Photo credit: Becky Wong
I am so pleased to share with you below, an interview with Becky, as our fourth guest interview blog! Happy reading and be sure to follow Becky on her Instagram account!
Becky, please tell us a little bit about yourself.
Having lived and worked in London for over 10 years, myself and my other half left the hustle of London in May 2017 to travel indefinitely beginning by basing ourselves in Italy for a few months. We are now slowly travelling the world while working remotely, hopping between UK and the rest of Europe along the way – exploring the countryside and spending time in the great outdoors as much as I can. I’m a big fan of anything outdoors: hiking, climbing, trail walking, recently completed my first ever bike-packing tour cycling the Avenue Verte route from London to Paris! Now I want to cycle tour everywhere around the world! So far since 2017 with my other half I have been around the UK, to Italy, Switzerland, France, Spain, San Francisco, Portugal, Norway, Bulgaria, Brunei, UAE, Scotland, with plenty of housesits looking after homes and the loveliest dogs across the UK in Shropshire, Hampshire, Yorkshire and Kent. This year in 2019, we plan to spend most of our time from the summer months onwards roaming further afield to USA and Asia!
How long have you been a vegan?
I’ve been vegan for over a year now.
What prompted you to embrace the vegan lifestyle?
There wasn’t just one prompt, there were many things nudging myself and my other half towards veganism over the years! The first clear prompt where I gave up eating something immediately was surprisingly squid. I used to love eating polpo, but one summer I watched a YouTube video of a small octopus cleverly freeing itself from being trapped in a jar by opening the lid itself, I then read articles about octopus being highly intelligent creatures that could solve problems and interestingly collected items to decorate their homes under the sea. Watching episodes of Blue Planet contributed to nudging me away from eating fish too. Films such as Carnage by Simon Amstell and Okja on Netflix got me thinking more about the meat industry, talking with vegetarian or vegan friends gave plenty of food for thought. Moving to Italy when we left London where a lot of our favourite meals were accidentally vegetarian/vegan at the time also made us think about the way we ate! On reflection there were many various prompts that combined together prompted me to embrace being vegan. We had already been cutting down on meat for a few years before this as we read more about animal welfare in farms, the more we learned and watching documentaries such as Earthlings, seeing talks on YouTube by Earthing Ed and Gary Yourofsky made us realise causing such animal suffering is unnecessary and cruel! There was a time in the past where a meal wasn’t a meal to me if it didn’t have meat. Looking back, it was more habit than anything at the time to choose the same sorts of meals. We’d started to eat less meat a long time even before deciding to become ‘flexitarian’ and then in time vegetarian. Once we started down the path of informing ourselves more about the farming industry it didn’t feel right to eat meat anymore. The last time I knowingly ate meat was at Christmas dinners with each of our families in December 2017! So that was it, we gave up meat altogether at the start of 2018 after watching the documentary Earthlings on our flight back to Lisbon from London (with much crying!). We cut out other things one by one that year: including milk, cheese, eggs, leather amongst other things. I wouldn’t say we’re perfect, but we do check ingredients/production labels and try our best to avoid any products that include anything from animals. I became vegan for the animals, but knowing that it is great for the environment and for our own health are perfect bonuses!
What are the reactions of your inner circle about your choice to be a vegan?
We had many of the usual responses that we became used to and still make us laugh including “But…bacon!” and “Where do you get your protein?”, we don’t hear these responses so much anymore - everyone’s used to our change now! Most of our friends now are also either vegan, vegetarian, flexitarian or considering making the change! We still get similar reactions from time to time though (“Not even fish?”, “What about cheese?”, “What do you eat for breakfast?”) that’s all understandable if you’re not familiar with what it means to be vegan or aren’t used to knowing me as vegan. “I could never go vegan!” is a common response and one that we had said ourselves many times over the years. For as long as most people have known me I’d been known as a “meat fiend”, my favourite meal was a steak and once upon a time I regularly arranged dinners with friends to grilled meat restaurants in London. So when I became vegan at the start everyone understandably had lots of questions. People who have known me for years reacted with a mix of surprise and sadness. Some felt that we would miss out on good food or that they wouldn’t be able to eat together with us anymore - neither has ever felt the case for us with good planning and searching for other options! We do choose where to eat/shop differently, it all feels routine now. Many of our friends and family are now very curious to dine with us these days to explore what new vegan foods options are becoming available which is fantastic. Most family and friends (who aren’t already vegan) have become very curious, supportive and accommodating when inviting us around for dinner which has been lovely! We really appreciate that so much. I’ve eaten many brilliant, delicious vegan Christmas and Chinese New Year meals kindly cooked up by our non-vegan family members, as well as friends who have surprised us with vegan dishes when we visit them at their homes. Thank you, all!
What is the hardest part about being a vegan?
I’m lucky in that my partner also became vegan at the same time. That would have been difficult to make the change otherwise! I don’t particularly find becoming or being vegan hard or difficult, the only change has been being conscious about what we consume (checking labels, asking loads of questions when eating out), going to different places to eat or shop, planning ahead for meals, calling ahead to restaurants to check which has all been fine to do. Changing where we eat and shop at made it an easy transition! If I really had to say what is “hard” about being vegan, the hardest part is wishing I became vegan sooner! Also accepting that you can’t change the world overnight. We just have to keep talking about it and hope that everyone around us will realise/acknowledge the cruelty that goes into supplying meat and other animal products as well as the impact it has on the environment. Another challenging part is other people’s misconceptions, thinking it’s a big sacrifice to go vegan or that it’s a phase we’ll get through before going back to eating meat and dairy. Many folks tell us what a shame it will be that we’ll miss out on traditional dishes wherever we go! Which has been a big surprise to ourselves over this last year being able to find vegan versions for traditional meals wherever we’ve travelled to, the most recent ones being French or Greek. People think we don’t have much variety of things to eat. The number of times I’ve been told “I couldn’t eat only bread and lettuce like you!” when I eat so much more colourfully now than when I ate meat. Though I know it was very different for vegans even a few years ago, I can only imagine how hard it was being vegan 10 years or even 3 to 5 years ago!
How do you manage your vegan meals while traveling?
Happy Cow is our best friend while travelling! We keep seeing new vegan restaurants or vegan food & drink brands exploding into the scene everywhere. I’ve always been obsessed with food, I love eating and love cooking, and that has not changed since becoming vegan, it’s just meant that a whole new world of food has opened up for me to jump into. It’s difficult in any rural areas in some countries we have travelled to where local restaurants don’t all fully understand what makes a meal vegan or vegetarian. We’ve been served dishes where they claimed it to be vegetarian in Asia which turned out to include crab or pork shavings on our ‘vegetarian tofu rice’ dishes with the waiting staff happily saying “Yes! It’s vegetarian!” More often than not, everywhere we’ve travelled to when we politely ask about the menus or have a friendly chat with the staff before ordering, the kitchen staff come back to us excitedly offering to cook up something especially vegan for us or they tell us they have a special vegan dish they already have available that isn’t on the menu. We started calling these “mystery vegan surprise menus” that we find everywhere! In Iceland we found most restaurants simply had one “vegan dish of the day” which was fun to order, sometimes it was excellent sometimes it was pretty basic! If anything, it felt great at the start just over a year ago when there were fewer options on the menus so we avoided decision fatigue but now veganism is becoming more of a trend which means we’re back to having a wide selection of dishes to choose from. I’m back to taking ages to decide because I always want to eat everything!. We’ve had very interesting conversations with our hosts wherever we travel to because we need to tell them our dietary requirements and have happily left many of our hosts trying to convince each other to make a change themselves having asked us why we are vegan, what do we eat and how we manage as vegan travellers.
What are some of your favorite vegan meals?
There are too many favourites to choose from so I’ll list off a few favourites over the last couple of years (while I become hungry as I write). House of Wonder in Cascais, Portugal has a big, delicious vegetarian/vegan buffet as well desserts, teas and organic wines. There is a vegetarian restaurant in Florence called Brac which we discovered by accident that fuses Italian dishes with Asian flavours! (The best gelato we had while in Florence in in the centre serving vegan ice cream, do try their Pistachio and their Black Sesame flavours!). In London, I keep going back again and again for the Aubergine Bulgogi in KJ Restaurant in New Malden. I’ve always loved eating Broccoli and Cauliflower (I was never a child who didn’t eat my greens!) so was thrilled to find a Bristol Yurt restaurant, next to Engine Shed co-working, serving the best Chimi-churi Cauliflower steaks with garlicky greens. Since going vegan I’ve enjoyed being introduced to foods like Jackfruit and Banana Blossom and eating copious amounts over this year. I’ve also been experimenting loads with vegan cooking at ‘home’ even while roaming around to different places.
Do you have any advice for someone considering becoming a vegan or someone who is new to veganism?
Don’t be too hard on yourself if you slip up along the way and don’t try to give up everything in one go! Make sure you’re eating enough and stay healthy. I see a lot of folks not eating enough amounts of food or not eating a varied enough diet after switching to veganism, which usually is where you end up hearing people say vegan diets aren’t healthy or they’re always hungry on a vegan diet – I’ve been vegan for over a year and I’ve been so full the whole time! I love outdoor activities and I’ve never had any problems being an active vegan! Take your time in making the change, nobody’s perfect. Have fun experimenting with different ingredients in your cooking. Do ask lots of questions about what you’re going to eat, don’t be shy! A great motto I took from the book Vegan Freak when it comes to dining out is “You don’t ask, you don’t eat!” which is very true as we have discovered many times with our surprise mystery vegan menus! A smile and politeness goes such a long way, don’t be afraid to ask questions at shops and restaurants. We’ve only come across incredibly kind, helpful waiting staff and kitchen teams who go out of their way to feed us! The same goes for joining in on activities with non-vegan friends, I almost didn’t join a trip to Barcelona at the start of the year with Girl Gone International because I thought I’d be a massive pain to the group when deciding where to eat but the trip was fabulous, I met a big group of amazing, strong women and every one of them made sure I had a full, happy belly throughout the whole weekend. I’m always happy to chat about food and veganism, so feel free to connect with me on Instagram at @happycamperbecky.
Have you noticed any changes in your life since becoming a vegan?
I feel I’ve become more conscious about what I’m consuming because I’m thinking about where my food comes from or what is in my food – it could be that I became vegan because I was consciously thinking about my choices also, as part of why we left London. I’ve been surprised how reliant the world is on animal products and the impact in general of the production process for so many things that we consume without a thought to where everything comes from or what it’s made of. I’m trying to inform myself more and more about where everything comes from and how it is all made, which goes for many different things in our lives as well as food. I’m trying to be more intentional and conscious in the choices that I make. I always felt like life flew by in a rush while I went through the daily motions while living in London. When I decided to leave London it was with a desire to live more slowly and intentionally. It’s still an ongoing work in progress on all of those but I am learning/growing more every day. I am, and I know we are all, trying our best!
What are your thoughts about the future of veganism in your country and/or globally?
I’m excited to see veganism grow as more and more people become conscious of their own actions and choices, as more people become aware of the impact of what they are consuming, with the benefits to the animals, to the environment and our own health. I’m hopeful to see more people choosing compassion. It’s also exciting to see what new vegan options are created along the way. I do love to travel because of the people, the culture and especially all of the FOOD.
For more information, you can follow Becky at:
Instagram (@happycamperbecky) and her website www.projectanywhere.co
Thanks for reading, everyone! I hope you enjoyed meeting Becky!
Peace and light,
Founder, Yummy Retreats
Where Yum Meets Om