Contrary to popular belief, there are many vegans who don’t like to talk about being vegan. I don’t think other than through necessity I’ve ever started a conversation about it. I try very hard to ensure that as small a part of my lifestyle and personality as my love of cartoons or partiality for a game of table football doesn’t dominate my identity. And yet, it seems to be a topic I’ve discussed at every meal and with every new person I have met for the last 18 months. The introduction often goes: “This is Sam, he’s one of them vegans.”
Replies to this can vary from a reassuring (I think) sentiments like “you look well for a vegan” and “you’ll feel better soon”, to my new acquaintance getting cross with me for something I technically, and very specifically, haven’t done, which my mum always said would never happen.
As Billie eats everything, at times in some questionable combinations, we’re often asked how we manage day to day. The short answer is that we’ve never allowed it to be an issue.
Whilst surfing the web (I’m also old before my time, but nobody seems to lead with that fact) to find a name for mixed diet relationships such as Billie’s and mine, I instead came across a lot of debate as to whether such pairings could, and should, even exist. To this I would argue that differences from oneself is a large part of what makes a companion interesting, and agreeing with each other all the time sounds incredibly dull. I personally have spent so long asking others to accept my dietary choice as something which does not affect them that to do so to others seems unnecessarily hypocritical. If all other elements of your personalities align and complement each other well, it’s no more divisive than any other difference for a couple to overcome. In fact, trying foods together that we never would have alone is one of the most fun, and delicious, parts of our relationship.
This is of course easier to deal with when at home where we can prepare our own meals and tweak them to our own specific needs, but travelling to unknown lands can make things much more complicated. To be “hangry” is now an internationally accepted term for a relationship straining feeling which is millennia old, and avoiding this at all costs is a priority. It doesn’t have to be strictly a vegan versus an omnivorous diet; almost all differences in dietary requirements and preferences can be overcome by following some simple rules and guidelines. Here is what we’ve learned so far while travelling.
Don’t let it stop you eating the best local delicacies
Most countries and many regions have their own must-eat foods, which for a travelling foodie no trip would be complete without. As many of these date back for decades or even centuries, most will contain some meat, dairy or eggs. However, with the rise in veganism across the world this is a much smaller issue than ten or even five years ago, particularly in bigger cities. There are stalls in cities which will offer vegan, gluten free or other variations alongside the real thing, so nobody needs to miss out.
This is a crucial step. A little time spent in preparation beforehand can save a lot of aggro and uncover some real hidden gems on your doorstep or on a small street tucked away nearby. There are a number of apps and websites available to help in this situation, with Happy Cow proving to be the best and most reliable in our experience. Not only are we able to seek out the best completely vegan and vegetarian restaurants, but also those which offer meat and vegan options under one roof, keeping us both very happy. Marking several spots where you may like to eat will allow for you to decide to eat whenever you are hungry, which can hit you in a wave without much warning and leave you stranded for a suitable eatery.
Try not to get hangry
Getting hangry, though sometimes unavoidable, doesn’t help anyone. One morning, we finally found breakfast at a café in Berlin after much discussion and wandering. Hungry and tired, we ordered an apple tart to share along with our breakfast. As it arrived the hairs on my neck stood to attention and without hesitation split it directly in half to make sure Billie didn’t get a crumb more than I did like a jackal eager not to be the runt of the litter… Not the most romantic start to our first anniversary. Always make sure you have plenty of snacks available.
Cook for yourselves where possible
Particularly for budget or long term travellers, certain hostels and Airbnb properties will offer cooking facilities. They may be limited, missing utensils/appliances or less than spotless, but will save you some pennies and aggro if you can’t stretch to eating out for every meal. Which saves so much more for activities!
Last but certainly not least, compromise is the key to this, and any, part of a successful relationship. By all means don’t be afraid to take and to put your foot down with a fully vegan or raw restaurant, but the giving is just as important. Making a meal from four side dishes and a garden salad should not be an unfamiliar task to you by now.