As a vegan workawayer, people often wonder how easy it is to get by in different countries. After all, visiting a new place means exploring new food cultures, sharing food with different people and, perhaps most importantly, having your Workaway hosts prepare and provide your daily meals. With these factors in mind, it seems quite challenging to make sure that our dietary requirements are met. But I’m currently staying with my 12th Workaway host (!) and want to assure you that being vegan should not hold you back… Here are some tips to help you thrive on your adventures!
Play it safe
When planning a new adventure, my first go-to is always the ‘filter’ feature on the Workaway host list
. It’s a great starting point to narrow your search results when looking for hosts. Of course you don’t want to limit your options too much - especially as many hosts are perfectly open to vegans, despite not explicitly stating this - but it can be reassuring nonetheless, particularly for your first few trips, to search for somewhere that’s definitely vegan-friendly. It’s nice to know that you’ll be staying and volunteering with fellow vegans or like-minded people who understand your choices without the need for explanation and justification. Be careful though - if you filter using the word “vegan”, the search results may include some profiles directly stating that they do not accept vegans, for one reason or another - the exact opposite of what you’re looking for! Just be sure to double check so you don’t end up in a tricky situation.
Speak up beforehand
Leading on from this, it always helps to discuss any dietary factors with prospective hosts well in advance
, regardless of what they say on their profiles. Even if the host doesn’t actually have a problem with veganism, it’ll probably put extra pressure on them if we turn up and suddenly announce that we’re vegan (most of them will have already prepared some food before you arrive). A small warning beforehand just ensures everyone is happy - simply bring it up when you first message your host, along with any other important things they ought to know. You may even find that hosts will ask you such questions directly, which makes matters even easier. And don’t worry that you might bother them; being upfront and straightforward about these things is always the best way to go - for both of you!
Support your Host
If you’ve connected with a host that’s a perfect match in every way BUT doesn’t seem too sure about veganism, one good option is to offer to help with your food shopping. This could be directly or indirectly and will hopefully just put them at ease, encouraging them to be more open to the idea. Simply accompany them on a shopping trip and choose some basic vegan items together; or just offer a little money towards the shop if they want to buy a few extra things for you, such as an alternative vegan milk or yoghurt. I have found that most hosts have no direct problem with vegans (unless of course we’re talking about working farms and such commercial environments - but you’re unlikely to want to go there anyway!); it’s often just that they are unfamiliar with the concept and don’t know how to feed you! If that is the case, offering this extra bit of support should be enough to reassure them… and maybe even inspire them to consider trying out veganism themselves!
Get creative in the kitchen
Depending how much of a chef you consider yourself – be it impromptu, freestyle cooking or intricate, professional-style recipes - a great option is always to join in in the kitchen and cook together with your hosts and/or other workawayers. Not only is this a fun and sociable way to spend an evening, but it’s also a good way to share how easy and tasty vegan food can be. You will usually find that everyone is grateful when someone offers to cook or help in the kitchen, especially after a busy day of work. And, remember, you really don’t need to make anything fancy - simple, flavourful food is all anyone will ask for and this can be done without extravagant recipes or obscure ingredients.
A fellow workawayer recently asked me for the recipe of something I cooked for a group of us last year… I can’t even remember the evening properly, nevermind what I cooked and how to make it! It was just a quick and easy thrown-together meal of some sort; but it went down well and that’s what matters!
If you’re less familiar in the kitchen, simply turn a popular dish vegan by making some minor tweaks. Some easy examples include spicy mixed-bean chilli, creamy red lentil coconut curry or a big Moroccan-style chickpea salad, depending on the weather I guess!
Consider the culture
An important thing to remember whilst travelling (vegan or otherwise) is to be open-minded. Perhaps you’ve followed a plant-based diet for years and come from a country where alternative vegan products are readily available - but this certainly isn’t the case all over the world. Some countries rely very heavily on meat or milk, so hosts will probably struggle more than others to change their routine and adapt their diets. You may even come across people who find it disrespectful that you won’t try their local cuisine. This is unlikely to happen often, if at all - especially if you follow the other pieces of advice here. But don’t take it personally if it does; just be prepared for different situations in different cultural circumstances. In general though, I’ve found people (hosts, workawayers and local friends) to be very helpful, especially if you’ve got a positive attitude. Just be courteous - make yourself aware of any major cultural differences before setting off and you should have no problem, regardless of where you choose to explore next. You might even be able to persuade a host or fellow workawayer to check out a vegan-friendly café with you in the local area - a great way to get out and explore together (post-Covid, of course!).
Don’t forget the snacks!
A final point, just to keep yourself going in case of emergency, is to hide a few backup snacks in your rucksack! You’ll most likely not need to rely on these - people will always help you out one way or another - but better to be safe than hungry! Good options are nuts, seeds, dried fruits or energy bars. Hummus, carrots and apples are also great if you’ve got space… If you’re really stuck though, you only need to look carefully and you’re more than likely to find some ‘accidentally’ vegan snacks in a local supermarket - it’s always fun to discover something new to try. In Sicily last year we came across some delicious halva snack bars in a tiny oriental store; a delicious treat to tie us over for the ferry ride. Of course it wasn’t branded as vegan or anything, but you just need a pair of beady eyes and a little patience and I can guarantee you’ll find yourself something tasty.
Leading a vegan or plant-based lifestyle is increasingly common today and, and I’ve always been inspired by all the fellow vegan travellers or enthusiastic veggie friends I’ve met on the road. So, whether you’re a seasoned vegan who is hoping to embark on a Workaway journey, or a traveller or workawayer who wants some inspiration to stick to a more plant-based diet, I hope my tips can encourage you to step out of your comfort zone too!
Good luck, safe travels and happy munching! 🌿🌈
After three years of studying Microbiology in England, Ellie was ready for a change and headed straight to Europe to start her first Workaway adventure. Having now hopped about numerous countries, met many amazing faces and made some incredible memories, Ellie's adventures aren't about to stop! The opportunities out there are endless and there's something for everyone. Catch up with Ellie on her Instagram!