Why I Gave Up Being a Vegetarian for Travel

I was a vegetarian for twelve years. From the age of 14 until this year, when I started including meat back into my diet. It wasn’t one of those decisions where one day I just couldn’t resist a burger. I sat with this decision for months before starting this journey. And I am here to tell you my side of the story.

My Journey (Thought Process)


In 2012, when I was still a vegetarian, we traveled to Budapest. I remember feeling like I missed out on a whole side of the culture by not eating meat, I remember the resentment I felt watching my family eating authentic Hungarian dishes; the chicken paprikas, the Hungarian sausage, the stew. Staples in the Hungarian culture. I, on the other hand, had a lot of cheese, pastries, some veggies (mostly cabbage), and lots of alcohol.

Food is a staple in any culture really. Sure, there are a lot of countries where it’s easy to stick to a vegetarian diet. But then comes in another factor…there is no universal definition for vegetarianism. In some countries, it might mean being vegan. In other countries, they may fry vegetables in animal fat and still call it vegetarian. Some places it means you can still have fish, or maybe chicken. It’s exhausting to explain your diet every restaurant you go to, especially if there’s a language barrier. Even after all of that, you’re always questioning if what you’re eating is actually vegetarian, and how can you ever be 100% sure?

When I Gave it Up for Good


After a lot of consideration, I decided that next time I go out of the country, I am going to start including meat in my diet again. But I didn’t want to start IN another country, because I’ve heard horror stories about people getting sick when they start eating meat again. So the deal was, I would start eating meat again when we bought our tickets. It felt definitive, it had a timeline, the planner in me was happy.

Well last fall, my aunt surprised us all with a family trip to Ireland. We bought the tickets in the spring, and that’s where my journey started. After all, we were heading to the land of meat and potatoes – and I’d rather not eat potatoes for ten days straight.

The Transition Back


I eased myself back into it. I knew if I ate a burger right off the bat, I would get sick. So I started with some chicken broth, then after a few days, I had some pasta with chicken in it, then some pepperoni pizza. After a few weeks, I was eating full servings of meat. It was a slow, slow process.

I still don’t eat that much meat – I don’t even eat it every day. Sometimes the veggie burger still looks like the best thing on the menu. But I eat enough to keep up my tolerance, so I can experience the food culture everywhere I visit.

The Trip


I just got back from the Ireland trip, where I jumped into the culture with both feet. I tried everything I was offered! I tried shepherd’s pie, steak, Irish stew, duck, blood pudding, fish, lamb boxty, even chicken liver! They sure do love their meat over there. I quickly realized my original speculation was correct: it would have been miserable to be a vegetarian over there. I would have been eating a LOT of potatoes and cabbage, and I knew I would feel that same resentment all over again. It was freeing to be able to try anything and everything.


Final Thoughts


I’m happy with my decision. I feel like a more well-rounded traveler. The world is my oyster, and now I can try those oysters! The world has so many exotic, cultural foods to offer, and nothing is holding me back from experiencing that now.

I’m also now realizing it is not just different countries that have a rich food culture, althought that’s how this journey started. There’s also lots of regional dishes here in the United States I’m excited to try. Philadelphia cheesesteaks, the Louisville hot brown, Louisianna gumbo, lobster from Maine, clam chowder from New England, freaking barbeque for crying out loud! And honestly, I was getting sick of eating salad or cheese sandwiches while traveling.

I was afraid what people would think when I started eating meat again. Or the moral debate this post might cause. But this decision was a personal one. It’s okay to change your diet! Overall, I knew this was the right decision for me.

Sharing this post:

37 Comments

  1. Interesting to read. I do feel like I am missing out on a lot when I travel, not eating meat. It’s hard because a lot of countries do put a lot of focus onto meat or fish, so a lot of traditional dishes have to be avoided. That said, I wasn’t very adventurous with trying different meats before becoming vegetarian and at the moment I can’t imagine eating it again. It’s a weird one haha. Thanks for sharing!

  2. That makes total sense to me. Especially if you have the option (not an allergy), food is one of my main ways of experiencing a new culture!
    I’d be curious to know how you decided to be vegetarian in the first place? Not challenging you at all, just wondering. May help other readers facing similar decisions.

    • There were certain things I didn’t like about meat (eating meat off bones, or when you find little tendons in your meat) and my solution was to just stop eating it altogether I guess. Now, I just know what I like and don’t like.

  3. I appreciate your transparency and I’m glad you got to experience the culture a lot better. I just recently became vegetarian. I haven’t traveled far where I’ve had an experience like this, but I’ve definitely had a few envious moments going out to eat locally and seeing so many delicious items on the menu but being limited to just a few. It’s hard but at the end of the day, it’s all about being comfortable with your decision!

  4. Very interesting read. I live in Japan and I try and eat Vegetarian but it’s REALLY hard unless you go to specific places. And I’m with you, I don’t want to miss out. So what I try and do, is eat vegetarian for most of my meals because I like the aspect of helping the planet as well as my health, but don’t limit myself if there is food with meat that I really want to try! Plus, it’s Japan, there’s fish everywhere!

    Kristen|kristenabroad.com

  5. Super interesting – I’ve been veg since 1996 – what is that 23 years GOOD LORD and I go through phases of “should I?” and travel and going out to eat is a big factor. I’m still undecided though. I guess the start with broth is the way to go… Which like you said, Im sure i”ve had by mistake at some point in the last 23 years!

    • It’s a personal decision! I went back and forth for probably a year before deciding to eat meat again – but I don’t regret it at all!

  6. I’m a vegetarian and have been for about 13 years now. I’ve had these same thoughts that I might be missing out on a whole other side of cultures around the world but at the same time I’m just not sure I would be able to start eating meat again after so long. It’s something I would definitely consider though

    • It was a big decision for me for sure. I went back and forth for probably a year before I came to my decision. But I think it was the right choice for me 🙂

  7. Hey thanks for this post. I struggle with that myself and also recently started eating a little bit of meat. It all started when I went to Vietnam and couldn’t imagine not eating PHO. I always felt like I was missing out. Now I just don’t label myself anything and eat veg 90% of the time.

    • Yeah like I said, I still don’t eat THAT much meat. It’s nice to have more options when going out now, but even when I do, it’s usually chicken or something. I can’t wait to try PHO is Vietnam though!

  8. I am impressed that you gave it all a try! I think if you are mostly staying vegetarian anyway, you have done this in a pretty sensible way.

    I am not a big meat eater anymore (it’s easy to eat amazing vegetarian and vegan food in Vancouver) but like you, I tend to eat more meat on holiday. Especially in Japan as the food there is not particularly vegetarian friendly. The thing is, my tummy always feels weird when I eat meat after a while.

  9. Ah this was such an interesting read. I’m pescatarian myself (similar reasoning, and was just a personal medium I found worked for me) but i can still totally relate to the struggling to eat when travelling. Some countries offer incredible options (I’ve always found asian dishes mindblowing) but certain places you just can’t help but feel as if you’re missing out.
    I couldn’t help but giggle at your eastern Europe observations, as I too lived on a diet of deep fried cheese and bread!

  10. Hi Anna! That’s an interesting perspective and it’s really brave of you to share! I too consider food one of the major parts of each culture. No trip is complete without trying as many local delicacies as possible. That said, I became vegetarian about 3-4 years ago and that’s almost when I also started to travel more. I usually indulge in trying a meat-based bite or two from my co-traveller’s dish but other than that I stick to my vegetarian diet. This way I don’t feel I’m missing out on anything. I get to try everything and keep my dietary habits at the same time!

    • Thank you! I think I would be worried about only eating meat whenever I travel, I’ve heard too many stories from other former vegetarians getting sick that way. Thank you for sharing your food journey!

  11. This is interesting! Glad you gave it a try. Thanks for sharing ♥️ ♥️ By any chance you are interested on doing collaborations, you can check out the collaborations portal of Phlanx.com and connect with amazing brands!

    Xoxo,
    Tiffany

  12. I was a vegetarian for over 20 years until the doctor told me I had to eat red meat at least once per week as I was very anaemic.

    The best country I’ve travelled in for vegetarian food is of course, India.

  13. Love the honesty in this piece. It is a personal decision and journey and you need to do what is right for you. I have been an on and off vegetarian and vegan for 20+ years. Each time I started and stopped I did it for my own reasons and some people on either side judged me and said things. But each time I did was best for my body and my life. Glad you got to enjoy your travels including the cuisine!

    • Thank you! The support from this post has been kind of overwhelming. Not a single reader has been judgmental at all <3 I'm glad people understand everyone's journeys are different.

  14. This is really interesting! I went from eating meat to vegetarian to vegan and back to eating meat. Thinking about going back to veg. again. It was fun to read your story and those food pictures look delicious!

  15. It’s interesting to hear your story, because I went through the same thing. Living in The Netherlands, it was easy to be a vegeterian because we have so many options here. But when I started traveling often to my native country Portugal, I noticed there was a lot of prejudism against my diet from family members but also from restaurants that had no options. I got so bored of them always ending up making a simple omelette, that I decided to quit being a vegetarian.

    So I ate meat again for a few years, but somehow I never enjoyed it again like before. I still kept going for the vegetarian option if they had one, or I went for fish. So I decided to switch to a pescatarian diet a few months ago! I find it easier to travel as a pescatarian compared to a vegeterian, because that way you can still try a lot of local dishes.

  16. Sarah

    I did exactly the same when I started travel. The options for eating vegetarian was so limited, and I felt like I was missing out. Now I choose vegetarian when I can but it’s not the be all and end all but pleased to say there are now a lot more options than there used to be for travellers.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *