Being a vegetarian in the UK is pretty easy. People understand what it’s all about – even if they laugh it off as some kind of teenage-rebellion/peace-loving hippy endeavour, vegetarianism is still fairly common, and most restaurants will have at least a handful of decent non-meat options available.
Being a vegetarian whilst travelling, on the other hand, is probably one of the most difficult aspects of travel I have experienced so far. Cultural differences, language barriers and the sheer lack of a vegetarian ethos present in certain countries food culture has consistently meant that I really have to think about what the hell I am going to eat for the next day, week or month. In Central America, for example, simply asking for food without meat is not enough. I found this out one bite into a chicken tortilla too late. Waaah.
Many of the tours I’ve found myself on that offered meals are also a bit of a struggle. Whilst backpacking Australia, despite letting tour operators know I was a vegetarian, I couldn’t help but be very, very bitter about the absolute feast given to my backpacker buddy and the group around us whilst I picked at a questionable veggie burger and salad. Salad, salad and more salad. The staple of my Australia backpacking diet. Alright for the first handful of times, but needless to say, salad and bread gets pretty boring.
If you’re travelling anytime soon on a backpacker budget and aren’t too keen on eating meat, then here’s some tips I would recommend to ensure you avoid starvation.
1) Go to SUPERMARKETS!
I’m not saying have the occasional burger if it’s in front of you, but especially with many of the tours in more remote areas, you may have to widen any previously picky tastes. An aversion to white bread, or a preference for cherry tomatoes instead of beef aren’t going to do you any favours. Be willing to try things you haven’t tried before – you might end up discovering something amazing, and this doesn’t necessarily mean you have to sacrifice your food-morals.
3) Have low expectations
This sounds pessimistic and defeatist… but if you don’t have high expectations of some glorious feast then you won’t be forced to crying into your watery tofu and – you guessed it – portion of salad. My expectations whilst in Australia were constantly dashed food-wise for two months. As a big lover of food, this meant some soul destroying meal times. Lesson learned.