Gone are the days when being “vegan” would mean a rather odd label, somewhere between a crazy one who only eats lettuce and someone who is not flexible at all in their eating.
However, not all destinations or situations are “vegan-friendly”. The world around us is, unfortunately, non-vegan and, even though we won’t stick out like a sore thumb anymore, blending in is not happening either.
This brings me to…being social as a vegan.
I am quite aware of the fact that we can’t even be social right now. Personally, I haven’t traveled internationally for more than a year (a.n. since Dec 2019), and the last tango event I’ve been to before lockdown 1.0 happened almost a year ago (a.n. Mar 2020).
That said, we are all gearing up for social events soon and with them, come the same old struggles of vegans in non-vegan situations.
Having quite a bit of experience – and downright hilarious moments – traveling and attending events and retreats as a vegan in the past four years, here are some tips to help you flourish as a vegan at non-vegan retreats and events.
Looking for more vegan-friendly events?
Contact the organizer way ahead of time
If you are attending an event or retreat, you should talk to the organizer before you even sign up. Make sure to let them know you have specific dietary requirements.
I’ve attended quite a few tango events & retreats since taking up dancing in 2017. Most often, it’s cheaper to get the full package, which includes accommodation, two meals each day, and the sessions (whether they are tango, yoga, mindfulness, or whatever else).
But it’s also true that, in this case, the accommodation will very likely offer a “set menu”. That’s why you should tell the organizer ahead of time so that they can tell the hosts.
Once you know they can cater to your needs, go ahead and book the stay.
Don’t be shy to explain what you can eat (and what you can’t)
Especially if you stay at a small b&b, chances are “vegan” gets lost in translation. I’ve been faced to answer questions about whether I can eat dairy or seafood.
Need help telling people you’re not vegan in a different language?
And then I nicely explain that I only eat food that hasn’t been able to run, crawl, walk, swim, or hop before it made it on my plate. Explaining why I don’t eat honey is a whole different story.
I find breakfasts especially challenging at small accommodations. The situation is totally different at 4-star hotels, where there’s an abundance of choice for all dietary restrictions (and intolerances).
Seek to educate rather than be on constant defence. I find that the more remote a place is, the smaller the chances they grasp the concept of being vegan.
Bring vegan snacks
This tip comes as a result of this lady going hangry (yes, I was not only hungry but also fuming).
Please, bring some snacks; whether you pack some nuts or fruits, don’t leave the house without vegan food.
Together with my dance partner (also my husband), we’ve signed up for a tango retreat taking place at a 4-star hotel in a mountain resort in Hungary. I talked to the organizers and they assured me that there would be vegan-friendly food for breakfast & dinner.
Ah but what about lunch? We’d have classes, so I’d be good. Plus, there are restaurants and stores in the resort.
Except there wasn’t any store (that I could find, at least), and the only “restaurants” I found wanted to give me non-vegan cheese with my grilled veggies.
Oh, and the cherry on top? We arrived after breakfast and way before dinner. Thankfully, my tango instructors, whom we traveled with, bought some vegan-friendly food: apples and bananas. (You can stop laughing now.)
The next time we went on a retreat, I made sure to pack vegan crackers, mixed nuts, and fruits.
And I also ordered and paid separately for a vegan lunch on all days!
Shop at the stores and farmers markets
Except for the oddly situated resorts or accommodations in the middle of nowhere, most often you shouldn’t have problems finding a store or a market in the area where you are staying.
And, if you do end up at a remote place, you should check if there’s a chance to stop at a store in a different village or city to pick up the necessary food.
While before being vegan, I would have chosen the breakfast included with the accommodation, this has changed drastically. And thankfully, when the hotel asks if I want the breakfast and I ask if they cater to vegans, I am always nicely told that I’m better off eating out.
Mind the booze
When I attended my first wine tasting event, I was transitioning and wasn’t even considering asking how the wines were made.
Fast forward to my second event, I was already vegan and it completely slipped my mind to ask.
But you don’t want to make the same mistakes. There’s no such thing as a perfect vegan and chances are the server might not even know, but it is our moral duty to ask if the booze we drink is vegan.