But most of the book is inspiring, and you will feel not only excited but ready to make your next trip a slam-dunk. Or you will be ready to slam-dunk it. How do basketball words work? I love loved how the book strongly suggests making friends with vegan and vegetarian locals. Honestly, I never do this and I really want to now. It's clearly the best thing to do - these people will know where you can eat and where you can eat well, and they'll know the best things to do in their town! Why haven't I done this more? Why haven't you? Another, very different, thing I never considered doing is making oatmeal in a coffee maker! Dude! That's hilarious and also brill! I don’t even make coffee in a coffee maker (I don’t drink coffee) so I never really considered their usefulness to me. This is a game changer for places where your only other breakfast option is maybe a piece of bread with nothing on it, or, you know, if you love oatmeal, which everyone does.
CGU offers lots of tips like these and more, all while maintaining an optimistic tone. I cracked up several times at her blunt humor. For instance, when responding to the common refrain we all hear about how we will ‘insult the local culture’ if we don’t eat their traditional foods, Caitlin points out the very true, very persuasive fact that ‘even non-vegans might refuse to participate in [some local traditions] – like bullfighting, child marriage, or stoning gay people.’ Cracked. Up.
The only thing I wanted more of was how to deal with the non-food part of your travels, the activities in places where everything you can do seems non-vegan. I almost went on a trip like this, where the only things to do were like hunting and ice-fishing and bear-riding or something like that and decided not to go. But maybe I missed other things I could have done. But obviously that is not the intent of this book, which is a great help about the most important part of your travels - eating. Go buy it! Here's a link! I get a kick-back!
On to the interview!
Italics are my words, non-italics are CGU's. I mean also try to look at what's in the form of a question.
CGU: That's the hostel! Unfortunately I didn't stay there though. It looks so cool though!
(thus ends the questions I asked for personal reasons.)
2. Everyone knows you are a baller of a vegan traveler, but did you travel a lot (or at all) before going vegan? If so, how do the experiences compare?
CGU: I've done more travelling since going vegan but I did travel quite a bit in my pre-vegan days. I'm a lifelong vegetarian so all my pre-vegan travel experiences were of vegetarian travel. I went all over the U.S. with my family as a child, mainly on road trips. I don't know exactly but I think we visited between 40 and 45 states! I also went to Canada and 7 countries in Europe as a vegetarian, some of which I later visited as a vegan.
So, I've visited a few places as both a vegetarian and a vegan and can directly compare. And honestly, the main difference is I eat SO much better as a vegan traveller!
It does involve a bit more upfront planning - now instead of reading a guidebook, I find myself looking up vegetarian and vegan restaurants in advance of my trip and reading reviews. It means I never end up at just any old tourist trap - not that I ever set out to eat at tourist traps, but I definitely didn't take very much care in choosing restaurants prior to going vegan, and would often just eat at the first place I saw. And sometimes the result was some pretty dissatisfying meals!
For example, I remember eating at several bistros in Paris in my pre-vegan days and being told the only vegetarian option they had was chips and a side salad. We actually ate pretty awful food the whole time we were in Paris. I've been back many times since then as a vegan and I've eaten so well! Although Paris has historically had a bad reputation for vegan food, it's improved a lot in recent years and I've had some great food there, from vegan fondue at Gentle Gourmet to a burger at East Side and even an all-vegetarian bistro experience that was miles beyond my experience eating vegetarian at a non-vegetarian bistro.
CGU: I had pretty much that in Beijing and I just allowed myself to feel really sorry for myself. I had a really bad flu, and coupled with the pollution had developed a hacking cough. It was raining and I couldn't find a vegetarian restaurant which wasn't where it said it would be on Happycow (this is why I suggest in the book that you always double check the address and even call in advance!), and I was nearly an hour's walk from the nearest metro. I was hungry and angry and I just sat down on pavement and cried. I got all the frustration out with my tears and once I was done I actually felt a lot better, and was able to pick myself up and go back to the only vegetarian restaurant I'd been to previously and was able to locate easily. I got myself some takeaway and went back to my hostel to have an early night. Then I found a vegan on Meetup.com who arranged the vegan meetup in Beijing, sent her a message and she suggested a traditional tea I could pick up for my flu - within a couple of days I was feeling better!
4. You've recently moved to Barcelona! How cool is that? I went to Barcelona for a week in 2006 but haven't been back since; I really can't wait to return! Where did you live before and how did your traveling prowess help with the move?
CGU: Barcelona's such a great city and it's really improved for vegans in recent years! The first time I visited was in 2011 and there weren't many vegan options but the vegan scene's really exploded in the last few years and now a new veggie place seems to open every month.
I moved from the US to London in 2008 and lived there until moving to Barcelona last summer. While I was in London I had the chance to travel around Europe a lot so I got pretty used to finding vegan food all over.
CGU: Hahaha - my hometown is in the middle of the cornfields and fields of cows (in the summer when the wind blows the whole town smells of manure) in the Midwestern US so Barcelona is about a hundred times more vegan! Actually, I hear there's a vegan restaurant in my hometown these days so it's made some progress (just goes to show you veganism's growing everywhere!!).
Barcelona's really vegan-friendly today so my advice would be to start familiarising yourself with the vegan restaurants here! I've got a lost of the vegan dishes you absolutely must-eat in Barcelona and I'm actually working on a vegan guidebook to Barcelona right now (you can sign up for updates on the book plus get my list of Barcelona's best-kept vegan secrets here). The vegetarian and vegan restaurants in Barcelona are pretty concentrated in the centre and the alternative neighbourhood of Gracia, so you'll run into most of them just walking around, and if you're seeing the main tourist sights you'll never be too far from one! While there aren't as many veggie places as in London I'd say they're more concentrated here in Barcelona so you're more likely to stumble across them. For example in my neighbourhood, Gracia, I live within 10 to 15 minutes' walk of an all-vegan supermarket, vegan bakery, vegetarian bar, a vegan deli, plus a couple of vegetarian and vegan restaurants and countless small health food shops.
6. Part of being a good traveler is having respect for other lands and cultures, buuuuut, if you could change one aspect of a place you've been lately, what would it be?
CGU: Apart from making everyone vegan? ;) I'd say I'd get rid of the ham here. Barcelona's really good for vegetarian and vegan restaurants but I'd definitely get rid of all the jamon (Spanish ham) if I could. People eat way too much of it, they put it on absolutely everything, rendering otherwise vegan dishes non-vegan, and there are giant ham legs hanging from ceilings all over the city - so gross!
7. Do you prefer traveling alone, or does it depend on where you're going?
CGU: It depends who I'm going with! Haha. I generally prefer travelling alone, because I feel like I see more. I get really distracted when I'm talking to someone and don't really pay attention to my surroundings. Plus sometimes when you're travelling with another person or a group, you end up in a little bubble and don't interact with locals. However there are some places I haven't been that I've heard are generally safer to visit with someone and I've saved those to travel to later....Now I just need to find someone I can travel with without wanting to kill them.
8. Do you collect souvenirs or something similarly tangible on your travels? When I was younger, I strongly eschewed souvenirs and claimed I was 'collecting experiences', but now I've started buying personal souvenirs to remember those experiences. My stance fully switched. Have you completely changed views on some aspect of your traveling?
CGU: I tend to spend most of my money on food so I never have any left over for souvenirs! However I do fairly frequently end up buying some item of clothing that I forgot at home, like a scarf or gloves, and I always enjoy looking at it later and remembering where I bought it.
I used to try to spend the absolute lowest amount of money on travel I could (like so many 20 year old backpackers!), which often meant taking a flight at some ridiculous hour of the morning. I always insisted that was absolutely fine and I'd never pay extra for a flight, but now I have completely changed my mind and I'd much rather pay extra to not have to get up in the middle of the night to catch a plane!
9. Name three people that you wish would buy your book, whether you know them or not. What do you hope they will gain from it?
CGU: Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero, because they are my vegan heroes and their book Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World made me go vegan. I'm sure that Isa and Terry are vegan travel pros though so they probably don't need it!
And then this is cheating a bit because it's not a specific person but I'd say anyone who is vegan but struggles with travelling. I've heard so many stories of people eating non-vegan stuff on their travels (like this) and it makes me super sad! I usually end up reaching out to them and offering them a free copy of my book - which is probably bad for my bottom line but I think it's way more important to make sure that people are informed about finding vegan food on the road. (this is a cheater answer I really just wanted to know if you knew any celebrities just kidding really nice answer :P )
CGU: Ooh! If an anonymous benefactor's reading this (hi! ;) ) I have this dream of doing a vegan Lenten tour of Eastern Orthodox countries. In the Eastern Orthodox church, devout followers eliminate meat, dairy and eggs (though sometimes not fish) for Lent and for other religious festivals during the year. I found out last year during a trip to Romania that these countries become incredibly vegan-friendly during this time. Most restaurants offer vegan Lent menus, even in really unexpected places like fast food restaurants. I've heard in Georgia Dunkin Donuts does vegan Lent doughnuts! So one of these days I'm going to plan a road trip through Eastern Orthodox countries during Lent so I can report back to everyone on vegan Lent delicacies. I'm just waiting on that anonymous benefactor... :)
That's all folks! Go buy "The Essential Vegan Travel Guide" and have better vegan travels!