Always travel with snacks. Eat local. Taste the street food. Try the cuisine specific to this culture. Have you ever had something so delicious? These are all things travelers hear when heading to a new destination. But for me, some places are harder while others make my taste buds soar with delight. I’ve been a vegetarian for just under ten years now. There have, as in everything in life, been ups and downs and easy and hard spots, but all in all I feel better. As a traveler, there’s a huge draw to eating local and checking out the cuisine of places. We travel with snacks, of course, but can’t wait to dive into local cuisine. Some places have been easier than others to be a vegetarian. We’ve traveled to those vegetarian friendly and others heavy on the carnivore delights and have found some more manageable and enjoyable than others.
IN MY TRAVEL EXPERIENCE AS A VEGETARIAN…
Easiest country to be a vegetarian: INDIA
Even my meat-loving husband went vegetarian for a time while on our India holiday. We even got to share dishes. Almost every restaurant we went to had an entire section of the menu dedicated to vegetarian cuisine. Nowhere was it ‘just have a side dish’ or ‘can you tell me what the base of that sauce is, please?’ Here there was even street food available for me to enjoy the same as anyone who is a meat eater and perhaps…even more. Samosas, pakoras, chapatti, naan and flavourful dishes filled with spice mixtures and colourful sauces adorned my plate and tickled my palate. This is the land of vegetarians…all are welcome!
Favourite place to be a vegetarian: AUSTRALIA
I love this country! In a land of all things close to water, the land down under is veg-friendly. Where you’d never find me eating sushi in a mall in New York, I can’t wait for my Sushi Sushi fix shortly after landing at Tullamarine airport in Melbourne. At most food courts there are vegetarian friendly choices with pumpkin or aubergine and for those pescaterians, smoked salmon abounds. Tandoori vegetarian pie at Pie Face, the garden goodness burger at Grill’d or the fabulous fries at vegan Lord of the Fries only scratch the surface of available options. It’s fresh and easy….she’ll be right!
Hardest country to be a vegetarian: EGYPT
Incredible sights, unbelievable artifacts, amazing culture but not such great vegetarian friendly cuisine. In a land where travelers must stay away from fresh vegetables and many others are fried, Egypt wasn’t the easiest place I’ve found to be a vegetarian. Although falafel and hummus are available, it’s definitely harder to find variety or non-fried options. I can say that between French fries, falafel, bread, noodles and eggs, I was content for the trip.
Most surprising place to find a fabulous vegetarian restaurant: BUENOS AIRES, ARGENTINA
Argentina is steak territory! My husband was in carnivore heaven the entire time with one piece of meat larger and tastier than the next. In search of a restaurant that could cater more to me for a meal, we found one that won’t soon be forgotten. Bio, a vegan/vegetarian restaurant was so good that it not only satisfied my vegetarian taste buds with a quinoa risotto, but the lactose intolerant friend and two carnivore husbands were thrilled with their dishes.
As anyone with dietary restrictions or food allergies knows, being out of a food comfort zone isn’t as easy as being in one. Check the base of soups and sauces, ask your questions, have your questions written out in the local dialect and source out as many suggestions and reviews as you like on the web. Remember, you can always find a grocery store to pick up things you know you can eat and as an extra back up plan…always travel with snacks!
For more of Stacey’s travel musings, check out her blog.
What’s the best thing that’s happened lately?
The most memorable and life-altering experiences of travel don’t usually happen on tour groups or fancy hotels. They take place in the quiet, humble homes of the people, or in the simple, candid interactions between human beings, especially if they have differing culture and language, yet can discover ways to connect based on common human-ness.
Give the background on the experience:
We lived in Costa Rica in 2007 as our first ‘abroad’ experience as a family. Our four children were young then, between the ages of one and five. They were adored by many of the ticos and Nicaraguans that they encountered, because Latin culture places high value on families and treasures children. (Many Nicaraguans come to Costa Rica looking for work.)
One Nicaraguan woman in particular worked for friends doing cooking and cleaning. She was a sweet soul, who was called Alba, which means ‘dawn’. On our return to Costa Rica in 2014, when we had our sixth child, we were able to get in contact with Alba and let her know we were back. She was thrilled to hear from us, and made us promise to come to her house for lunch, as soon as we were able after the birth of our baby.
On a Sunday afternoon we met up with Alba in Escazú, Costa Rica. It’s an upscale, affluent area in the Central Valley. She rode with us and gave directions to her house, the place where she was living with her sister and brother-in-law and their children.
Nestled between large, gated estates was a simple wooden structure with a tin roof and a dilapidated front porch. The house sat back from the road, among banana trees, and was enclosed with a simple barb wire fence.
The living room was a modge-podge of furniture — a battered couch, a shabby chair, a table in one corner, a beat-up armoire standing against the wall. Off this small space was an even smaller kitchen and bedroom.
As ‘honored’ guests, we were served first, and the family waited to eat until we were finished (this is also in part due to the lack of sufficient bowls and spoons for everyone).
Describe a challenge you faced:
As much as we love interacting with the people in genuine connections like these, we often have a mix of feelings, sometimes conflicting — gratitude, humility, guilt, joy, unease.
Gratitude for their willingness to share the ‘widows mite’ with us. Humility and guilt from realizing that we’re often unwilling to do the same. Joy at connecting and sharing with others, across boundaries of language, culture and race. Unease at being treated with deference and honor that is undue.
What new lesson did you learn?
It’s impossible to spend time with beautiful people who have less than you, yet are more generous and giving, without feeling the need for deep introspection.
How can I give more? How can I show more kindness, respect, and courtesy? How can I make others feel important and special?
It’s once again winter holiday season, which means it’s time to remind everyone that my books make great stocking stuffers for travel lovers.
Vagabonding makes a great holiday gift for:
And of course my second book, Marco Polo Didn’t Go There, is not just an entertaining and engrossing read for the armchair traveler; its “commentary track” makes it an offbeat travel-writing textbook for students and fans of the genre.
Both books are available from online retailers. If you’d like a signed copy of Vagabonding or Marco Polo Didn’t Go There, send me an email at books [at] rolfpotts [dot] com.
“Hypoallergenic bedding, pet free and a non-smoking room on a non-smoking floor, please”-that’s my typical request anytime I make a reservation to stay just about anywhere. I move a zillion times on the train if there’s a smoker or heavily doused perfume/cologne wearer near me. Scented anti-bacterial, oils or lotions set me off in an instant and any strong food smell in an enclosed area is a risk. And don’t even put me in any setting a cat has ever been. Seriously…and yet, I happily travel.
When I was teaching, one of the ladies in the office, Lorraine, would always have tissues ready for me come allergy season. And in a school, every season is allergy season-there’s mold, mildew and all things dust! She knew that even with the latest pills and drops my eyes would be puffy, itchy and all shades of red. Regularly, when she asked, ‘how are you when you travel?’-she smiled, already knowing the answer. We do our best to follow the sun whenever possible. Never heading to anywhere in spring or autumn where the pollen counts would go through the roof and aside from a fear of a bee sting allergy, we search for summer sunshine, minimal cold (where my asthma is also aggravated) and nothing floral or feather related at all. The season in which I feel best is summer and that is for what we regularly search. She could see why, at least in the health department, travel makes me happy.
Half the time I can’t tell you what makes my lungs unhappy. Everyone has his/her own triggers yet when I head to the allergist office and look at the poster asking ‘what’s your trigger’…I just roll my eyes…..I have ALL of them! When I travel, my allergies and asthma come with me. I’ve picked up some helpful hints along the way that I hope will make your travels a little easier.
Here are a few tips to hopefully lessen your suffering on the road:
Take care of yourself and enjoy the adventure. Breathe easy and happy travels.
For more of Stacey’s musings follow her at thegiftoftravel.wordpress.com.
I find myself, more often than not, looking at travel experiences through a writer’s lens. Every meal, every trek, every chance meeting has the potential to be material for a travel piece. On boat rides, I think about phrasing. On long bus rides, I scroll through pictures, looking for the right one to go with the idea in my head. In cars, I pass the time by writing down thoughts that pop into my head as potential pieces.
I want to share. I want others to know what this traveling life looks like- beautiful, challenging, freeing, and difficult.
So, I plot and plan and jot down ideas. I get excited when a new experience brings up images of perfectly worded paragraphs on a screen. When I snap just the right picture, I rejoice! It’s lovely when the ideas and the words come easily.
But sometimes they don’t.
Sometimes I feel as though I have reached the absolute corners of my mind and I have nothing left to write about. Nothing of value or interest. My world starts to look quite average and I wonder who could possibly care about my excitement over finding vegetarian food in Central America.
Those are the days I most need to stop writing. Those are the days I need to get back to enjoying each moment for what it is and not worry about how I will weave it into a well-crafted article. Perfect adjectives to describe the moments take a back seat to actually experiencing the moments, as they should.
It is nice to share tales from the road. Connecting with like-minded people through the written word is wonderful. But without a connection to and enjoyment of the actual moments that are behind those stories, it’s just empty talk.
Sometimes we need to put down the pen, the computer, the camera and focus on being present.
There is no test at the end of our journey. No judgement on whether we wrote enough words or took the right pictures. There is just our own perception of what we have experienced. We need to be present for those experiences.
How do you make sure you are engaged in the experience while on the road? Do you ever get the urge to put the pen and the camera down and get reconnected with the experience of living?
Cost per day?
For us it could have been cheap, very cheap but we decided to splash out. We hadn’t found a campsite to park on but decided to park on the sea front. Granted this wasn’t a designated spot but in such a small town no-one battered an eye lid at us. If you brought your own food then Robe has no expense.
Describe a typical day
Our stay in Robe was far from typical in any sense of the word, the town like most coastal towns in South Australia thrive on its fishing port. We rolled into town from the Princes Highway just for a place to stop for the night. A small port location with panoramic views of the ocean. Today was going to be the day that we put our heads together and plan the next steps in our trip. We also had postcards to send and books to read. Above all we had every intention of exploring some of the local sites and attractions. As we had simply stumbled upon this quaint town we knew we needed to gain a little insight.
The trouble with being on the road and sometimes almost a liberation but Wi-Fi can be hard to come by. We searched the local area to find a small café to sit and drink coffee and browse the web and check emails. Feeling like I had stepped back 30 years most outlets didn’t provide Wi-Fi. The local library and information center was closed for the weekend. Fortunately and gratefully the local pub The Caledonian Inn 5 mins walk from our camper had the only internet we could use. So we snuck in to this old very cozy but very rustic public house. The structure was made up of wooden beams and old brick. We felt like we had stepped into an old country pub in Britain.
Tummies rumbling we order in a Chicken Parmagana. Australians love there parmagana you won’t fail to find a pub that does this chicken delight. Chicken in breadcrumb top with cheese, sauce, meat, veg on a layer of chips. In Australia drinks glasses are smaller, Schooners and Midis are just two names given to minature glasses, what we had been missing on our travels was a full size British (imperial) pint. It just so happens that this pub were prepared for two British backpackers to wonder in. From the top shelf they dusted of these pint glasses and filled them up with sweet nectar. The landlady was lovely we spoke about the difference between English pubs and Australian pubs and what life in robe was like.
Then the rain started.
The list of all we wanted to see had just become null and void, we couldn’t wander around Robe in the pouring rain, as the wind picked up it was coming in sideways. So we did nothing more than carry on drinking. By this point we had found a new friend in the landlady who in turn introduced us to her team. Each young person behind the bar had become fascinated in our worldwide expedition. None of them had ever strayed very far from robe or beyond a state border. A holiday for them would be a couple of hours drive in a UTE (pickup truck) and surfing for a weekend up or down the coast. Each had been to the same schools, had the same friends and hung out in the pub they worked in. Unlike us and our small-town upbringing they were happy with this small town mentality and found comfort and solace in living in a tight community.
As the night went on we were passed around each local as the new thing on the block, old women to young men each wanted to meet and talk. They all tried their best pommie (British) accent on us, many failed miserably taking to sounding more like Dick van Dyke than the Queen herself. We sank more and more drink from our imperial pints. A log fire roared and the music began. We danced in a crowded room with many strangers who had become passing friends, swapping more stories jokes and alcohol shots. Hours felt like minutes but we had found friends in Robe and staggered out the doors together into the pouring rain. The caravan rocked with the mighty winds but the Alcohol had set in and we fell right to sleep.
On a schedule and the continuing to rain the following afternoon (once we were legally able and safe to drive) we set off on our road trip
Describe an interesting conversation you had?
As I mentioned before it was great to meet then young men and women who worked behind the bar. What really struck me was there attitude to the simple pleasures in life. For me I love the sense of community that comes from a small town, having friends on your doorstep and being close to your family. The downside of a small town is the secluded nature of it and from an early age it was engrained into me that there is more to the world than the place you were born. This is why I am doing what I am doing today and travelling the world. However I look at small town life objectively, the eye opener for me was the idea that all these young people were adamant that if you have all the comforts you need and friends and family to share it with what else do you need. As much as I learned from them and their level of intrigue I hope that my stories and ambitions rubbed off on them and maybe one day they will set out on their own adventures.
What did you like? Dislike?
The rain was a dislike as it was unfortunate that we couldn’t make our way round to visit much of the Robes history. What I liked is the my fresh outlook that you don’t need to see the biggest monuments or the most beautiful beaches, in order to explore a country, meeting an Australian doesn’t let me qualify the right to know an Australian. That night gave us great insight into what the rest of the population outside of Sydney, Melbourne, Perth etc. do and how they live. We shared in the similarities of home blended with the many interesting and sometimes quirky differences. It opened our eyes to the warming nature that Australians have and to quote Jerry the guitarists, A man is a man until he’s an ar*****e then you can call him your mate.
A little advice
If time is on your side which it often is when your travelling, turn off once in a while, Robe was one of many great place we simply stumbled upon. You’ll never find the whole experience in a cosmopolitan enviroment, the diversity of Sydney or any big city even that of Uluru is not the authentic reality that we all desire. So once in a while pick a signpost and follow it, you can always turn around but you may never know what you may find at the end of that road
Where Next: Port Lincoln!!!!
Hometown: St. Louis, Missouri USA
Quote: “[Her] goal in life was to be an echo
Riding alone, town after town, toll after toll….Remember to remember me
Standing still, in your past
Floating fast like a hummingbird.” – Wilco “Hummingbird”
(I even got a tattoo to honor it – http://indecisivetraveler.com/remember-to-remember-me)
Hometown: Antibes, France and Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin
Quote: “We all know that Art is not truth. Art is a lie that makes us realize truth at least the truth that is given us to understand” Picasso
Wham! After being in transit for so long, that fresh outside air smacks you in the face when you finally step outside of the airport and take that first deep breath of non-circulated stale airplane air. It took forever to get here. After hours and hours you got to the airport, flew on the plane (or for many of us-planes plural), went to more airports, made it through customs, got jostled at baggage claim and finally arrived at your destination. That combination of being completely spent, confused over time changes and excitement for that journey to get underway usually ends in a flop on a bed or a cup of something to pop open those dreary eyelids and jump start the adventure. How do you manage to enjoy your surroundings and embrace the new cultures in front of you without an enormous freak out of culture shock? How do you ease in and lessen the shock to your new surroundings?
Many of us don’t have the time that we’d like to be able to slow travel and take the time we’d want to get fully used to a place and ease in at our own pace. Still, there are things to do to make it easier regardless of time. What if your tour starts the day after you arrive in a country where you do not speak the language? What if you’ve decided to jump in with both feet and take months to immerse yourself in a new land and culture without much research or planning? What if you are not accustomed to huge changes all at once and are starting to feel a bit overwhelmed? Do we find you folded in a ball on the bed or are you ready to attack the day no matter the risk? For those of us who want to greet the day head on and struggle regularly to resist the urge of the fetal position on that bed that is no longer the reclining seat in front of the bathroom in economy class, here are a few tips to make the culture shock as easy as possible.
We’ve all been in the situation at one point or another in our traveler lives. Whether we’ve been the local on the street to help the visitor with a map and directions or the lost soul relying on the kindness of those very strangers we’ve been for others, it’s safe to say that all of us have come out on the other side. Remember, not all places are the same to the ones in which you’ve grown up. I mean, really, if they were, why would you go? Embrace the diversity and keep in mind that we are all more alike than we are different. You will learn as much if not more from the people and place you’re in than they will learn from you. Share what makes us similar and learn about the differences. Take in what the culture has to offer…you’re bound to see the world with new and open eyes IF and when you decide it’s time to leave.
For more of Stacey’s musings, check out her website.
Hometown: Conroe, Texas
Quote: Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbour. Catch the trade winds in sails. Explore. Dream. Discover. – Mark Twain
(It is on my business card)