Making the Holidays Memorable on the Road

These past 10 months of travel have been amazing. There are so many wonderful places, people, and interesting things to see in the world. However, lately, I’ve hit a bit of a wall with my travel and homesickness is setting in. I’ve read that this is typical for a long term traveler and for me, I’m sure, the holidays are contributing. But it’s normally a temporary wall, which is good considering I have another 5 months to go on this amazing journey! 

I knew I would probably want to be settled somewhere during the holidays, and being here in Madagascar has been amazing. I arrived before Thanksgiving and am here well past New Years. All of the volunteers and staff here have really made the holiday season special. And I’m grateful to be sharing this time with them!

(Working hard in the kitchen!)

Christmas Day was a blast! We had a ton of food and everyone got in the kitchen and put together something special to share with the others. Hearing Nicole yell, “Are you making a mess in there?!! I just cleaned the kitchen up!”, really brought home the family holiday experience. 

(Big family meal!)

My chickpea avocado salad went over quite well considering it was gone in a matter of moments. I was also super thankful for the vegan desert!  (There are no pictures of this as I was too busy eating to snap a shot. Thanks Sara!)

(Present Time!)

We took some time to exchange gifts Secret Santa style and relaxed throughout the day. I missed my family and friends and our own traditions but couldn’t have picked a better substitute! If you’re considering traveling and/or volunteering over the holidays, I highly suggest you find somewhere you can settle in a bit. It’s not just any other day at home, don’t make any other day on the road! With that I hope everyone is enjoying time with family and friends and has great travel plans ready for the new year. Bring on 2017!

New Jobs, New Adventures, Amazing Views

So this week at MRCI, I started a new job as a part time social media intern. This is a fun change of pace, keeping people updated on their Facebook and Blog. I will still be hiking through the forest most days and working on getting my PADI AOW certification. 

(Island life…)

One of MRCIs most recent accomplishments is getting a reef protected in front of camp and I was happy to be a part of the announcement by writing the blog piece. It’s nice to be able to help on many different levels. I’m also working hard at getting MRCI partnered with my alma mater, ETSU. A university partnership would be great for the organization and hopefully bring more awareness to the great work they’re doing here in Madagascar. 

This week I also went on my first night walk with the foresters. What a fun adventure! We walked through the transect and found all sorts of cool little critters! I spotted a citronel cat eye snake in the tree above me and he was just gorgeous! Normally they’re a brownish gray color but this guy was bright yellow and green! 

(Everyone taking a boat around the island for a night walk.)

(The elusive citronel cat eye… I really love snakes.)

And lastly at the weekend me and some other volunteers made our way to Nosy Iranja, an island paradise about 35 miles from camp. I have never felt sand so soft. Two islands are connected by a stunning sand bar and surrounded by the clearest most beautiful water! I’ve never been anywhere like this ever. It was just breathtaking. For $30, we got transportation and a big lunch. On the way we got a beautiful impromptu whale shark show where we were able to get in the water and swim with them. I’m now seriously considering a day excursion to do just that. The whole day was just so worth it. 

(Whale Shark! Taken by Tia and her GoPro. No GoPro regret sinking in now.)

(Legit paradise…)

Volunteering or Boot Camp – Saving Forests with MRCI

So I’ve been at Madagascar Research and Conservation Institute for two weeks now and I think I’m just starting to settle into life here. The work, at least for foresters, is not for the faint of heart. Also, the amenities on camp are great, but life here requires a lot of work for simple luxuries we generally take for granted back home. 

(Hey chameleon! Don’t roll your eyes at me!)

Every day foresters start with a hike, generally across boulders and the beach then straight up the mountain. All in hot and extremely humid weather. It’s not the easiest thing I’ve ever done and much harder than Peru, where the walks were long and hot but flat. I keep telling myself this is good for my body and in all honesty I am starting to feel much better and stronger every day. Also, I can see my quads coming back which is cool! 

(Fellow foresters perched on a rock doing a bird survey!)

The heat can cause a lot of problems, making one generally feel unwell and many new volunteers experience stomach problems upon arrival. As I’ve said before, “If you don’t have a good poo story, then you haven’t traveled far enough.” But this can hinder one’s motivation for such strenuous walks in the heat. Thankfully staff are very understanding. I’m looking forward to seeing just how much stronger I can get over the next 7 weeks.

(Island life)

These hikes take us to various transects on the island, 250m paths where we survey the wildlife, both flora and fauna. The data collected gets recorded and honestly, I’m a little excited to stretch my math and data analysis muscles on what we’ve collected to see what cool things we can figure out. It’s been a few months but I’m up for the challenge. 

(Beautiful forest – I’m sweating so much behind the camera.)

As for life on the island, while beautiful and majestic, it’s pretty different from life at home. There are no cars and we walk everywhere, which isn’t a bad thing in itself. This also means we walk about 1.5 miles, scrambling over boulders and across 4 beaches to get to the nearest village, Ampangorinana (Ampang). This walk is required to get wifi and charge electronics (unless you’re lucky enough to catch the generator on at camp). If you’re coming to Madagascar, a really good solar charger will be your best friend. But Ampang has quite a bit to offer travelers and volunteers. Here you can purchase gorgeous handmade souvenirs including some beautifully hand embroidered items from the ladies in the village and also visit a conservation lemur park where you can see the black lemurs that inhabit the island. Ampang also offers several nice beach bars/restaurants that offer some great food. 

(Ampang embroidery… it’s so beautiful and amazes me that it’s all done by hand. Some is definitely coming home with me!)

Ilo Village is quickly becoming my go to for vegan pizza, wifi, and power! The joint is run by a lovely French couple who treat the volunteers like family. Their hospitality makes the hike over so worth it. 

(The resident Ilo Village cat living his island cat life.)

Conserving Madagascar’s Weird Things with MRCI

I left Tanzania to head to Madagascar, where I’ll be for the next 3-ish months and stopped in Antananarivo, the nation’s capital for a few days. Tana, as they call it, is not the easiest town to navigate, but if you do your research you can find some nice things to experience. I stayed at Lemur Hostel and highly recommend it. The people are fantastic and can help organize anything you may need.

(Typical street view in Tana)

For the next few months I’ll be volunteering with Madagascar Research and Conservation Institute (MRCI) in Nosy Komba, a volcanic island off the north west coast. They were established as a volunteer camp to do research on the endemic species of the island in the hopes to work with locals and preserve natural habitats. Having no cars or roads on the island is a good start! 

(Typical view in Nosy Komba)

Getting to Nosy Komba from Tana over land is no joke. They have a “taxi-brousse” system that will bus you there over 18-36 hours, depending on the weather. Thankfully I met some other girls to experience the hell with. It took us 24 hours to reach our destination and our knees were very sore from being shoved up our noses for so long. They will certainly pack you in tight. We had 2 flat tires along the way and no spares. We sat on the road waiting for someone to come by and sell us their spare. It was certainly an experience. I think I’ll fly back when it’s time to leave. 

(My first class seat on a second class ride)

So I get here and we hit the ground running. I’m volunteering in the forest conservation project and every morning we start around 7am with a hike straight up the mountain to conduct some study. The studies are typically on birds, reptiles, or lemurs counting what we see and what they’re doing. Learning the species and being able to spot them is an important part of the work here. 

(The beautiful forest… the creatures that inhabit this rainforest aren’t quite as a treacherous as the ones in the Amazon.)

(The chameleons are just so cool.) 

This project is very similar to what I did in Peru and that makes me really happy. The scenery is stunning with a beautiful ocean and a beautiful rain forest within feet of any direction. I’m excited to share more of my experience as my time here continues. Viva Madagascar! 

A Taste of Africa 

So the past few weeks Steve and I have been enjoying an adrenaline filled march through a few of Africa’s countries. We rendezvoused in Cape Town, South Africa, traveled on to Zambia and Zimbabwe, then finalized our journey in Tanzania. 

(Not much beats a Cape Town sunset…)

In Cape Town, we hired a car for a day and drove the 14hr round trip to Bloukrans Bridge for the world’s highest commercial bungee jump at 216 meters. It was our first bungee jump and it was awesome. While we had safety harnesses on, the bungee was merely attached to a strap that went around 2 padded cuffs that velcroed around our ankles. All I could think was, ‘Velcro?! Velcro is what’s keeping me alive here?!’. Well it all worked just fine, but that doesn’t mean I wasn’t flexing my feet in an attempt not to slip through while I hung there upside down for the guy to come and get me. 

(Bloukrans Bridge)

Since we survived the bungee and the road trip, the next day we went skydiving together. This was a second time for both of us. We’re very keen to get our skydiving certification now. Woosh!

(No skydiving pictures but here’s a scene from our laundry run later that day… taking in the mundane with the excitement. Viva travel life…)

We went on to Livingstone, Zambia for a few days to experience Victoria Falls (visa cost $80 each). The first day, we made our way to Devil’s Pool for little Zambezi fish to nibble our toes. Devil’s Pool is a 3 meter hole right at the edge of the falls where the water nearly ceases to rush over. We were able to jump in and view the falls from the very edge. 

(Devil’s Pool!)

Following that, we canoed alongside hippos on the Zambezi and threw ourselves off the Victoria Falls Bridge in the tandem bridge swing. It appears we enjoy throwing ourselves off of things. 

(Victoria Falls Bridge… this set up in Zambia was a little more primitive than Bloukrans, but we seemed to survive.)

On our last day, we walked across the border to Zimbabwe to get a better view of the falls. Locals will accompany you part of the way in an effort to buy your trust and in hopes that you’ll buy what they’re selling. Sometimes it’s hard to say no. I wound up with some copper jewelry and Steve, well he got some wooden animals. 

The visa to enter Zimbabwe for the day cost $30 each. And the Victoria Falls park entrance was also $30 each, but it was well worth it to see the sights from that side. The park has a beautiful walking trail with several view points of the falls. It was a nice way to end our time here. 

On to Tanzania (pronounced Tan-Zane-ya, locally). After traveling over 24 hours, we were picked up from the airport and immediately started our 5 day camping safari. So thankful for a shower at the first campsite. 

During our 5 days we visited and camped in several parks in northern Tanzania including; Lake Manyara, Serengeti, Ngorongoro Crater, & Arusha National Park. We saw 4/5 of the Big 5 (the rhinos seemed to be hiding) as well as wildebeest and cape buffalo migrating. It was so wonderful to see these animals in their natural habitat versus a confined area like a zoo. 

(Various safari shots…)

We’re now hanging out in Moshi for the last few days of our visit. We were hoping to do some hiking in the area as we’re close to Mount Kilimanjaro. However, we’re being dreadfully reminded of the risks of eating raw vegetables in countries whose population doesn’t have such delicate stomachs. Viva travel life…

(Mount Kili from the air)

As we lay here reading about animal populations on decline due to habitat loss and poachers becoming more high-tech in their evil efforts, the fight for them almost seems like a lost cause. It baffles me how people can be so greedy as to not care what is being done to the planet and all that inhabit it. 

America has just elected a new president, there are many things that can be considered concerning or controversial with this decision. But one I’m most concerned about, and one that is probably most poignant to this post, is the new leader’s disregard for scientific facts that point to climate change. 

Climate change is a world wide humanitarian problem supported by many decades of research. Our leaders should respect this concern, understanding that if we continue to do nothing the future of this world is left to nothing. I hope as people advise him, he will reconsider his current stance and appreciate what is at risk here.

When the last tree has been cut down, the last fish caught, the last river poisoned, only then will we realize that one cannot eat money.

– Cree Prophecy 

Steve is headed home soon and I’ll be off to Madagascar to volunteer for 2 months at the Madagascar Research and Conservation Institute in Turtle Cove, Nosy Komba. These past few weeks have been a bag of mixed emotions from a lot of fun to a concerned outlook for our futures. In the end, it’s important we try and come together for the betterment of all.

South Africa – A Little Work, A Lotta Play

So let’s just start by saying it’s amazing to be in Africa! South Africa is a beautiful country full of kind people. Yes… there are shady people everywhere and you have to stay smart and diligent, but I’m looking on the bright side and enjoying the people I’m meeting. 

In Port Elizabeth (PE), as regular readers will know, I volunteered for 3 weeks at Kwantu Private Game Reserve. The rest of my time in PE was spent at a little guest house named 28 Towpath. It’s run by Mark and Tine and they’re both so kind and accommodating. The house sits right on a little river outside the city with a nice big vegetable garden and beautiful views. It’s so nice and peaceful. I definitely recommend it to anyone headed to PE. 

(Beautiful gardens at Towpath)

(And the river front in the evening…)

After PE I made my way to Cape Town. Some folks would go by way of the Garden Route, but I was more interested in what Cape Town had to offer so I flew there to save time. 

Cape Town is so beautiful. The people are friendly, the city is lovely and vibrant, and there is so much to do! 

(Rainbow houses in Cape Town)

(Table Mountain from the city)

On my first day, I did a shark cage dive. I wanted to see some marine life and I figured from a cage, in their environment, was the best way. The sharks that showed up were all juvenile Great White Sharks. What’s interesting is the juveniles prey mostly on fish so they make their way into the area we were, while the adult sharks go for bigger prey like seal pups. This was reassuring that the sharks weren’t staying in one place because people were coming to see them or feed them or whatever. We just went to where they were in that time of their life. 

(Hello Gorgeous!!)

On the next day, I hiked Lion’s Head. This is a fun hike with ladders, chains, and staples to get you through the scramble. It takes about an hour. I think I took my time and did it all in an hour and a half. I had no where to be but where I was, enjoying myself!

(Lion’s Head from the city)

(The city from part of the way up Lion’s Head)

(Table Mountain with clouds)

Then I ventured up Table Mountain for some of the best views around! Table Mountain is really cool, but gets very crowded on clear days. You can hike to the top or take the cable car, which costs about $18 round trip. At the top you can trek around enjoying the views and lovely greenery. 

(View from Table Mountain)

One of the best things to do is go down to the Cape of Good Hope. I can’t even express how beautiful it is. I ended up taking the Cape Point Tour with Lucky & Lost tours. It is a great small owner operated company that offers a nice day down to the Cape. 

We stopped at Boulders Beach to see the protected African Penguins, then went on to have a nice traditional African lunch. After lunch, we made our way down to Cape Point to see the light house and walk along the Cape of Good Hope. 


(Cape of Good Hope)

We ended our day at Cape Point Winery for a little local wine tasting. Something interesting I learned about South African wine is that the expense is due to their barrels. All of the oak wine barrels must be imported because oak doesn’t grow dense enough in this region of the world. When they tried, all the wine would evaporate from the barrels. So now all wine barrels must be imported at an average cost of $600 a barrel! Learn something new every day.

I tried to book some scuba diving and paragliding but unfortunately the weather wasn’t good for either – probably answering my mother’s prayers.

Now I’m waiting for Steve to arrive tomorrow for the fun to begin. After a busy few days in Cape Town, we’ll head up to Zambia and Tanzania. South Africa has a lot of European influence so I’m looking forward to a more traditional African cultural experience and I’m so glad Steve is able to come with! 

South African Game Reserves & The Kwantu Way

I’ve worked at Kwantu Private Game Reserve for the last 3 weeks and my time there is now over. Most of my time was spent performing basic manual labor that the park needs. However, I’ve learned a bit about the operations of such places while I was there. 

(The flowers down here are beautiful.)

There’s a huge business in Africa concerning their large Animals, especially the big 5 (Lions, Leopards, Elephants, Rhinos, and Buffalo). Keeping a balance in reserves is important for the ecosystem to thrive and the goal is to have an environment that maintains itself. However, if there is an imbalance in a reserve, then they will find another reserve needing animals and sell/trade as appropriate. The money hungry among us could see this as an opportunity to exploit these animals for sheer profit. 

Some game parks are only concerned with making money and not the conservation of these animals. They populate their land with animals and allow hunters to come, “track”, and kill these animals for amusement. Personally, I find this disgusting and don’t understand why it’s legal under South African law. Despite this, of all the African countries, South Africa is probably most concerned about wildlife conservation. It seems rather contradictory to me. 

But then there are reserves like Kwantu, whose mission is based solely in conservation. Yes, the reserve makes money from tourists wanting to see these animals and volunteers wanting to learn more, but something must fund the efforts. Kwantu does not allow any hunting to occur on its lands. They take guests on drives through the reserve, guests get to see and experience these animals in their natural habitat and that’s it. Given the current state of these animals and their natural habitat, I believe this a fair solution to ensuring their survival. 

(I love the big cats, but I found myself really excited to spot the giraffes and elephants in the bush.)

Tourists should do their research and ensure they’re supporting businesses that align with their values. Granted this is true regardless of the product being purchased. 

As I’ve said before, Kwantu has a big cat rehabilitation center where cats where were used in circus or held as pets are reintroduced to a near-wild like to reinstate natural instincts before being released in a protection reserve. Many of the lions here have a plan for release into the Kwantu reserve or other similar protected reserves. 

(This handsome boy and his ladies have plans for release back into the wilderness.)

Kwantu has a few tigers in their rehab center as well. Tigers aren’t indigenous to Africa, so Kwantu has been working with reserves in China and India to try and find a natural protected habitat for them to be released to. Kwantu is very concerned with ensuring these tigers end up somewhere appropriate where they will be cared for. They have been working several years with these tigers and until they find the right place that signs the right agreement, they will remain under the protection of Kwantu. I really appreciate their diligence. 

(One of the tigers looking to go back to his homeland when a good home is found for him.)
Another great project Kwantu is involved in, is supporting local school children. Once a week, Kwantu and it’s volunteers make their way to a local school with a hearty meal for the children. We serve out lunch and then spend several hours playing with the kids. It’s a great opportunity for everyone involved to learn more about each other. The kids are full of life and energy – running, playing, dancing, and singing. It’s a very different environment to western schools, and I might just say it’s better than such. I had a lot of fun playing with these kids when I had the opportunity. 

(School yard fun…)

(The cool kids.)

(This girl was very sweet.)

All in all, Kwantu works hard at preserving its African animals and heritage, while helping the local community. These are great qualities and I have really enjoyed helping with their mission. Next I’m headed to Cape Town for some stellar adventures!

South Africa – The Land of Termite Mounds

Everywhere I look, I see massive termite mounds. They are the size of a large ottoman and fill the landscapes. It’s impressive. That said, I’ve not particularly captured these well in pictures as they quickly become old news. “Oh! Is that a lion?! Oh… no… it’s a termite mound.”

(Actually a lion… Not a termite mound.)

(Also, not termite mounds.)

(So here you see a few termite mounds in the foreground. But all of those beige specks on the back ridge are also termite mounds. It’s nuts, but the view is stunning!)

Anyway… this week at Kwantu we’ve done quite a bit of manual labor. It takes a lot to keep a reserve like this going. The staff here is plentiful and so we’re used for basic things that don’t require much skill. 

We’ve releveled roads out in the reserve, breaking down the middle mound and filling in the side divots. This also included breaking down some termite mounds to use the dirt to help fill the gaps. 

It’s important to maintain these roads. You see, the reserve is an entire ecosystem. Kwantu is not only interested in maintaining the animals but the plants and microorganisms as well. Having well kept roads keeps the vehicles off the grass, maintaining these natural areas. 

(Fixin’ roads… I wish I had daddy’s backhoe for this!)

Also, all of the fence clearing is done manually, without chemicals. You can just imagine how much fencing is required for 6000 hectares. It’s a big job and Kwantu seems very dedicated to doing that job well. 

Tree chopping is also an activity that the volunteers fill their time with. In keeping with the want to maintain an African wilderness, all nonindigenous plants (mostly originating in Australia) must be removed. This is a big job, and we try to catch these trees when they’re small to make it easier. What I appreciate most, is that Kwantu uses the collected timber to make things like shutters and such for the camp. Nothing is wasted, even if it’s not wanted. 

(South African sunrise… worth the 4am wake up call!)

One job I could not bring myself to participate in, was the predator feeding. Kwantu receives donated whole cows from local farms, which then must be divvied up for all of the big cats who are currently residing in the rehabilitation camp. I completely understand why this happens this way and that it’s a necessity for the furthering of these big cats. However, I just couldn’t manage to participate. The smell alone will turn your stomach. 

In addition, the whole scene just reeks of how we’ve completely disrupted the balance in nature. These predators should be able to hunt for their own meals without fear of humans overtaking their homelands. They shouldn’t have to be in a rehabilitation center waiting for someone to bring them part of a dead cow. But alas, here we are. 

(I don’t know what these are, but they’re beautiful!)

The staff here at Kwantu are very friendly and helpful. I enjoy speaking with them about the animals and digging into their knowledge on how to best care and preserve them. 

South Africa, Kwantu, & The Big Five

So last week I left Europe to pursue my African dream. I have always wanted to come to Africa and never thought I would. I’m desperately glad I was wrong! 

(Sunset at Kwantu)

I’m starting my journey in Port Elizabeth volunteering at a nearby private game reserve called Kwantu. Kwantu has over 6000 hectares for its animals to roam and everything happens naturally on the reserve. The predators hunt their own prey and they are diligent to ensure the right balance is achieved to make this possible. Kwantu also has a big cat rehabilitation area as well as an elephant sanctuary. Kwantu supports itself with ecotourism, taking the opportunity to educate its guests. The reserve does not, under any circumstances, allow hunting to occur on the reserve. 


In a perfect world, there would exist a proper “wild” where these animals could run free and live their lives without fear of harm from human interaction. But unfortunately we do not live in this perfect world. Through human overpopulation, ignorance, and greed we have destroyed so much of this wild land and the animals that inhabit it. What this means is that we’ve made a world where reserves, like Kwantu, and other rehabilitation centers are vital to the continuation of these species. It’s heartbreaking to know that this is our best option and we as a human race have created it. 

(Donkeys in pajamas)

(White lions do not fare well in the wild as prey can easily spot them. They typically live in sanctuaries where they can help educate the public.)

A lot of the volunteer work in Kwantu includes fence maintenance, removal of nonindigenous plant species, and going on game drives to count and observe the animals. 

I do really enjoy speaking with the other employees at Kwantu about why they chose their profession. They all seem very driven to help the animals and conserve their environment as best they can. I love seeing that level of passion and commitment in others. 

(The wilderness)

South Africa, as a country, also seems very committed to its wild life. Kruger National Park has complete control over all of South Africa’s animals, including those at private reserves like Kwantu. If Kruger doesn’t believe any animal is treated correctly, they are free to remove the animals without warning. 

(Marmoset kisses! Marmosets are not indigenous to Africa. These 3 made their way to Kwantu to as former pets. They are lucky to be somewhere where they can live freely.)

As we all know, poaching is a terrible problem for Africa’s wildlife. Through the ignorance of people placing arbitrary value on elephant tusks and rhino horns, these animals are on a massive decline. Around 5% of the elephants in Kruger National Park are now born without tusks. This is due to the decline of genetics that produce these tusks. If poaching continues at this rate elephants will be void of tusks altogether. This is a tragedy because these animals need these tools to protect themselves. 

(These poor rhinos had their horns poached by intruders who tranquilized them. The worker’s story about when they were found was heartbreaking. It’s lucky they survived the attack and weren’t killed.)

One solution that has been touted around social media, and one that I quite liked, was to dye the tusks and horns of these animals pink to make them no longer valuable. However, I have learned that this doesn’t work as well as originally thought. Many animals are killed at dawn or dusk when it’s nearly impossible to see that they are dyed, so the animals are killed in vain anyway. 

Unfortunately, despite many security precautions, poachers still make their way onto private game reserves. Kwantu and its animals have experienced these problems as well. The greed and ignorance of humans astounds me. It’s been said before but it’s worth saying again, no one needs an elephant tusk or a rhino horn, except an elephant or rhino. 

I have learned so much in the short time I’ve been here and look forward to learning so much more. It’s amazing how the more I travel, the more at home I feel wherever I go. To me this says that, on a whole, we are not very different in this world and the lines we draw are merely arbitrary. 

Vegan in Europe – A Traveler’s Review

The word “vegan” is slowly but surely making its way through the world. Traveling in Europe is generally fairly easy for us veg folk. Most areas in Europe have a good selection of produce and many restaurants offer something in the way of food for us. I’ve traveled quite a bit in Europe in my days. Therefore, the goal for these last three months was to hit some new places on my list. So, with all that said, I will just run through a basic review of what I found to eat and where.

Ennis, Ireland

So Ireland can be a bit tricky as you generally just find pub food around that contains a lot of non-vegan-friendly items. However, you can typically find a salad to easily modify as well as nice big helpings of British chips. That said, we stumbled upon a newly opened vegan restaurant called Peckish Vegan Cafe.  The cafe has a really fun atmosphere and more importantly, really great food! I had the veggie burger and a salad and it really hit the spot! So, if you’re in western Ireland, I highly recommend you head to Ennis to check it out!

(Peckish Vegan Cafe)

Barcelona, Spain

Spain is beautiful. Barcelona is particularly beautiful. Everyone is nice and helpful, but traditional Spanish food is typically not free from animal products. Although, I didn’t find it too hard to find vegan friendly tapas around town. That said, like most big cities, you can easily find some like-minded folks who want to offer the public easy vegan food. While walking around the old town of Barcelona, we found a small spot called Enjoy Vegan. The place has a quaint atmosphere  and while not super comfortable, the staff were very sweet and welcoming. The food was decent and best of all, it was really affordable. There were definitely other vegan options in Barcelona but this place fit the bill on a traveler’s budget.

(Falafel at Enjoy Vegan. I was happy to see that the place drew a crowd!)

Geneva, Switzerland

I was surprised to discover that Switzerland was one of the harder places to find vegan meals out and about in restaurants. The Swiss really love their cheese and all traditional Swiss food is very meat and dairy heavy. I always have a fallback in these situations though – seek out Asian restaurants. Almost any Indian, Thai, or Chinese spot will have some sort of vegan option – even if it’s just stir fried veg and rice.

I was fortunate when visiting Switzerland that I got to stay with a friend and cook in her home. And luckily her lovely family didn’t mind eating a lot of vegetables! We cooked many meals with rice, quinoa, lentils, and massive amounts of vegetables. It was amazing. I was happy to share one of my favorite recipes with them as well – lentil stew. They seem to have enjoyed it very much!

(Lunch spread in the back garden – Elsa gets fancy with her melon display!)

Tromsø, Norway

Tromsø was a bit hit and miss with vegan friendly food options. As one would expect, being on a fjord in the arctic, there are a lot of fish heavy meals around. However, people were very aware of what it meant to be vegan, which is at least a step forward. Tromsø also had many pizzerias, and they seemed happy enough to leave cheese off a veggie pie. And, like most places, it’s not hard to find something like a salad or pasta dish that can meet a vegan’s needs. With that in mind Norway is very expensive and eating out on an average night can cost two people around $50.

To counteract this cost, we cooked several meals at our hostel. While served food is expensive, groceries are about on par with what you would find anywhere else. There is certainly no shortage of nice produce in the shops. So, if you find yourself in Norway on any type of budget, I suggest you find a place with a decent kitchen and create your own vegan experience!

(Hostel cooking at its finest.)

Paris, France

Oh Paris… Paris is one of those big cities like Barcelona where you can find anything your little traveling heart desires. Parisian cafes offer some great salad options, although you typically have to request no cheese. The French love their cheese… I’m hoping some day, before I die, artisanal vegan cheeses take over the world. Perhaps if we chant loud enough while dancing in flower crowns around a bonfire it just might happen. Anyway… I digress.

So Paris… I was generally able to find food anywhere we went, but we did stumble across the cutest little vegan burger joint called VG Vegetarian & Vegan Cafe. (Although, from what I could tell, everything was vegan). They boasted a simple menu where you could choose one of 4 handmade veggie burgers; add fries, drink, and a dessert for a very reasonable price. It was awesome and I highly recommend stopping by if you’re in Paris.

(VG- so much food!)

London, England

So in between all my hopping around on this continent, I’ve been staying with a long time friend in London. Now, I have been to the UK more times than I can count on my hands, so it’s a bit like home here to be honest. I’ve mostly been cooking at home while here; however, I have indulged a bit at Vadi Turkish Restaurant. While this is not specifically a vegan place they do have amazing lentil soup, falafel, and fresh hummus. I do love falafel!

We have a Friday night Chinese food tradition (before heading out to karaoke). The Chinese shop around the corner does really nice fried tofu with veg, which makes me happy enough. But one of my favorite things about London – food wise – is that there’s Chipotle. I have missed Chipotle Mexican Grill desperately since leaving the states and it’s been so nice to get my fill while I’m here!

(There is a God!)

That pretty much rounds out my vegan food hunts during this trip to Europe. While vegan spots aren’t always available, finding food is easy enough on this highly developed continent. In a few days I head to Africa and I’m very much looking forward to those adventures and a bit apprehensive about finding food. But, I’m hoping for the best!