Why It’s Not Okay To Lecture Me About My Diet Just Because I’m Vegan

“I don’t like vegans because they always try to lecture me.”

Yeah, right.

I won’t lie – there are vegans who are pretty ‘fanatic’ and have to bring up the discussion of meat vs no meat vs being vegan at every opportunity. Most aren’t like that. On the other hand, try being vegan and sitting down with a bunch of omnis at a restaurant.

Recently, I drove my grandparents to their friends’ house and we all decided to go for lunch. The only option for me was a salad, which was fine because I wasn’t there for myself but just to accompany my grandparents. I didn’t say a single word about food that day. Out of the blue, the woman turned to me and said “Being vegan is SO unhealthy, I really think you should stop that.” Like – what the fuck? Why did she feel that it was okay to criticize my diet? She kept talking about how unhealthy it is (all while eating her pork swimming in sauce with fries on the side – okay) and even tried to talk about a doctor who had apparently told her son how unhealthy being vegan was. All while I was still sitting there quietly, contemplating what to say while my grandma was embarrassed. I just told her that the doctor was wrong and that I am sure that I get all the nutrients I need, and that I didn’t want to discuss my choices. I would’ve said more, but my grandma was already embarrassed.

I don’t understand. Why do I have to defend my diet while eating meat is totally acceptable? Even being super unhealthy is more accepted than eating vegan.

People feel like they have the right to comment on alternative diets but I can’t criticise a conventional diet including meat and dairy because then I’m just a fanatic vegan stereotype. Regarding food, I really keep to myself, I don’t comment on anyone’s diet – healthy or unhealthy, meat or no meat, because frankly, it is a personal choice. While I love to educate those who are interested, I never bring it up unprompted.

So now, pray tell, why can’t omnivores give me the same common courtesy?

Have a picture of my super unhealthy food choice this morning:

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October Goals

Do you ever find it hard to motivate yourself? I definitely do. It’s mostly because I lack focus, I have so many things I want to change or do that I don’t really tackle them until I have to. I am trying a new approach now and I want to take you along with me.

Every month, I want to set three goals for myself. I’ll focus on those goals rather than trying to do everything at once. At the end of the month I’ll see how it went.

My goals for October are:

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#1 Go running at least 6 times

#2 Decorate the flat

#3 Continue to learn French 

I am gonna be abroad for 10 days and I don’t think I’ll be able to go running there, so I set the bar low – I can never stick to running regularly, so 6 times is gonna be a challenge anyway. I started revising French when I was in Canada and now I stopped – definitely need to find the motivation to start again. As for decorating – I should do that before I start working in November. So yeah, I think I will be able to manage ticking off that list.

Do you ever set goals for yourself? Do you ever manage to reach them?

4 Amazing Couchsurfing Stories

.. and they all happened to me during the past 18 months. I had never tried couchsurfing before, though I was registered on the website. If you don’t know, it’s a website where everyone can sign up to host travelers and be hosted by locals for a number of days that you agree upon.

What you usually read are scary stories, things gone wrong, weird hosts and stolen goods. While it can be dodgy and I have had my fair share of weird experiences, I wanted to show a different side: the amazing people that you meet and the extraordinary experiences that you can have.

#1 Joe in Quebec City

We arrived at Joe’s house and the first thing he did was invite us up to his roof for a beer. It was noon, a hot summer day and the roof wasn’t actually accessible – we literally climbed out of the window and up the slope. He then told us about his plan: He was a radio host, so he asked us to be on his show. The show is in French, my friend doesn’t speak a word in that language, but that wasn’t a problem, as he had a different idea. He was going to ask the questions in French while we answer in German. Needless to say, we had a blast during that show (where everyone was drinking again). Not sure what the listeners thought, but it was a hilarious experience for us.

#2 Mike in New York City

Mike lives in New Jersey, just across the river from Manhattan, and he gave us his basement. The house had a pool that we could use, a huge kitchen and his lovely wife and daughter. As if that wasn’t enough, he thought that there was too much traffic to go into the city, so naturally, he took us to Manhattan on his boat. On the way back it was almost time for the sunset, so he asked us if we’d like to make a detour to the Statue of Liberty – umm, yes?? He was the best, honestly, I trusted him so much that I left my car with him while I flew to California. He showed us around Manhattan, he was the best host I could imagine.

#3 Sharon in Los Angeles

We didn’t meet Sharon through Couchsurfing, but I’ll tell the story anyway because it’s THAT amazing. We were in the Sierra Nevada, sitting in those hot springs and got talking to Sharon and her friend Amy. They gave us their numbers in case we’d go to Los Angeles so we could stay with them. We called Sharon a few weeks later and she offered to let us stay at her house. We got there, she was just about to leave – for the weekend! She went to the store, bought everything we’d need, told us how to care for her dogs and left. We had a house in the hills in L.A., Netflix, dogs, food and a whole weekend to ourselves. Is there anything better?

#4 Molly in Tahoe City

When we arrived at Molly’s cabin, we were amazed: built out of wood, tiny, but so beautiful! Two blocks away from the famous Lake Tahoe. She had to leave right away, but let us take her two dogs down to the lake, she showed us her box of veggies from the market that we could use, and she offered to take us to yoga. She’s such a kind spirit, it was great to meet her and the way she trusted us with her dogs right away was incredible.

Have you ever had an amazing experience with Couchsurfing? I’d love to hear about it!

After-Vacation Breakfast (or: Overnight Oats Porridge)

Ever got home after being on vacation and didn’t feel like going shopping right away? Well, depending on how long you’ve been gone, most things in your flat won’t be edible anymore. I have just the thing for you – vegan, healthy, easily prepared and the best thing is, all the things you need are things that you should always have at your flat anyway! (i promise they won’t spoil. unless you’ll be gone for a few years, that might be a problem)

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I got the recipe from a woman in New Zealand, I lived with her for a few weeks and she made this. You can always add fruit, of course.

Ingredients:

Oats
chia seeds
flaxseed
millet
cashews
pumpkin seeds
sunflower seeds

(but really, which ever nuts and seeds you prefer is fine!)

Preparation:

Quite simple. You layer the ingredients in a glass (for example a mason jar with a lid) and add about the same amount of water as dry ingredients. Put the lid on, put it in the fridge overnight and take it out in the morning. Pour the mixture in a pot and add a bit of water (you can also add almond or rice milk if you have the non-perishable version. or if you haven’t actually been on holiday, just add whichever you have at home). Heat it up for a few minutes (on my stove, two are literally enough) and stir it. Done!

I enjoyed mine today with some fresh coffee – best way to start the day!

How To Deal With Homesickness

Everyone who has been traveling knows homesickness. It doesn’t always have to be the soul-crushing sadness that some people talk about, it can also mean the inexplicable feeling you get when you see pictures of your best friend’s birthday while you’re not there or the festival in your city that you always went to. It can come after a week or after a year, often in waves, and it’s not always something you recognize at first. The question is though – what can you do?

The advice you usually find in these kinds of posts is ‘going out’ and ‘distracting yourself’. While that is very true, it’s never that easy. Usually there’s also the advice to ‘not call your friends and family because you’ll miss them more’. Honestly? I think it’s bullshit.

Call your Mum to tell her you love her, to hear about what she’s been up to. Call your best friend and tell her that her birthday looks like the most fun ever and you wished you were there. Call your sister and tell her that everything sucks because you’re missing home. It’s okay. It honestly is.

Don’t spend days and weeks on the phone with them, but just call them if you feel like that’s what you need. Afterwards you might feel worse – that’s true. But you also won’t think about calling them anymore and you can go out and do something else. You might feel better, too. For me, that depends on the situation. Don’t force yourself to not have contact with your loved ones though, in my experience, that almost never helps.

If you have a friend that’s been through something similar, talk to them. If you don’t, find someone on the internet who’s been through the same thing (facebook groups are a good way to start). There’s nothing to be ashamed of, if someone says that they never miss home – well, they are either lying or they really don’t have anything worth missing back home, and that’s just as sad as being homesick.

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How To Live In A Minivan

Living in a van sounds romantic, right? Driving wherever the road leads you, parking the car where you like it, sleeping with a view of the stars above, breakfast at the beach.. Sometimes it actually is that way. Sometimes it’s not though. There’s police officers chasing you away, rainy days where you don’t have anywhere to go, a lack of privacy and most importantly mosquitoes. Tons of mosquitoes.

Anyway, the all in all six months I spent living on the road in a van were some of the best ones in my life. Hard, but also fun. I am going to talk about some important points and maybe after that you’ll decide that clearly, living in a van is not for you. Maybe you’ll want to try it out sometime, though!

Get a van. Obviously. There’s tons of different models, big ones, small ones.. I decided on a minivan, a Honda Odyssey 2002, which I bought with my friend David who helped with checking that it’s running smoothly (because frankly, while I’m a good driver, I don’t know much about cars). The good thing about minivans is that they don’t use a lot of gas and are quite cheap on the upkeep. Other good models would be a Ford Windstar or a Dodge Grand Caravan. Bigger vans are more expensive on gas, but have more space. Whatever fits your budget. Local car dealers might have what you need, but private sales on sites like craigslist are usually the cheaper option. Registration and insurance are important, even in countries where you don’t necessarily need it (looking at you, New Zealand!). If you have questions about the Canadian system, let me know, I know quite a bit about that.

Name your van. Totally necessary step! Mine was called Bobby (the car).

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Equip your van. You don’t need a fully equipped backpacker van with a bed and everything, despite what everyone says. I even kept the seats in there in case I wanted to bring more people and to sell it in the end as a normal car, not just for backpackers. I simply put an air mattress in the back, flipped the seats to the front and bought sleeping bags. Very important: make some curtains (we used shower curtains, another time just cut up some fabric from Walmart)! If not, you’ll have street lights or the sun shining in your face (especially fun if you go to Alaska in the summer – we had kind of forgotten that it won’t be dark at night). A camping cooker is pretty handy. You’ll figure out what you need along the way, depends on how long you want to live in it.

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Find a travel partner. Of course you can also go by yourself, but it can get quite lonely and you might not want to sleep in dodgy areas. I traveled with a girl I met on a farm, then a friend from Germany joined us and in the end it was just the German friend and I. There will be arguments, it won’t always be easy, but in the end I was so glad I had someone by my side to share this adventure.

Find a route. Check if there are unpaved roads. You are risking popped tires (I had three of those during the 15 months I had the van), and if a road is only suitable for 4WD, don’t go on it if you have 2WD. Check for road conditions. Do you have snow chains if needed? Do you even have winter tires? You won’t need them if you’re roadtripping through California in the summer, but go up to the Rockies and it might be a different story. Also remember that in some parts of the world, you won’t  find gas stations every few kilometres, sometimes there might be a few hundred in between. Know the route.

Sleeping. There are different rules in every country, but in general, you are pretty unsuspicious in a minivan. Nobody will suspect that there’s someone sleeping in there, unless you wash your dishes in a parking lot at 10 am (yes I did that. Yes I got caught). Ideally find somewhere where a public toilet is nearby (or alternatively a bunch of bushes). In the US and Canada, you are allowed to camp in most Walmart parking lots, so if you’re near a city, that’s a safe option. Other big supermarkets sometimes allow it, too. There’s public rest areas, a lot of those are okay. Sometimes they are next to the beach, the most perfect spots. Sometimes there’s fire places, go there. Other people have camped there before and most likely didn’t get caught. Check Allstays and Freecampsites (they are not always reliable, but I found some awesome spots on there!)

Don’t leave a trace. Take your garbage with you. In so many places I found other people’s trash, it’s not pretty. There are less and less places where it’s allowed to camp without paying, and people that leave their trash are the reason for that. Don’t be a part of the problem.

Apologize to the police if they find you. The two times I ran into the police while sleeping in a van, the encounters weren’t bad. A warning, they sent me away, that’s it. Don’t turn up again the next day! They might give you a fine sometimes, but usually they just warn you the first time.

Find a place to shower. There’s a few places where you can shower. Firstly, there’s community centres or pools. Truck stations often have showers (for a fee, obviously, but they are mostly pretty clean and sometimes you can do your laundry, too!), some hostels will let you shower. Campgrounds will most likely let you shower for a fee (or you just walk in and don’t get caught).

Take a break. Sometimes it’s good to book a motel room just for one night. You’ll see when you’re at that point. For me, it mostly came after about three to four weeks. It’s okay – you don’t have to live on the road full time.

Word of advice: It always sounds great to buy a van and then sell it in the end, because you’ll get your money back anyway, right? No, not always right. Sometimes it costs a lot on the road because it’s expensive to get parts replaced or repaired, and sometimes you won’t be able to sell it for the same price because the demand isn’t high. We were lucky with repairs, just a few new tires and oil changes, but in the end, our brakes were done, the doors didn’t work and we had to scrap him. So when you buy a car, always remember that you might not get your money back. Still cheaper than a rental though, and to be honest, way cooler. Once we knew that we wouldn’t get any money for it, we drew on the ceiling – in the end it was an artwork of our time there.

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Got any questions about living on the road? Let me know, I’d love to help!

Pumpkin Cake [Vegan Baking #1]

While it is still 30 °C here in Germany, fall is just around the corner. Windy, rainy days spent inside by the fireplace with a cup of tea,  I love that. What I also love about fall is pumpkin – pumpkin everything. I don’t like a lot of cakes and sweet stuff, so I’ve always been trying to make cakes with alternative methods. Now I created a vegan pumpkin cake and let me tell you, it’s delicious! Even my omnivore family (including grandparents!) loved it so much, they chose it over all the other non-vegan, super sweet cakes that were there. It takes some time and preparation but is super easy, can’t really go wrong.

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Ingredients: 

200g whole-grain flour
200g wheat flour
150g brown sugar
a pinch of salt
5 tea spoons cinnamon
1 tea spoon nutmeg
500g pumpkin purree (or a medium sized pumpkin, preferably butternut or hokkaido)
150ml almond milk (unsweetened)
200g apple sauce (unsweetened)
150g chopped hazelnuts
a hand full pumpkin seeds

Preparation:

#1 If you bought pumpkin purree from a store, just skip this step. If you have a pumpkin, cut it up into about four pieces and put it in the oven for an hour (200 °C). Afterwards, get rid of the seeds and the skin. You can now mash it up in a mixing bowl and take 500g for the cake (if you have more, it’s a delicious side for just about any meal you’re cooking! just put it in the fridge).

#2 Preheat the oven to 180 °C. Mix the flours, salt, brown sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg in a mixing bowl.

#3 Add the almond milk and the apple sauce to the pumpkin purree and mix it until it has a smooth texture.

#4 Mix the dry and wet ingredients. It is a pretty sticky dough, so an electric mixer is not the best option. It works well with a wooden spoon but whatever you prefer, really. Add the chopped hazelnuts (if you can’t buy them chopped, just stick them into a plastic bag and use a hammer to chop them).

#5 Line a baking pan with baking paper and fill it with the dough. Sprinkle the pumpkin seeds on top and bake it at 180 °C for about 70 – 80 minutes.

Enjoy! Let me know if you tried it.

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