Photo taken by Kuba Badaszewski.
For most people, leaving their job and belongings behind to travel the world is something that only exists as a "maybe someday" fantasy. But Lisa Lansing turned that into a reality and shares her experiences in her blog which centers around sustainable living and minimalism.
She no longer travels full-time and is currently finishing up a tiny house she built with her husband, Kuba, but has been to 25 countries since she first departed the U.S. in December of 2015.
We were curious about what it was like traveling as a vegan, if it was difficult to find vegan options in different countries and Lisa's take on veganism in general.
JF: Describe the moment you decided to become vegan.
LL: I went vegetarian after reading Fast Food Nation by Eric Schlosser and then went vegan a few months later. This book not only delves into the deplorable conditions of slaughterhouses (for the animals and people working there) but it also focuses on the processed nature of these so-called "foods". Before reading this book, I never really considered what took place inside a slaughterhouse. Going to McDonald’s (and other fast food restaurants) was a huge part of my childhood so reading this harrowing investigation of the American fast food industry shocked me so much that I had to give up meat for a few months. I also wanted to minimize the amount of processed food I consumed because I had digestive issues, terrible acne and trouble maintaining a healthy weight. I started researching more about meat and dairy industries, and a few months later, I decided to go vegan.
What did you find the most difficult about veganism and how did you overcome it?
At that time, I was going out to eat for most of my meals so it was difficult knowing what to eat or what I could eat at my favorite restaurants. It was also difficult being the only vegan in my family, at work, and in my friend circle because I didn’t have anyone to chat to. That didn’t last long, though. I started meeting like-minded vegans online and found a vegetarian meetup group in the city I lived in. We’d get together often for dinners and potlucks so that really helped me connect with others as a new vegan. Once I started studying at university, I joined the vegan student organization, and ever since then, I meet vegans everywhere I go thanks to networking on social media.
Having many years of experience being vegan and traveling, do you believe it’s possible to maintain a vegan diet anywhere?
Yes, definitely! Finding 100% vegan restaurants isn’t possible in every single country but plenty of restaurants offer vegan dishes. Even if they aren’t advertised as such, many dishes can be veganized easily (if you omit the cheese, butter, etc.). Sticking to restaurants while travelling does require more research in advance but with resources like HappyCow it’s easy to find vegan-friendly restaurants no matter where you are in the world.
Now I prefer to cook my own meals while travelling, so I’m never without my favorite vegan dishes. I’ve never had trouble finding vegan staples (like fruit, vegetables, rice, beans, pasta and bread) in any of the countries I’ve visited. Depending on the time of year, you might not find bountiful produce markets, but grocery stores and even little corner shops all stock vegan staples.
Which country did you find the most accommodating for vegans? The least?
I’d have to say Scotland since their cities are full of vegan restaurants and cafés. If a restaurant isn’t 100% vegan, they definitely have a vegan item on the menu. If you love eating out, Glasgow and Edinburgh are must-see cities. And if you’d rather cook your own food, every single grocery store chain (and basically any shop that sells food or snacks) will have vegan options, lots of grab-and-go meals, snack foods and desserts…you can seriously find the vegan version of anything in Scotland. It’s a vegan paradise!
I honestly have trouble picking a country that isn’t accommodating, because I haven’t had any trouble finding vegan food in any of the 25 countries I’ve visited or lived in.
What advice do you have for vegans who want to travel, but are afraid they may not find vegan options at their destinations?
Don’t let that stop you. You’ll definitely be able to find something to eat at your destination at a restaurant or in a grocery store. I wouldn’t recommend relying on restaurants for all of your meals when travelling, though. Not only is it expensive, but sometimes it isn’t convenient. If you’re in transit for a long time before arriving at your destination, you might not want to trek all across the city just to eat. As a back-up plan, research the names of local grocery store chains in advance so you know what to look for on Google Maps.
As far as food shopping in a foreign country, it’s easiest to stick to staples that happen to be vegan if you don’t speak the language. That being said, lots of packaged foods have ingredients listed in several languages, so you should be able to figure out if something is vegan or not with the help of Google Translate. If you must eat out, check websites like HappyCow and search through reviews and photos on Google and TripAdvisor.
In your personal experience, are most people open minded to information about veganism or defensive and argumentative?
Most people are open minded. Occasionally, I’ll encounter people who are argumentative but that usually only happens online. I’ve met so many vegans and non-vegans through my travels and the majority have been friendly, hospitable and interested in learning more about a vegan lifestyle.
What advice would you give to someone who wanted to promote veganism, but feared being disliked, made fun of or alienated?
For some reason, the fact that you’re different intimidates some people. You’ll always have haters in life (no matter what lifestyle you’re promoting) so focus on the positive impact you have on others and try not to worry about the negativity. With any big change in your life, you might lose some friends in the process but you’ll gain new ones.
What’s your favorite thing about a vegan lifestyle?
I feel great! I never have to worry about my health. The older I get, the better I feel. I’m 35 now and this is the healthiest and happiest I’ve ever been. It’s a little unbelievable but then again, we really are what we eat.
Do you believe that in the next 100 years, veganism could be more popular than an omnivorous diet?
I think that’s right. It seems to be going in that direction so we can only hope!
What question do you wish we asked you?
What is the connection between veganism and minimalism?
I view veganism and minimalism as two sides of the same coin. Both require you to examine who you are as a consumer and both will bring you great joy. You don’t necessarily need to live out of a backpack to be a minimalist, but the point of minimalism is to simplify your life so you have more time and money to focus on the things you like. On a very basic level, you stop buying stuff you don’t need and start living with intention. This premise of “less is more” also applies to more than just our shopping habits. In my opinion, it applies to our relationships (i.e. quality over quantity) and even our diet.
As a minimalist, I don’t buy things on a whim; every purchase is carefully thought out. I ask myself: Do I really need this? Will this purchase make me happy in the long-term? What are the true consequences of my actions? And as a vegan, I ask myself similar questions related to the food I eat and the products I buy. How does my diet impact the environment? Do animals need to suffer and die for me to be healthy? If I can thrive on plant-based foods, it doesn’t make sense to me to over-complicate it.
I view minimalism in the same way. If I can live simply, then why clutter my life with stuff I don’t truly want or need? Living simply gives me more time, more energy, more freedom, and ultimately, more happiness. I found that veganism improved my life the same way. I was vegan before I started my minimalist journey, but if that wasn’t the case, I believe I would have transitioned into it once I started learning about minimalism. Both have dramatically changed my life for the better.
Lisa writes and talks about her tiny home and living a zero waste, minimalist vegan lifestyle on her blog and YouTube channel: