Vegetarian Abroad

I’ve been vegetarian for 8 years.  When my parents took me fishing.  I saw the fish twitching and gasping for air I knew eating meat was not for me.  Then one day in high school I just stopped eating meat.

My reasons?  At first, it was because I loved animals.  Then I did more research and realized that there are more reasons to be vegetarian than not to be, such as animal cruelty, better health, better environment and cheaper bills.

It is hard  to be vegetarian when you are traveling.  At first, I said that I’d take breaks when I travel.  I give into the cravings and take in another part of the culture.  So when I go to LA for Christmas every other year, I take a break.  When I went to Costa Rica I stuck to chicken and fish.

Then when I came to Spain two year ago I wasn’t vegetarian. Over the two months, I gained 20 lbs which is a lot on a 4’11 frame.  It took 6 months to lose the weight. I’m partly glad I experienced that side of the culture but in terms of my self-esteem and health it was a heavy price. So this time around I’m sticking to being vegetarian and no I don’t eat fish.

I’m going to keep being a strict vegetarian no matter where I am.  So here we go with my tips on both saving money and being vegetarian:

  • Tip#1  If your hostel has a breakfast in the morning, use food to make yourself a sandwich for lunch just wrap it in some napkins.  Put it in your purse or backpack and you have two meals done for the day without spending much.
  • Tip#2   Wherever you are staying, ask a concierge, use apps like AroundMe, good old Siri to find a grocery store near you.  Bread, cheese, tomatoes are the easiest thing for a portable meal. Then you have ramen and canned soups for meals at your hostel. This will save you so much money!  You’re spending under $5 a meal instead of the standard $10 when you go out. Save your money for one of your last nights and have a fancy three course meal with wine.
  • Tip#3  Keep snacks to hold you over until you find a place that accommodates your needs. I just had pretzels or apples. Fresh fruit is everywhere in Europe.  It’s delicious and cheap.
  • Tip#4   Research where are you staying to find the Happy Cow approved restaurants.  Happy Cow is amazing app.  Download it. It’s international!
  • Tip #5 Research the food in the culture, so you know what to get and know what to look for on the average menu. For example: I know the queso manchego and tortilla de espanola are safe in Spain.
  • Tip#6 Memorize the phrase, “no meat,” and “I’m vegetarian,” in whatever language.  In Spanish, “no carne,” and “soy vegetariano/a.”
  • Tip #7 Tell your host family or AirBnb hosts just in case they want to cook for you.  Granted they may not know how to even begin to cook vegetarian, so be flexible, be tasteful and offer to cook. They are sharing a piece of their home and culture with you.
  • Tip#8 Make sure where are staying has a kitchen so you can cook a good and beautiful meal for yourself.  Just label your food if you are sharing accommodations. Having a kitchen takes you from ramen and canned soup, to pasta and salads. Much healthier!

Now I understand why you want to take a break from being vegetarian.  Food is deeply ingrained in culture. I totally understand wanting to experience every part of the culture.  This decision is between you and what you want out of your experience. It is important to be flexible and don’t expect everything to be perfect.  If there is a mix up just be tasteful and respectful at all times. Also, it is always disrespectful to lecture locals about how their food is not ethical.  Just soak in the beauty of wherever you are.

As a side note, I was vegan for 8 months.  I found it difficult to maintain it abroad especially backpacking in Europe.  I’m sure it’s possible but I can’t offer many tips. Honestly,  I lived off of bread and cheese most of my time backpacking.

Good luck!

6 thoughts on “Vegetarian Abroad

  1. This is really interesting. I was veggie for a long time but stopped when I started travelling, although I don’t eat meat often. It was so hard to keep to it, particularly in Asia where outside the tourist places they really don’t understand the concept.
    I also got sick of people cooking for me and then getting insulted when I’d say ‘oh actually I don’t eat that’. sometimes it is part of the culture.


    1. Europe seems to be pretty easy to maintain my diet. Originally I thought it would be impossible for me to be vegetarian in Spain because it is the land of ham and pork. It turns out with a little more effort it isn’t as difficult as it seems.

      Asia a different beast though. I’ve thought about perhaps moving there after Spain.


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