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Unapologetically Vegan

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Dave and I had been teetering back and forth with a vegan diet for months before our trip. Both longtime vegetarians (Dave celebrates six-or-so years, while I ring in at eight), we cooked vegan at home 100% of the time, and ate vegetarian on occasions when we would eat out or at dinner with friends. Too afraid to commit to a vegan diet for fear of being annoying or difficult or for having trouble finding options in restaurants, I reserved the diet for my own cooking.

Of course, I knew full well that the majority of the dairy and eggs we consumed outside of our home did not align with our values for animal and ecological welfare.

One month before leaving on our trip, I decided to just own a vegan diet and not worry about what others thought. Not to my surprise, my friends understood and eating out, especially in Portland, was a breeze.

One Swedish cinnamon roll into our cycle tour, however, and my vegan escapade was over. I gave in to the buttery rolls, and from then out, it was cheesy pizza in Italy and gelato anywhere we could find it.

This
This Danish, not Swedish cinnamon roll certainly satisfied this cinnamon aficionado, but still left me feeling guilty for its animal ingredients.

I gave myself permission to eat dairy and egg products during our travels because it seemed easier and a part of the travel experience. Still cooking vegan on our own stove, in times of desperation (read: tired, starving, in desperate need of chocolate), I relented. Yet, I felt guilty each time I gave in and particularly so when we cycled past factory farms with cows packed together in tiny cells. It didn’t seem worth it to me, just more simple.

When we met up with our dedicated vegan friends, Chelsea and Dakota in Rovinj, Croatia, they demonstrated the ease of finding restaurants, asking for alternative options, and creating meals in instances of low availability of fresh vegetables. They showed me that there is no need to fear canned vegetables, that sliced peaches and cherry tomatoes make fantastic cycle touring snacks, and vegan gelato can be found nearly everywhere.

I watched Chelsea intently as we walked into restaurants or stores and she boldly stated that we were vegan, then asked if they knew what that meant. Together, we learned the words for milk and eggs and cheese in Slavic languages and ventured on vegan restaurant and organic store hunting missions.

Vegan chocolate mousse with a soy whipped cream topped with a delicious cookie? Yes, please!
Vegan chocolate mousse with a soy whipped cream topped with a delicious cookie? Yes, please!

A self-proclaimed food snob at home (though, honestly, why is organic, healthy eating considered snobby?), I felt content in this new way of eating on the road. After four months of travel, I finally felt my food choices align with my values.

I don’t miss cheese on pizza and I pass on the pastries if there are no vegan options. I have mastered the art of describing a vegan diet to servers and have learned that dairy can lurk in unsuspecting places (like the famous pretzels of Germany).

Before departing separate ways, Chelsea left me with several useful tools to help fuel our vegan venture and keep us inspired and educated along the way:

Happy Cow:

Both an app and a website, this crowd-sourced online directory connects vegans and vegetarians with restaurants and groceries throughout the world. Thanks to Happy Cow, we discovered Loving Hut in Ljubliana and Maribor, Slovenia, Zrno Bio Bistro and Nishta in Zagreb, and Veggae in Sarajevo.

I may have gone a wee overboard at the Loving Hut vegan salad bar in Ljubljana.
I may have gone a wee overboard at the Loving Hut vegan salad bar in Ljubljana.

Podcasts:

The Joyful Vegan – Hosted by Collen Patrick-Goudreau, this podcast answers any and all questions pertaining to veganism, ranging from how to become a vegan to what to feed obligate carnivores (like our kitties). Her passion to educate the world about veganism exudes in her delivery.

No Meat Athlete – Matt Frazier, author of the No Meat Athlete blog and Doug Hay of Rock Creek Runner, both vegan ultrarunners offer great tips on how to maintain a healthy vegan diet while engaging in endurance sports.

Our Hen House – Jasmin Singer and Mariann Sullivan, are a quirky duo who discuss news, conduct interviews, and offer reviews on everything and anything pertaining to the animal rights world.

The Vegan Passport:

Published by the Vegan Society, the Vegan Passport ensures vegans the ability to travel worldwide by offering a description of our dietary needs in the small book. The latest edition of the phrasebook covers 95% of the languages spoken throughout the world.

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On Long Haul Trekkers, I share healthy, delicious, vegan recipes to fuel your adventures. Pictured here: my vegan overnight muesli.

As food is a passion of mine, my goal is to prove that we can still eat well while on the road. On this blog, I share the recipes that fuel our adventures. Check them out and let me know what you think!

Jen Sotolongo

Jen is the Chief Storyteller and Photographer for the Long Haul Trekkers. Born with the travel bug, she has lived in Spain, Chile, and New Zealand. When she’s not galavanting around the world by bicycle, she is running long distances in the woods, exploring nature, or whipping up delicious vegan meals. She is always planning her next adventure.

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