2/7/18: Am I Vegan Anymore?

Today was a really hard day as a vegan.

It started in the morning when I got a strawberry juice from a local restaurant. I tried my best to communicate that I wanted no milk or sugar, but the waiter didn’t understand English.

The juice arrived. It was made with condensed milk. I felt bad that they had gone through the trouble of making it, and it was just going to go to waste, so I had a sip of it. It was overly sweet– I don’t know how anyone could have drank the entire glass.

After that failure, we went to Yes! Cafe for coffee.

My coffee came with milk. I decided to just drink it anyway since it was a tiny amount of milk.

Then we went to Grandma Cafe for lunch. I got kimchi bibimguksu (cold noodles with kimchi). I’m pretty sure the kimchi wasn’t vegan since it usually has some fish, but I only remembered that after I ordered it.

At 2 pm we got in a van to Bagan. We stopped every 10-20 minutes: to let passengers on and off, to pick up cargo, to get gas, to talk to friends, to change a tire, to buy a new tire, to take pee breaks, and to take food breaks.

Our van doubled as a UPS truck to transport a huge bag of limes…

At one point a new guy came on and sat next to Hannah and I. During one of our many stops, he walked into a local shop and came back with a gift for us: condensed milk fudge. It was obviously not vegan, but I ate a piece anyway as to not be rude.

For dinner, I had vegetable kimbap (Korean sushi) that I had bought from Grandma Cafe earlier to take on the road with me. The kimbap had little pieces of egg in it, which I removed with my chopsticks. It wasn’t a huge deal, but I probably would not have done that if I was in New York. I first would have made sure there were no eggs before I bought it, and if I knew there were, I probably would not have bought it and just gotten something else.

We eventually got to Bagan around 11 pm and got in a (very overpriced) cab to our hostel.

I don’t even know if I’m even vegan anymore. Myanmar has made me SUPER relaxed because of the language barrier. Even if you say no milk, no eggs, no fish, whatever, the waiters will nod and act like they know what you are saying when they really don’t. And then, there’s no point sending it back and asking for a new meal because they won’t understand that either.

My approach now is to just try my best and accept whatever happens. I know that I could be better– I could have not drank the coffee with milk, not eaten the likely non-vegan kimchi, or refused the gift from our bus friend, but I’ve realized that it means more to me to not be wasteful or rude than to be 100% strict vegan. At least while traveling in a country with very limited English skills.

I think it has been really eye-opening and meaningful for me to go through this. I was living in a bit of a bubble before, where it was super easy for me to draw lines and say to myself, “I eat this, not that.” I could easily exclude things or add things in, but it’s not so easy to do that in a country where very few people are vegan or know what veganism is. It also makes it doubly hard when we can’t communicate with each other.

I’ve learned to take my mistakes lightly– shake it off, maybe laugh about it a little, and move on. Maintaining a 100% vegan diet isn’t the most pressing thing in the world. There are bigger problems, and it’s important to let go of my ego and recognize that.

12 thoughts on “2/7/18: Am I Vegan Anymore?

  1. Totally agree with what you said in this post!! Sometimes it can be pretty difficult to eat plant based in certain parts of the world and I think the best thing to do is not to think about what you’re eating and not to sweat it. It’s what you do 99% of the time that counts!:))

    1. Yeah exactly. No point in stressing out about it, it’s better to just enjoy each moment. Thanks for reading and for sharing your thoughts!

  2. This was a great read!!! Really appreciate your honesty and respect your choice to focus more on waste and rudeness than 100% vegan. I am vegetarian myself and often run into these issues with fish in food, and have definitely found myself in similar situations at NYC dim sum restaurants that don’t have servers who speak English well enough for me to order correctly. I usually also choose not to make a big deal and to not waste food.

    1. Yay glad you enjoyed!! It’s always a dilemma for me… whether to waste food or to contradict my morals and eat something that’s not vegan. I’m beginning to choose the “not waste food” side, especially in cases where there’s no one around who would eat the food for me.

  3. I wish more vegans were open about this. It’s not about stopping every trace of dairy from entering your bloodstream. It’s about doing your best to stay away from it, and influence others to do the same. Making small mistakes and letting things slide is normal and okay.
    Ps. Try learning the basic words for milk, dairy, fish, and allergy(Caesin allergies are super common nowadays and it’s an easy excuse to not eat things people make or offer when you don’t want to explain veganism)I’ve done that on my trips and it’s always worked.

    1. I think vegans tend to be afraid to share things like this, because they think they’ll get a big backlash for it. I’m certainly scared to post things like this! But usually the feedback is positive.
      And YES I totally agree I should know those basic words. Traveling for months and months has made me lazy ahaha since I’m constantly having to learn new words, customs, etc. But it’s no excuse!

  4. This was so encouraging to me! I just broke my vegan diet due to a pressing social situation and I felt serious guilt. But reading this reminded me that there’s more important things in life than veganism and that’s okay. Thanks for this!

    1. I remember the first time I broke my vegan diet, I felt TERRIBLY and thought about it for weeks lol! So I totally get what you’re going through. Don’t feel guilty. Eating an animal product from time to time isn’t going to ruin the world! Don’t worry.

  5. I definitely agree that being 100% vegan is not the most important thing. I went to Kenya this past summer to study abroad and I also ended up eating things that def weren’t vegan just bcuz there weren’t other options and I’m not going to starve myself so I can say I’m a perfect vegan. I think eating mostly plant based is of course better for the env, animals and maybe health but having a little animal products here and there, especially while traveling, should not be a big deal in my opinion. Personally I identify as “veganish”. I know that would make a lot of vegans want to scream, but that’s what is realistic for me. Also the animals in Myanmar are probably treated a lot better than most in the US… if that makes you feel any better. Anywho, totally support you and hope you continue to enjoy your travels :))))

  6. This is about vegetarianism, but I think it could apply to veganism as well. You might find it interesting, and comforting given your current situation.

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