My Best Friend’s Switch to a Vegan Diet
Victoria Jenna here! Allow me to introduce my best friend Sofie, an English teacher who works overseas in various countries and absolutely LOVES to travel. Currently, she lives in Ashdod, Israel teaching children in Grades 3-6. Sofie and I have been best friends since high school, and she has stuck by me through thick and thin. Since Sofie lives abroad, her lifestyle is different than mine; therefore, I wanted to learn more about my best friend’s switch to a vegan diet, including how easy or difficult it is to be vegan in other countries. I asked her to share her travel experiences as a fairly new vegan.
Pictured above is us five years ago at the Vancouver Christmas Market
. This was taken well before Sofie went vegan, as evidenced by the sausage she is holding. Another thought I always have about this picture is, “Wow, between the two of us, there is a lot of hair!”
Here is another picture of me and Sofie back in December 2016 during a visit to her mom’s Grade 1 classroom. Over the past two years, it has been getting increasingly difficult for us to reunite, so this was probably the last time we saw each other in person.
So what made Sofie decide to go vegan? – Here is her story in her own words:
Like Vic, I grew up eating meat. However, that changed about 14 months ago. – I worked in the meat department at a grocery store, and I was turned off by what I saw and what I had to do. Not only did I package meat, I had to cut up slabs of meat, which meant that I had to cut through cartilage and fat. I realized that I was eating corpses
Around this time, I also went dairy-free for health reasons
. I found that cutting out dairy improved my skin problems and muscle inflammation. I later discovered that the dairy industry is full of animal abuse
, which encouraged me to stick with my new choices.
Lastly, sustainability and thinking more about the environment
contributed to my diet change. I was raised in an environmentally-conscious family; my dad is an environmental scientist who specialized in agriculture.
Sofie’s Vegan Travels
Since I was two months old, I have visited 28 countries and counting. – I will be travelling to Egypt and Jordan this summer, and will later move to Hungary for my next teaching position. Since changing my diet, I have been to 8 countries.
I haven’t had to worry too much about finding vegan options in other cities, though some of my friends thought that was going to be a major concern when I switched my diet. If anything, most of the countries I have visited have been extremely vegan-friendly. It’s not that hard to be a vegan traveller!
A great resource that I like to use when travelling is HappyCow
and the HappyCow App
. It’s very much like a Yelp
for vegans and vegetarians because it lists different plant-based restaurants in whichever city you are in. The customer reviews on there are super helpful as well. Yelp, of course, is very helpful for finding restaurants and cafes that cater to a specific diet. TripAdvisor is quite helpful too. I have both apps on my phone.
Veganism All Over the World
I wasn’t vegan yet when I visited Iceland, but some vegans may be concerned about food options in a country where the food is heavily meat-oriented.
Iceland is a beautiful country
, but since the country is so small, there isn’t as much of a vegan movement. Some vegan options are available in Reykjavik, the beautiful capitol city which caters to an international crowd,
but the isn’t a large variety of choice compared to other countries. The food is also quite expensive because everything is imported.
I lived in Quanzhou
, China for about 6 months in 2016 when I worked as a teacher at a private elementary school. I was not vegan yet, but I avoided meat after I got food poisoning on my second day. Quanzhou is considered much smaller population-wise (compared to Beijing and Shanghai). Therefore, based on my experience, the area I lived would be difficult for a vegan diet due to the lack of vegan meat, dairy, cheese, egg replacements, etc.; a vegetarian diet, on the other hand, is doable. I’m sure it is much easier to be vegan in the larger Chinese cities with lots of tourism.
I could not believe how cheap the food was! I found many high-quality vegetarian dishes
in the major cities for cheap. Finding lactose-free products was less challenging. – Dairy is not a major part of Chinese cuisine
, and lactose intolerance is most prominent in China and south east Asian countries.
While I wasn’t vegan in Vietnam, I did have a vegan colleague who found it fairly easy to be vegan there.
During my time in Vietnam, I visited Hai Phong
, a rural area that had little to no tourism. I didn’t come across any major vegan or vegetarian movement during my stay; however, what I loved about this trip was that the food was cheap, and the fruit and vegetables always tasted fresh. Therefore, I highly recommend Vietnam for a raw vegan diet
or a fruitarian
For more of a touristy experience, I recommend checking out Hanoi
or Ho Chi Minh
. These cities are very westernized, and will most likely have more vegan and vegetarian dishes.
Pictured: Some of the best vegan food you’ll ever find in Hamburg
Yes, Germany is certainly known for the meat and potatoes diet stereotype. Surprisingly, Germany is extremely vegan-friendly
because it is a multi-cultural country. In fact, Berlin
is one of the most vegan-friendly cities in the world. I found that there were so many incredible plant-based restaurants to choose from when I went to Berlin and Hamburg
, and the prices were comparable to those found in Canada. There were even a few raw vegan restaurants! If you are interested in giving raw vegan cuisine a try, I recommend visiting Rawtastic
. So good!
I was amazed to find fantastic authentic Vietnamese cuisine in Germany as well. Two vegetarian restaurants that impressed me were Berlin’s Velvet Leaf
and Chay Village
During my stay, I absolutely loved Veganz
, a vegan supermarket chain with multiple locations all over the city. I hope they expand into North America!
Pictured: Vegan-friendly pizza, pasta, and gelato eaten in Palermo
This was my second time in Italty, so instead of visiting the major cities, I stayed in Sicily. Majority of my trip was based in Mondello, a neighbourhood found in a city called Palermo
. For meals, I had to request for more vegan and vegetarian substitutions/customizations, but chefs were accommodating. That said, the options were repetitive and limited, and tended to consist of zucchini. – “Vegetarian” in Italy = Zucchini!
Overall, I found that most of the restaurants and supermarkets were heavily meat and cheese-oriented.
was incredibly vegan and vegetarian-friendly! There were endless restaurant and grocery store options, and I had no issues with substituting meat for veggie at cafes. England has such a large population, so the vegan movement is so mainstream. Definitely one of the best European cities for vegans and vegetarians. If you’re looking for a diverse menu, I recommend checking out Wulf & Lamb and 222 Vegan Cuisine, two of London’s top-rated vegan restaurants.
The Netherlands is known for having a big cheese culture
, though Amsterdam
had enough vegetarian restaurants to choose from for my short trip. Most international cities cater to all sorts of diets. Compared to Berlin and Tel Aviv, there were not as many vegan restaurant options.
Pictured: vegan eats found in Tel Aviv
Fun Fact: Israel is the most vegan country in the world
! Population wise, Israel has the highest percentage of vegans and vegetarians; the vegan movement is huge, and it continues to grow larger every year. Particularly, Tel Aviv
has tons of vegan restaurants. You will have so many wonderful options. One of my favourites is The Green Roll, a vegan sushi heaven. Whether you are vegan or non-vegan, this is the place to be at for any sushi-lover! FOUR ONE SIX (416) is possibly Tel Aviv’s most popular vegan restaurant, and for good reason! Their vegan steak is so scary-realistic that I felt sick while eating it. The taste, the texture, the way the “flesh” ripped as I cut it…I have no idea how they pulled that off. Their meatball sandwich is my favourite.
If you need to do some grocery shopping, there is even a supermarket that caters to vegans, although it carries products for everyone.
Pictured: dishes from Tree of Life in Tzfat, Israel
It’s not just Tel Aviv that has vegan restaurants – Jerusalem and Haifa have them too! Even Tzfat, a small, historic, Orthodox city, has two fantastic vegan restaurants called Tree of Life and Elements. I’ve eaten at both multiple times. All over Israel, primarily in cities with tourism, you will be able to enjoy delicious vegan cuisine. There are also many vegan companies that make cheese, meat, butter, chocolate bars, ice cream, etc.
In my experience, the prices have been comparable to North American prices.
Pictured: vegan food found in Athens, Greece
I won’t lie: it’s not easy being vegan on the Greek islands. You may have no options whatsoever and have you hope that the chef will be willing to make some alterations to whatever dish you would like. Luckily Athens has several vegan cafes and restaurants, one of which was a 30 second walk from my hostel! Because Greece is such an affordable country, the prices were cheaper than in Canada and Israel. And like most countries, you will be more than fine with a vegetarian diet.
Pictured: A hearty meal eaten at Lokal Vegan Bistro (left), and a yummy Burger from Mango Vegan Streetfood(right), both found in Warsaw.
Pictured: To-die-for food eaten at a Kraków-based cafe called Momo. They had the best desserts!
I was pleasantly surprised by how many vegan and vegetarian restaurants there were in Warsaw and Kraków. I had vegan burgers, vegan cake, vegan cookies…it was great! The HappyCow App was incredibly helpful here. In Warsaw there is a fast food vegan restaurant chain called Mango Vegan Streetfood. I highly recommend it!
Pictured: Delicious vegan gelato eaten in Paris
Paris is a great city for vegans, offering locals and tourists many vegan and vegetarian restaurants. Unfortunately, my hostel was over 3km away from all of them and my days were too busy with adventure to visit the awesome vegan restaurants available. Luckily all the gelato places I went to offered vegan options.
Next time I travel, I’ll consider using the Seva Flat Pouch to keep my belongings safe!
The Seva Flat Pouch
from Truth is a handy little item to have with you on any trip. Whether you’re taking a road trip, camping trip, cruise, or walk around a city, you won’t want to leave without it! The pouch may look tiny, but it expands so that you can fit your smartphone, cash, credit cards, and more. Be hands-free without having to worry about keeping an eye on your essentials.
Another awesome feature is the flat buckle. Because of its design, it won’t dig into your tummy, so it will be comfortable to wear for an entire day. Ate too much during a night on the town? Simply adjust the belt looser! A unisex belt, the Seva Flat Pouch is available in sizes S, M, and L.
Which countries have you found some amazing vegan dishes in? Share your vegan travel experiences and leave us a comment!
Live Your Truth, and Respect Others’!
Victoria Jenna Lee