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Lost in Translation – Being a Vegetarian Traveller

Before you proceed: VeggoAgogo – the travel translation app sadly seems to no longer exist 🙁

This post has hence been slightly modified.

Updated: 06.06.2021

I am a vegetarian traveller. And if you’re a vegetarian (or vegan) and you like to travel, then you are probably one of the number of people who suffer—almost everywhere—with the lack of awareness, recognition and respect for your dietary choices.

Although cruelty-free and healthy eating movement is picking momentum globally, let’s face it that the world is still far from being a cinch for veggie lovers. Unless you want to restrict your adventurous desires, sooner or later you will be thrown into a situation that’s as awkward as awkwardness itself, and as uncomfortable as, well…being famished.

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Below are a couple of travel stories where, looking back, I wish I had VeggoAgogo coming to my rescue!

Qatar Airways – London to New Delhi

For instance, this one time when I booked a Qatar Airways flight from London to New Delhi, I wasn’t aware that I had to prebook my onboard vegetarian meal. I was still naïve and amateur. It’s been about 9 years since and I do not have a clear memory of the turn of events, but after expressing my request of a vegetarian meal to a stewardess with little English language skills, I was later served with what was mostly vegetarian except for the bowlful of tuna melt on there. Although I presumed it to be vegetarian, the stuff in there already repelled me with its sight & smell. Luckily for me, a moment or two later, I realised that I knew what this repugnant stuff was!

The past months at my BHS (restaurant) job I had been serving tuna melt to our customers. I had seen it and smelled its foul smell; albeit at the job I often had to hold my breath while serving because I couldn’t stand the smell of any of the meat. But I couldn’t escape all of it. Anyway, so the thing is, even though I had served tuna melt to a number of customers in my recent life, I had never had the stuff on my own plate. There lied the disconnect causing the delay in realising what it really was. I thanked myself for figuring it out in good time, set the bowl aside, and enjoyed the rest of the meal – which if I remember correctly was a portion of salad and what was the best croissant I have ever had in my life!

So I ate what I could – barely enough to comfort my screaming tummy for the rest of the relatively short flight – and looked forward to landing at Qatar airport. Thank God it wasn’t a direct flight to Delhi without enough vegetarian food on-board! At Qatar, after a few minutes of struggling later, I found something to eat and then looked forward to India – the vegetarian haven!

Apparently these are the only two photos I took on that London-Qatar-Delhi journey apart from the nighttime aerial view of Qatar city!

Nam Tok Sai Yok Noi (Kanchanaburi), Thailand

So after taking an impromptu trip – along with a couple of Ukrainian travel buddies – to the famous Sai Yok Noi Waterfall in the Kanchanaburi province of Thailand, I ended up with them on a river hut for the night. This was in a small town of Nam Tok Sai Yok Noi located very close to the waterfall. After a few minutes of wandering in search for a lodging and after encountering a bunch of street dogs who wouldn’t quit aggressively barking at us, we convinced a passerby to take us (on his motorbike with a side cart) to the riverside, where we were anticipating cheap accommodation options. Eventually we reached to a guest house which seemed to be in the middle of nowhere.

(Paid) Hitchhiking to the Riverside
(Paid) Hitchhiking to the Riverside

By this time I had graduated myself to an intermediary-to-advanced level of traveller grade. I now knew to pack some food for contingencies, and hope to find more wherever on earth that I’ve ended up. In this case my backpack – which was essentially my laptop bag – was barely enough to pack one set of fresh clothes, toothbrush, toothpaste, shower gel and phone charger along with some crisps and bananas.

As it turned out, I was out of all food by dinner time and found myself at the end of the world. Next morning we discovered a riverside (more of an on-river) restaurant, just next door to our guest house, to get breakfast. This was some hardcore Thai rural area, so naturally the two host women at the eatery spoke no English. I was starving, and the rest of the world was far away.

With the help of my travel partners I somehow managed to tell the chef not to serve me any meat or fish. I think what ended up on my plate was omelette of some sort (not of hen egg) together with some greens. I had grown up eating eggs, but at that point in my life egg was off my diet except for exceptional cases, like this one was. So I gave it a go. I don’t particularly remember liking what I was eating, and I might as well have had just eaten the veggies. It was an uncomfortable breakfast.

Eventually that morning was behind me, and, later, after spending a beautiful day at the Erawan Falls in Erawan National Park, I was back in Bangkok that evening.

Crucial Travel Lesson Learned

There have been more instances of me being stuck in hungry situations struggling to put across the message to the waiter or even the chef directly that I don’t eat any meat, i.e. no cow, pig, lamb, fish or any other animal; and at this point in my life, not even egg.

Today, after years of intermittent travelling to foreign lands, I have developed my own system of dealing with food situations. For instance, I carry a little more of packaged food before leaving home than I used to, look for local market as the safest bet to find fresh fruits & veggies, research ahead of time for vegetarian & vegan restaurants at my destination, and so on. Of course, I can’t plan for off the cuff trips. But that’s where my pre-packed unhealthy processed food lot comes into the picture. And above all, I have trained my brain to handle hungriness better.

VeggoAgogo Travel Translation App

This is exactly where VeggoAgogo’s travel translation app is going to be extremely useful on my next trip abroad. Although currently I basically live abroad in Deutschland, but as a permanent resident, so I already know quite a lot of Deutsch to get me through.

I’m looking forward to my next trip abroad with this app installed on my iPhone, especially to Nederland – that’s where I spent a summer struggling to find any vegetarian food whatsoever. Although knowing some German already makes up for dealing with Dutch somewhat easier, I can’t wait to point my iPhone screen to Dutchmen and enjoy the look on their faces 😉

VeggoAgogo Interface with 'Varanasi' Theme
VeggoAgogo Interface with ‘Varanasi’ Theme
VeggoAgogo Interface Dutch Translation
VeggoAgogo (Dark) Interface with Dutch Translation

International Travellers’ Hostel, Varanasi, India

Before wrapping up, may I draw your attention to my backpackers’ hostel in Varanasi, India, that you can count on for healthy vegetarian & vegan food when in the city? Although with nearly 40% of the population being vegetarian, India is a haven for vegetarians. Being vegan, however, can be a tricky business in this land of dairy lovers.

Either way, you can count on us 🙂

💼 Mindfulpreneur ✈️ Traveller 🏨 Helping other travellers travel @ithstays
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