Tips for the Traveling Vegan

by Paola Deocampo Jackson

December 2013.  A hardcore training program was set to begin in January for 2014 competing as a new Plant Built Team Member.  My husband and I decided to go on vacation in Freeport, Grand Bahama, early in the month, while most everyone else was Christmas shopping (honestly, we’re last-minute shoppers anyway!).  Because of the time frame we chose, there were no big crowds at the beach and no reservations required at the popular restaurants.  This was my last chance to indulge a bit (sugar!) and be lazy (beach time!).

That said, I still faced challenges as a vegan in an unfamiliar town.  I usually do a little research before traveling to a new destination, but I only found enough time to take a quick glance at before packing up and heading to the airport.  I was happy to find a fairly new vegetarian store aptly named, “It’s About Time,” and a take-out & juice bar called “Livity,” a local favorite.

Feeling incredibly lazy for the first few days, we thought we’d hold off on venturing out of the resort and look for vegan-friendly options in our vicinity, instead.  This proved to be quite a challenge.  I have found that, when traveling to a country that caters to and/or has adopted the Western diet, vegetarian options are incredibly scarce in and around popular resorts.  I ate a whole lot of oily potatoes and rice until we finally rented a scooter and found the vegetarian store and take-out place, which were fantastic!!  We got lucky there.  Unfortunately, you won’t always find accommodating destinations.   So, here are some simple tips for the next time you’re on vacation:

Do your research.  Happy Cow, Yelp, and Google, are my favorite sources for finding veg-friendly eats.  I have found the best restaurants through Happy Cow, from Dallas to Athens, Greece!  Check it out, if you haven’t already!

If your search comes up with zero results, embrace the fact that you will likely have to ask a lot of questions before you place your order at the restaurant.  “Does your pasta have eggs in it?”  “Are your beans cooked in pork fat?”  “What kind of broth is in your ‘vegetable soup’?”  “Can I order this portabello mushroom sandwich without cheese and mayonnaise?”  If they look at you like you’re crazy (which happens to me a lot), tell them you’re allergic.  They’ll suddenly take you seriously, because who would want a customer going into anaphylactic shock during lunch?  Bad for business.  I don’t say this to encourage that we hide our values as vegans and vegetarians.  Sometimes, we must take certain measures to ensure no one sneaks animal products onto our plate.  It is a bit sad that some establishments are not respectful of an individual’s dietary preferences.  As a dedicated lover of earthlings, I do what it takes to keep them off of my plate and out of my beauty products and clothing.  If they ask you what happens when you ingest animal products like dairy, tell them the truth; acne breakout, constipation, hormone spike, high cholesterol, and almost immediately, a crying fit (from the thought of having eaten any part of an animal).

Visit their local grocery store, especially if your hotel room has a kitchenette or even just a small refrigerator.  I did just that.  When it was time for a snack, I always had a peanut butter sandwich, carrots, and fruit to munch on.  And when we found the vegetarian store, we stocked up on Tofurky Deli Slices and vegan cheese.

Keep it sexy.  Find out if the hotel has a gym or planned activities.  I was lucky enough to have booked a hotel that had a fully equipped gym, spin room, and group fitness classes.  So, there were days in which I was actually able to put my calories to good use!  If you don’t have access to a fitness center, google a hotel room workout routine.  Body weight squats, pushups, cobra, superman, crunches, planks!  Let your body be your gym!  Your swimsuit will thank you.  If you’re not on a tropical island, exercise to keep your energy levels up!  It works!

Last, but never least, have fun!  You’re on vacation!  Yes, you will have to take a little time to plan meals and anticipate challenges, but it takes mere minutes.  After that, you’re on the beach or on a snorkeling tour or on a double-decker bus taking pictures of the Acropolis.  Enjoy, because you are being good to yourself and to your fellow earthlings.

So now, I’m back home preparing for a great year of healthy, sugar-free eating and intense training.  Here’s to a fabulous year of being good to ourselves!  2014, we’re ready!!




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