Vegan: A person who does not eat or use animal products.
The word Vegan is a provocative one, it would seem. Even though it has a simple dictionary definition, this way of living has no rules or boundaries. It is a promise to yourself to stop being the reason that animals are suffering and being slaughtered. It is a promise to start on the road to a more sustainable life, to limit our impact on nature. And lastly, yes, a promise to pass on the knowledge you have unearthed about the animal product industry. Because I don’t know about you, but I can’t just sit back knowing that animals are suffering and maybe, just maybe, I can do something to stop it.
As a human race, we seem to be very good at dissociating ourselves from any trauma or neglect that we take part in. Just look throughout our history, whether its slavery in the 18th and 19th century or the holocaust in the 20th century. It’s astonishing how people are still asking the question ‘How could they have sat back and let this happen?’ yet we are doing the exact same thing with these beautiful, intelligent animals. Our children and grandchildren will judge us the same, unless we make a change. And that change starts with yourself.
“We need to align our morals with our actions”
– Nikki Medwell
This wisdom was passed onto me from a friend during a general discussion about life, you know how it is when you’re chatting over a cuppa. It definitely resonated with me and I think it would be a good motto to live my life by.
The personal epiphany
The decision to go vegan normally comes in a moment of pure sadness and disgust and seems unbelievably logical. Mine was during a trip to India when I witnessed an awful outburst of abuse towards a stray dog: I reacted without even thinking of the consequences and yelled, “Stop, stop kicking that dog!” at which he laughed and said, “It’s just a dog, stupid tourist!” I spent the next couple of hours frowning and hating this man and generally wondering how he could want to inflict pain on this dog, yet hold the belief that cows should be protected and not harmed. Then something just switched in my mind: wait, I’d been doing exactly the same in reverse my whole life. I’d been a part of the slaughter and consumption of cow meat whilst cuddling and caring for my dog as if it were part of the family. I guess sometimes we need a mirror of ourselves to truly understand our flaws so we can embrace change.
Food, glorious food
When I first started travelling (before I went vegan) I found it safer to switch to a vegetarian diet whilst on the road, mainly due to the fact that I was eating street food and you can’t be sure how the meat is kept or cooked. Also traveller 101 – it’s loads cheaper! Luckily, now, no matter where I’m eating, I have no such worries – it’s all about the plants for me.
I’m not going to lie: it’s always hard finding good places to eat wherever you are in world, and yes, people may have told me that I have high standards (!) so I have decided to become more self-sufficient and challenge my cooking ability. I’ve always found it strange how little emphasis we put on nourishing our body. This daily ritual affects the way we focus, our mood, our health and, in the long run, our life expectancy, yet from a travellers point of view, it’s just a money guzzler. My answer to the health over wealth debacle is to have a few low cost, easy and nutritional dishes that are designed for the rough cooking conditions that are hostel kitchens.
- Chickpea and spinach curry – It’s an all-rounder: the chickpeas are nutrient dense with high protein and fibre content, and the spinach helps give you your daily dose of iron. Oh, and of course the thrifty side of me would pair this with the free rice which so many hostels provide.
Top vegan tip – Save your chickpea juice also known as ‘Aquafaba’, it’s a great egg replacement when baking.
- Tomato and vegetable pasta bake – A staple dish that will last for days, because we all have those lazy leftover moments.
- Vegan burger with homemade chips – For those nights when you want fast food but can’t afford it, this one’s for you. This meal is great if you group up with a few mates so that you can split the shopping bill, and don’t forget all the salads to fill that bun to the brim.
Just a few of my favs, but experiment with the vegetables that are in season for the place you’re in, or even chat to the locals and find the fruit and veg markets – they’re great for locally sourced produce. And when I find myself in an exotic place with beautiful food which is meat-based, I challenge myself to create a vegan alternative: there are so many different vegetables or even meat replacements, if you are into that.
Then there’s the cheeky bakes that for some strange reason increase your popularity within the hostel. These choc and peanut clusters are so quick and easy because you only use one pan and you don’t bake them, perfect for a chilled movie night with your hostel chums.
Self-sustainability is unfortunately impossible as a traveller because we rely on public transport and buying local food/products. That being said, we can consciously eliminate unnecessary waste and travel as minimalists. I have found that making a few changes can have a great impact. Firstly, I want all my readers to go out and purchase a glass or metal re-usable water bottle. This ones a no brainer really – I mean, as a planet we are buying about 1 million plastic bottles a minute! Following on from this, I’m going to add bar soap, shampoo, conditioner, body wash, deodorant to the list. The many advantages to these gorgeous smelling bars are that they are light in your rucksack, don’t leak, last forever, no plastic containers and generally have less chemicals. If you’re new to the world of soap cosmetics then I recommend heading to your nearest LUSH store or going online Lush website because trust me, you will love it. Lastly, I want to make a note about clothing and fashion: although I love clothes, I have now adopted a more compact wardrobe which includes a dozen quality items that I can smarten up for jobs and also pair with comfy items. We have to get away from disposal fashion – it’s such a wasteful way to live. I hope these tips save you money and precious space in your backpack.
I, myself, am a new member to the environmentalist movement, so would welcome any further suggestions for green living.
I’m a work in progress
I am an animal lover and have dedicated a lot of my life to learning about animals and their behaviours. But I did used to be one of those people that, although intrigued by insects, if a spider were to jump on me I would probably whack it. After opening up my mind to Veganism (because eating animal products is just a learnt behaviour) and no longer dissociating myself from the suffering of animals I can no longer intentionally hurt an animal or even an insect. The fact that I put ‘EVEN an insect’ just goes to show how ingrained speciesism is in our society.
One of cool things about travelling is that you meet so many interesting people who have lived completely different lives to you. I think it’s beautiful when we share our experiences with each other and unearth how that has shaped our individual views. If you have read my previous blog (Roos and Poos) you will know that I recently spent some time with two amazing human beings who have been Vegan for a long time. We became very close and bonded over our love for everything living. Now, this was a unique situation, as we live in a world full of contrasts. I’ve also worked alongside people who care for certain wildlife species whilst actively killing others with the justification that they are ‘pests’. With my hatred for the word ‘pest’, I pose this question to you: what’s the difference between killing a rat and a dog? The answer is nothing, only our personal perception of their importance! Now, as a non-confrontational person, I find it hard to speak out and challenge peoples views. But though challenging the norms is hard and awkward, it is sometimes necessary in order for things to get better.
Being vegan doesn’t mean you have to be an advocate for animal rights; being a compassionate human does!