About the author: Daniel Albaugh is a dedicated animal rights activist and vocalist for the Texas hardcore band Die Young. Banned from Canada twice, denied entrance into Romania, held suspect in Malaysia, and hated in America, Die Young is currently touring relentlessly in support of its latest release, Chosen Path.
Between touring with my band, Die Young, for seven years and touring with peta2 for two years, I have lots of experience answering the question “Is it hard to be vegan while traveling?”
Let me set the record straight: No, it’s not hard!
Plenty of (nonvegan) people seem to think it is, but I’ve toured all over the world—across Chile, Iceland, North America, Puerto Rico, Russia, Thailand, and many places in between—all as a vegan. Sure, you might have to do a little research to find a good, affordable meal from time to time, but where there’s a will, there is always a way.
For all you activists, starving artists, and wayward spirits who want to go out into the world to help animals, here’s a quick guide to kicking ass on the road—vegan style.
1. Beans and Rice
While they’re historically regarded as “peasant foods,” I must say that beans and rice are awesome and should be a staple of any diet, even when you aren’t traveling.
Lots of chain restaurants have vegan beans and rice for a good price, including my personal favorite, Chipotle (hint: Chipotle’s black beans and pinto beans are both vegan, and you don’t get charged extra when you ask for “double beans”), as well as Moe’s Southwest Grill, Qdoba Mexican Grill, Del Taco, and even Taco Bell, where you can add potatoes to a couple of Fresco-style bean burritos and enjoy a full meal for less than $3.
Should you find yourself in Europe, you will discover that, sadly, it’s a very burrito-challenged continent. In North America, we don’t truly realize how privileged we are to have such an abundance of burritos until we leave this wonderful, burrito-lush land.
Never fear, though! If you’re in Europe, your burrito substitute will be falafel. In fact, I recommend opting for falafel over burritos on many occasions—even here on U.S. soil. Why? Because falafel is truly badass! Fried chickpeas in pita bread smothered in tangy tahini sauce? It is cheap and delicious and will keep you full!
3. Eat Breakfast
I know some of you aren’t morning people, let alone breakfast people, but listen up! Eating healthy carbs when you wake up can help keep you feeling good throughout the day.
At most grocery stores, you can find bagels for less than a dollar each. Spread some peanut butter on a bagel, and you’ll be off to a good start. Add a piece of fruit or two while you’re at it, and keep an eye out for nondairy yogurt, which is carried now in lots of grocery and health-food stores.
4. Carry Your Own Food
I get it! You’ve been driving all day, you’re starving, and you just want to find the perfect place to sit down and have a great meal. Sometimes that oasis in the food desert just isn’t going to come, and you may find yourself reduced to eating salty peanuts or gas-station junk food … again.
Learn from my mistakes! When you hit the grocery store for breakfast in the morning, stock up on snacks and meals that you can eat throughout the day so that you’re prepared for moments of despair like this one.
My suggestions include:
- A loaf of bread
- A jar of peanut or almond butter
- Clif Builder’s Protein Bars
- Tofurky deli slices
- Veggies (baby carrots, an avocado, a small bag of spinach)
Basically, carry anything that you can make a sandwich out of when you’re in a pinch.
Even though we’ve already busted the “vegans don’t get enough protein” myth, protein is particularly important when you’re on the road because you can find yourself going long stretches without a meal. You need to give your body something substantial to hold you over until you’re able to chow down again.
- Clif Builder’s Protein Bars contain 20 grams of protein per bar. (But watch out for Clif Builder’s MAX Bars, which aren’t vegan.)
- Create a healthy shake by mixing vegan protein powder with water.
- Pair a shake with some nuts or a piece of fruit when you’re hungry and there’s no meal in sight. No one likes a “hangry” vegan.
6. Lunch Specials
When I’m traveling, I’m usually on a tight budget—especially when I am touring with a band—but there’s no need to miss out on great vegan dishes just because you’re broke.
A lot of restaurants offer lunch specials, so plan your trips so that you arrive at your destination at lunchtime, if you can. Happy Cow is a great for looking up the best vegan establishments wherever you’re going.
7. Frozen Foods
Odds are that you don’t have a microwave in your vehicle (duh), but that doesn’t mean that you won’t have access to a microwave on the road.
There might be one at wherever you’re crashing that night or even at the gas station down the street. The cashier will probably be too disgruntled to care if you use it. I can’t tell you how many times I have stood around a gas station heating up a frozen meal. For three or four dollars on average, it gets the job done!
Let’s face it: Touring isn’t all that glamorous. Sitting in a vehicle for hours every day can turn your body into what feels like a ball of flab.
For the sake of mind and body, take some time to exercise when you aren’t stuck in a vehicle. I like to do push-up pyramids, and you can do them anywhere—in a living room, backstage at the venue, in hotel rooms, or even at the airport while you wait at your gate.
- A portable pull-up bar, such as an Iron Gym or something equivalent: Collapse it to pack in your suitcase, and reassemble it to use at hotels, venues, or wherever you’re staying.
- A set of elastic resistance bands: It’s perfect for high repetitions of arm curls, and the bands roll up for easy storage.
Eating vegan—at home or on the road—is indisputably easier than it has ever been, so eat right, stay healthy and compassionate, and enjoy your travels!