Vegan Travel Tips with the Healthy Voyager

Carolyn Scott-Hamilton gives us the low-down on staying well-fed while on the road during the holidays.

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Carolyn Scott-Hamilton knows a thing or two about traveling—as the on-camera face and behind-the-scenes producer of The Healthy Voyager web series and website, Scott-Hamilton has been jet-setting all over the world without compromising her healthy plant-based lifestyle for more than a decade, and taking detailed notes along the way. Having recently authored her first cookbook, The Healthy Voyager’s Global Kitchen (out January 1), Scott-Hamilton has been busier than ever with her cross-country book tour, celebrating the holidays with friends and family, and amping up her popular website. We caught up with this entrepreneurial explorer to get the top tips for voracious vegans on the go.

VegNews: How do you fight stress amidst the chaos of holiday travel?
Carolyn Scott-Hamilton: I’m a big planner. For instance, I don’t wait until the holiday season to shop [for gifts]. All year long, if I see something that someone might like, I buy it then and put it in a safe spot until the holidays so that I don’t think to myself, “Wait, what was that thing that so-and-so would like?” Holiday shopping all year long can really maximize good bargains and deals, plus you’ll get things you actually want to give instead of last-minute, obligatory gifts.

VN: What do you always keep on hand when you’re on the go?
CSH: I never leave the house or go on any sort of trip without my Go Greens. It’s an organic, completely vegan powder, and each packet of Go Greens has six servings of vegetables in it. So if I’m traveling and I’m not going to [be able to] get the healthiest food, I at least know that I’m going to get in my vegetables, and all of my vitamins and minerals.

VN: Any clues for finding satisfying vegan food in airports?
CSH: If you Google the airport where you’re leaving from or have a layover at, you can look up what restaurants are available in each terminal. You can check it out and think to yourself, “Oh, there’s a California Pizza Kitchen, I can get the Dakota Smashed Pea + Barley Soup.” If there are no [vegan] options, you can pack something with you. You can bring food in, just not liquids, so if you want to make a sandwich or bring one of your favorite meals, you can smuggle it onto the plane. Planning ahead and seeing where you’re going, that’s the easiest way. There are so many places now that offer something vegan, even just a salad or soup.

VN: When dining at a friend’s house, what’s your strategy for handling offers of non-vegan food?
CSH: If I happen to be invited somewhere where someone doesn’t know [that I’m vegan], I always eat at least a little something before I go, so that I don’t get there feeling starving. I always have a snack before or bring a snack in my purse. If it’s some sort of foodie event, I’ll bring a dish, so that not only do I not starve, but I’m also sharing something with the party that they’re unlikely to have tried unless I had brought it. That way I’m proving, “Hey look, I can still party with everybody and enjoy sharing with you guys!” I never expect anybody to bend over backwards to accommodate my eating, so I either bring something, eat before, or do a combination of both.

VN: What about in foreign countries?
CSH: One thing I really like to do is to pack as much as I can, snacks that will keep me going, whether it’s Go Greens or a big box of Luna Bars or Lara Bars, so that I at least have a snack in my purse while I’m traveling. If you have the luxury of finding accommodations that have a kitchenette or something in your hotel room to cook with, I suggest looking up local or farmers’ markets. You can load up on produce and eat in your room to make sure that you’re at least getting something healthy once or twice a day, and then pack snacks for the rest of the day. There are so many great products out there that can help. There are these wallet-sized cards called SelectWisely—they come in pretty much every language, and they’re a direct translation of what your dietary restrictions are, whether vegan, gluten-free, diabetic, etc. On the back there’s an illustration, so even if they read the card and don’t understand, it’s foolproof.

VN: What’s on your travel itinerary for 2012?
CSH: First, New Year’s in Memphis for a signing. Then we’re definitely be going to Hawaii, and around the US for the book tour, like New York, Chicago, Seattle, San Antonio, Austin. And then we have my own line of Healthy Voyager tours, and we’re doing some crazy exotic places like Kenya, Egypt, India, Machu Picchu, and Belize, so there are a lot of opportunities for people to travel with me and do exotic-adventure type trips without having to worry about what they’re going to eat!

VN: What’s your number one travel tip?
CSH: My biggest tip is always to plan as much as you can. I know some people are more “planny” than others, but the more you can plan and be prepared before you go, the better, whether it’s doing research on the city or trying to connect with people over Twitter or Facebook who you can meet up with or get the local scoop from. You can always go on Happy Cow and find places that way, but a local can suggest places to visit and eat that might not be listed anywhere. Plan as much as you can, make friends, and be adventurous—try to be as happy as you can. Establish a routine and don’t just sit in your hotel room.

VN: And finally, what are some of your favorite dishes from your new cookbook, The Healthy Voyager’s Global Kitchen?
CSH: I’m totally biased because the Colombian and Cuban dishes are really near and dear to my heart—I’m Colombian and grew up in Miami so those are my favorites. I would say my grandmother’s empanadas, I’m really excited that people will be able to try those. And the Cuban Sandwich. Also, from the Switzerland/Denmark chapter, there’s something called Zürcher Geschnetzeltes with Basler Rosti. As kooky as it sounds, it’s pretty awesome—kind of like a seitan stew with a potato hash, so it’s really yummy for breakfast or for dinner. I like the funky crazy stuff and the stuff I grew up with.