Friday, 15 April, 2016
Five years ago, Kristin Lajeunesse embarked on the trip of a lifetime. Quitting her job, selling her possessions and moving into a van, Kristin set out to travel the USA and eat in every all-vegan establishment. Several years (and over 500 restaurants) later, she’s still on the move.
We’ve all been there, right? Sitting down to plan an upcoming adventure – it might be for work or for leisure – but there is one thing we all share, one thing we must do before even booking the flight: find the nearest vegan eats. I’d go so far as to say it’s become a running joke within the vegan community, how we plan our travels around vegan food options. I even went so far as to spend a full two years travelling specifically for vegan food!
After making the decision to move to a completely vegan lifestyle I, like many others, soon fell head-over-heels in love with food. It wasn’t just the palate pleasures though, as I soon found myself just as thrilled with the visual aspect; taking pictures of my food and sharing them with other vegans, with non-vegans, and with anyone who queries, “What do you actually eat?” We vegans love that we can enjoy food without cruelty, and this is something that we can connect over.
On becoming a full-time nomad
When the realisation sank in that I was actually going to follow through with the ‘Will Travel for Vegan Food’ project, there was no turning back. By the time I quit my job I was fully committed to what I’d set out to do. I accepted that I didn’t know exactly how things would work out until I started, but what I couldn’t have foreseen was how deeply I’d fall in love with living nomadically and travelling full-time.
Pre-road-trip I read copious amounts from people who called themselves ‘lifestyle designers’. These were people who were typically self-employed and most often lived a relatively mobile lifestyle. They talked of working out of coffee shops, travelling monthly to new countries, living minimalistically wherever there is internet connection. I was incredibly drawn to the idea that I too could design my life around my greatest passions: food and travel.
Once the formal road trip concluded in August 2013, I knew my travels would not end. I couldn’t fathom returning to a traditional nine-to-five desk job. Though I no longer live out of a van (at the moment), I still city-hop every three to six months.
I am now self-employed, make my own schedule, and can pick up and go at a moment’s notice, or stay longer, explore more, and meet new people almost daily. It’s truly magical. It’s not always a perfectly lit sunset walk in the park – it can sometimes be tough, and lonely, and sad to leave behind new friends and romantic interests. But at the end of the day, the positives of this way of living – adventuring weekly, travelling monthly, being free to pursue any creative projects, and ultimately being fulfilled creatively in ways I never knew were possible – far outweigh the negatives.
Tips for the vegan traveller
• If you’re on Facebook, look for a local vegan group to join, for example, ‘Berlin-Vegan’. You can post about your travel plans, ask questions about where to eat and/or find anyone who might want to meet up.
• Grab a copy of the Vegan Passport (new version available from ‘s shop from 1 May). It contains easy-to-flip-to keywords designed to help convey your vegan needs, in 74 languages.
• Keep track of your plans by making notes. I do this to keep track of restaurants I want to visit, transportation methods, landmarks etc.
• Finally, my three favourite apps for finding nearby vegan eats are More Than Salad, Yelp and Happy Cow.
An unlikely story from the road
The following is an excerpt from Will Travel for Vegan Food: A Young Woman’s Solo Van- Dwelling Mission to Break Free, Find Food, and Make Love.
My mom flew into Missoula Montana to join me for a week of my journey. The following scene takes place at Omar’s Rawtopia in Salt Lake City, Utah. Mom and I had just finished a meal with a local couple who had reached out to me early in my travels, suggesting we get together when I arrived in town.
I stood in line, just in front of a middle-aged woman waiting for takeout.
“What have you got there?” the woman behind me asked, pointing to the stickers.
“They’re bumper stickers. They say, ‘Will Travel for Vegan Food.’” I saw Mom look over at us just then.
“Oh. Are they for something?” she asked.
“Yeah. Well, kind of. I’m waiting to talk to Omar and tell him about this trip I’m on. I’ve been living out of a van for the past year, traveling the country in an effort to eat at every single all-vegan restaurant in the United States,” I said.
“You’re kidding!” the woman replied.
“Yeah. It’s quite literally changed my life,” I told her. “Would you like one?” I added, extending a bumper sticker toward her.
The woman was a few inches shorter than me, thin and inquisitive. She carried a yoga mat slung over her left shoulder, and was holding a menu. We stood in eye contact for a few more seconds. I smiled and was about to look for Omar again when the woman’s expression changed. She suddenly seemed tense. I thought she was about to say something, but she instead looked down and to the right. She opened the top of a sizable black handbag and pulled out a wallet, unzipped it, and handed me a folded bill.
“Here,” she said, pressing the paper money into my hand. I was confused for a second while she stared silently up at me, now holding my hand in both of hers.
“I want to donate to your journey,” she said, still holding my hand. The intensity in her eyes had me locked in, but I noticed peripherally that Mom was standing a little closer to the woman now.
“What you are doing is so very important. I want you to be safe out there and to keep spreading the vegan message. Keep going. What you do matters so much,” she said.
“Wow. I don’t know what to say. Thank you.
Thank you so much!” I said.
“You’re welcome,” said the woman. She gave my hand a gentle squeeze before letting it go, and placed the bumper sticker I handed her into the black bag.
Without another word, the woman smiled as warmly as a soothing mug of chamomile tea. She looked ahead and walked up to the counter to place her order.
I looked down at the folded $20 bill, still in mild shock as I staggered toward Mom. When I reached her she was on the verge of tears. “Oh, Kris,” she said. “That was incredible.”
“I don’t even know how to react,” I said to Mom.
The woman was completely foreign to me and to my project and had heard only a snippet of my endeavors. How did she know I was even telling the truth? What compelled her to hand me that money? I couldn’t get over the kindness of this complete stranger.
That moment reinforced something I’d come to learn on the journey. Something that rarely makes headlines, let alone everyday stories at all. And it is this: most people are good people.
By Kristin Lajeunesse
Follow Kristin’s travels on wtfveganfood.com and kristinlajeunesse.com.
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