Traveling as a vegetarian can be tough, but it can also be a delicious adventure. Follow our tips to make being a vegetarian abroad easy.
1) Decide before you leave…
Figure out before you leave what leniency you feel comfortable with. I’ve met vegans who become vegetarians while traveling. We personally allow ourselves to eat fresh fish while traveling. This is completely up to you and how strict you want to take it. Maybe you’re wiling to eat meat occasionally to sample famous local dishes? Either way, try not to beat yourself up too much if you end breaking the rules once in a while. Chances are you won’t be able to be as picky as you are at home. Constantly obsessing over finding out if certain foods are made with chicken broth or beef stock will leave you with a headache and drive your travel-mates crazy.
2) Plan ahead.
If you know that you’ll be taking a 32-hour overnight bus and will be limited to the food at the truck stop, pack a dinner instead. Get creative with local fresh produce. Think about some nonperishable snacks you can keep in your backpack for emergencies. While traveling through Latin America, we had a tub of peanut butter on us at all times. Spread on bread or rolled into a tortilla, it was a (very delicious) lifesaver!
3) Research local dishes before you arrive.
Some countries absolutely embrace vegetarians, while others may be a bit more difficult. Most countries will have some sort of local vegetarian dish. If not, there will most likely be local dishes that can be tweaked to be vegetarian.
4) Learn how to say more than just “I’m a vegetarian” in the local language.
This may seem like a no-brainer but having a few key phrases in your pocket will go a long way. In some parts of the world, being a vegetarian is as foreign as being an alien. We’ve encountered people who think vegetarian means no red meat, or eating just a little bit of ham. Learning the words for chicken, pork, etc. will help you communicate your point and identify on a menu what you can or can’t eat.
5) Be flexible.
Just like every other aspect of traveling, not everything is going to go according to plan. We were volunteering in the south of Mexico when we were invited to have lunch with a local indigenous family. They served us heaping bowls of chicken soup. We could have politely declined and attempted to explain the ethics of vegetarianism and the reality of factory farming for the next half hour. But considering our lunch was recently clucking around their backyard, I don’t think it would have translated. Instead we were grateful that they were sharing with us and ate with smiles on our faces. Just with any other part of traveling, be respectful and recognize that for many people, choosing to exclude certain food from your diet is a luxury.