By Chantal Houde
Connecting with fellow travellers or locals over a delicious meal; finding comfort in a favourite dish found miles from home; courageously trying something for the first time; marvelling at the flavours of authentic versions of staples you’ve come to take for granted…these are all experiences of foreign cuisine that travellers revel in.
Food invariably holds meaning, and, for some, can be one of the biggest considerations when planning a trip and choosing a destination. For vegans and plant-based eaters, however, dietary concerns may traditionally have proven to be more limiting to travel plans than excitement-provoking.
Though “alternative” diets may have been left out of the travel foodie culture for many years, as awareness has increased around environmental degradation, human health implications, animal rights issues, and spiritual disconnection associated with meat consumption, the trend towards plant-based diets has grown into a well-established lifestyle choice and, as evidenced by the increase in plant-based options, a more widely accepted approach to eating.
Full disclosure: I am not a full-time vegan or vegetarian at the time of writing. I have been in the past, but since I first and foremost encourage everyone to tune in to what works best for their own body, I do eat fish and meat on occasion because it works for me. I consider myself a flexitarian and am a huge proponent of organic, plant-based eating at home and abroad, and have followed a vegan diet while travelling.
Labels aside, my travel experiences have actually been a catalyst in my decision to increase the amounts of plants in my diet, both so I can feel healthy and energized enough to do everything I wish to while I’m on a trip, and also thanks to the broader perspective I gained of the effects that excessive consumption has in all corners of our planet. As many travellers know, by seeing the world, we often see our own impact in it more clearly.
In the ten years since I started travelling around the world, I’ve not only made changes in my own eating patterns but have been happy to see signs of a shift in the global foodscape, with an increase in the number and quality of plant-based restaurants, products, and services available.
Melbourne is home to many well-established vegan, vegetarian and even raw food restaurants ranging from high-end dining options to a non-profit that allows you to ‘pay as you feel’ for your vegan meal.
Many vegan travel spots have extensive menus offering opportunities both to try new veggie dishes and to get your favourite standbys.
Ubud also has a wide range of options available at great prices. You can drink fresh vegetable and fruit juice and dine on inventive plant-based meals and decadent desserts every day for a small fraction of what you’d pay at home.
Raw Food Bali runs ‘cooking’ lessons, so you can add some new recipes to your repertoire or prepare nourishing meals for yourself with local produce in your Airbnb kitchen.
In Mexico City, the meatless movement is catching on quickly and in the trendier, more tourist-oriented neighbourhoods like Condesa and Roma Norte, small casual vegan spots seem to be around every corner.
These range from basic international options like falafel and veggie burgers to adaptations of Mexican favourites – think spiced cauliflower or sweet potato-filled tacos!
Even smaller towns and airports around the world, two notoriously difficult places to access wholesome foods, are beginning to adapt and may offer plant-based options (beyond a garden salad) on request.
Tour operators are embracing the change as well: in 2018 tourism industry leader Intrepid Travel launched ‘Vegan Food Adventures’ in India, Thailand, and Italy, three sure-to-be-delicious destinations.
These eight-day tours include some of the expected sights and throw-in special activities like a vegan Thai cooking class in Chaing Mai, market visits in Jaipur, and an organic farm-to-table vegan feast in the Tuscan hills.
Other companies, like Vegan on the Map, have been in business for several years offering vegan travel and tours in diverse locations and for all activity levels.
You can ski the Alps, walk your way through France, safari in Kenya, learn about Iranian traditions and much more while enjoying exclusively plant-based meals.
Whatever type or length of tour you’re looking for, you’ll find an option that allows you to eat well, connect with like-minded people, and learn more about vegan lifestyles around the world in these well-established tours.
It’s clear that the future of food will increasingly be plant-based. As wellness travellers we know we need to consider not only our own well-being, but that of the systems that support us and our explorations, including the global environment and the people, animals, and plants that coexist with us.
Luckily, staying healthy and acting responsibly while still seeing the world and enjoying world-class eating is becoming easier all the time as opportunities for plant-based tourism and vegan travel grow.
Chantal Houde is a yoga teacher, communications freelancer and reiki practitioner in Ottawa, Canada. She is currently completing her yoga therapy training and is passionate about nature, wellness, travel, and healthy food.
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