way of contorting the world so we can see it from new perspectives. This allows us to compare and question the worldview given to us. We can then make life decisions based on choice not by pre-determined family values, culture, and social norms.
The next connection made was a subtle one. It was exposure.
The more I traveled, the more people I met. I met more vegans while traveling than I had met in my entire life. Suddenly, a lifestyle that had felt to me impossible, was being actively lived by those around me.
While I told myself "I couldn't do that" friends and acquaintances did it. While I ordered a beef burger, they ordered a veggie burger - I was envious of their ethics and commitment, but fear was in my head, separating them from me, saying: "but I can't do that".
While I didn't sway right away, this exposure to veganism was an important connection in my vegan journey.
Asking the difficult questions
Veganism seemed to keep popping up in my life. I discovered my best friend back in Australia had gone vegan more than a year ago. He told me how his performance at the gym had improved as well as his overall health. He was the last person I would have expected to go vegan, but he had taken the leap I was always too scared to - and he was thriving.
I decided to give up meat again, but this time I wanted to look into uncomfortable topics I'd always avoided.
My whole life I was ignoring an internal battle I'd swallowed away: Was I causing pain and suffering to animals when I didn't have to? The answer was, of course, yes.
As soon as I opened this door, I couldn't go back.
It only took two weeks of cutting out meat to also give up dairy, and eggs and become vegan. It was like giving up meat allowed me to explore topics like factory farming, health, environment guilt-free. I learned as much as I could about the industries, and it only emboldened my resolve to go vegan.
This time it was different from India. I suddenly knew in my heart what was right for myself, for the animals, and for the Earth.
Everything connected in a maelstrom of what's right and wrong. I felt, for the first time in my life, that my actions were aligned with my views. And it was liberating.
My first month as a vegan
Just like that, I was suddenly vegan.
But it was odd. I felt like I'd been vegan my entire life, just never acted on it. And as soon as I did, there was this alignment where my actions matched my morals. I'd never felt so good.
However, I wasn't prepared. A lifetime consuming meat and dairy had blocked out all the wonderful and nutritious foods I've since come to love.
But back then, I didn't know what to eat.
Luckily, a quick search online revealed thousands of easy vegan recipes and I soon learned how easy and delicious eating plant-based really was.
The only thing I really missed was cheese. That craving lasted 3 weeks and then dissipated like a nasty virus leaving my system. Even years on those cravings haven't returned.
I became more conscious of my health and the vitamins I should be taking, realizing on my meat-eating diet I was missing numerous vitamins, and as a vegan, I would want to supplement B12. If you're interested in quality vegan vitamins, you can get 10% off when purchasing from Future Kind with the code BEKIND10.
Let's talk about poop!
The sudden boost of fiber in my diet resulted in a worrying amount of gas. I was concerned this was my new normal, but within a month all returned to normal. But I can't say the same about my toilet habits.
I didn't realize how accustomed I'd become to being constipated on a meat-heavy diet. In fact, it was normal for me to skip days without "going number 2". I swear I was on track for bowel cancer.
From my second day of going vegan food passed fast. I felt the difference immediately, no longer sluggish and tied down by meat sitting in my stomach.
Traveling as a vegan
There's no doubt vegan travelers encounter more challenges than vegans at home. It comes with the territory, and I learned quickly to try and embrace the challenges rather than fight them.
Some challenges include:
- Limited food options in some cultures
- Language barriers
- Trusting non-vegan locals to veganize meals
- Missing out on non-vegan cultural food and experiences (FOMO)
Limited food options in some cultures:
Some of my best travel experiences have revolved around scoping out great vegan eats. Whether that means exploring new places or speaking to new people, finding delicious vegan meals in difficult destinations is incredibly rewarding.
Explaining veganism to a person who speaks no English and has no concept of not eating meat, dairy, or eggs, means you're traveling right. It can be frustrating and it won't always work out, but these are the stories we remember, the reason we travel. On the other hand, there's plenty of vegan travel apps that can help to translate common vegan definitions and terms into other languages.
Trusting non-vegan locals to veganize meals
Trust is a major part of travel. You can triple check the person taking your order understands, but you never truly know. The best thing you can do is relax, do all you can, and let it be. Stressing doesn't solve anything.
Missing out on non-vegan cultural food and experiences (FOMO)
One of my biggest fears going vegan was I would miss out on so many cultural experiences that revolved around non-vegan food. But to my surprise, I simply didn't crave those experiences anymore due to my value shift.
When a self-indulging experience comes with a greater ethical cost it loses its appeal.
The decision to go vegan changed my life in more ways than I could imagine.
The consciousness that comes with every single meal unfurls out into other areas of your life. Being vegan has led me down many paths and I've never felt more love, hope, and alignment than I do right now.
Are you thinking about going vegan? Check out our Why Go Vegan page.