Vegan Travel 101
BY: Crystal Lee
Crystal Lee is a freedom-loving traveller and blogger for the Vegan Expression channel. She specializes in making videos and writing articles on vegan topics. She hopes that through more vegan related texts and videos, more people can understand and adopt a vegan lifestyle, in order to improve climate change, health, animal rights and other issues.
Eight years ago, I managed to travel alone for volunteer work in exchange for free accommodation.
Since then, my world has never been the same because travelling has become part of my life. Every year I go travelling and get some fresh air so that I can better reflect on my life and clear my thoughts. Like most people, my travelling consists largely of eating, drinking, playing and shopping. It was not until I encountered veganism four years ago that I found out that the choices we make in our daily life, whether at home or on a trip, can cause harm to the environment and to animals. This includes food, and the things we buy such as clothes, bags, souvenirs and entertainment. I became a vegan and started to combine my vegan diet and travel. I eat only plants, reject fur, use environmentally-friendly products and restrain over-consumption. Like normal tourism, vegan travel can be exercised in many ways: group tours, independent tours, backpacking, volunteer tours etc. There are many vegan tours and vegan cruises abroad. There are group tours in Taiwan specifically for vegetarians. Hong Kong also has tours that can arrange vegetarian meals according to your needs.
For independent tours or backpacking, you will have to rely on yourself. But don't worry, with the travel tools mentioned below, you can easily create a unique and sustainable trip for yourself, your family and friends.
Eating is the first thing you need to organize on the road. A good meal can replenish your energy to walk longer distances and also cheer you up. That’s why what you eat is so important. Happy Cow is a platform for vegetarians and vegans, with web and mobile versions available, that provides vegetarian food guides all over the world. It is carefully divided into vegan, vegetarian and vegetarian friendly restaurants. The database of this platform is still limited, and we could not find information in some of the less popular countries such as Cuba.
Therefore, I also use Google Maps to plan my tours. Although Google Maps does not differentiate between normal or vegetarian restaurants, it actually lists many vegetarian friendly restaurants. Just search “vegan” or “vegetarian” and the map will list all the vegetarian and vegan friendly restaurants nearby. Some restaurants don’t look like they serve vegetarian food, but they show up in the search results. When this happens, I first look at the photos, then read the reviews, and if I still can’t confirm whether vegetarian food is available, I will visit in person. Many times there are surprises!
Another relatively new platform - abillionveg - is my recent discovery. Similar to “Happy Cow”, it is also a platform for vegetarians and vegans, and has both web and mobile versions. The difference is that apart from searching for vegetarian restaurants, it also has reviews for each dish at these restaurants.
This gives you a better idea of what kind of food is on offer, which is especially important in countries where vegetarian and vegan food are scarce.
Accommodation is the second priority on a vegan trip. Apart from the well-known hotels, you can also look for vegan B&Bs or vegan-friendly B&Bs in the Happy Cow platform, and my go-to is Airbnb. Even though it doesn’t say how vegan friendly the hotel is, its powerful database allows me to find remote accommodation. You can even find some very special accommodation such as tree houses, caravans, tents, etc.
If you are on a long backpacking trip and want to save money by cooking, then B&Bs are better than hotels because most of them have a kitchen provided. In unfamiliar countries, you can also use the travel tools mentioned above to easily find your nearest grocery store to buy veggies and sauces etc. It is worth mentioning that the abillionveg platform has a lot of reviews of different products, and when you are thinking of buying something unfamiliar, you might want to read what other users have to say before buying.
You can even find a lot of vegan recipes on the Happy Cow and abillionveg platforms. Learning to cook local dishes using local ingredients is one of the fun things to do on a vegan trip.
03 Shopping and Entertainment
One of the core values of vegan travel is that it does not include animal consumption. This is why, in addition to a plant-based diet, we refuse to participate in any activities that profit from the use of animals. This includes zoos, aquariums, circuses, bullfights, elephant rides and so on. So what else can you do on a trip? If you want to be close to animals, go to an animal sanctuary, not a zoo. This is a great activity for kids and adults to see how animals live. I have been to an animal sanctuary in Mexico.
Taipei, the most popular travel destination for Hong Kong people, also has visiting days in animal sanctuaries.
Want to shop for souvenirs? You can choose to participate in a local vegan or handmade market, which offers things with more local flavour and souvenir value than those found in the big shopping malls.
Vegfest is a global vegan market, currently held regularly in 30 countries. In neighbouring Taiwan, there is also an annual "Herbivore Party" and there is even a Meatless Market held irregularly.
The response is very hot! On a vegan trip you need not give up activities that you enjoy.
04 After your vegan holiday....
When you practice vegan travel, the tools and online resources you use actually come from the travel experiences of your fellow vegetarians and vegans. Sharing on those platforms can help other tourists.
Sharing a new restaurant not available on the platform is like a new mission unlocked.
Also, I like to create an exclusive vegan maps to record the restaurants, attractions and interesting places on the road, so that we can share them with interested travellers. It is a fun thing on a vegan trip.
You can also help non-profit organizations around the world when you share or comment. You can raise funds for their animal welfare partners by sharing and commenting on abillionveg. It is very meaningful.
Everyone has a unique reason for travelling. For me, I would like to give myself a precious gift, or like most people, I want to gain something from a trip. Either way, I would recommend trying vegan travel because this new attitude to travel offers a lot of unprecedented choices. By using the travel tools and techniques mentioned above, I’m sure you’ll have more ideas and imagination about travel.