For Valerie Libutti, going vegan does not mean giving up the foods you love. Instead, it introduces you to a diverse and exciting vegan food scene from around the world. She shares about traveling as a vegan couple, all the amazing food, and a lot of recipes inspired by these fascinating discoveries on Vegan Travel Eats. Read on to find out more of her stories and tips as a vegan traveler.
Q: When and why did you become vegan?
I decided to change the way I ate almost 5 years ago after reading the China Study. Initially, I followed a “plant-based diet” and didn’t worry about using animal products in other facets of my life, even having “cheat” days where I ate whatever I wanted, including animals. About 6 months later, I opened my mind to the fact that eating animals or using them for clothing, furniture, entertainment, or anything else was cruel, wrong, and unnecessary and I went fully vegan after that.
Q: What was it like the first time you traveled as a vegan? What were the challenges you’ve had and what was the most satisfying thing about it?
I’ve always been a food researcher, even before being vegan. When I would travel, I would spend hours online looking for the best places to eat in whatever city I was going to. That was always the best part of traveling for me! So honestly it hasn’t been that different since going vegan, I still do my hours of research, but it’s so fun! And obviously, the most satisfying thing is finding those few gems in every city I visit and sharing it with everyone!
Nachos at a place called Handlebar in Chicago
Q: What inspired you to create Vegan Travel Eats? Tell us more about it.
I was traveling all over the US eating delicious food and I wanted to share that with everyone! Especially my friends and family that thought I lived off kale and quinoa. I knew I wasn’t the only vegan out there who loved to eat so I wanted to show people that going vegan didn’t mean sacrificing your favorite foods. I would get asked all the time for recipes for the food I was enjoying at restaurants and about a year ago I started developing recipes inspired by the amazing food I’ve had and that has actually become my favorite part of what I do!
Original recipe of mine of veganized Taco Bell crunch wraps
Q: Can you name some of the most vegan-friendly cities you’ve visited so far?
Portland, Oregon, New York City, and Berlin!
Q: What was the most unforgettable vegan meal you’ve had so far? And where did you find it?
Ughhhh I get asked this question a lot and I just can’t answer it!! I can tell you my favorite cities to visit to eat are Portland and NYC, and Eat Drink Vegan Festival in LA is my favorite day of the year and is so worth it!!!!
Q: Have you been to a place where you had trouble finding vegan-friendly dining options?
I haven’t yet! Stuttgart in Germany was a little difficult but we found a few spots and just stuck to those for the most part.
Q: Is there a place that you find particularly challenging to visit as a vegan? Can you tell us about what made it difficult for you?
I think it depends on how you like to eat, almost any place can make you a plate of veggies and pasta and/or rice. But me personally, if I’m on vacation I want to indulge in delicious food. So I like to make sure that wherever I’m going has some good vegan food!
Q: What’s the first place that comes to mind that you would recommend to someone traveling as vegan for the first time?
Again I think it depends on how you like to eat! There are so many different ways to eat vegan, you can be high carb low fat vegan, raw vegan, gluten free vegan, a whole-foods plant-based vegan, a junk food vegan, somewhere in between all of them (where I like to consider myself) so it’s hard to recommend just one place. For someone who likes to indulge in delicious foods on vacation I would again recommend NYC if you’re a big city lover or Portland if you love the outdoors!
Q: What are some of the vegan travel tips and airport hacks you can share?
My biggest tip is don’t be afraid to ask someone for what you want! There have been so many times where I don’t think a place has a vegan option and I ask and they say they can make something for me. A lot of the time they can’t or won’t, but you will never know if you don’t ask. And ALWAYS be polite. I also try to pack sandwiches ahead of time, I’ll put together some super simple vegan deli meat and vegan cheese with vegan mayo and mustard and bring them along. They’re plain and comforting and sometimes the perfect food for travel! Depending on what airport you’re at, a lot of the time the burger place will have a veggie burger, the sushi places will almost always have an avocado roll or veggie roll, and if there’s an Asian fusion place they will have tofu or just mixed veggies in sauce with rice!
Q: If you could give one piece of advice about vegan travel, what would it be?
Do your research!! It will make your trip so much easier and more fun!