Travelling With Non-Vegans

Travelling With Non-Vegans

If you’re a vegan planning a trip with non-vegan friends, the joyful anticipation of a new adventure might be tinged with a little bit of dread. Being the only vegan travelling with people who eat animal products can be daunting and intimidating particularly if you're not familiar with your group. It's possible to stay true to your beliefs and keep the peace with your non-vegan travel companions if you put a little forethought into your excursion.

Travel With An Ally

The ideal situation would be to travel with someone that understands and respects your beliefs, and has your back if anyone tries to make you feel awkward or uncomfortable. For me that's my partner. I know he will fight my corner, make sure wherever we eat has options for everyone, and can help explain why I'm not comfortable in certain situations (especially if I'm not around to explain it myself). This helps make travelling with non-vegans so much easier, and you'll be less likely to feel pressured into doing something you're not comfortable with simply because the majority of the group wants to do it.

Talk To The Host

If you're travelling with a tour guide or host, it might be best to discuss with them meal options. I once went on a PR trip where meals were pre-arranged at certain locations. Despite communicating that I would need plant-based meals before the trip went ahead, there were a couple of occasions where they weren't provided. It's really important that the people taking care of you understand your requirements and provide adequate meals if that's part of their job role. Make sure you're clear about what you will not eat and even provide suggestions if your guide or host is unsure of what would be suitable.

Communicate Boundaries

If you have boundaries, you'll need to communicate them with those in your party. I'm OK with people eating animal products around me (well, as far as any vegan can be) but I'm not OK with splitting the bill and paying for them. When the bill arrives, I suggest paying for what everyone's eaten; if anyone insists of splitting the bill, I politely explain that I'd prefer to just pay for my own order. If you're not comfortable with certain situations, find a way to discuss it with your travel companions so they understand your perspective. This is probably the hardest part about travelling with non-vegans; explaining why you are uncomfortable with something they find totally normal can be tricky and people can get defensive. In most situations, it's best to deal with any issues when or if they arise rather than trying to preempt them.

Expect Misunderstandings

Even those who understand what veganism is may occasionally misunderstand the scope of your beliefs and you can end up in situations that make you feel uncomfortable. I've been in a situation where I've asked to opt out of sharing plates with the table and have been told "it's OK, I'm vegetarian" only to find the vegetarian didn't understand that I wasn't comfortable with them serving themselves using the same utensils for both cheese and vegetables. Most people now understand what veganism is in terms of what we will and will not eat but there's a lot of room for misunderstandings when it comes to nuanced aspects of the lifestyle. There's not much you can do to avoid these situations other than deal with them politely and respectfully when they arise.

Deal With Annoyances

Most people aren't trying to be disrespectful or intentionally overlooking your preferences. You have to expect a certain amount of questions, offers to try food that you can't eat, or oversights when it comes to dining particularly if you're not familiar with your travel companions. Some people don't have much experience with vegans or knowledge of the lifestyle, and it can be difficult for them to understand the lifestyle. It can be frustrating having to explain yourself or push back against teasing comments. If it's really troubling you, try to resolve the issue by discussing it with your travel companions and asking them to be respectful of your lifestyle as you are of theirs.

Have Options

Map out spots you can pick up supplies, like supermarkets, and also places that serve plant-based dishes so you're never short on ideas on where to stop for food. If you know where you're planning to visit, whether it's certain areas of a city or day trips to specific locations, be sure to search for places nearby. Look for options that will make everyone happy and comfortable, like restaurants with plant-based options and not just exclusively vegan restaurants. You may want to stick to vegan-only spots to eat at but bear in mind others may not want to, and that's their prerogative. Having options that are close by and suitable for everyone is a good way to avoid most conflict.

Offer To Cook

If you're in self-catered accommodation, offer to do the cooking or arrange for the cooking to be done by someone you trust understands your preferences. I'm uncomfortable with people cooking for me as it's easy for non-vegans to overlook things that would trouble a vegan, like using the same chopping board for both meat and vegetables or utensils for serving up food. I'm more than happy to cook for others to avoid any awkward situations. Alternatively, you could arrange to prepare meals separately to sidestep the issue altogether.

Dine Separately

If there's a vegan eatery you're desperate to try but your travel companions aren't so keen on a completely plant-based menu; or your travel companions insist on dining somewhere with no plant-based options, be prepared to eat in separate places. It doesn't have to be awkward or uncomfortable, a simple explanation that you'd really love to try this place you've heard of and if no one wants to join you you'll catch up with them later. Hopefully there is an ally in your travel group that understands your situation and would offer to eat with you rather than letting you dine alone.

Bring Snacks

There might be occasions when you're running low on energy or short on time, when that happens, your non-vegan travel companions may become less than patient about finding somewhere for all of you to eat. It can be tricky to convince a hungry person to continue walking past eateries they can eat at while you find somewhere with plant-based options. This is especially true in groups where you're travelling with people you don't know quite as well; I'd hope friends would be far more accommodating. Having snacks on hand to share with others (or eat yourself if your group insists on a place that's not so friendly to vegans) has the potential to diffuse any anger induced by hunger.

Avoid Confrontation

Some people will see vegans as wanting (or getting) "special treatment" for their specific dietary requirements and fussy or demanding for requesting people be respectful of your beliefs. If members of your travel party express dissatisfaction with your requests to cook your own food, eat at vegan-friendly restaurants, or refusal to participate in certain activities, you may have to just suck it up for the duration of your trip for the sake of your other party members. There's a time and a place for certain conversations and I'm not convinced a holiday is the best time to discuss the politics of eating animals. Unless someone is inquisitive enough to ask questions (without trying to provoke a heated debate), keep discussions about veganism out of your travel plans.

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