By Abby Coyle, Semester at Sea, Spring 2017

Trying new foods and exploring restaurants off the beaten path are an essential part of traveling to new countries. However, traveling with picky eaters and restrictive diets does not always make exploring a country easily done. In China, I experienced a rollercoaster of success in finding dishes to enjoy with my vegan friend.

Shanghai and Beijing were a bit of a struggle. There was a major language barrier that left restaurant owners confused. My friend often received dishes with fish incorporated, as chefs assumed she were just asking for no meat. Also being near tourist attractions, there were few trendy restaurants. Most served only average version of Chinese dishes. My friend survived off of plain rice and family mart snacks.

 Hong Kong, however, was quite the opposite. There were arrays of new restaurants catering to new health trends and veganism. At a newly opened “health cafe” for breakfast, I enjoyed avocado with sunflower seeds, scrambled egg whites, and cracked black pepper over a perfectly toasted piece of gluten free bread with a side of a fruit. My vegan friend got a coconut accai bowl with fruit and granola. We both got soy lattes and split a “green machine” juice, a mixture of fruits and spinach. The meal was perfect way to start a full day after a long night. After exploring some local shops and hiking up to look out over the breath taking view of Hong Kong from Victoria’s peak, we were hungry for a late afternoon lunch. We went to a vegan restaurant called Mona. This place was entirely vegan and, even as a meat and dairy lover, one of my favorite meals of the trip so far. We all got a variety of flat bread wraps with sides to split. I had a wrap with hummus, roasted cauliflower, sprouts and avocado. I also had the side of cauliflower soup and roasted yam fries with “garlicnaise” sauce. The yams were the brightest purple and full of flavor with a light crunch. The soup, although vegan, tasted extremely creamy while remaining light. The meal was a perfect re-energizer.

As a person with no dietary restrictions, it can become frustrating to be on the search for a restaurant that can meet the needs of every customer. However, traveling with vegans helps me stay mindful of my eating habits impact on our planet and my health. How does traveling change the way you eat?