Six years ago, if you told me I’d be a fish-eating Texan transitioning into vegan lifestyle, I would probably give you the most puzzled side-eye and then proceed to take a huge bite out of my brown-sugar-barbecue, baked chicken. A Nigerian vegan, born and raised in Dallas– how does that even add up? Living in Los Angeles, I’m spoiled with options when it comes to finding new vegan restaurant in a pinch. The transition wasn’t too tough up until recently when I flew back Home to Nigeria for two weeks. I found out how severely unprepared I was as a vegan traveler.
When I decided to move into a strictly plant-based life, I was most nervous about the cultural food and the plane meals I’d be missing out on during my travel expositions. I love airplane food (I don’t know if it’s because my excitement from being in the air) and of course, I always want to try the popular dishes of each country I explore. During my trip to Nigeria, I realized how a lot of airlines fall short in providing different meals for their patrons. That, and the rude awakening I had about what it’s like to travel to countries where the diet is mostly carnivorous. I wasn’t readyyyyyy! Only a celebrity assistant could handle the kind of hunger attitude I caught on my 11-hour flight from Germany to Los Angeles. That’s something I never want to experience again, so I developed a protocol for my preparations as vegan traveler.
Bring your own plane food/snacks
Do yourself this favor! I made the mistake of getting on the plane without even so much as a bag of almonds, y’all! I found most airline snack foods aren’t vegan friendly, which honestly, shouldn’t serve as a surprise. Airlines have to invest in brands and items that can serve the general populations of people and cultures who fly the friendly skies, so many don’t budget to buy a whole different selection for a smaller demographic– in this case, vegans. Even the trail mix had dairy and egg in it! If you don’t want to be stuck eating one item or buying up the expensive ass in-flight items on the snack menu, bring yo’ own!
Side tip: Make sure to check which food you can bring through TSA screening check. Solid foods must be bagged, wrapped, or put in a container, but many liquids (especially ones over 3 oz.) are prohibited.
Scope the vegan/vegetarian restaurants early!
I scoured the whole airport looking for a satisfying spot to eat and spent all my time buying up small pieces of fruit and unfulfilling salads out of hanger (hunger and anger). It wasn’t until 20 minutes before my plane took off that I found out LAX had a Real Food Daily in Terminal 4. Had I known this earlier, I would’ve been grubbin’ on their vegan nachos as soon as I made it through the security check-point! The moral of the story is: Google-peep the scene before you go in unknowing. Also, once you book that flight, sites like https://www.happycow.net/ can help you search for all the vegan/vegetarian spots, if any, provided in the areas of which you will travel through. This way you know where to go, what to do, or how to improvise in a hunger hurry.
Bring melatonin to sleep off the hunger pains
When I wasn’t playing video games on the television in front of me, watching a movie, or banging my head on the seat going crazy because my stomach was flat to my back, I slept. This helped me bypass the hunger pains until landing. I only wished I could’ve slept longer, so with that being said, bring some melatonin to help you put yourself to sleep when hunger strikes.
Be ready to explain your stance as a plant eater.
Imagine how many “eh?” “na wow” and finger snaps over the head I received when I told my family in Nigeria I didn’t eat meat. Thankfully (and surprisingly) I didn’t have to constantly explain my reason for the change. Even though I decided to eat fish during my trip, they always kept fruit around the house and cooked vegetarian friendly Nigerian dishes like moin moin and plantain. My family back home was supportive of my transitioning lifestyle, but this may not be the case for many. Make sure you know how to politely decline if someone offers you something you don’t want and are prepared to stick to your guns if they challenge you on it.
When you finally find a good spot or dish to eat, stock up and save for later!
Or if you find out that a dish is vegetarian/vegan friendly, make it your go to for the time being! When I realized that moin moin could be made as a vegan dish, I jumped up and praised God Naija-style. It would’ve crushed me to be back Home and not be able to eat any of the traditional foods I loved so much as a kid.