Veganism has been a transformational journey for me. A journey about compassion and also a journey about pain. It still hurts me so deeply to see all of the suffering in the world. At the same time, it warms my heart that people are becoming more open to this lifestyle and saving animals as a result.
Besides this friction between pain and joy, they’ve been some other big learnings since I became vegan almost three years ago.
In this post I’ll be sharing my honest experiences and lessons of what it’s like to be vegan.
This is not a post about glorifying veganism. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. I think many vegans are so focused of putting themselves in the best light in an attempt to inspire others to make the change. I get it. This very blog is a prime example of that.
However, there’s also value in absolute honesty in what it’s really like to live a vegan lifestyle. It’s refreshing to see the challenges and what you could potentially expect.
So without further ado, here are my top 6 honest experiences of what it’s like to be vegan.
1. You will consume animal products
As much as you try not to, you will. I don’t necessarily mean that you’ll give in. But it’s inevitable that a mistake will be made.
A barista will use cows milk instead of soy milk in your coffee.
The pizzeria will accidentally put cheese (from an animal) on your pizza.
You’ll miss a critical animal ingredient on food packaging.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve made mistakes. I remember early on in my journey, I would get so frustrated at myself.
When I was in Ghana, I ordered one of my favourite traditional meals, fried plantain and bean stew. I specifically asked for no animal products. As I proceeded to devour my meal, I noticed a chunk of tuna in my stew. I instantly stopped and got the waiter to take my food away.
At the time I was so shaken up by the experience. However as more of these mistakes have crept up on me, I’ve learned to not be so harsh on myself.
I’ve also learned to take the time to clarify my orders and get confirmation over the counter before proceeding.
It will happen and you’ll feel shitty about it initially. Just remember that it was a mistake and that every day you’re vegan, you’re saving the lives of animals and the planet.
2. Vegan fashion is ridiculously hard to come by, especially for men…
Two and a half years into my journey, I still find it extremely difficult to buy vegan clothes and shoes. Correction; it’s easy to find fast fashion. It is damn near impossible to find ethically made and organic garments at your local shops.
I remember when I first discovered Nudie Jeans. I thought this organic jeans brand was going to change my life forever! I was so excited that I bought three pairs of jeans online. This was after jumping on an international call to Sweden with their sales person to confirm that the materials in the jeans were all vegan.
When the jeans arrived, I couldn’t hold back my excitement! I tried them on and they fitted perfectly.
I was already thinking about how I never had to worry about buying jeans again. I had my go to source.
Masa was checking them out and noticed a leather tag on the waistline. I couldn’t believe it. After doing my due diligence I still managed to get a garment that had animal product on it! It’s apparently very common for jeans to have a square leather piece on the waistline with the brand name. For someone that doesn’t shop often, I had no clue.
Another devastating experience. But it just goes to show how hard it is to find ethical fashion. We have some online stores we browse, but have mainly resorted to local second hand stores.
If you don’t mind affordable synthetic clothes, you’ll be ok shopping at your local convenience store. But if you’re like us, and desire to tick multiple ethical boxes e.g. organic, fair trade, vegan, it’s going to be a bit of a struggle. You’re going to have to get comfortable with shopping from niche brands online.
It’s a grind. But it’s well worth it in the end.
3. Your Friends And Family Will Eventually Accept You
Coming out as a vegan in your social circle is kind of a big deal. I know it shouldn’t be, but it’s understandable as so many of our experiences together are associated with food.
Special holidays, going out with friends, watching television are all things we commonly do when sharing a meal. I know my family has specific restaurants we go to on a regular basis.
So when you make the decision to do something differently, it can take some time for your loved ones to adjust.
I remember in the first 6 months of being vegan, watching those around me sigh and make comments because we chose not to eat certain foods anymore.
The good news, at least in my personal experience, is that your friends and family really come around and become super supportive over time.
Even if they don’t become vegan, they respect your decision. I think at first, they don’t think you will stick it out. But once they can see you’re in it for the long haul, they change.
My mother has now decided to go meat-free a couple days a week.
My in-laws take pride in preparing amazing vegan meals for when we come over.
My brother can engage with his vegan work colleagues through my experiences.
Some of my closest friends have talked proudly about this blog to their social circles.
This is all happening without me pushing my values onto them. It has happened organically and I know it will continue to grow.
4. You meet more vegans
It’s kind of inevitable that we attract people into our lives with similar values to ourselves. And it’s no different for vegans.
However, if I was to be completely honest, I thought I would’ve met more vegans than I have so far.
When you’re in the vegan bubble it seems like the movement is growing quicker than it actually is. Who you follow and interact with online creates this illusion that veganism is everywhere!
But when you step outside the bubble, it’s still evident that vegans are only a small fraction of the total population.
The positive news is that veganism is on the rise and it’s becoming more commonly accepted in the mainstream.
You’ll meet more vegans in person but you may need to be a little proactive about it. Many of the relationships we’ve formed have come from meetups and events, which you can easily access online.
We’ve been blown away by the support of the vegan community. We’ve found that everyone just wants to help and it’s definitely a cool vibe when we meet.
5. You will get bored of food
How one defines bored is dependent on the individual. For us, it means losing inspiration to cook. Our passion has come and gone in waves.
Admittedly, it was a little easier to eat the same meals over and over when I wasn’t vegan. At the same time, becoming vegan has encouraged me to eat better food.
I’m not addicted to highly processed salts, fats and sugars like I used to. So that could be a big reason why it can get a little boring at times.
Where I live, I’ve found it challenging to find vegan fine dining. Eating out normally consists of Mexican, Indian, pizza, burgers, Japanese, pad Thai and a variety of salads. This is all delicious food, but every now and then you want to explore creative chef-level recipes.
As a vegan, I would love to see more of this level of cooking made accessible in all cities around the world, not just the big progressive states in certain countries.
In the meantime, I encourage you to keep changing up your cuisine. It’s easy to burn out from smoothies, tofu scramble, mac and cheese. Have these foods in doses and challenge yourself to use ingredients you wouldn’t normally use.
Note: we’ve created a free cookbook with one week’s worth of recipes to get you started on your vegan journey.
6. Vegan junk food is everywhere!
One of our most popular posts is about bringing awareness to vegan junk food whilst providing some practical alternatives.
We wrote the post because we found that there is a huge misconception that being vegan means you’re automatically healthy. This couldn’t be further from the truth.
Processed food is everywhere, vegan or not.
We became vegan to help save animals lives. At the same time, we also want to preserve our own health as much as possible.
As vegans, we’re already qualified label readers. Take it a little step further and look out for non-animal ingredients that are processed. That way you can save animals and yourself.
What have been your honest experiences?
I’ve expressed my personal experiences about being vegan so far. But now I’d love to hear from you!
What have been some of your honest experiences since becoming vegan (or aspiring to become vegan)? It can be a positive experience or a challenging experience. We want to pull down the curtains to those seriously considering this lifestyle, so they have realistic expectations going in.