As cities around the world slowly reopen after long periods of lockdowns and stay-at-home orders, we prepare ourselves to adjust to the new normal. Amid these trying and uncertain times, we reached out to Voyaging Herbivore’s Alysa Tarrant and Jack Lee to talk about their views on vegan travel and what they think traveling would be like in a world changed by COVID-19.
When did you start traveling as vegans?
I (Alysa) have been vegan since I was 16. The first major trip that I took as a vegan was to China in 2017 and then to London which is where I met Jack. He wasn’t vegan at the time but converted and has been a dedicated vegan ever since! Since we were in a long-distance relationship for two years, we would meet up every few months and travel together for a week or two exploring the vegan scenes of wherever we were, everywhere from northern England, London, Chicago, Vermont, Indiana, and Paris.
What was it like the first time you traveled as vegans?
Jack actually became fully vegan while we were in different countries, so the first time that we met up after being apart for a few months was the first time that we traveled together as vegans. This happened to be in Chicago, which was really quite lucky. Chicago is phenomenal and we were only there for an overnight trip but during that time we stopped at a complete vegetarian diner (with loads of vegan options), a great gay bar with vegan eats, and a place called Kitchen 17 that we still talk about to this day. They had the most amazing deep-dish mac and cheese pizza, and everything was vegan! We have never ordered so much food but we ate all of it over the next few days and it was well worth it.
Because I’ve been vegan for so long and grew up in a town where if you asked for vegan options, they handed you the gluten-free menu, traveling as a vegan really hasn’t been much different. We always research restaurants ahead of time and look up local cuisine as well because, especially in Asia, many of the dishes are already vegan.
Can you tell us more about Voyaging Herbivore?
I started Voyaging Herbivore in 2017 as more of a personal blog (although don’t we all have dreams of it going viral!?) because of my upcoming trip to China and then my semester abroad in London. For the next two years, I really didn’t do anything with it except post long-winded posts about my travels at the time, but nothing was optimized, the blog wasn’t well designed, and I wasn’t consistent with posting.
It actually wasn’t until Jack and I met in London in 2018 that we began to talk about taking the site to the next level. We were so head over heels for each other, loved to travel, and having different nationalities it just kind of seemed logical that we would stay together by traveling to avoid the whole issue of permanent stay visas. We both started learning more about website and social media management and slowly started investing in resources and designers to get things off of the ground.
Now, we’re proud to say that Voyaging Herbivore is growing! The idea behind it is to show just how easy ethical, sustainable, and plant-based travel can be and to provide the resources to get started. We’ve been on the same journey as everyone else, debating whether or not to pet the elephants or to take the short flight over the long bus ride but Voyaging Herbivore has really become a way to hold ourselves accountable to what we preach regarding ethical, sustainable, and plant-based travel and living.
How did the COVID-19 affect your travel plans this year?
We had really big plans this year. In fact, we have had these plans since the summer of 2019 when we booked one-way flights to Indonesia.
I recently graduated from college in the states and Jack was supposed to quit his job and fly out in May for my graduation and then we would go spend time with my family in Vermont and attend a wedding before we headed to New York to catch that flight in June.
Unfortunately, the world had other plans.
I was actually visiting Jack in England on my spring break when all of the travel restrictions went into place, and although I could go back to the US since everything got moved online and the tourist visa for the UK is six months, I decided to stay in England. Now, we’re just really hoping that the US opens up to international travelers before September so that Jack can come back with me and we don’t have to do long-distance again.
As of right now, our plan is to wait for New Zealand to open its working holiday visa program so that we can apply for that and spend the next year there, traveling and working.
How will this pandemic change the way we travel?
Jack and I were just talking this morning about the two-week quarantine that most countries seem to be imposing for travelers. For us, this doesn’t really matter as long as it doesn’t cut into our visa time for each country. We work completely online and if anything, this gives us a chance to get adjusted to the time zone and catch up on some office work without feeling guilty for missing a few sunrises.
But for those who work in person and only get a few weeks of vacation, they can’t afford to spend two weeks locked in a hotel and only a few days actually exploring. So if anything, I think that the pandemic will change the vacation industry.
Additionally, I think it will help promote slow travel. When we travel, we try and run out our visas in each country and get around by bus and train and I believe that the pandemic will increase the need for slow travel. If for every new country that people fly into, they have to stay locked up for 14 days, they’re going to want to spend the most time that they can before they have to do that again. So, I think countries might increase tourist visas lengths to encourage tourism and hopefully, people will slow down a bit more.
How soon do you think we can travel again?
We are consciously optimistic that New Zealand might open this year. We’ve applied for working holiday visas in the hopes that we’ll be accepted and be able to go there, then we don’t have to worry about visas for another year and by then we’re hoping that more countries will be open.
I think that the entire world is going to get a lot more familiar with road trips and exploring their own countries before jetting off to places like we used to do. That, I imagine, might not happen for many years.
Do you already have travel plans for when this crisis is over?
If anything, this pandemic has taught me not to plan so far in advance, and I was raised by a mother who is a project manager so it pains me to say that!
Right now, we’re truly just playing it day by day. If we get accepted to the working holiday visa program in New Zealand tomorrow, we would be planning and preparing to head there. Although we don’t want to travel and risk causing a spread, because England hasn’t extended tourist visas I would need to head back to the states soon, and this way we can stay together and not have to worry about going to a new country for another year.
Our fingers are crossed that something happens before we have to go back to a long-distance relationship that has no end in sight.
What advice and tips can you share on traveling, especially after what we have seen and experienced with this global pandemic?
Travel slowly! If you do want to travel find somewhere with a long visa so you can explore the country before having to go back into isolation.
Go by bus or train when possible as some restrictions are lighter than for those who are flying into a country.
Be flexible! As my mother put it no canceled train or wrong hotel booking will ever compare after having to change all of our plans due to a global pandemic.