How to Stay Vegan While Traveling Europe
Buongiorno a tutti, hey everyone! I’m sooooo excited to be sharing with you today all my experiences and best practices about how to stay vegan when travelling in Europe. I recently got back from 3 weeks exploring Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Budapest and Rome and I stayed fully vegan the whole time and enjoyed every single moment! I’ve also visited multiple cities all over the US & Canada, and even went on a 2 week Italy adventure back in 2012 as a vegan and never had trouble finding a delicious meal! “How do I stay vegan while travelling!?” is a question I get asked A LOT and I know it’s a major concern for people when considering veganism. The truth is, you don’t have to EVER compromise your beliefs and your values to enjoy a delicious and nutritious meal and have FUN anywhere in the world, really – because Mother Earth provides us with all the nutrition we need and you just need a few simple mindset shifts and some tips and you are all set to enjoy a compassionate lifestyle all over this beautiful planet.
First, let me introduce myself a little – I’m Laura Verbich and I’m Erica’s big sister. I’m 26 years old and I’m a holistic lifestyle, wellness and fitness coach. I help people get healthier, inside and out, and I teach others how to love themselves. I’ve been a vegetarian since I was 15 and I went vegan January 2010, so it will be 6 years very soon. I made the decision to go vegan because once my eyes were open to the truth behind the animal farming industry, I couldn’t turn a blind eye anymore. I won’t go into details here, but if you want to learn more about my personal journey into a vegan lifestyle please check out my blog post HERE – and you can explore a little bit more on your own.
Onto my tips! I’m sure these will help you make your decision and enjoy your vacation to it’s fullest.
#1 – Remember why you chose this lifestyle.
It can be really hard to stay vegan when you’re faced with vegetarian and non-vegan foods, because everyone around you is eating it and it looks so good (and maybe they’re pressuring you, too). My biggest tip for anyone struggling with staying vegan is – remember your WHY. For me personally, I needed to watch documentaries, read books and understand what went into my food so I would stop eating it, for good. I had to SEE the horrors behind the closed doors to make up my mind – and once I saw the truth behind animal farming, once I saw the terror and the destruction and the torture, my mind was made. Cheese, eggs, dairy, even leather and wool, they weren’t food or clothes to me anymore – they symbolized death, they contributed to suffering and I didn’t want it anymore. At ALL. At the end of this post you’ll find all my fave vegan resources to help you, so keep reading!
#2 – CHANGE YOUR MINDSET!
Don’t have a negative mindset about this experience. Whether you think it will be hard or easy, you’re right. Your mindset determines the experience you will have, so be positive and excited about this adventure! One of my fave parts about travelling the world is getting to experience the local vegan cuisine! Every single vegan or vegetarian restaurant I’ve been to is exciting and new and different, and I always have such a good time. Truly, get excited about being able to explore a new city AND explore the vegan side of it. Make it an adventure. Understand it won’t always be super duper easy as in walking in anywhere and getting a fully vegan meal off any menu, but you can make it work absolutely anywhere you go – just make sure your mind is right. Don’t be afraid, don’t be nervous, don’t be discouraged. Sure, not everyone you travel with will be sympathetic and not everyone in the restaurants will understand what “vegan” means, but be patient with yourself and others. This is a BIG one, so smile and get ready for a cool experience!
#3 – Explain your decision to your travel buddies.
As I mentioned earlier, not everyone you travel with will have the same lifestyle has you so explain to them why you are vegan and what it means to you. Don’t feel like you need to get preachy or emotional – I find it best to be calm and matter-of-fact about my decision. Be firm and be absolute – don’t let anyone make you feel badly about your decision. LIVE AND LET LIVE. This isn’t about trying to convert anyone, this is about being true to yourself and taking a stand for what you believe in. You might be surprised and find your buddies are interested in trying out vegan food! But please don’t get discouraged if they aren’t. Simply let them know that you’re excited to try out some local vegan places and if they want to join you, they can – but you can always venture off alone for a bit and meet up later (it’s not that bad, you’re an adult and you make your own decisions). You could also pick up separate food and separate places and enjoy a meal together at a park, or at your hotel room, or on a street bench. Being vegan doesn’t have to be isolating. I’ve been blessed with understanding and accepting friends and family, but if you’re experiencing problems with your buddies, be sympathetic – a lot of people just don’t understand. Do your own thing, be pleasant, have fun but don’t ever give up your beliefs to make someone else happy. That’s not fair and it also doesn’t at all make sense.
# 4 – Do some research before take-off.
When you’re going away on vacation anywhere but especially Europe, it is super important to do some research and figure out what the local cuisine is usually like in that country or city. Many European countries have meat and dairy in almost every dish (pretty much like everywhere else in the world!) so don’t go unprepared – have an idea of what you can have at “normal” restaurants and then find vegan and vegetarian restaurants and put them on your itinerary. I use HappyCow.net, which is an incredibly rich online database of vegan & vegan-friendly restaurants, cafes and shops all over the world. Head on over there, type in the name of the city you’ll be visiting, and be sure to save the names, addresses, phone numbers and opening hours to your phone or a document. Make a note of all the information so you’re never stuck or lost! I also recommend getting the HappyCow app for your phone and getting THESE MAPS and saving the locations & information to the map – so you can easily find a restaurant no matter where you are. That’s what I did everywhere I went. Yes it’ll take some extra research but for your health and the sake of the animals and the planet, it is worth it. AND it is so much FUN!
#5 – ASK QUESTIONS, order off the menu, order side dishes, and whatever you, SMILE and be super nice!
There are many reasons why you’ll go to a “regular” restaurant – you’re super hungry and there’s no vegan-friendly places around, your travel buddies really want to eat somewhere, you want to enjoy a local meal… But don’t worry!!! You have so many options – trust me! First off, if you can, scan the menu BEFORE getting seated (if you know where you’re going beforehand, check it out online or some restaurants have them outside the building). If you don’t like the menu, see if you can go somewhere else. But no matter where you are, here are some easy tips for eating out: BE REALLY KIND AND SMILE A LOT to your waiter! This is a big important step because the kinder you are, the better you’ll be treated. Don’t be worried that you’re being “picky” – this is your body and your life AND the animals AND the planet that we’re talking about here. Just be kind.
I used to get really nervous when asking for accommodations and I would get shy and anxious and my meal almost always came non-vegan, and I had to ask again. Just avoid all of that and be confident in who you are and what you want. Again, MINDSET.
Let the waiter know your dietary restrictions beforehand. I always say, “I’m vegan, meaning I don’t eat eggs, dairy, butter, milk, cheese, meat, fish, basically anything that comes from an animal” just so they understand. Learn the word “vegan” and basically everything that I just said in the native language if you can, or at least write it out. It helps to show the natives that you care about learning their language a little! Ask if they have anything they can accommodate you with.
Don’t bother pointing to items on the menu and asking, “does this have eggs?” or “does this have meat?” Instead, ask what is vegan OR what you can make vegan. Honestly, I always ask that and most of the time, we understand each other and we figure something out together. But if I’m getting a feeling that I’m not being understood, I just order off the side dishes – I get big plates of sautéed greens, grilled vegetables in oil, roasted potatoes, a big salad. I basically ask for all the vegetables, and I ask if the pasta, bread or pizza is made with eggs. I always get accommodated! AND IT IS ALWAYS DELICIOUS!!!!
There is ALWAYS something they can do for me. ASK QUESTIONS, make a custom order, order side dishes, RE-ITERATE WHAT YOU DON’T EAT a few times and SMILE… A LOT. And then, leave a nice tip for their kindness! & HEY if the order comes and you’re suspicious, ASK AGAIN! Just be patient, and the more you do this, the easier it becomes. It sounds harder than it is, only because I’m writing this as if you’ve never done this before. But it’s freaken easy.
BONUS #6 and something I experienced a lot this time around in Europe… follow and trust your intuition! Most of the time, I just stumbled across a “vegan-friendly” place on a random street. Seriously! I can’t tell you how many times, especially in Rome, I was just walking down and street and I turn my head and there was a big sign in the restaurant that said “vegan friendly” or “vegan options”. IN ITALY! Sure Rome is a big city, but if you’re not looking or not thinking this will be easy, then it won’t be no matter where you go. Just trust that this will be an adventure of a lifetime and TRUST that you will find amazing food to eat no matter where you are.
Even in smaller cities, if you follow my guidelines above, you will be able to have your vegan cake and eat it, too! AND YES you can even eat gelato, just ask for something “senza latte, senza uova” or get the sorbetto!
If I break down this list it comes down to a few things… MINDSET, MINDSET, MINDSET, CONFIDENCE, MINDSET, RESEARCH, MINDSET, PATIENCE, KINDNESS, CREATIVITY, MINDSET, REMEMBER YOUR WHY, CREATIVITY… get it!? ☺
If you have any questions, please comment below and Erica and I will try to answer them to the best of our abilities. We will also be creating a list of our fave vegan places in the cities we’ve visited to please be sure to subscribe to the email list and to Happiest When Exploring on Facebook and Instagram to stay in the loop. Feel free to also follow me on Instagram and Facebook for more vegan stuff!
Have a BLAST travelling – and thank you for choosing a compassionate lifestyle, you’re changing the world.
If you want to commit to veganism for GOOD, please WATCH THIS FIRST! The most intense 45 minutes of your life – but it will change your mind forever. I promise.
Gary Yourofsky’s ‘Best Speech You Will Ever Hear’.
This lecture was presented at City College-New York on March 24, 2014. Hear Gary talk about compassion and kindness to animals and about the horrors of the meat and dairy industries.
A great website for resources:
All images included in this post are by Laura Verbich and can be found on her Instagram account.