(This is the second installment of the Working Class Vegan Man series. Read the first installment here.)
Sticking true to my vegan diet is a cinch at home, or even close to home, but when a vegan takes to the road, commitment becomes a little more difficult.
Road trips on the waves of America’s interstates leave me prey to salty rest stop snacks and gas station sandwiches filled with iceberg lettuce strips—a nutritionally-limited diet to say the least. Traveling healthy is tough.
First: Plane Preparation, the Beverage. There’s no way I’m spending my hard-earned working-class dollars at an airport restaurant. OK, let me level with you here: my spending money was part of a grant, so the money wasn’t mine, but I’m accustomed to frugality, and I wasn’t about to let this “free” money go to my head. Nah, I’m gonna fight consumerist frivolity. I brought an empty water bottle to fill once I got past security. Some airports, like Chicago, have those nice filter units on their drinking fountains, and putting them to use helped me stay hydrated and limited my munchies.
Second: Plane Preparation, the Food. Again, I’m not gonna buy a meal at the airport. My favorite thing to do, whether it’s a road trip or plane trip, is to make my own trail mix. Grab a handful of peanuts, almonds, sunflower seeds, raisins and dark chocolate bits and throw them in a small to-go container. I’ll also be sure to make some cookies or protein squares the night before so I can chow on a few of those. Top it off with an apple, and that should get me to LA without stopping for an enormous, diabetes-inducing cinnamon roll.
Third: In-Town Research. Do a little research about local options before and a little upon arrival. When I first got to my hotel in LA, I immediately asked the desk if any corner stores were nearby. Boy, did I luck out. Right around the corner sat a tiny place selling hummus and quinoa plates. Rock ‘n’ roll! Now, you won’t get this lucky each time, but even on my last trip to Kentucky, I found a store with some broccoli and cauliflower sides. Add some peanut butter, and ya got a grungy vegan medley.
Fourth: Local Cuisine. This might sound like I had nothing but bird food while in LA. Not true. I got an awesome falafel plate at the Tulip Cafe—brilliant Mediterranean joint tucked away in the Jewelry District. I took a train and a bus to Sunset Boulevard to smother my face in the most perfect taco breakfast plate at the Vegan Sage, and then I ate at my cousins’ place one night—roasted tomatoes and basil on pasta. Delicious.
As a working class vegan, I’ve had to learn how to find the cheapest route, without sacrificing taste. Such a mantra has allowed me to spend very little while maintaining maximum nutrition. As a result, I’m wired to find the lowest cost, which means I found it very difficult, even in LA, to spend down the $150 I was granted for food over the course of five days. I came back with change to spare. So, it is possible, with a little effort, to eat a healthy, whole food diet without going broke.