I wasn't vegan when I started traveling.
When transitioning to a vegan lifestyle, I was worried about the impacts on travel, particularly budgeting and local-centric style of traveling, which is my passion.
My mind jumped to negative questions: "Will I miss out on local food?" and "Will it affect my social life?"
Surprisingly, I found that going vegan amplified travel for me. My doubts turned into rewards and a whole new adventure opened up.
I'm not saying it's always easy, travel never is. However, as someone who has traveled both vegan and non-vegan, I can say without a doubt, vegan travel is more rewarding.
The benefits of traveling vegan
Scoping out food
Before I was vegan, eating was too convenient. I could eat absolutely anywhere, so I would explore less when it came to food.
Since being vegan, I've eaten at vegan buffets tucked away in Buddhist temples and traveled to city suburbs I would never have seen otherwise.
There's a new element of adventure when it comes to food and it's always exciting.
Staying healthier & avoiding food poisoning
I like to eat adventurously. As a meat-eater in Asia, that is almost always accompanied by food poisoning at some point.
As an omnivorous traveler, I was often sick on the road.
By avoiding meat, dairy and eggs, I'm almost completely avoiding food poisoning altogether. In fact, I haven't been sick since going vegan, besides catching Dengue fever, mosquito-transmitted illness.
This depends on the traveler, as specialty plant-based restaurants can be expensive.
But, in most cases, eating a local vegan option will be more affordable than the meat option.
In parts of Thailand, I'll often replace meat with tofu and/or cashew nuts, and pay less for local foods.
Sure it may sound cliche, but being a conscious traveler changed everything for me.
When you start to care and develop an awareness of everything you're putting into your body, it expands into other areas of your life.
Whether it's ethical, environmental or health awareness, I've become so much more aware of my individual impact on the places I visit.
Learning local alternatives
As a meat-eater dinner was a decision between chicken, beef, or pork.
As a vegan, I became more creative with my meal choices. I started to learn more about local ingredients, learned all the incredible things that can be done with coconuts, from ice cream, yogurt, cream and curries.
I've been more inspired to cook my own meals, attending local cooking classes to learn recipes, and how to veganism certain dishes.
Difficulties of traveling vegan
With all that said, it's absolutely not easy being a vegan traveler.
I've felt frustrated at times and encountered many instances where I have been served non-vegan food.
I learned of ways to communicate my need effectively; I learned local alternatives I could ask for, and everything became easier.
Here are some things that make traveling as a vegan challenging:
Limited options in airports
I don't think anyone enjoys eating at airports, but I've found them especially frustrating as a vegan.
Mainstream junk food options leave little to a vegan imagination, and I've definitely had instances of settling for junk food fries and coffee.
Larger airports usually have veggie options, but smaller airports can be a real pain.
If you're like me and you like to roam outside of the tourist hubs to find amazing local food, you'll no doubt encounter times when you can't communicate you're vegan.
I was once served chicken in Kuala Lumpur and told it was oyster mushrooms. I had to ask the chef to confirm it was chicken.
Luckily, there's a wide range of vegan travel apps available nowadays, which can help translate vegan needs into any language.
Going hungry on airplanes
Depending on the airline, you won't always get a vegan meal option unless you pre-book (which I never do).
So, if you haven't pre-booked a vegan meal, packing food for long haul flights is essential.
Many airlines are introducing great vegan meals into their range.
Overall, the rewards of traveling vegan far outweigh the convenience non-vegans have.
The perspective vegan travel has given me is invaluable.
I wouldn't trade it for the world.