For the latest installment of our interview series, we reached out to Nina Bolders who runs vegan cooking, traveling, and lifestyle website and YouTube channel Fly Me to the Vegan Buffet. Nina works as a flight attendant for over ten years now and shares her experiences and tips on vegan living and traveling on her site. We asked her about vegan travel, food, and traveling after this global pandemic is over. Scroll down to read the full interview. Enjoy!
How long has it been since you've become vegan and what made you decide to make the transition?
NB: I made the transition in 2007 after being vegetarian for 10 years. I learned more about the milk industry and realized that it’s just as bad.
What was it like for you traveling as a vegan in the beginning?
NB: It meant bringing my own food all the time and eating a lot of apples. Because they are usually provided for the crew. But the situation has really improved sooo much in the last couple of years! HappyCow has so many entries and even most airports sell vegan food now.
What were some of the challenges you've had as a vegan flight attendant?
NB: Serving all that meat and fish on flights and not let it get to me is exhausting. Then, during the layover, I would actually like to hang out with my colleagues, but I just can’t sit in a restaurant with them and smell all that steak and seafood while I’m eating lettuce and french fries. So I go off on my own and explore the vegan options in that city. But it’s improving, more and more colleagues are becoming vegan or vegetarian or just come to a vegan place out of curiosity with me. Once in Mexico City, 10 people came along to a vegan place and loved it. That made me very happy.
Can you share some of the best vegan-friendly places you've visited?
NB: London is obviously great and I was positively surprised by Warsaw, Rome, Mexico City, and Montreal. So much amazing vegan food! And Tokyo has been catching up recently, you need to know where to go, but the food is fantastic, the best.
Can you tell us more about Fly Me to the Vegan Buffet?
NB: I started my blog almost three years ago. At first, I just wanted to make youtube Videos on cooking vegan food, then it turned into a lifestyle blog and travel is automatically a big subject when you’re a flight attendant. I have several what-I-ate-in blog posts and I love going on guided vegan food tours. They are so interesting! Meanwhile, I’m mainly posting foodporn on Instagram and have been using the unexpected free time I had to focus on improving my food photography. I’ve become pretty obsessed with it.
How did the COVID-19 pandemic change the way you view travel?
NB: I find it quite uncomfortable at the moment and I’m glad I don’t have a lot of work. My colleagues have reported not being allowed to leave the hotel room at all at some destinations. I miss traveling a lot though. I got all excited just flying from Berlin to Munich the other day.
How will it change the way we travel?
NB: My friends just went to Croatia - by car! It’s a two-day drive, but they are a family of four visiting her elderly parents. They found it too risky to fly. To make it less exhausting, they put in a mini-stay in Austria. I think it’s actually quite exciting to go on a two-day road trip instead of a two-hour flight. It also makes you realize how far away you are from home. Different planning for safety reasons will just be a factor until the pandemic is over, I think.
How soon do you think we can travel again?
NB: Very soon. People already are traveling again. We will adapt more and more to the new situation.
Are things getting back to normal now in Germany?
NB: Yes, a lot of things are pretty much back to normal again.
Which vegan-friendly towns or cities would you recommend to those who plan to visit Germany for the first time sometime in the future?
NB: Definitely Berlin! It is just vegan heaven. Hamburg is pretty cool too. And Munich is catching up.
What advice and tips can you share on traveling after this COVID-19 pandemic?
NB: My general tips on flying as a vegan are: order vegan food from the airline if possible, call 48 hours before your flight to confirm your order, tell the flight attendants if you change your seat, and always, always bring a sandwich and energy bars or something as a backup. It’s a rumor that it’s not allowed to bring your own food. Just make sure it’s solid, liquids are in a marked container up to 100 ml and you eat it before exiting the aircraft in countries where you can’t import food. Also, I suggest always taking a bag clip and a bottle with you. And to make sure to have an extra shirt or dress in your hand luggage.