Have you ever faced a situation where you had to travel with a vegan friend? Or as a vegan, having to travel with your friends who are not vegetarians, much less a vegan?
How are you to stay true to your lifestyle while not troubling your friends around you and ruffling their feathers the wrong way/stepping on their toes?
Well, as a vegan, this is the challenge I face every day. But when it comes to travelling in a foreign land with friends, this difficulty becomes more pronounced.
When one goes on a vacation with a friend(s), it is usually for the sake of unwinding and enjoying oneself.
But how can one unwind and enjoy oneself when there is a lack of vegan food?
Many times, friendships turn sour when one party stays stubborn to one’s cause. 2 years back, as an aspiring young vegan, I have stepped on some of my friends’ toes due to my naive stubbornness. 😦
Since then, I’ve learnt that one must be flexible when it comes to eating vegan. It is important to know where are the places one can get vegan food, especially in a foreign land.
Below is the rule-of-five I complied based on my personal experience:
- Choose friends to travel with wisely
- Choose country: Do your research before heading out
- Specify type of meal when getting air tickets / booking tours (VGML)
- Learn how to speak the local language to request for vegetarian/vegan food
- Be adaptable!
1. Choose friends to travel with wisely
This is the most important criterion: it is very important to travel with friends who are able to take all sorts of nonsense from you (Read: high tolerance level).
Not all your friends can take you at your worst.
Especially since in Asia, where roadside food (usually consisting of meat) is readily available at a very cheap price, it becomes more challenging for one to resist hunger pangs while walking about with friends.
Having just arrived back from a holiday in Korea with a friend, I realised the utmost importance of the choice of a travel buddy. As an individual who enjoys her independence, it is difficult for me to find a travel buddy who is able to fit with my character.
Our trip may be filled with ups-and-downs, not made easy with the extremely cold weather, but we were able to tolerate and appreciate each other’s personal quirks.
Although I did not say this to you directly, I am very thankful to you, my dear friend, for being so accommodating to go vegan and enjoy almost half the meals for our trip on our free-and-easy days at the same place. Thank you Prav! 🙂
2. Choose country: Do your research before heading out
When in a foreign land, one must know where the vegan “gems” are located. Otherwise, travelling would be miserable.
It was out of personal interest for the Korean language and culture that I wanted to head to Korea.
South Korea is not a place where vegan food is easily available. The typical korean signature dishes, for example, kimchi (김치), is not vegan as the traditional and common recipe uses anchovy/fish sauce.
I’ve been modifying and preparing my own Korean food at home with reference to recipes found online.
This dish is known as Mung Bean Sprout side dish (숙주나물) which I adapted from Maangchi using Soya Bean sprouts.
Also, an international franchise for vegan food (originated from Taiwan) is Loving Hut.
Need vegan food? No problem. Simply search for “Loving Hut, XYZ country name” to get hits for where the locations of Loving Hut outlets in that particular country. Or you can simply click here for the list of Loving Hut chain restaurants in the world.
3. Specify type of meal when getting air tickets / booking tours (VGML)
When booking air tickets, always specify your meal preference. The meal code for a (strict) vegetarian meal is VGML.
Like me, if you obtain your travel tickets through an agent, simply request for them to include VGML for the meals when they book your tickets.
A good point about having VGML is that your food is always served to you first. And can be surprisingly delicious too, such as this vegan tofu meal served on Thai Airways to Kathmandu, Nepal.
If one decides to go on a tour, your tour guide (depending on your luck – thankfully I met an awesome tour guide in South Korea), will ensure that your meals are specially seen to without any worry! 🙂
That’s us in Jeju demonstrating to the couples who wish to conceive a son on how to achieve their wish. 😉
4. Learn how to speak the local language to request for vegetarian/vegan food
It is always good to be able to speak a bit of the local language to be able to request for specially prepared meals.
Even though I took basic Korean language in university, I still relied on a Lonely Planet phrasebook for the essential phrases such as the one below:
Do not fret if you are unable to read the Korean language, there is a phonetic guide (in orange) at the side.
One tip: I picked up phrases from helpful waiters/waitresses in Thai language when I was in Bangkok to be able to request for a specially prepared strict vegetarian meal of Pad Thai, which was delicious!
5. Be adaptable!
If sincere effort has been made to prepare vegetarian meals but due to some miscommunication (may be due to language barrier), egg/dairy/honey/meat/seafood is present in your dish, does one insist on re-preparing the meal again?
Personally, I feel that it’s best to acknowledge the effort and evaluate if one should do that. The dish may be discarded if sent back to the kitchen and one will actually be wasting food. Which is against the principle of a vegan lifestyle? Yes?
In emergencies, go for fruits. They are healthy and nutritious. 😉
*I’ve learnt that being a vegan is a lifelong learning process. Travelling to a new country is fun, if one maintains an open mind. Have you encountered a situation where your meal was mistakenly prepared and served? What did you do? Do leave a comment below on your experience(s). All views are welcome! 🙂