Updates on Giving Back (and an Ask for Help!!)

Posted from http://www.nomadicmatt.com/travel-blogs/taking-flyte-updates/


Today I want to talk about FLYTE, this website’s nonprofit arm.

Over the last few months, I haven’t kept everyone as up to date about the organization as I would like. I apologize for that and promise that, starting today, that will change.

Though quiet, we’ve been doing a lot of work behind the scenes, improving our website and strategy, and creating new partnerships so that FLYTE becomes a more integral part of this website and community.

First, as a refresher, what is FLYTE?

The Foundation for Learning and Youth Travel Education (FLYTE) provides logistical, planning, and financial support to high schools and teachers who want to take their students overseas to give them a real-world context for what they are learning in school — think visiting the D-Day beaches in France or learning about sustainable development in a rainforest in Costa Rica. I started it in 2015 because I believe not enough kids get the chance to travel, see the world, experience other cultures, and realize the practical side to their education!

While many wealthy school districts send students on overseas educational trips, schools and teachers in underserved areas have little or no opportunity to offer their students this experience. Their schools and communities lack the resources to make such a trip happen. I wanted to create an organization that helps people in forgotten parts of the country, because everyone deserves a chance to see and learn about the world!

Thanks to you, FLYTE has raised over $88,000 USD. Last year, we sent a group of students from Atlanta to Mexico and another group from Washington, DC, to Cuba (and we’re preparing for a third trip in June). These students had an amazing time and the trips had a profound impact on them. Here’s what a couple of the students said about their experience:

“This trip means so much to me because having the opportunity to travel outside of the country and my community (an opportunity a lot of peers don’t get to have) is amazing and it really helped open my eyes and see that there is so much more outside of Atlanta.” – Nokio, BEST Academy student

“I would’ve never thought I would have gotten out of my city, where people hurt and do bad things to one another. It makes me want to travel and learn the history of every country in the world!” –Tija, junior at Anacostia High School

So, today, I want to talk about a few other changes with FLYTE:

First, we’ve created a volunteer section on the FLYTE website.
Now we’ve created a space where volunteers can help grow the organization with us. I love the passion this community has for FLYTE and I want to better channel that into action. You can visit this page to see our current volunteer needs.

Second, we’re looking for interns. We need help. We’ve tried to do it all alone, but we need some help growing FLYTE. If you live in the NYC area and are fluent in social media, we’d love to have you! We’re a licensed 501(c)(3) and you can get an internship that counts for college credit. You’ll work in my office in NYC with my executive director and the rest of the Nomadic Matt team. You can apply here!

Third, this website now has a dedicated FLYTE page where you can see all the updates and information about the program, school trips, and anything else FLYTE related. Moving forward, FLYTE is going to become a more integral part of this website. Let’s work together as community to show more kids the world (especially in today’s environment where people want to close borders rather than open them)! This page is a work in progress and we’ll be expanding it over the next few weeks!

Fourth, we’re starting weekly emails to donors that will update them on the school, kids, organization, and everything in between. This is something that should have happened a long time ago, and I just never got my act together. My executive director and I are now making it a priority to send out weekly emails to you, so that you will always know what is going on in the organization and the kids, and how your donation is being used.

Fifth, we’ve moved to a new donation platform that will allow us to host donations right on our website (no more going to another website), reduce fees, and accept recurring donations. This new system will ensure that it’s easier to donate and that there are fewer fees when you do! It will be live by tomorrow!



Finally, I need your help again.
We’re sending a group of students from Excelsior Academy in Newburgh, NY, to Quito, Ecuador in June! The students will volunteer at Casa Victoria, a grassroots community betterment program located in a struggling section of Quito, and work with local students in an after-school program. Not only will they get to experience another culture, country, and continent but they will also give back while there.

Please help us finish raising money for the students at Excelsior. We’re a little over $20,000 from our goal. I’ll be matching donations up to $10,000, which means that if the community can donate at least that much, we’ll hit our goal and send the kids on their way (any extra money raised will go to future trips)! For most of these students, this will be their first time out of the country so this is a chance to really make an added difference!

Newburgh, once a thriving manufacturing center on the Hudson River, has faced deindustrialization and failed urban renewal attempts that have left the town struggling both financially and socially. Complicating the matter, the Newburgh school district is located in what the FBI has repeatedly named one of the ten most dangerous cities per capita in the United States.

As Excelsior teacher Christine McCartney says, “At Excelsior Academy, we strive to create global citizens who recognize their power to enact change at both the local and global level.”

Here are the students talking about why this is so important to them — and what this trip means to them:

Donations can be made via our Crowdrise page (minimum $10) or via the widget below. Those who donate more than $10 will get some awesome swag:

$50 – For donations of at least this amount, I’m offering my e-books How to Teach English Overseas and The Ultimate Guide to Travel Hacking, and my guides to NYC, Paris, Bangkok, Amsterdam, Stockholm, Thailand, and Hong Kong.

$100 – For donations of at least this amount, you will get the e-books and city guides PLUS a signed copy of the print book How to Travel the World on $50 a Day and a FLYTE t-shirt (US shipping only).

$250 – For donations of at least this amount, you will get all of the above PLUS an hour of travel planning with me, a souvenir from Ecuador, and a thank you card from the students!

Excelsior Academy Goes Global on Crowdrise

If everyone donated just $10, we could fund the entire trip – and many more like it – right away. The more we raise, the more we can help these students and others like them.

Ten bucks isn’t a lot — it’s one less Chipotle meal, a couple of beers, one Old Fashioned, one Uber ride. It’s not much in the grand scheme of things.

If you can’t donate, you can also help by sharing this campaign on Facebook and Twitter, and by emailing your friends, family, cousins, pen pals, coworkers – anyone – and letting them know about this. Help us spread the word about this cause so we can change as many lives as possible. The more people know about this, the better!

Thank you from the bottom of my heart for all your past, present, and future support of this program!

P.S. – Here’s a super awesome and shareable Adobe Spark page that has all the essential information you want to know about FLYTE! You can share this page with your friends, family, and on social media! Please help up spread the word!

P.P.S. – If you’re in the NYC area, I’ll be hosting a meet-up next Thursday at Solar at 7pm. Come down, have fun, meet other travelers, and let’s toast the world!

The post Updates on Giving Back (and an Ask for Help!!) appeared first on Nomadic Matt's Travel Site.

Posted from http://www.nomadicmatt.com/travel-blogs/taking-flyte-updates/


Today I want to talk about FLYTE, this website’s nonprofit arm.

Over the last few months, I haven’t kept everyone as up to date about the organization as I would like. I apologize for that and promise that, starting today, that will change.

Though quiet, we’ve been doing a lot of work behind the scenes, improving our website and strategy, and creating new partnerships so that FLYTE becomes a more integral part of this website and community.

First, as a refresher, what is FLYTE?

The Foundation for Learning and Youth Travel Education (FLYTE) provides logistical, planning, and financial support to high schools and teachers who want to take their students overseas to give them a real-world context for what they are learning in school — think visiting the D-Day beaches in France or learning about sustainable development in a rainforest in Costa Rica. I started it in 2015 because I believe not enough kids get the chance to travel, see the world, experience other cultures, and realize the practical side to their education!

While many wealthy school districts send students on overseas educational trips, schools and teachers in underserved areas have little or no opportunity to offer their students this experience. Their schools and communities lack the resources to make such a trip happen. I wanted to create an organization that helps people in forgotten parts of the country, because everyone deserves a chance to see and learn about the world!

Thanks to you, FLYTE has raised over $88,000 USD. Last year, we sent a group of students from Atlanta to Mexico and another group from Washington, DC, to Cuba (and we’re preparing for a third trip in June). These students had an amazing time and the trips had a profound impact on them. Here’s what a couple of the students said about their experience:

“This trip means so much to me because having the opportunity to travel outside of the country and my community (an opportunity a lot of peers don’t get to have) is amazing and it really helped open my eyes and see that there is so much more outside of Atlanta.” – Nokio, BEST Academy student

“I would’ve never thought I would have gotten out of my city, where people hurt and do bad things to one another. It makes me want to travel and learn the history of every country in the world!” –Tija, junior at Anacostia High School

So, today, I want to talk about a few other changes with FLYTE:

First, we’ve created a volunteer section on the FLYTE website.
Now we’ve created a space where volunteers can help grow the organization with us. I love the passion this community has for FLYTE and I want to better channel that into action. You can visit this page to see our current volunteer needs.

Second, we’re looking for interns. We need help. We’ve tried to do it all alone, but we need some help growing FLYTE. If you live in the NYC area and are fluent in social media, we’d love to have you! We’re a licensed 501(c)(3) and you can get an internship that counts for college credit. You’ll work in my office in NYC with my executive director and the rest of the Nomadic Matt team. You can apply here!

Third, this website now has a dedicated FLYTE page where you can see all the updates and information about the program, school trips, and anything else FLYTE related. Moving forward, FLYTE is going to become a more integral part of this website. Let’s work together as community to show more kids the world (especially in today’s environment where people want to close borders rather than open them)! This page is a work in progress and we’ll be expanding it over the next few weeks!

Fourth, we’re starting weekly emails to donors that will update them on the school, kids, organization, and everything in between. This is something that should have happened a long time ago, and I just never got my act together. My executive director and I are now making it a priority to send out weekly emails to you, so that you will always know what is going on in the organization and the kids, and how your donation is being used.

Fifth, we’ve moved to a new donation platform that will allow us to host donations right on our website (no more going to another website), reduce fees, and accept recurring donations. This new system will ensure that it’s easier to donate and that there are fewer fees when you do! It will be live by tomorrow!



Finally, I need your help again.
We’re sending a group of students from Excelsior Academy in Newburgh, NY, to Quito, Ecuador in June! The students will volunteer at Casa Victoria, a grassroots community betterment program located in a struggling section of Quito, and work with local students in an after-school program. Not only will they get to experience another culture, country, and continent but they will also give back while there.

Please help us finish raising money for the students at Excelsior. We’re a little over $20,000 from our goal. I’ll be matching donations up to $10,000, which means that if the community can donate at least that much, we’ll hit our goal and send the kids on their way (any extra money raised will go to future trips)! For most of these students, this will be their first time out of the country so this is a chance to really make an added difference!

Newburgh, once a thriving manufacturing center on the Hudson River, has faced deindustrialization and failed urban renewal attempts that have left the town struggling both financially and socially. Complicating the matter, the Newburgh school district is located in what the FBI has repeatedly named one of the ten most dangerous cities per capita in the United States.

As Excelsior teacher Christine McCartney says, “At Excelsior Academy, we strive to create global citizens who recognize their power to enact change at both the local and global level.”

Here are the students talking about why this is so important to them — and what this trip means to them:

Donations can be made via our Crowdrise page (minimum $10) or via the widget below. Those who donate more than $10 will get some awesome swag:

$50 – For donations of at least this amount, I’m offering my e-books How to Teach English Overseas and The Ultimate Guide to Travel Hacking, and my guides to NYC, Paris, Bangkok, Amsterdam, Stockholm, Thailand, and Hong Kong.

$100 – For donations of at least this amount, you will get the e-books and city guides PLUS a signed copy of the print book How to Travel the World on $50 a Day and a FLYTE t-shirt (US shipping only).

$250 – For donations of at least this amount, you will get all of the above PLUS an hour of travel planning with me, a souvenir from Ecuador, and a thank you card from the students!

Excelsior Academy Goes Global on Crowdrise

If everyone donated just $10, we could fund the entire trip – and many more like it – right away. The more we raise, the more we can help these students and others like them.

Ten bucks isn’t a lot — it’s one less Chipotle meal, a couple of beers, one Old Fashioned, one Uber ride. It’s not much in the grand scheme of things.

If you can’t donate, you can also help by sharing this campaign on Facebook and Twitter, and by emailing your friends, family, cousins, pen pals, coworkers – anyone – and letting them know about this. Help us spread the word about this cause so we can change as many lives as possible. The more people know about this, the better!

Thank you from the bottom of my heart for all your past, present, and future support of this program!

P.S. – Here’s a super awesome and shareable Adobe Spark page that has all the essential information you want to know about FLYTE! You can share this page with your friends, family, and on social media! Please help up spread the word!

P.P.S. – If you’re in the NYC area, I’ll be hosting a meet-up next Thursday at Solar at 7pm. Come down, have fun, meet other travelers, and let’s toast the world!

The post Updates on Giving Back (and an Ask for Help!!) appeared first on Nomadic Matt's Travel Site.

24 hours in Tokyo

Posted from http://www.aluxurytravelblog.com/2017/04/21/24-hours-in-tokyo/

Tokyo is a fascinating city, with a greater Tokyo population of nearly 40 million, and deserves far more than 24 hours, but if that’s all you have, en route to another destination in Asia, I have some recommendations for making the most of your visit. 1. Arrive refreshed in ANA First Class, JAL First Class […]

24 hours in Tokyo is a post from A Luxury Travel Blog

The post 24 hours in Tokyo appeared first on A Luxury Travel Blog.

Posted from http://www.aluxurytravelblog.com/2017/04/21/24-hours-in-tokyo/

Tokyo is a fascinating city, with a greater Tokyo population of nearly 40 million, and deserves far more than 24 hours, but if that’s all you have, en route to another destination in Asia, I have some recommendations for making the most of your visit. 1. Arrive refreshed in ANA First Class, JAL First Class […]

24 hours in Tokyo is a post from A Luxury Travel Blog

The post 24 hours in Tokyo appeared first on A Luxury Travel Blog.

How to Eat Around the World on a Vegan Diet

Posted from http://www.nomadicmatt.com/travel-blogs/eating-vegan-travel-interview/

vegan travel in the USA
As an omnivore, traveling is pretty easy on my stomach. There’s nothing I won’t eat (or at least try once. Like those fried maggots in Thailand) and I don’t have any food allergies to worry about. Outside of an inability to handle spicy food, I’m pretty lucky. I know scores of travelers who’s food allergies and dietary restrictions make traveling to many regions of the world very, very difficult. Luckily, thanks to the web and apps, it’s become a lot easier to convey your dietary needs to shop owners around the world! In today’s article, I sit down with our community manager and fellow blogger, Chris, who has been a vegan for 12 years. He shares with us how he does it, his favorite resources, and his advice for the non-omnivores out there!

Nomadic Matt: Tell us about yourself!
Chris: I live abroad in “sunny” Sweden. I’m vegan, straight-edge, Buddhist, and balding. I’m also a huge nerd (I have a Star Wars tattoo and am a big fan of Dungeons and Dragons).

I grew up in small-town Canada, and after university, I intended to go to law school and get a respectable job, make mad cash, and live the Canadian Dream. I worked two jobs to put myself through school and was able to graduate without any debt. However, somewhere along the way I realized I wasn’t really loving the path I was walking.

Growing up, it was always assumed that if you did well in school, you were sort of obligated to go to university, get a good job, marry, have 2.5 children, etc, etc.

It wasn’t until after my first year of university that I finally had the space and time to really think if I wanted that path. While everything was going well – I was getting good marks, eating well (ish), and going to the gym every day – I didn’t feel challenged by my current situation. There had to be more to life than just jumping through hoops and building a routine. It was then that I gave up my plans of following the career-house-family model and started to look for alternatives ways of living.

How did you get into traveling?
Honestly, I think it all started when I was 10. My dad and I went down to Florida to Disney for my birthday, and — not surprisingly — it was an amazing time. I have lots of fond memories from that trip, though what stands out the most isn’t what you’d think. What started me down my road of travel? A seatbelt.

Some of you will remember the car company Saturn. They used to have a car with an automatic seatbelt. It was a cumbersome contraption, but as a 10-year-old, having just arrived in America for the first time, I thought it was amazing. An automatic seatbelt?! It blew my mind. I was captivated by it. I think that’s where it all started. From then on, I realized that there were so many mysterious and exciting things out there. And I wanted to uncover them all.

Ten years later, I was hacking my way through the jungles of Costa Rica. While there, I almost got killed by a jaguar while hiking in the rain forest. It had stalked my group to the top of a mountain, and when I was more or less alone it started to weave toward me. By the time it got close, my guide showed up and we scared it away (though it did stalk us for another few hundred meters). A week later I was chased by a crocodile while kayaking up a river (talk about bad luck, right!?). That trip rekindled my desire to travel and inspired me to change my priorities. I left university early and moved to Japan to live at a Zen monastery where I could have some time to figure out what I wanted to do in life.

I’ve more or less been traveling since.

Sunset photo in California

You’re vegan. Is it easy to travel as a vegan?
For the most part but it all depends on your destination and your preparation. In North America and Western Europe, most people understand what you mean when you say you’re vegan or vegetarian. Moreover, if they don’t understand, they likely speak enough English that you can clarify. Many cities in Europe are actually amazing vegan hubs (Berlin and Glasgow to name two).

The trouble arises when you visit somewhere with a high language barrier that also has very different cultural food norms. There are many countries in the world where being vegan/vegetarian is something uncommon and perhaps not entirely understood. In countries like this, the difficulty isn’t finding food — basic staples like rice and vegetables and fruits can always be found at markets and stores — but interacting with locals and having to explain your diet, which can come off as some sort of implicit judgment of their own diet. If you don’t do your research, you can get into some awkward situations.

As a vegan, we sometimes miss out on cultural exchanges. Having a local invite you into their home is something many travelers dream of but, as a vegan, this can be tricky as you now have to politely explain that you cannot eat the food they’re offering. It’s a fine, challenging line to walk.

What are some good resources and tools for vegans planning to travel?
Happy Cow is the go-to resource for finding vegan restaurants abroad; it’s like vegan Yelp. You can read reviews and find information about menus, hours, and locations. This is my main resource when I’m searching for good vegan grub abroad.

Another tool I use is Couchsurfing. While there are vegan groups there that you can browse, I just like to message local vegans directly and say that I’m coming to their city and would love to hear their suggestions. People are always happy to share their thoughts, and I’ve come away with some great tips from this. Not only can you ask about restaurants but you can inquire about good grocery stores for vegan options, as eating out every meal will get pricey.

Don’t hesitate to ask the staff of your hostel/hotel or the host of your Airbnb. They are equally valuable resources, too!

Lastly, there are lots of great vegan travel blogs, too. Some of my favorites are Burger Abroad, Justin Plus Lauren, Vegan Food Quest, and of course, my own blog, Lessons Learned Abroad.

Azure Window in Malta

Have you had any dietary mishaps while traveling?
Many! Just like every other aspect of traveling, your planning will only take you so far. Sometimes things go off the rails and you need to adapt.

When I was in Mongolia, my partner and I were invited to lunch by a local. We were a bit hesitant, considering our diets (my partner is vegetarian), but didn’t want to be rude. So we accepted. It turns out the family had already eaten — they just wanted to make us a meal. They served up some meat dumplings (there are not many cows in Mongolia, so I think it might have been horse meat), kimchi, and fermented milk green tea. Not exactly my standard vegan meal.

But we adapted.

I pretended to drink the tea while my partner downed her glass. We then covertly swapped cups so they wouldn’t notice, thereby leading them to think we both drank the tea.

I ate all the kimchi and then tried to gesture that I was full — they didn’t speak English, after all, so gestures were all I had. They insisted I eat some dumplings, and not taking no for an answer, I had to bite the bullet. I picked up a few and popped them into my mouth. As soon as they looked away I spat them out and put them into my pocket. They were so hot and greasy, they kind of burned my leg as they dripped through my pocket but I played it cool.

After the meal we all went outside and their dogs started hounding me. I tossed them the scraps, and no one was the wiser.

A vegan cinnamonbun in Stockholm

How do you get over the language barrier and let someone know your dietary needs?
There are three basic ways to do this:

  • 1. Write it down. I write down phrases in my notebook for each country I visit. I’ll write down things like “I do not eat meat” so that I can show it to servers at restaurants. I’ll write it in the local language, and then phonetically in English so I can read it aloud without too much embarrassment. This is my standard method — which probably hints at just how old I am — though I am slowly coming around to this next method.
  • 2. Use Google Translate. If you have Internet access, then Google Translate is a great method. To be safe, I suggest downloading the necessary languages so you have access offline. You can also use the app to take photos of menus and translate them, which has been super helpful on many occasions!
  • 3. The Vegan Passport. This little book has helpful vegan phrases you can use as you travel. There are versions in around 80 different languages, making it a pretty handy resource for an RTW trip. It costs around $10 but could likely save you some trouble on the road.

Where are the best places in the world to travel to as a vegan?
Nowadays you can find vegan restaurants pretty much everywhere. That being said, there are a few places in the world that showcase some impressive offerings. NYC, Berlin, Toronto, and Austin are all great vegan hubs. I’ve had some of the best food of my life in those cities. Additionally, countries with a higher percentage of vegetarians and vegans (like Germany or Sweden) also make it easy to find vegan food products in grocery stores, covering you for all those days you don’t want to eat out (or can’t afford to!).
Are there any places that are really difficult?
Not surprisingly, I found Russia, Norway, and Mongolia to be challenging as a vegan. Essentially, if a country doesn’t grow many fruits or vegetables then you are sort of out of luck for a lot of options. Don’t get me wrong, I loved all three place but my diet there was mostly bread and unflavored instant noodles. There just weren’t a lot of options.

Sunset photo in California

How do you manage in countries with few vegan options?
Plan ahead! Always travel with some extra granola bars or trail mix from home. This will keep you covered during those few instances when it is hard to find a proper meal. I took 30 power bars with me to Russia and ate almost 100 granola bars during my 800km walk along the Camino.

Traveling as a vegan means your meals will not always be glamorous. Making your diet a priority, you sometimes will end up having some pretty bland and unexciting meals. It won’t always be awesome vegan food, so be prepared for those rough patches by bringing some backup snacks. You’ll thank me later.

A road trip to the Grand Canyon

You’re an avid Couchsurfer! Many people are put off by Couchsurfing, since you are essentially staying with a stranger. Why do you like it?
Honestly, CS is my favorite way of finding accommodation precisely because you are staying with a stranger. I like it better than hostels because you generally have more privacy and it is quieter than hostels (no snoring backpackers!). You also get to connect with a local who can answer all of your travel questions. This is a priceless resource, making CS worth its weight in gold! On top of that, there are lots of events and meetups available on Couchsurfing, which are great ways to meet other locals and travelers. The fact that it is free is just the icing on the cake.

What tips do you have for those considering Couchsurfing as a means of find accommodation?
If you are planning on using Couchsurfing as your primary accommodation resource, you’ll want to do at least these three things:

  • 1. Get verified. This means you pay a small fee and have your address and phone number verified. You can also send in a copy of a passport, too. What this does is show everyone you’re a legit human being and not someone trying to scam the system.
  • 2. Add tons of photos and information to your profile. Be detailed, so everyone can get a sense of your personality. Share your favorite movies and books, your past trips and adventures, and anything else you think is interesting! Hosts generally prefer to have guests that they share interests with, so this is the best way to find like-minded CSers.
  • 3. Get references. References are the backbone of Couchsurfing. Without them, you’ll almost never find a host. Find friends or coworkers who can vouch for you so that you have some references before you travel. That will increase the odds of you finding a host tenfold.

Walking the Camino in Portugal

You’ve been traveling for a while. What’s your #1 tip for new travelers?
If I had to boil down everything I’ve learned into one tip it would be this: slow the heck down. I’ve seen too many people rush around, trying to check countries off their bucket list, only to spend most of their trip on buses and planes and trains. Rushing around really takes away from the experience; you are too hurried to really stop and smell the roses. Sure, you may get some great photos for your Instagram, but there is much more to traveling than that!

By slowing down, you really start to soak up each destination. You allow yourself more time to get off the beaten path and to embrace new opportunities as they arise. If you are rushing around, you won’t be able to change your schedule if you find a place you really like. Or what if you meet some cool people who invite you to tag along on their journey? This wouldn’t be possible if you were committed to a hasty itinerary. It’s also cheaper since you won’t be spending so much time and money on transportation!

So, when it comes to traveling, remember: less is more.

Chris is a stalwart budget traveler who is always on the lookout for a good adventure. A vegan of 12 years, he is adept at navigating the ups and downs of traveling with dietary restrictions. When not wandering the world he can usually be found in Gothenburg, Sweden, plotting his next adventure. For more vegan tips and travel tales, you can visit his bog, Lessons Learned Abroad. You can also find him running our forums and Superstar Blogging community.

Photo Credit: 1

The post How to Eat Around the World on a Vegan Diet appeared first on Nomadic Matt's Travel Site.

Posted from http://www.nomadicmatt.com/travel-blogs/eating-vegan-travel-interview/

vegan travel in the USA
As an omnivore, traveling is pretty easy on my stomach. There’s nothing I won’t eat (or at least try once. Like those fried maggots in Thailand) and I don’t have any food allergies to worry about. Outside of an inability to handle spicy food, I’m pretty lucky. I know scores of travelers who’s food allergies and dietary restrictions make traveling to many regions of the world very, very difficult. Luckily, thanks to the web and apps, it’s become a lot easier to convey your dietary needs to shop owners around the world! In today’s article, I sit down with our community manager and fellow blogger, Chris, who has been a vegan for 12 years. He shares with us how he does it, his favorite resources, and his advice for the non-omnivores out there!

Nomadic Matt: Tell us about yourself!
Chris: I live abroad in “sunny” Sweden. I’m vegan, straight-edge, Buddhist, and balding. I’m also a huge nerd (I have a Star Wars tattoo and am a big fan of Dungeons and Dragons).

I grew up in small-town Canada, and after university, I intended to go to law school and get a respectable job, make mad cash, and live the Canadian Dream. I worked two jobs to put myself through school and was able to graduate without any debt. However, somewhere along the way I realized I wasn’t really loving the path I was walking.

Growing up, it was always assumed that if you did well in school, you were sort of obligated to go to university, get a good job, marry, have 2.5 children, etc, etc.

It wasn’t until after my first year of university that I finally had the space and time to really think if I wanted that path. While everything was going well – I was getting good marks, eating well (ish), and going to the gym every day – I didn’t feel challenged by my current situation. There had to be more to life than just jumping through hoops and building a routine. It was then that I gave up my plans of following the career-house-family model and started to look for alternatives ways of living.

How did you get into traveling?
Honestly, I think it all started when I was 10. My dad and I went down to Florida to Disney for my birthday, and — not surprisingly — it was an amazing time. I have lots of fond memories from that trip, though what stands out the most isn’t what you’d think. What started me down my road of travel? A seatbelt.

Some of you will remember the car company Saturn. They used to have a car with an automatic seatbelt. It was a cumbersome contraption, but as a 10-year-old, having just arrived in America for the first time, I thought it was amazing. An automatic seatbelt?! It blew my mind. I was captivated by it. I think that’s where it all started. From then on, I realized that there were so many mysterious and exciting things out there. And I wanted to uncover them all.

Ten years later, I was hacking my way through the jungles of Costa Rica. While there, I almost got killed by a jaguar while hiking in the rain forest. It had stalked my group to the top of a mountain, and when I was more or less alone it started to weave toward me. By the time it got close, my guide showed up and we scared it away (though it did stalk us for another few hundred meters). A week later I was chased by a crocodile while kayaking up a river (talk about bad luck, right!?). That trip rekindled my desire to travel and inspired me to change my priorities. I left university early and moved to Japan to live at a Zen monastery where I could have some time to figure out what I wanted to do in life.

I’ve more or less been traveling since.

Sunset photo in California

You’re vegan. Is it easy to travel as a vegan?
For the most part but it all depends on your destination and your preparation. In North America and Western Europe, most people understand what you mean when you say you’re vegan or vegetarian. Moreover, if they don’t understand, they likely speak enough English that you can clarify. Many cities in Europe are actually amazing vegan hubs (Berlin and Glasgow to name two).

The trouble arises when you visit somewhere with a high language barrier that also has very different cultural food norms. There are many countries in the world where being vegan/vegetarian is something uncommon and perhaps not entirely understood. In countries like this, the difficulty isn’t finding food — basic staples like rice and vegetables and fruits can always be found at markets and stores — but interacting with locals and having to explain your diet, which can come off as some sort of implicit judgment of their own diet. If you don’t do your research, you can get into some awkward situations.

As a vegan, we sometimes miss out on cultural exchanges. Having a local invite you into their home is something many travelers dream of but, as a vegan, this can be tricky as you now have to politely explain that you cannot eat the food they’re offering. It’s a fine, challenging line to walk.

What are some good resources and tools for vegans planning to travel?
Happy Cow is the go-to resource for finding vegan restaurants abroad; it’s like vegan Yelp. You can read reviews and find information about menus, hours, and locations. This is my main resource when I’m searching for good vegan grub abroad.

Another tool I use is Couchsurfing. While there are vegan groups there that you can browse, I just like to message local vegans directly and say that I’m coming to their city and would love to hear their suggestions. People are always happy to share their thoughts, and I’ve come away with some great tips from this. Not only can you ask about restaurants but you can inquire about good grocery stores for vegan options, as eating out every meal will get pricey.

Don’t hesitate to ask the staff of your hostel/hotel or the host of your Airbnb. They are equally valuable resources, too!

Lastly, there are lots of great vegan travel blogs, too. Some of my favorites are Burger Abroad, Justin Plus Lauren, Vegan Food Quest, and of course, my own blog, Lessons Learned Abroad.

Azure Window in Malta

Have you had any dietary mishaps while traveling?
Many! Just like every other aspect of traveling, your planning will only take you so far. Sometimes things go off the rails and you need to adapt.

When I was in Mongolia, my partner and I were invited to lunch by a local. We were a bit hesitant, considering our diets (my partner is vegetarian), but didn’t want to be rude. So we accepted. It turns out the family had already eaten — they just wanted to make us a meal. They served up some meat dumplings (there are not many cows in Mongolia, so I think it might have been horse meat), kimchi, and fermented milk green tea. Not exactly my standard vegan meal.

But we adapted.

I pretended to drink the tea while my partner downed her glass. We then covertly swapped cups so they wouldn’t notice, thereby leading them to think we both drank the tea.

I ate all the kimchi and then tried to gesture that I was full — they didn’t speak English, after all, so gestures were all I had. They insisted I eat some dumplings, and not taking no for an answer, I had to bite the bullet. I picked up a few and popped them into my mouth. As soon as they looked away I spat them out and put them into my pocket. They were so hot and greasy, they kind of burned my leg as they dripped through my pocket but I played it cool.

After the meal we all went outside and their dogs started hounding me. I tossed them the scraps, and no one was the wiser.

A vegan cinnamonbun in Stockholm

How do you get over the language barrier and let someone know your dietary needs?
There are three basic ways to do this:

  • 1. Write it down. I write down phrases in my notebook for each country I visit. I’ll write down things like “I do not eat meat” so that I can show it to servers at restaurants. I’ll write it in the local language, and then phonetically in English so I can read it aloud without too much embarrassment. This is my standard method — which probably hints at just how old I am — though I am slowly coming around to this next method.
  • 2. Use Google Translate. If you have Internet access, then Google Translate is a great method. To be safe, I suggest downloading the necessary languages so you have access offline. You can also use the app to take photos of menus and translate them, which has been super helpful on many occasions!
  • 3. The Vegan Passport. This little book has helpful vegan phrases you can use as you travel. There are versions in around 80 different languages, making it a pretty handy resource for an RTW trip. It costs around $10 but could likely save you some trouble on the road.

Where are the best places in the world to travel to as a vegan?
Nowadays you can find vegan restaurants pretty much everywhere. That being said, there are a few places in the world that showcase some impressive offerings. NYC, Berlin, Toronto, and Austin are all great vegan hubs. I’ve had some of the best food of my life in those cities. Additionally, countries with a higher percentage of vegetarians and vegans (like Germany or Sweden) also make it easy to find vegan food products in grocery stores, covering you for all those days you don’t want to eat out (or can’t afford to!).
Are there any places that are really difficult?
Not surprisingly, I found Russia, Norway, and Mongolia to be challenging as a vegan. Essentially, if a country doesn’t grow many fruits or vegetables then you are sort of out of luck for a lot of options. Don’t get me wrong, I loved all three place but my diet there was mostly bread and unflavored instant noodles. There just weren’t a lot of options.

Sunset photo in California

How do you manage in countries with few vegan options?
Plan ahead! Always travel with some extra granola bars or trail mix from home. This will keep you covered during those few instances when it is hard to find a proper meal. I took 30 power bars with me to Russia and ate almost 100 granola bars during my 800km walk along the Camino.

Traveling as a vegan means your meals will not always be glamorous. Making your diet a priority, you sometimes will end up having some pretty bland and unexciting meals. It won’t always be awesome vegan food, so be prepared for those rough patches by bringing some backup snacks. You’ll thank me later.

A road trip to the Grand Canyon

You’re an avid Couchsurfer! Many people are put off by Couchsurfing, since you are essentially staying with a stranger. Why do you like it?
Honestly, CS is my favorite way of finding accommodation precisely because you are staying with a stranger. I like it better than hostels because you generally have more privacy and it is quieter than hostels (no snoring backpackers!). You also get to connect with a local who can answer all of your travel questions. This is a priceless resource, making CS worth its weight in gold! On top of that, there are lots of events and meetups available on Couchsurfing, which are great ways to meet other locals and travelers. The fact that it is free is just the icing on the cake.

What tips do you have for those considering Couchsurfing as a means of find accommodation?
If you are planning on using Couchsurfing as your primary accommodation resource, you’ll want to do at least these three things:

  • 1. Get verified. This means you pay a small fee and have your address and phone number verified. You can also send in a copy of a passport, too. What this does is show everyone you’re a legit human being and not someone trying to scam the system.
  • 2. Add tons of photos and information to your profile. Be detailed, so everyone can get a sense of your personality. Share your favorite movies and books, your past trips and adventures, and anything else you think is interesting! Hosts generally prefer to have guests that they share interests with, so this is the best way to find like-minded CSers.
  • 3. Get references. References are the backbone of Couchsurfing. Without them, you’ll almost never find a host. Find friends or coworkers who can vouch for you so that you have some references before you travel. That will increase the odds of you finding a host tenfold.

Walking the Camino in Portugal

You’ve been traveling for a while. What’s your #1 tip for new travelers?
If I had to boil down everything I’ve learned into one tip it would be this: slow the heck down. I’ve seen too many people rush around, trying to check countries off their bucket list, only to spend most of their trip on buses and planes and trains. Rushing around really takes away from the experience; you are too hurried to really stop and smell the roses. Sure, you may get some great photos for your Instagram, but there is much more to traveling than that!

By slowing down, you really start to soak up each destination. You allow yourself more time to get off the beaten path and to embrace new opportunities as they arise. If you are rushing around, you won’t be able to change your schedule if you find a place you really like. Or what if you meet some cool people who invite you to tag along on their journey? This wouldn’t be possible if you were committed to a hasty itinerary. It’s also cheaper since you won’t be spending so much time and money on transportation!

So, when it comes to traveling, remember: less is more.

Chris is a stalwart budget traveler who is always on the lookout for a good adventure. A vegan of 12 years, he is adept at navigating the ups and downs of traveling with dietary restrictions. When not wandering the world he can usually be found in Gothenburg, Sweden, plotting his next adventure. For more vegan tips and travel tales, you can visit his bog, Lessons Learned Abroad. You can also find him running our forums and Superstar Blogging community.

Photo Credit: 1

The post How to Eat Around the World on a Vegan Diet appeared first on Nomadic Matt's Travel Site.