I Tried a Vegan Vacation and Here's What Happened

A few months ago, I decided I wanted to try veganism. I’ve been a lacto-vegetarian all my life (no meat, no eggs), primarily for religious reasons as a Jain.

One of the main principles of Jainism is ahimsa, or nonviolence. My religion considers that every animal has a jiv, or soul, and is thus a life form. Animals have five senses whereas plants and vegetables have one sense. We seek to minimize our violence towards other living things, whether that be directly or indirectly supporting the killing or injury of life forms. We try to eat food that involves the least amount of violence and are thus mostly vegetarian.

However, a lot of my Jain friends are also vegan, primarily due to the violence involved during milk production for cows. While an animal isn’t being killed for dairy production, cows are being bred to maximize dairy production and are treated like "milking machines". While some dairy producers are progressing away towards smaller cows that are healthier and live longer, most farms in the US are not.

So this summer, I decided that I wanted to try veganism. After I got out of school, my family and I were going on a vacation in Europe. I didn’t want to keep postponing my choice, so I decided hey, why not? Now or never, right?

My parents thought I was a little crazy at first — “Why go vegan if you’re already vegetarian? What difference would that make?” they asked. But they still supported me. I would be cutting out all dairy products — like butter, cheese, yogurt, sour cream, and certain kinds of frozen desserts like ice cream. It might not seem like a big difference, but to someone who was already pretty restricted in her diet, it felt like a big change.

Here’s how I prepared:

  • Made a list of nearby grocery stores and farmer’s markets
  • Found vegan restaurants (Happycow.net!)
  • Rented an AirBnB with a kitchen 
  • Read blogs from other vegans

I kept on reminding myself: You’re not the first person to go vegan. People have done it before you, and they have shared their resources. All it takes is a Google search!

On my first day as a vegan, I started off with the basics:

Breakfast: English muffin, hummus, and grapes

Morning snack: A handful of dried peaches.

Lunch: A banana and a salad with tofu, chickpeas, and salad greens

Afternoon snack: Dried dates

Dinner: A large bowl of cucumber and fruit salad, and khichdi (an Indian dish made from rice and lentils)

But I soon realized I needed to incorporate calcium and protein into my meals, so with time my meals changed to be more like this: 

Breakfast: A banana, vegan Greek yogurt, and toast with hummus

Lunch: Oatmeal bowl with avocado and kale

Afternoon snack: Dates and coconut water

Dinner: Salad and homemade black bean veggie burger and sweet potato fries

Dessert: Almond milk and hot chocolate powder

Throughout this process I also learned more about how dairy harms the environment. Every kilogram of cheese produced emits 8.9 kg CO2 and every liter of milk produced emits 1.2 kg CO2. 10,500 liters of water are needed to make one kg of cheese. Making milk also requires a lot of land, taking land away from nature. So, with every meal I was eating, I was making the conscious decision to reduce the harm done to animals and to the environment. I would not be supporting a violent industry.

Finally, I was improving my own health. My family has a history of high cholesterol and heart disease, which dairy foods can be full of.

When I got back home from vacation, I was doing an internship in the city and to my surprise, it was even easier! There were tons of options at Target, ranging from frozen fruit to bulk nuts and grains. I even found an Amorino’s for my gelato! 

So now, I encourage you - yes, you - to try veganism, even for a day!

  • Find a few favorite recipes to make repeatedly or find favorite ingredients and new ways of eating them.
  • When eating out, subbing beans for meat in an entree is a safe bet or sticking with vegetable appetizers and sides.
  • Don't forget your calcium, whether it be from soy milk, beans, or nuts, your iron (spinach and tofu are my favorites) and your protein from things like oatmeal and nuts.

And what better motivation than charity?

Young Jains of America (check us out at yja.org!) & Young Jains United Kingdom (YJUK) are co-hosting a “Vegan For A Day” charity campaign tomorrow, Wednesday, September 5th! For each person who goes vegan, we’ll donate $3 to First Book. Our goal is to raise $300 (meaning 100 people participate), to replenish a school library of 200 books.

Join us by sending pictures of your vegan meals to YJA’s snapchat (@TheYoungJains) or Instagram story, or post on your own social media with the hashtag #yjafoodies. Don't forget to nominate your friends and family to join you in the campaign! Learn more and sign up here: https://www.facebook.com/events/320719812025534/.