Before I decided to quit my lucrative legal career to travel the world, I thought about all the different things I would have to manage: money, my puppy, working, staying connected to friends and family, etc. One thing that never crossed my mind, however, was adjusting my beliefs: I'm vegan, have been for almost 8 years, and don't plan to change that as I go gallivanting across the globe.
Since I wanted to blog about my travel adventures as much as possible, I thought I should also be planning to blog honestly about this element of my personality and my life; this belief system that is so much a part of me. Being vegan is at the very core of who I am, and talking about it makes me happy. There was no way, then, that this wouldn't factor into my travels.
The reason I am vegan can be succinctly stated in two brief words: the animals. The fact that we still live in a world where we are regularly consuming other living beings truly confounds me.
And coincidentally, one of the very first drivers to my being vegan was actually the exact same thing that's changing my life: traveling. I visited Ecuador during my first year of law school, and for some of the time, was with a tour group. Towards the end of our trip, we visited an animal market. I was already a vegetarian, having stopped eating meat for the first time when I was 7 years old, and I knew that it would probably be a difficult stop for me to make, but honestly, I was really interested to find out how the animals were really treated, especially ones from small, family-owned farms. It wouldn't have changed my mind about being vegetarian, of course, but I wanted to have the knowledge so I could combat arguments made to me about animals being treated "well." Well... before slaughter, that is.
As soon as I got there, I saw a large, make-shift barn on the edge of the field. I walked up to it and saw that housed within it were cows. But these cows didn't look like the kind of cows I saw wandering around in India: fat, healthy and seemingly happy. These cows were skinny, had bruises and cut ears and tails, and some were barely standing. I immediately assumed they would be slaughtered for meat, but I had just seen "pet" puppies in a burlap sack, so I approached the man at the gate to the barn and asked, in broken Spanish, if the cows were going to be auctioned for slaughter. "Oh no," he said in English, "these cows are for milk."
Milk? What? As a long-time vegetarian, it suddenly struck me as incredibly stupid and short-sighted that I never considered the other animal products in my life. I was convinced that if all dairy cows were treated like this (and later, I found out many were treated a lot worse) I couldn't participate in that industry anymore.
As soon as I got home, I started voraciously consuming information about veganism. As part of that process, I realized that although my parents and friends were supportive, many didn't want to hear about the things I was learning. You don't really know about the horrors of animal agriculture until you know, and in my experience, most people just don't want to know.
Eating animals and consuming animal products is among the cruelest and most unnecessary practices in the developed world, today. The animals are subject to horrific practices like having their tails or beaks cut or ripped off, not being given enough space to do activities natural to them, and being repeatedly and forcibly impregnated. Quite simply, there is no reason to distinguish between the dog that you love and the cow sitting slaughtered on your plate.
So, do I plan to maintain my vegan diet and lifestyle as I travel the world? I can't think of an easier answer to any question in the world: a solid, YES! Not only am I excited to discover new vegan foods along my journey, I also can't wait to talk to my new friends and connections about this topic, learn to cook new dishes, and meet as many animals as possible!
After all, I've already planned my first stop to be an animal sanctuary.
Traveling the world doesn't have to mean adjusting your beliefs. And for me, it won't. It'll mean eating as much delicious vegan food as I can, in every city, until I'm ready to go in search of more vegan food in the next city.