Why I’m eating vegan & why I haven’t talked about it

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On the 24th May 2018, I decided I would trying eating a vegan diet for a week. I’d been particularly bored at that time, struggling to fill the hole that skiing had left in my life now that the snow had melted and the lifts were closed. I’d watched every Princess Diana documentary on Netflix and moved onto documentaries on global meat consumption and diet. Fueled by facts about the negative impacts on the environment and your health that animal produce causes, I impulsively decided I would try a vegan diet. I was intrigued to see how hard it would be; I’d always been on the side of “I could never do that”.

To my surprise the first week went by without too much difficulty. Luckily I have a friend at work who is vegan and they were able to give me a lot of great advice and guidance. Whistler is a very open place with lots of different lifestyles coexisting, so finding vegan alternatives was easy. Considering I’d made it that far, I decided to keep going. I wasn’t sure how much longer I would carry on but I wasn’t ready to go back to eating meat just yet. I’m forever grateful to Pinterest for making it so easy to find amazing and delicious vegan food inspiration. Some of the tastiest meals I’ve had in a while have been since I changed my diet and I’ve probably become a better cook, learning to make new things like quesadillas.

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After a couple of weeks had passed and I was still sticking to my new diet, I decided to tell my family. I’d told my brother from the beginning – he’s a vegetarian and was very supportive of my decision – but I was nervous of telling my mum. Actually I was nervous of telling most people and I still am. Her first reaction was something along the lines of “can’t you just be a vegetarian?” which epitomises what I had feared – the negative reaction to being a vegan. Lots of people think you’re just being fussy or difficult. They can’t understand why you’ve made such a “drastic life change” and they can’t see why it matters so much to you.

But why do people have such negative views of vegans when those choosing that lifestyle are doing it for positive reasons? We should be glad they are trying to reduce their environmental impact, the amount of animals killed each year for our consumption and improve their own health. I’ve always being conscious of being an “inconvenience” to people when I eat out after being a picky eater as a child and I guess this feeling has intensified now that I’ve cut a large section of everyday foods from my diet. But I’m happy and proud of the decision I’ve made so I shouldn’t shy away from telling people.

I know that this doesn’t appear to have anything to do with travel and it’s quite different to what I’ve written about before, but for me, travel is a journey of self-discovery and choosing to eating vegan is my latest adventure.

10 life lessons from travelling this year

airportIt’s hard to believe it’s been a year since I left England. It feels like a lot has changed in my life since the 30th of June 2017 when I was loaded up with all my possessions in Heathrow airport waving goodbye my mum and that easy lifestyle. I didn’t know how it would work out and I was especially nervous starting off in Venezuela. But now looking back I wouldn’t change a thing.

I’ve learnt a lot in the last 364 days and although from the outside I probably look the same as I did before I left, I feel different on the inside. So, I decided to share 10 lessons I’ve learnt travelling this year, hopefully you can relate to a few if you’ve been on your own journey.

1. Self-belief – travelling independently has taught me to believe in myself, as clichéd as it sounds. I decided where I wanted to go and what I wanted to do and I did it. Even when things looked a bit sticky, like crossing the border into Colombia on foot or getting to the front of a four hour border queue in Ecuador and being told I haven’t got the right passport stamp; I managed to sort myself out. I turned up in Canada without a job or a place to live and I figured it out. Just because others doubt you, doesn’t mean you should doubt yourself too.
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2. Language skills are really helpful – this is one of the most practical life lessons. Learning some Spanish along the way was really helpful. I was definitely ignorant thinking I wouldn’t need to speak the local language. To really experience the culture of a nation, you need to communicate in their language. The next time I travel somewhere new, I’ll take a short language course before I set off.

3. Things don’t always have to go to plan – being flexible and open to changing your plans helps you to make the most of travelling and life in general. In South America it was really hard to see everything I wanted to see in so many different places, in such a short time. Turning up in a town on a day when all the museums are closed; planning a beach day when it’s raining; trying to catch a bus on a day when there aren’t any; were all common occurrences when I was travelling and you just have to get on with it. Sometimes there’s nothing you can do to change a situation, so make the most of what you can do, not what you can’t. (Hakuna Matata, basically but without the catchy song)

4. My worldly possessions don’t mean as much as I thought they did – I can be a bit of a hoarder at times, especially for mementos like ticket stubs. After having to carry everything I have on my back for four months I’ve realised, do I actually need all this stuff? Especially clothes – I don’t need tonnes of tops, dresses and shorts that I never even wear. I’m much more comfortable wearing leggings and jumpers anyway.

5. Desk jobs are really not for me – I kind of knew this before I set off on my adventures but travelling really confirmed it for me. I can’t just quietly sit at a desk doing the same thing everyday. It doesn’t fit my personality and I’m so glad I learnt this now rather than 10 years down the line when I don’t know why my life feels so unsatisfied.
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6. How to spend money more wisely – I still can’t claim to be any kind of budgeting expert. I’ve always spent money as fast as I’ve earned it but travelling definitely taught me (sometimes the hard way) that you can’t afford to do everything you want to do, even if you have the cash now. Travelling for five months without earning a penny means you have to consider what it’s worth spending money on and what you can live without.

7. I’m more outdoorsy than I thought – in the UK I was never interested in hiking or landscapes. My idea of a perfect day at home used to be watching movies and baking. Walking the dog was always a chore I resented and going for a run would be rewards with hours of doing nothing. Now I’m much more excited by outdoor activities and most of goals for the summer are around hiking and camping. My best memories of the last year have all been outdoors, especially teaching kids to ski.
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8. Working with kids is great – a perfect segue here. I’m never had a job working with kids before. I’ve volunteered as a sports coach and I’ve done the odd bit of babysitting for family friends but actually being paid to hangout with kids all day and teach them how to do something you love is great. I don’t know if I’d feel the same teaching children in a classroom environment but I’m tempted to try in the future.
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9. I have the best family in the world (but I already knew that really) – my family has been there for me the whole way through my travels, even when friends haven’t. My mum especially has been so supportive and helpful, whatever the time difference or situation; my auntie has to be the biggest fan of my blog, commenting on nearly every post, closely followed by my grandmother, and I couldn’t be closer with my cousin. Travelling on your own definitely has highs and lows but with my family behind me I didn’t feel alone.
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10. If you want to make a life change, you have to do it for yourself – this last one speaks for itself, really. A lot of people didn’t believe I could or would do all the things I’ve done this year. I wasn’t happy with my life before I left but through the life changes I’ve made I feel now I can determine my own happiness.

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Doing your research, getting advice and making your own decisions

I’ve been wanting to write this post for a while. I know I’m only on my third week of travelling but I have been researching my trip since the beginning of January and I’d like to think I’ve done quite a lot of planning. 

As you’ll know if you have been following along with my adventures so far, I’ve recently moved on from Venezuela to Colombia. Instead of flying which costs about $250, I choose to do my first land crossing. My guide book gave me detailed instructions on how to do this and as it came closer to July, I spoke to my travel agency who were able to help with organising a transfer to the Venezuelan border. 

Confident I had done the proper research and preparation, I thought nothing more of this part of my journey and moved onto planning my travels in Colombia. But, after speaking to some travellers who were part of my first trip in Venezuela, I started to doubt my decision. They were telling me that I couldn’t cross there; that the border was closed; it was really unsafe; that I’d be arrested by corrupt police and more of the same worrying thoughts. And these seeds of doubt grew in my mind. Was my research wrong? 

So I contacted my travel agency asking for advice, did more research and spoke to some local people. When it came down to it I had to make a decision: either abandon my plans and get a flight, or continue with what I had originally decided and paid for.

After a lot of thought and worry, I decided to stick with my decision and cross the border on foot, as planned. I was so tense and worried in the days leading up to the crossing. I felt like I was taking a big risk but that I didn’t want to back down on my initial decision. 

When the day finally came, a long story short, the biggest problem I had was losing my Nike cap on a motorbike taxi. Crossing the actual border was fine. I had my bag checked near the border for the first time and once I’d walked the 100m to the Colombian immigration office, the staff were really helpful – I even had a joke with the English speaking attendant behind the counter. The bus I got from Maicao to Santa Marta was pretty luxury with air conditioning, reclining seats and three TV screens, and it only cost me £6-£7 for a five hour journey. 

The point I’m trying to make is, although it’s worthwhile listening to advice from other travellers and you can gain some really useful information, you don’t have to take it all as fact or law. When it comes down to it, you can make your own decisions and choose what risks you want to take. Everyone will have a different opinion on what the best sights to see are or places to visit, which towns are dangerous and which are fun. It’s the journey of discovery that makes travelling a fantastic experience. 

I’ve had a short but sweet time in Santa Marta which I wouldn’t have been able to see if I wasn’t crossing the land border. Now I’m continuing my journey south through Colombia to the popular colonial city of Cartagena.