A few months ago we went overseas seven weeks. We visited five countries in Europe, and I spent a few days in Ghana on the way back to Australia. This trip was something we had been planning for years, and finally, we were fortunate enough to have the opportunity to do it.
When we first started talking about travelling to Europe, we weren’t minimalists, and we certainly weren’t vegan. Even just two years ago, we would’ve had a completely different approach to the holiday. Here are just a few examples;
- We’d be sweating trying to check in our luggage as we would have overpacked. As minimalists, our luggage clocked in at half of the international baggage allowance.
- We would’ve gained at least five kgs each from overeating animal-based foods. All we used to talk about is how much we looked forward to eating pizza, pasta, lasagne, bread, cakes, ice cream, pastry and cheese. However, as vegans, we stuck to plant-based foods the whole trip and were able to maintain our weight. It wasn’t all that easy though. I’ll discuss some of our challenges below.
- We would’ve spent more money on fashion and things in general. We spent a combined 2 and a half weeks in London, Paris and Florence. In all of these cities, we were virtually bombarded with advertising for expensive fashion brands tourist items. Once upon a time, this would’ve been a dream for us. But this time around, we simply had little to no interest. I think we went into one major store because one of our friends suggested that they sold non-leather shoes.
As you can see, with a shift in personal values, you can completely change the way you experience a new country. We were once motivated by what we could buy, pack and eat. But when those things were taken away, what did we do instead?
Below I’m going to discuss a few challenges we had when travelling overseas as minimalist vegans. We’ll also share some advice based on our personal experiences, broken down into three tips.
Tip 1 – Don’t let the food ruin the flow of your trip
As vegans in a new country, it’s easy to get caught up in where and what you can eat. It’s completely understandable. After all, we all have to eat throughout the day, right? Having said that, this was one of the biggest mistakes we made going into this trip. Sure you need to do some more planning as there are typically fewer options for vegans, especially in parts of Europe and Africa. But don’t let food be the primary focus of your holiday, as you’ll end up compromising other valuable experiences such as meeting locals, sightseeing or embracing nature.
We didn’t realise that this was a problem until a few weeks into our holiday. It wasn’t until we got to Florence and were struggling to find vegan food, where Masha finally said, “I’m sick of this trip being centred around food!” That’s when it clicked to us. We spent so much time walking, researching and asking around for vegan food when we could’ve been enjoying new experiences. That’s not to say that experiencing new vegan food isn’t enjoyable!
How did we get around it?
Two words, Happy Cow.
If you haven’t heard of Happy Cow by now, you’ll be thanking us big time. It’s an app that you download onto your smartphone, and it lists all of the vegan cafes, restaurants and stores within proximity to where you are. It’s a must-have resource if you’re looking for plant-based foods in a foreign location.
The listings are dependent on the community uploading information, reviews and images to the app. So we encourage you to participate as it will help anyone looking for plant-based food around the world.
We were using the app earlier in the trip, but we spent too much time trying to find the best place to eat instead of the closest. It’s a tough balance as you want to make sure you enjoy your food while you’re away, but at the same time, you don’t want to over analyse and waste time.
Another way we got around our obsessive food-focus, was to buy our own ingredients and cook where we were staying. We only prepared basic meals as we didn’t want to commit to storing too many ingredients that we would eventually get rid of. Organic corn flakes was a breakfast staple for us, and we also had a ton of bread with dips as well as simple pasta dishes. This isn’t how we usually eat, but you need to adjust when you’re on the road. It also helped that we stayed in each country for at least one week. So we were able to establish a little routine in that short period.
Tip 2 – Replace shopping with sightseeing
Tourism as a whole is a huge industry, and it’s interesting to see just how much it impacts our lives when we travel. Merchandise, fashion, laser pens are just a few things that always get thrown into your vision when travelling.
As I said before, a few years ago, we would have been excited of the opportunity to buy things that we couldn’t find back home. But this time around, the bright lights had little effect on what we did. If anything, it was a bit annoying.
Instead of irrationally spending money on stuff that wasn’t essential, we opted to sightsee instead. For us, that meant going for walks in the city, participating in bus tours and watching local musicians busk on the street. We would much rather spend our time and money on experiences that we could remember, rather than on things.
Tip 3 – Find nature wherever you can
No matter where you choose to visit in this world, you’re bound to come across some gorgeous scenery. Spending time outside was a big priority for us. Whether it was bushwalking in forests, standing by the riverside or just admiring the general surroundings, this was a highlight.
There are always new and exciting things to discover in nature particularly in a different country. My advice for anyone travelling would be to look beyond specific tours and shows and venture out to nature. You’ll see the country for what it really is, in its pure form.
What are your travelling tips as a conscious consumer?
Do you wish you did some things differently when you travelled? What would be your advice if you were to do it again? Leave your response in the comments below.