I am a textbook overplanner. When I’m excited about a new destination I will research it until I know every fact available on the internet. I’ll research the menus of restaurants I want to visit, the bus number to and from every attraction I want to see, and every possible way I could offend someone while I’m there. Despite all this
obsessive planning, I’m actually a pretty relaxed and flexible traveler. I don’t freak out if something goes wrong or I miss seeing one thing I wanted to see.
For example, on our recent trip to the Pacific Northwest, my boyfriend and I had planned on doing several hikes in the area. After one killer hike in Squamish, BC, my legs were sore the rest of the trip. I could barely walk up a slight incline let alone take on another mountain hike. The planner in me had a mild freakout but we found a ton of other cool stuff to do around Vancouver and Seattle and I don’t regret a minute of it.
The only thing I’m inflexible with is my diet.
I’ve been a vegetarian for as long as I’ve been traveling and I’ve never had an issue. After a couple years of bouncing back between veganism and vegetarianism I’ve decided that veganism better suits my values and my body. I’ve never taken a trip as a full vegan but I’m planning a trip to Detroit at the end of the month and I thought it would be a perfect time to give all you readers (my mom and my boyfriend probably) a look at how I plan for my trips. Let’s take a look at how easy being vegan in Detroit will be.
There’s a big stigma around traveling as a vegetarian or vegan. People think that you will starve or have to spend a ton of money or miss out on the local cuisine. Truthfully, yeah it’s a little bit more difficult. But I also have never gotten food poisoning or eaten questionable mystery food while traveling all thanks to my dietary preferences. You just need to be a little bit more prepared than your carnivorous travel companions. Here’s how I plan for all my veggie vacations:
Step 1: Strategize location
Step 2: Do your research
Step 3: Pick accommodation accordingly
Step 4: Pack snacks and plan meals
Some locations are easier than others but these simple steps can get you as prepared as possible. You can plan as little or as obsessively as you’d like.
Step 1: Strategize Location
If you don’t care about experiencing the local cuisine you can eat as a vegan just about anywhere. You can buy basic pasta and bread from a grocery store and supplement with local produce from markets. But one of the best ways of experiencing a local culture is to dine out and try different dishes.
This doesn’t mean you have to always travel to a super vegan-friendly destination like Los Angeles or Portland. But there are some parts of the country that offer more vegan options than others. In Thailand I found a ton of veggie versions of the local cuisine in parts of Bangkok and Chiang Mai. In remote islands I had to live off of fruit and coffee. This doesn’t mean you should avoid rural or off the beaten path destinations. But getting a good mix in will allow you to enjoy the local culture and the local food traditions.
My trip to Detroit is to visit family. I didn’t get to pick the destination but I can pick specific areas of Detroit that have more vegan-friendly options. For example, we’d choose to stay downtown for most of our time rather than basing ourselves towards Dearborn or Eastpointe. If we venture out of the downtown area we’ll be sure to pack snacks or research vegan options at non-veggie restaurants. Which brings me to my next tip:
Step 2: Do Your Research
Get a little crazy with it. Look up menus. Find the nearest health food store to your accommodation. My absolute favorite resources for doing this are HappyCow and Yelp. The PETA website also has great recommendations for vegan restaurants in a ton of destinations.
On HappyCow you can search the city you’ll be in and a list of vegan, vegetarian, and restaurants with veggie options will pop up like magic.
On Yelp you need to be a little bit more creative. You can search “vegan” in “your location” and a huge list of restaurants will pop up. However, these restaurants could only have one option and it could be a giant slimy mushroom on a plate so you need to go a little further and check out the menu.
PETA has a great list of vegan restaurants in Detroit as well as various other locations. The list for Detroit is HUGE and gave me a ton of great ideas for places to go.
Research restaurants, juice bars, coffee shops with plant milks, health food stores, farmers markets, and anything else you can think of. The more prepared you are the better. Keep a list of every place you want to visit.
Step 3: Pick Accommodation Accordingly
This is a big one. Don’t book accommodation and then look for vegan restaurants nearby. Find a cluster of veggie-friendly restaurants and look for a hotel or hostel nearby. Ideally you want within walking distance. Or if you’re a real adult and can rent a car you can get a little more crazy with it.
Going along with this, pick accommodation with kitchen facilities. If you’re balling on a budget like I usually am you’re not going to want to eat out for every meal. In Detroit we’ll be staying with my family so we’ll have full access to all the kitchen appliances our hearts could ever want.
In Costa Rica, I was on a serious budget and I cooked almost every meal. Every hostel I stayed at had incredible kitchen facilities and it made it a breeze to stay under budget. I made pasta dishes, oatmeal, beans and rice, etc. I didn’t experience much of the local cuisine but I had more money for sloth viewing and waterfall chasing.
Step 4: Pack Snacks
When I went to Playa Del Carmen, Mexico, the customs officials busted me for sneaking healthy food into the country. I tried to plan ahead and bring quinoa, chia seeds, dried fruit, etc. They saw this as a bag of drugs and razor blades and unfortunately I had to chuck it all. This was probably my fault for indicating that I was bringing foreign food into the country on my customs papers.
If you can sneak it on the plane go for it. Bring dried fruit, nuts, crackers, fruit, etc. If you’re really cheap you can even pack your own pasta. Otherwise stock up when you fly in to a big city and take it with you. I like to hit up the nearest fruit stand and grab some mini bananas, apples, mangoes, etc.
And when all else fails, a coconut makes a lovely breakfast when enjoyed on the beach in Thailand.
My Veggie Travel Plan for Detroit
The purpose of this trip is twofold: we’re volunteering with Liferemodeled for at least one day but I also want to show my boyfriend around the city. I’ve been to Detroit a few times before but he’s never been.
As previously mentioned, I will be staying with family on this trip. The apartment we’re staying at is right in the heart of downtown. We’re within walking distance of almost everything and we will have access to a car if we’re feeling a little adventurous.
- We’ll be volunteering for one full day at least. During this day we will be boarding up abandoned houses, clearing debris from streets and lots, trimming trees and bushes back, etc.
- Belle Isle is a beautiful island in the middle of the river for a half-day adventure. There’s a conservatory and aquarium that are both free and well worth visiting.
- We will be visiting on a Monday, which is the perfect time to check out one of Detroit’s famous Slow Rolls. This is a weekly bike ride throughout the city that thousands of people participate in. Its purpose is to educate people about Detroit, engage riders with local businesses, and create a cohesive and peaceful community.
- The Riverwalk in Detroit offers beautiful views of both Detroit and Windsor, Canada. There is artwork, a carousel, and a concessions area. We will either walk or bike on the riverwalk.
- The Eastern Market in Detroit every Tuesday and Sunday is one of my favorite farmers’ markets of all time — and I’m a huge farmers’ market kind of gal. Apparently the Tuesday market has additional focus on health and wellness with free Zumba and Yoga classes. We will definitely be checking it out!
HappyCow made me one HappyVeganGirl with all of the veggie options that show up around Detroit. Being vegan in Detroit is going to be a piece of plant-based cake. I’ve been to a lot of vegetarian restaurants around Detroit but I’m excited to try out a few new ones!
Places I already love:
- Seva – This restaurant is located in the Center for Contemporary Art and let me tell you – their sweet potato fries are a work of art. Not everything is completely vegan but almost everything can be made vegan.
- Detroit Vegan Soul – EVERYTHING IS VEGAN HERE FOLKS. And a lot of it is Gluten Free if you’re not a bread fiend like myself. The food is straight up soul food with dishes like mac n cheese, cornbread, and BBQ Tofu.
- Cacao Tree Cafe – This one is a little bit out of the way in Royal Oak but well worth the trek. The food is raw and vegan and filled a void I didn’t know I had in my life. Do yourself a giant favor and get the Mexican salad. Grab a green juice to go with it and you’ll walk out of there on a kale-induced high like you’ve never felt before.
Places I want to try:
- Shimmy Shack – Do you find yourself missing out on all the trendy food truck fun because of your diet? SAME, DUDE. The first on HappyCow’s list and the first in my heart. This vegan food truck looks incredible. Burgers, fries, shakes, nachos, oh my. Loosening my belt as we speak.
- Lion’s Den – ALL-vegan and under $5?!? Plus open mic nights with spoken word every Friday at 8pm. BYOMJ (bring your own mason jar you little hipsters).
- Living Zen Organics – Organic, vegan, and gluten free food. Sign me up.
- Pie-Sci – Vegan pizza, ’nuff said.
So there you have it. Here’s how I plan on traveling as a vegan in Detroit. Obviously Detroit is one of the more vegan friendly destinations so I pinky promise I’ll make more posts like this when I get some more vegan travel under my belt. Keep an eye out for more Detroit posts.
Any veggies out there reading this blog? Comment the best vegan meal you’ve had while traveling!