I stopped eating meat a little over two years ago. If you’re wondering why it’s because I’d become a catmom and I could no longer justify eating a chicken if I could never, ever see myself eating one of my cats. They’re all sentient beings who just want to live happy lives, in my eyes, so I didn’t want to cause harm and pain to any animal because I was hungry when there were numerous other options available to me.
So, I stopped eating meat.
At first, it was challenging – I had to think about what I was going to have for lunch every day ahead of time and plan a little bit more since I couldn’t just rely on going out and grabbing a burger. But now: it’s easy. Really easy. (I know, there are food deserts and places that are not as vegetarian-friendly in the US.)
But the most annoying thing I’ve encountered over the last few years is people asking me if I’ll be able to eat in certain places to which I’m traveling.
So, let me be clear: I don’t travel for food. Yes, food is part of the culture in many places, but I live in New York City and we have fantastic food. So, if I can’t eat a traditional dish in a certain Eastern European country, don’t you worry: I’m going to be fine.
My lunch at Two Pups Coffee in Dublin, Ireland in 2007. This is almond butter under avocado with eggs on top. It was so delicious.
To that end: please stop telling me that I can’t enjoy a certain place just because I don’t eat meat.
I’m pretty sure if I can make it through Budapest and Vienna as a vegetarian, I’m pretty sure I can make it anywhere as a vegetarian.
A carrot burger from Las Vegans in the Karavan in the 7th district in Budapest which was AMAZING.
We are living in a time where vegetarian and vegan options are EVERYWHERE! I ate at all the vegan restaurants in Reykjavik which were AMAZING – and they weren’t even expensive! (Because of global warming, Iceland has started being able to grow their own produce.)
Pro Tip: If you’re visiting a city with a cat cafe, there’s a good chance they’ll be ALL vegan or have vegan and vegetarian options, too, as was the case in Reykjavik.
Even if you’re a vegan (although I am not vegan, a vegan restaurant is often a VERY good solution if I’m in a country that is heavy on meat consumption), there are so many more options than there were just five years ago, at least according to all the vegan YouTubers I watch.
So before I go somewhere, I always Google all the vegan restaurants in the area. Had I not done that, I would’ve missed the most amazing vegan chicken and waffles at Watercourse Foods in Denver last year!
I digress. I wanted to write this because I was told recently that I was missing out on the small pleasures of life because I don’t eat meat, and to that end, I say: screw that. If eating meat is one of your small pleasures, you need to reassess what constitutes a small pleasure in your life because a dead animal in your mouth should not, in my opinion, be one of them.
I even ate some delicious vegetarian food in the dirty south last spring in Nashville and Memphis. THE SOUTH. Anything is possible, my friends. Above from the left is a quinoa salad at Pinewood Social in Nashville, some avocado toast from a cafe near our AirBnB in 12 South, vegetarian nachos at Central BBQ in Memphis, and sweet and sour fried cauliflower at South of Beale in Memphis.
But yes, I was told recently that I would miss out on all the good food that Portugal has to offer when I’m there in March (did I mention that I’m going there in March? I am!), and especially their most famous dish – the Francesinha.
When I looked it up, I told my friend that I wouldn’t have eaten it even back when I did eat meat (I mostly ate only chicken). So: no loss.
However, if I really want to try this dish, I know there’s a restaurant in Porto that serves a vegan version of that well-known dish because YouTuber Madeleine Olivia made a video about eating as a vegan in Porto so that’s my prep and I know there are a TON of options. To be honest, I’m really excited to try all the vegan places that she goes to and I’m sure by the time I get there, two years after she made that video, there will be even more options.
If you’re a vegan or vegetarian, I’d highly recommend downloading the Happy Cow app! It will be a lifesaver and tell you all the places where you can eat where ever you are in the world. YouTube and the internet, in general, is a great resource as well.
A bit of advice if you’re really worried about being able to eat while you travel: go to the Middle East. The food was amazing everywhere in Israel and especially in Tel Aviv and there are SO many options.
Top to bottom, L-R: Breaded cauliflower somewhere in Haifa, falafel somewhere in Haifa, mushroom-avocado burger from Burgers Bar in Jerusalem, a vegan pizza from The Green Cat in Tel Aviv, a veggie burger from Nature Boys in Tel Aviv, a veggie-packed omelet from Benedict in Tel Aviv, a cheese and veggie Lebanese flatbread from some tiny booth in the market in Tzfat.
As you can see, if you don’t eat meat, or dairy, or anything else, there’s nothing to stop you from enjoying a place just as much as if you did eat absolutely everything. No matter what your eating preferences are you shouldn’t let anyone tell you that you’re missing out on the small pleasures of life (and travel) just because of what you eat, or don’t eat.