When I think of planning out my next trip or even reminiscing on old ones, top of my mind is the food. I love, love, love getting to experience other cultures cuisine and trying out their local dishes. It is always a highlight for me and I always look forward to what I will get to try and taste.
I am not going to lie and say that everything I have tried has left a nice taste, but that's all part of the adventure. From a bag of crunchy bugs off the carts of Thailand to fried puffer fish in Japan, I have definitely pushed the limits of my diet.
Before my first backpacking trip, starting in India when I was 19, I had recently transitioned to being a vegetarian, mainly from not wanting to contribute to the environmental damage associated with the meat industry in North America. It was a personal choice of taking more responsibility in how my actions were contributing to a larger problem.
If something I was choosing to consume up to 3 times a day was voting for such harsh environmental damage, I decided it was time to switch things up.
I was incredibly lucky because while in India, there are quite a lot of vegetarian options. I was also living in a house that cooked vegetarian food, so it was easy for me to experience cultural foods while sticking to no meat. I didn’t really have to question my choices or put them up to the test yet, but as I moved on to the next countries I began to feel a shift.
In Bali, we got a tour of a family-run coffee bean plantation as well as a full home-cooked dinner experience. This was the first time I really questioned what being vegetarian meant for me and how being abroad might affect this.
I had to ask myself if I was more attached to the label, or if I was willing to be more flexible on my approach.
And this was the start of me adopting a more flexitarian lifestyle.
It was a lot more about finding a balanced approach, so I wasn’t restricting myself so much that I would resent my change of lifestyle. I had to really dig into why I had made the switch in the first place and let go of my fear of judgment from others. If people hear you say you are vegetarian and then see you trying meat I was scared of what they would think.
The truth is that the experience of travelling has given me way more confidence and perspective, so I was able to step into my own beliefs.
I stuck to being mainly plant-based and even going out of my way to look for more vegetarian options and support that industry while abroad. But I also went to a local farmer, picked a chicken and watched him prepare it from start to finish. So why didn’t that bother me or feel like I was going against my values?
Well, I knew that the money I was spending on this chicken was going to this farmer, his wife, and his little girl. I saw them, I saw how the chicken was living and I had no problem supporting their way of production. This was how they made a living, not some out of sight, out of mind mega chicken farm where they choose quantity over quality and standards. They are two completely different things in my opinion and so I enjoyed the best chicken I have ever tasted.
Travelling helped me adapt to this mindset of being flexitarian because I did still want to stick to mainly vegetarian, but also experience local foods.
I took the mindset home with me and practiced it in Canada as well. If I know where my meat is coming from, or I decide to partake in a family dinner where they have prepared a special dish, I don’t feel guilty. Travelling helped me grow into my own beliefs around my lifestyle, so that I could align with my values over trying to fit into a specific label.
What does it mean to be flexitarian?
Being flexitarian to me is more about being mindful of what your choices are around your diet.
By definition, it is having a mostly vegetarian diet but occasionally eating meat or fish.
This could mean you choose not to consume other animal products as well. What I see it as is more of a lifestyle choice, or a mindset. I usually opt for fully plant based meals, but it is all just about how I feel around the specific product or circumstance.
I think for a lot of people we are shifting how we see our diets and are wanting to adopt a more plant-based lifestyle, but not ready to sacrifice it all. I believe that it's better to be more encouraging towards a flexitarian approach rather than trying to restrict everything. Having mindfulness around your choices and actively choosing to align with your values is more important to me than following the rules of being vegan.
3 Tips to adopting a flexitarian lifestyle
1. Learn to cook your own plant based meals
This is absolutely my biggest piece of advice as well as my biggest saving tip! Especially when it comes to travelling via road trips, this eliminates any worry of meat going bad or storing it. You’ll want to keep it super simple on the road but we love making dishes like pastas, burritos, and stir-fry.
When it comes to cooking plant-based it really doesn’t have to be complicated or be about spending a whole lot. I found learning a handful or 2 of recipes keeps variety in my diet while not trying to figure out new recipes every meal. I also love this approach because I don’t buy meat this way. I am not giving my dollars to the big meat corporations.
2. Really dig deep into your "why"
I think this is also a really important step, especially if you have eaten meat for most of your life.
When you are changing your habits it means changing your default mode. This means we are going against the grain already within our lives.
Does this mean it is impossible? Of course not, but it does mean we need motivation and inspiration.
I suggest asking yourself why you want to stop consuming meat, then with that answer ask why again. Then one more time, so you take it at least three levels deep. This may seem simple, but I promise there is power in rooting your why deeper.
For example: I want to eat more vegetables → I want to be healthier → I want to feel better in my body and have more energy
3. Find An Accountability Partner
Whether this be just someone you share what you want to change with, or maybe you are able to find someone who also wants to change. This helps add another level of accountability beyond your own will power.
You can also join Facebook groups or other groups/ forums who have a community of like minded people who you can share struggles, recipes, and wins with!
Best of luck!