Stefan and Brenda are avid travelers. And like many vegans have experienced, they've had their share of challenges finding veg food while on the road. But this did not diminish their passion for travel and instead became the inspiration to start Samsara Vegan Travels - the first and only vegan tour company in The Netherlands. We asked them to share their thoughts on vegan travel and how this global pandemic will shape the future of travel.
How long have you been vegans?
I have been vegan for over 3 years now
What was it like traveling as vegans in the past?
It was extremely difficult. Especially traveling in countries that are not familiar with veganism and where I don't speak the language. That makes it very hard to read labels in the supermarket or a menu in a restaurant. And if they don't understand what 'vegan' means it is hard to explain what it is that you want to eat.
How much has vegan travel changed over the years and what are the best things about traveling as vegans nowadays?
More and more vegan restaurants and restaurants offering vegan food are popping up, all over the world. You can see there is a higher demand from foreign travelers so more locals are trying to fill that demand by offering vegan food. In some countries, there is new legislation for food labeling so it is easier to see if items are vegan. More airlines are now offering vegan meals on their long haul flights.
Can you share some of the best places you've visited?
My favorite country is Myanmar. Extremely friendly and open people with beautiful scenery in an inspiring Buddhist setting. Not particularly friendly for vegans, however. Vegan restaurants are almost non-existent, but vegan food will be prepared for you if you ask for it.
Vietnam is also very high in the list of places to visit, especially Hanoi and Hoi An. Both are great places to visit with an abundance of vegan food. Hoi An it so interesting and amazing, you can spend weeks there just enjoying the hustle and bustle of the old town and the beach.
And last but not least I would recommend Japan. It is a great country with very friendly and helpful people and so many interesting places to visit. It is also one of the most difficult countries to travel as a vegan because they put fish in nearly every dish. For vegan food, you best stick to Tokyo and Kyoto.
Tell us about Samsara Vegan Travels.
I started Samsara Vegan Travels after my last trip around the world, which was in 2017. It was my first time traveling being a vegan and it shocked me how difficult it was. That gave inspiration for Samsara Vegan Travels: to make traveling easy and fun for vegans by offering package travels to exotic destinations. My travelers no longer need to worry about finding vegan food, I have already sourced all the restaurants. In addition to can travel in a group of fellow vegans, so no need to share a table with non-vegans.
How did the COVID-19 pandemic change the way you view travel?
From a health point of view, people are not inclined to do much traveling, and most certainly not long-distance travel. They are afraid of getting stuck abroad in a strange country, which I can totally understand. And I share that sympathy myself and have therefor canceled all package tours for 2020. There is no need to take that risk and be afraid of COVID-19 while traveling. Traveling should be carefree and fun.
How will it change the way we travel?
As soon as people start traveling again they will most likely focus on staying closer to home. Might people might choose to travel with a tour operator so they know they will be taken care of when something like this happens again. If you are backpacking you are completely on your own.
How soon do you think we can travel again?
Well, that's the million-dollar question. It will probably be years before the situation will be like it was pre-corona. But people will start traveling as soon as they, you can see the evidence right now in Europe. As soon as borders are open people want to go on a holiday, COVID or no COVID. The fearless (or ignorant) will go first, the careful (or sane) ones will wait a bit longer.
What advice and tips can you share on traveling after this COVID-19 pandemic?
My first advice of pretty obvious for vegans: stay away from wet markets and places where animals are kept in captivity. But they will most likely be doing that anyway.
To constantly be aware that our world is a small and fragile place and to take good care of it. And to keep in mind that COVID-19 will not be the last pandemic. As a traveler, you have to be aware that there are health risks in traveling, as there are with anything you do in this world. You might be exposed to diseases (malaria, dengue, etc) some of which can be treated, some can not.
It's everyone's personal choice to decide if that risk is worth the travel.
Due to the current COVID-19 pandemic, Samsara Vegan Travels has suspended all travels departing in 2020. For 2021 and beyond we are rethinking our strategy and possibly come with other options that have less an impact on the environment. Till we have taken that decision there are no tours that can be booked. So Samsara Vegan Travels is dormant for the time being.
In the meantime, I have set up a new website/blog, together with my wife Brenda, called On the Vegan Trail.
On the Vegan Trail provides vegans and vegan enthusiasts, who are interested in travel, veganism, minimalism, food, spirituality, vegan, and/or travel-related products and resources relevant, interesting, tasty, personal and inspiring articles and reviews.
We are here to inform, educate, inspire, and help you. We are just two vegans experiencing the world from our unique perspectives so you can benefit from our knowledge and adventures.