Vegan Traveling: Portugal

When I’m traveling by myself, being vegan is not a huge problem. I can always find stuff anywhere, Happy Cow is my best friend when I’m researching for vegan restaurants and I don’t mind traveling through the whole city just to find that one awesome vegan curry.

This time, I spent ten days in Portugal though with a group of teens, we had a few meals with locals and others where everyone just grabbed something quickly, and so that was a whole different challenge. Portugal is on the verge of changing when it comes to diet. A few years ago most restaurants didn’t even have a vegetarian option, tons of fish and meat, and even now there are some where you literally can’t find anything without fish in it. However, I was up to the challenge. I traveled to Porto, Lisbon and a few tiny towns and villages in between.

What you can eat in Portugal

First of all: I had prepared snacks at home that I brought, and to be honest – that’s a good advice to take for any vegan who is traveling. Bring nuts, protein bars and maybe crackers, just to have something to eat when you can’t find something quickly. Being hungry is the worst feeling in the world. Portugal is famous for its pastelarias where they sell all kinds of baked goods – they aren’t vegan 99% of the time.

Bread. Portugal has the best bread. You can always ask for olive oil with it, and I could live on that alone.

Tapas. Almost all restaurants have some great tapas! I just mentioned bread, but they also have delicious olives, tremoços (lupin beans), peanuts and chips.

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Salad. You can almost always order a mixed salad. In Portugal it is common to just make the dressing yourself with oil, vinegar, salt and pepper, which is perfect for vegans.

Soup. Often there’s a vegetable soup on the menu and if it’s not, chances are, they’ll still have some. It’s one of the most delicious Portuguese foods and a lot of people eat it as a starter. Just ask if it has dairy in it – I asked every time and it was always okay for me to eat.

Fruit. Fruit is cheap, fresh and there are tons of different kinds at the markets! Most restaurants also have a dessert option that is basically only fruit or a fruit salad. In the vineyards I also had the best fruit that I just picked up, so amazing.

Ask the server! Their hospitality is one of the things I love the most about Portuguese people and so when I asked in restaurants if they could prepare something for me, they were all so helpful and understanding. They asked what I could eat and what I couldn’t eat, and then they made the most delicious veggie, rice and potato combos that I’ve ever eaten.

Lastly and most importantly: wine! One of the best things about Portugal is their amazing wine and port wine, I could basically live on that alone.

 

Special thanks to thebrightmornings for answering my questions about being vegan in Portugal before I went!

How My Job Affects My Use Of Social Media

Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, this blog and online communities. Every single one of these accounts display a different part of me, each show a slightly different person – not because I am dishonest but because of the different nature of these apps or webpages. They all have one thing in common: They are too personal for my clients to see.

I am a social worker. I put a lot of myself into relationships with my clients because that’s how it works, I can’t be too distant or I’ll never be successful. I choose what to share with them and what not to share though. What if they found my social media? It’s a thought that honestly scares me, so inspired by the German blogger Clara from wundersachen, I wanted to explore it in a blog post. This is less about the dangers of Social Media even though I am well aware of those, especially for young people, but at this point in my life, it is more about a balance between sharing as much as I want to and having to think about the impact it has on my job.

Some people can combine their normal work life and their blog – I can’t. I can’t talk about my job on here because of my professional discretion. On the other hand, I could never talk about my blog at work – with colleagues, sure, but not with clients. My blog posts are completely personal, as are the rest of my social networks. Why am I having trouble deciding to lock them then, so that they are private and only my friends have access?

The thing is, while I don’t particularly care about follower numbers, I love to get feedback from strangers, have people comment on how beautiful my Instagram photos are and interesting insights on their thoughts regarding my blog posts. Aren’t all bloggers a tiny bit narcisstic in that way? It’s comforting to vent on Twitter about things going on in my life and so often I have felt better when someone just said ‘that’s okay, I’ve been feeling the same thing!’ or ‘why don’t you try xy, it’s helped me!’. Even just a ‘feel hugged!’ can make all the difference in my day.

There’s nothing on my accounts that is so personal in a way that it could hurt me. No nude pictures, at least. Seriously, it wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world if a client found out, there’s nothing that they could use against me. It would hurt my professional standing though. I deliberately create a relationship with the exact amount of distance and closeness that I deem necessary. Me telling them that I have been to Canada before is one thing. Them seeing a picture of myself with my friends in front of Lake Louise is a different story. It would be uncomfortable for me and in a way for them, too.

I would never befriend someone client-related on Facebook, of course, and I might have to private my Twitter. Imagine a client reading about what I think of Bill Kaulitz’ new haircut – I really don’t want to have a conversation about how I am totally an adult and totally capable of telling them how to deal with their children when they have that to throw in my face.

I will have to adjust my way of using social media, as hard as it is. My Mum is following me on Instagram, so I’m careful there anway – jk, my Mum is the best. I want to keep my Instagram public though and so I will go through my feed before I start my new job, just to be safe. I will have to censor myself in the future by reconsidering before I post a picture. I will private my Twitter because in the end, most replies I get are from friends or long-time followers anyway – and that’s enough! This blog is the one thing I’m on the fence about. I am going to keep it, definitely, but I am not sure how to protect myself.

A good method of checking how easily you can be found is using the incognito mode of your browser (so that Google can’t tailor the results for you and you’ll get an unbiased picture of what someone can actually find about you) and just typing your name into Google. When I google myself, a whole bunch of articles about my past voluntary engagement in church appear, a few pictures, a few twitter accounts that belong to someone else, and a bit of information about where I went to school. Nothing about my actual accounts though, which is reassuring.

I grew up with the internet, there’s a ton of stuff on there that I will never be able to get rid of – and that nobody will ever find, to be honest. That’s our generation though, isn’t it? All of us are living with that and all of us are figuring out a way for ourselves to deal with it. Some strangers on the internet became my best friends, I don’t want to deprive myself of the chance to get to know these great people. Got any advice? Thoughts? Leave a comment, I appreciate all insights since as you can see in this blog post, I am not decided on the topic.

To end this on a positive note, ever listened to the Stand Up To Cancer charity single “The Internet Is Here” by Dan and Phil (daninsnotonfire and amazingphil on Youtube)? I promise you, if you grew up on the internet, you will relate.

A Letter To My 30-Year-Old Self

Inspired by Ellie and her post “Dear 25-Year-Old Me” I decided to write to my 30-year-old self.

 

Dear Natalie.

How are you? Are you happy? Remember when you wrote this a little over five years ago? You just came back from traveling the world for 18 months, you went back to your old flat and found a job within a month. When you wrote this letter, you were just a few weeks away from starting that job and you were stuck between traveling and real life.

How did that job work out for you? Are you still there? Did it make you as happy as you thought it would? I bet it was hard at first, but I hope that your colleagues were as nice as they seemed in the beginning and that your boss was understanding about the days you needed off.

How is the concert thing going? Are you still traveling all over your place for your favourite bands? Are Tokio Hotel still performing? And what about 30 Seconds To Mars? I hope you made some great memories with them and they didn’t disappoint you in the end. If you’re still in contact with the friends you made, send them a message. Ask how they are. You really had the best times with them.

Did you get more tattoos? Do you regret any of the ones you got when you were younger? Remember that they meant the world to you at the time, so there really is no reason to regret any of them. You got them for a reason.

Do you have a cat? There was always a reason why you didn’t get one and I hope you got over that. You love cats so much, if you don’t have one yet, you should really consider it now.

Are you still thinking about moving to Canada permanently? Or do you maybe live there now? If not, just apply for that permanent residence. What’s the harm? They might say no or you might decide to stay in Germany. Or live in a different country. That’s okay, too.

How is your family? How are your friends? Give them a hug from me because they’ve been there for you during some hard times, they deserve that hug.

Are you still vegan? If you’re not I hope you know what you’re doing and I think you should reconsider. If you are, congrats! You made it to six years and almost twelve of being vegetarian!

I hope you’re happy, wherever you are. Whether you’re in a relationship or not, still traveling the world or staying at home. I hope you surround yourself with great people that support you in whatever you are choosing to do with your time. I know that you will make the right choice. I hope you love yourself.

There was a time in your life when you didn’t think that you’d make it to 30, so I’m so proud of you that you did.

Cheers!

Your 24 year old self.

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I am thinking about printing this letter, putting it in an envelope and giving it to my Mum so she can give it to me for my 30th birthday. Have you ever done something like that or similar?

The Scariest Part About Traveling Is Coming Home

Exactly one month ago I got on a plane in Bangkok and came back home for the first time in 18 months. I was terrified. Going to a foreign country? Meeting new people? Living in a strange culture? Bring it on! Going back home? Honestly the scariest thing about this whole experience.

I’ve had bad experiences with coming back home in the past. When I was 16, I lived abroad for a year and once I got back, more than half of my friends didn’t talk to me anymore. I had the biggest existential crisis of my life, wanted to quit school, go back to Canada and do – well, didn’t get that far, but something other than have to face my life in Germany. Of course, this time I wasn’t 16 anymore, but the fear remained.

There are a few things that helped me with this experience, and maybe they’ll help you, too.

Tell your family exactly how you want to arrive.

They won’t know unless you tell them. Last time, they thought I wanted a quiet first day – but I wanted the big party. This time I told my family that I wanted nobody to know that I was coming back (I didn’t want my whole extended family there because I knew I’d feel overwhelmed), instead I planned a family get together for the following weekend. I wanted to meet everyone on my terms. My sister picked me up at the airport, my parents were waiting at home with a homecooked meal and a glass of wine. Perfect!

Reach out to your friends before you get back.

Last time, I didn’t really keep in contact and then I got back and was like “Hey I’m back, let’s meet up!” – needless to say, that didn’t work out. In the end I’m glad I got rid of those friends anyway, but at the time I was devastated. This time, I made plans with everyone for the first two weeks. I wrote the dates in my calendar, planned different things with everyone and in general just let everyone know way beforehand how much I was looking forward to seeing them. I went to a festival with some, ate breakfast with others and we had the best time. So glad to have them in my life!

Make a plan for the next steps in your life.

Now, this is all depending on what you’re planning to do with your life. The first time I came back, I thought it was all planned out anyway – I was going back to school. That was seven weeks from then though because the summer holidays came first. With barely any friends, nothing to do and the fear of going back to school building up, those weeks were horrible. This time, I wrote job applications on the beach in Thailand. I planned a holiday in Portugal in October. I made sure that I had things to look forward to and it worked. I am having a bit of downtime right now and it’s quite boring until I start my new job, but at least I know what I’m waiting for and I’m not having doubts.

Talk about your struggles.

When I was 16, I wasn’t able to show how hard coming back was. I cried alone, I got angry at the weirdest things and at myself, and it was not a good experience. This time, almost everyone who has asked me how coming back home was got an honest response: It’s not easy. It will never be easy. It’ll always feel weird and that’s okay. You can also reach out to others who have gone through the same thing, that has actually helped me a lot. Even though everyone goes through different stages, you’re not alone!

Remember that it’s not the end of traveling.

Just because you are back home now doesn’t mean you have to stay there. I looked for a job in the city where I really wanted to go back to (which is kind of home for me but quite far from my parents, I went to university there) and I also know that I will always be traveling. For now, it’s not going to be another huge trip like my last one, but I will always leave the country for a few weeks at a time to explore new cultures, to visit my friends abroad and who knows, maybe one day I will leave again for a long time. It’s comforting to know that I can. It’s also comforting to know that I don’t have to. It’s all up to me, the same as your life is up to you. There’s always a way, you just have to find the one that’s right for you.

While the scariest part about traveling is coming home, it’s also a very exciting part because it’s a chance to change how things are at home, too. To reconnect with your family and friends, to find out which parts you didn’t know you missed. There are easier days and more difficult ones, and sometimes you just have to accept that a day will be just you lying on the sofa, missing traveling. It happens and you have to get through those days, too.

Feel free to reach out to me if you’re having a bad day, trust me, I will understand.

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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