Hello all you nomadic vegans! I'm really excited to introduce you to two lovely people who are helping to bring vegans together and smooth the way for vegan travelers all over the world. Nick and Linsey Minnella are the co-founders of Vegvisits - a brand-new homesharing service exclusively for vegans and vegetarians. I recently got a chance to ask them about the project, and here's what they had to say. I know I'm really looking forward to using Vegvisits on my future trips, and I think after you read this interview you will be too!
Q: What was your inspiration for creating Vegvisits?
A: Vegvisits was inspired by our trip across the U.S. We traveled for almost 6 months and used Airbnb almost exclusively along the way. We absolutely loved it, but it was often difficult staying with non-vegan/vegetarian hosts. They were usually great people, but ideally you don’t want to put your fruit next to raw meat in the fridge or watch (and smell) a steak being cooked as you eat your salad. You deal with it, but at times it was hard, especially when you are passionate about the ethics of your lifestyle. Also, they generally didn’t know much about where to find the best quality produce, what vegan/vegetarian restaurants we should check out, where to take the best hikes, or anything else really that an active vegan or vegetarian would usually find helpful to know about. Plus, if you're not carrying your entire kitchen with you while traveling (which most people don’t), it may be hard to make meals that call for a processor, blender, juicer, spiralizer etc. Our stays with fellow vegans or vegetarians always seemed to be a better experience as well. When you’re traveling for six months, it can get a little tiring explaining where you get your protein from every two seconds. It always felt like a relief when we happened to stay with a vegan or vegetarian. We just clicked better, always had a lot to talk about, and we all felt more comfortable - as if we hadn’t just met each other.
In talking with hosts who were vegan or vegetarian, they shared the same concerns. They didn’t want people coming in and cooking meat on their stoves and using their dishes, or bringing these very fragrant meat meals into their homes.
Food is so important. And for vegans and vegetarians, it defines us more so than it probably otherwise would in any other period of time given that most of the world doesn’t share this lifestyle, and we face so many insurmountable issues because of it. We think travel should be a positive experience for people, and when you rest your head at night or welcome someone into your home, you should feel at ease! And aside from the convenience of being in an unknown part of the world but knowing your way around, most of us are pretty passionate about our lifestyle. It’s always a great time exchanging recipes, experiences, stories, tips and tricks with other vegans and vegetarians.
So after some time, this all kind of came together and we realized just how much we all needed this! Not only are you still immersed in the communities you travel to by staying with a local, but now both hosts and travelers can rest at ease knowing they both share something so important with each other!
Q: How is Vegvisits different from other homesharing sites such as Airbnb?
A: The concept of Vegvisits is similar to other homesharing sites - people in the community open up their homes to the global community of travelers. The only difference is that we’re limiting our universe of hosts and travelers to those who share a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle.
Q: I love it that you can search for accommodation according to the types of kitchen appliances available. What other search criteria can people use to find the right place for them?
(1) Major diet: vegan, vegetarian or raw
(2) Niche diets: nut free, gluten free, macrobiotic or high carb/low fat
(3) Price: you can put a minimum and maximum on the per night stay
(4) Type of accommodation (i.e. private room, entire home, studio etc.)
(5) Amenities (Internet, heating/AC, TV)
(6) Features (pool, pets allowed, washer/dryer, wheel chair accessible)
(7) Special host services (yoga instruction, acupuncture, massage therapy, cooking classes, prepared meals, wellness coaching etc.)
Q: How do you think vegan travel will be different 10 years from now?
A: That is a great question and I don’t fully know the answer. What I do know is that information now can spread so easily and quickly thanks to the Internet. Twenty years ago the concept of veganism was more difficult to spread as people were generally spared the graphic imagery of slaughterhouses and were unaware of the environmental impact or the health problems that resulted from eating meat and dairy. Now it’s a lot harder to escape the truth. I think (and hope) that veganism will be more embraced by mainstream society in the coming years, and as a result traveling as a vegan will not be as hard.
But in the near future, I think communities like Vegvisits will certainly ease the burden as we can more easily connect with people around the world as we travel!
Q: How has your vegan lifestyle shaped your own travel experiences?
A: It has been interesting to say the least. You definitely learn to plan ahead a lot more! Staying with locals also made travel a lot easier. You may be in a small town somewhere where they’ve never even heard the word vegan before, but the markets will generally always have fresh produce and typical vegan staples like brown rice, beans, potatoes and corn so at the very least you have a kitchen to prepare your meals. I think it makes you a more creative chef in many ways! You learn so many good recipes, just out of necessity!
If you're driving over long distances, you’ll definitely come to appreciate when you’re close to fresh, quality produce. If we knew we would be staying somewhere pretty remote (Yellowstone for example), we’d make sure to stock up our car for a few days when in an urban area with more produce available (which was sometimes tough in the heat of summer, but we managed). This helped get us through those tough parts of the country that only had one “general store”. But I think all in all it makes for some pretty interesting stories!
Q: What advice do you have for new vegans who might be nervous about traveling?
A: Travel like anything else is all about experience, both good and bad. Sometimes you go with the flow and you find yourself in a tough position. But just know what you're up against as you embark on your adventure! Some places are vegan paradises and others aren’t. But if you do a little research, you can generally always find some sort of fresh produce, nuts, grains or legumes in even the most rural areas of the world. And, if traveling internationally without computer access, make sure you know a few standard words in the local language like vegan, vegetarian, rice, fruit, vegetables etc. to help you find what you’re looking for.
However, we’re so excited about Vegvisits, because this community will certainly help immensely! Now you can travel with the help of a local vegan/vegetarian who sustains a vegan/vegetarian lifestyle all year round! You may find yourself in a not-so-vegan/vegetarian-friendly area, yet you can know the tricks and inside tips from someone who manages it in their daily life!
Q: Where can people go to find out more or to book accommodation through Vegvisits?
A: The site will be formally up hopefully by early July so people can begin traveling. But in the meantime they can sign up at www.vegvisits.com and we will let everyone know when we’re ready!
Q: Is there anything else you'd like people to know about the new service?
A: We hope to bring all the vegans of the world together to form one big travel community, where vegans will no longer feel like such a minority but be embraced by a huge global family. If we’ve seen anything so far it’s that this lifestyle may not be shared by 99% of the population, but there are pockets of it all over the world! It’s not all dark out there. There are small little fires burning all over the world and it’s spreading fast!