Surviving as a Plant Eater on the Alaska Marine Highway

Please note, this post is part of a series. Click here to read it from the beginning.

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On my journey from San Francisco to Seattle, I had pretty much stuffed my face with amazing vegan food. I’d searched Happy Cow for the best restaurants and grocery stores to try, and visited as many of them as I could. I knew, though, that eating on the ferry would be a very different experience. I was heading to Alaska, the land of fish.

As we boarded the boat, I could hear other passengers excitedly talking about how much salmon they were going to eat. I avoided these conversations. Before leaving Seattle, I’d made a dash around Wholefoods to pick up some hemp milk, protein powder and gluten-free snacks. I wasn’t going to starve.

On board the boat, there were two options for eating. I could have gone for the buffet in the restaurant, but it seemed a waste of money to spend $19 when all I would eat was rice and vegetables. The other option was the snack bar. They offered the standard American diet of burgers and pizza. And, of course, some fish. There was a vegan burger on the menu. I couldn’t eat it anyway because of the gluten, but I did wonder how vegan it was when the chef informed me that he cooked the fries in the same fryer as the chicken.

I went for the safe option. The snack bar had some pretty good fresh, raw veggies and fruit. It wasn’t exactly a gourmet meal, but teamed up with my emergency snacks (which I topped up when we stopped in Ketchikan) it was enough to keep me going  for 3 days.

It Must Be Courgette Season Again!

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We had a bumper crop of courgettes at Plasnewydd Community Garden this weekend:

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After what felt like weeks of eating only courgettes last summer, I didn’t think I could come up with a new recipe involving them. However, using some vegan pesto, mushrooms, olives and gnocchi, ta daaaaaa…

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Sacramento

Anyone following me on Twitter and/or Facebook will know that I arrived in the US safe and sound yesterday. I’ve decided that, whilst I’m actually travelling, I’m just going to post highlights of my day. Once I get back to the UK and have a chance to sort through my photos properly, I’ll write more in-depth posts about each destination. That way I won’t miss anything. Plus, I know a lot of my family and friends are now following this blog because they want to see what I’m up to while I’m away. They’ll hear all the stories from me anyway, so all they want to see on Sasieology is photos 🙂

With that in mind, here are my highlights from my first day in Sacramento:

I started my day with an epic all-you-can-eat vegan brunch at Garden to Grill. Hash brown, tofu frittata and, my favourite, gluten-free waffles. This is the first time I’ve been able to eat waffles since I went gluten-free and they were amazing. I also ate some fresh watermelon and pineapple to balance out the waffles (I’m pretty sure that’s how it works).

DSC_0207     While I was in the area I popped to the Gluten Free Speciality Market, where I met Melanie. She’s trying to start a blog to connect local food producers, so she’s a useful person to speak to and super nice.

I spent the rest of the day in Old Sacramento, including an underground tour and river boat cruise.

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Vegfest Brighton 2015

Brighton is one of my favourite places that I’ve ever visited. Known for being a lively, gay-friendly beach resort on the south coast of England, it’s also like the mothership for vegetarians and vegans. I would move there, but the huge selection of vegetarian restaurants and shops would lead me to eat too much and be in a lot of debt. However, I need no excuse to visit Brighton. So, when I found out that I was free the weekend of Brighton Vegfest 2015, I immediately booked my train ticket. And, the two day extravaganza of everything vegan you could ever imagine all under one roof did not disappoint.

Due to it’s location on the south coast, Brighton is usually one of the few places in the UK to get some sunshine. Unfortunately, that was not the case on this visit. This was the ‘sea view’ from outside my hostel on the Saturday morning…

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That blurry, vague shape that you can see in the background is Brighton Pier by the way! Booking a hostel right on the sea front also suddenly didn’t seem like such a good idea when I had to traverse along the edge of the building to get anywhere due to the incredibly strong winds. Lucky for me, and the other 12,000 people who attended, Vegfest was entirely indoors. My one piece of advise would be to get there early, or chill out in Brighton for a while and wait for the queue to go down as it was very long…

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DSC_0107When we did eventually all make it inside, it was definitely worth the wait. Hundreds of stalls advertising, selling and advocating everything from the world of veganism. Loads of charities and other great causes spreading the word about how we can save the world by living plant-based/vegan. A comedy festival with back-to-back vegan comedians for the whole two days. Two rooms with back-to-back presentations about lifestyle and nutrition. An entire room of fresh, tasty, vegan food. Performances, kids’ activities, vegan wine and a pedal-your-own smoothie station. Basically, heaven for vegans all under one roof. Here are my highlights from the weekend.

By far the best thing about visiting Vegfest was all the lovely, interesting and knowledgeable people I got to meet. Where I live in South Wales, we are lucky to have vegetarian restaurants and I live in a vegan-friendly neighbourhood, but I don’t often get the chance to mingle with so many people who have the same beliefs as me. I pestered nutritionists, charity workers, activists, chefs and many other experts with soooooo many questions. And they all patiently listened to me, answered what they’d probably already been asked a hundred times and expanded my knowledge.

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There were so many talks and presentations, it was impossible to attend all the ones that I was interested in. So, I decided to divide my time between subjects that I already had some knowledge of and subjects that would push me out of my comfort zone, surprise me and help me to move closer to living completely vegan and be more environmentally conscious. As a result, I listened to experts on children’s nutrition, vegan body building, hunt sabotage, eating raw and the Vegan Society.

After all the listening, asking questions and shopping (lots and lots of shopping), the food court beckoned. There was so much delicious food to choose from, but it was so busy in the Brighton Centre that the queues were massive and lots of vendors quickly ran out of food. In fact, that would be my one criticism of Brighton Vegfest in general. From listening to people who had attended n previous years, this year’s festival was a lot bigger and a lot busier. It was overwhelming, especially on the Saturday.

Whilst in Brighton, I also found some time to visit the North Laines. This is my favourite part of Brighton, and I filled up on some yummy food at vegetarian restaurants Wai Kiki Moo Kau and Iydea.

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I would definitely love to go back to Brighton Vegfest next year, by which time I’m sure I’ll have a hundred more questions. I’m also seriously considering dropping into Bristol Vegfest to see some of the talks I missed.

 

Looking back at 2014

Wow, what a busy year I’ve had. Here’s a quick recap of some of the adventures I got up to in 2014:

I got my ski legs back on a trip to Pila in January.

In February I ticked off one of the top items on my bucket list when I saw the Northern Lights in Iceland. Not only was seeing the Lights a dream come true, I also had an amazing few days touring some of the island and exploring Reykjavik.

In March I started my Personal Trainer course, which to be honest consumed almost my whole life for four months. The hard work, surviving on very little sleep and punishing physical tests were worth it though as I’m now a qualified PT!

On the rare occasion I did have some spare time, I would escape down to the community garden, where things were really starting to happen.

I took advantage of a weekend off college in May to attempt the Bala Challenge for the second year running. Unfortunately, I did even worse than last year, but the beauty of North Wales is always worth the visit regardless.

In June it felt like Welsh summer had finally arrived!

July saw me attempting outdoor climbing for the first time in 15 years.

In August I took my 2 godchildren to the Green Gathering festival in Chepstow.

September was all about family, with a trip to Austria to visit my brother and his kids.

I learnt how to use a scythe in October with the expert help of Phil.

I kept myself busy in November with work, teaching lots of circuit classes and helping other people keep fit. Then, I finished off the year with Christmas at my parents’ house where we enjoyed a plant-based Christmas dinner together.

Happy New Year to all my lovely readers x

Plant-Based Pause No 52: Imagine a World Where Everyone Lives Plant-Based

In November 2011, I made the decision to progress towards a plant-based diet and lifestyle. Since then, I have learnt so much about where our food comes from, and what it does to our bodies and the environment. Along the way, I have encountered many obstacles and challenges. I have also been asked lots of questions, most of them valid and a few off them more than a little odd. One of the aims of my blog is to chronicle my experiences as a plant-based traveller. So, hopefully these Plant-Based Pauses will provide a little more explanation and maybe answer some questions that my readers may still have.

‘I’ll go anywhere as long as it’s forward’ – David Livingstone, Missionary and Explorer

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This post marks a whole year of these plant-based pauses. I can’t believe that I’ve actually kept up with them and posted one every week. For someone with the attention span of a goldfish, that’s pretty good.

I really hope that these posts help at least one person to learn something new about the food they eat and how they can lead a healthier, happy life that impacts the environment as little as possible.

My dream is a world where everyone lives plant-based. Can you imagine what that would be like? No food shortages, no war, very few cases of cancer, type 2 diabetes eradicated, no obesity…

The full list is a very long one. Unfortunately, it’s highly unlikely to happen in any of our lifetimes. Making it happen needs to be more than just a dream, though. For the human race to survive, this must one day be reality.

Plant-Based Pause No 51: Pay It Forward

In November 2011, I made the decision to progress towards a plant-based diet and lifestyle. Since then, I have learnt so much about where our food comes from, and what it does to our bodies and the environment. Along the way, I have encountered many obstacles and challenges. I have also been asked lots of questions, most of them valid and a few off them more than a little odd. One of the aims of my blog is to chronicle my experiences as a plant-based traveller. So, hopefully these Plant-Based Pauses will provide a little more explanation and maybe answer some questions that my readers may still have.

‘We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.’ – Albert Schweitzers

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Since I first read Catherine Ryan Hyde’s book of the same name, I’ve been a huge fan of the Pay It Forward movement. It’s such a simple idea, and yet so brilliant. And it could change the world. When you do something for someone, rather than expecting them to return the favour, you instead ask them to pay it forward and do something to help someone else. In the book, you have to help three other people, which creates a ripple effect and inevitably the favour ends up coming back around to you. Even if you only pay if forward to one person, though, it has a great effect. And, on the flip-side, why stop at just three people?

Since turning plant-based three years ago, I have paid it forward by sharing my knowledge and experiences of this great lifestyle with anyone who’ll listen. At first I expected a lot of hostility and kept my mouth shut as a consequence. However, apart from the odd (unfunny) joke, I have had really positive responses. Even the most committed meat-eaters have lots of questions to ask me and listen intently to my answers. I’d love to be able to tell you that they are all now committed plant-based vegetarians, but sadly that isn’t the case. I’m happy to say, however, that a lot of them think differently about the food they eat and have made changes to their diet and lifestyle.

Writing these plant-based pauses is one of the ways that I pay forward the tips I have learnt to live a healthier and happier life. I’d love to think that you will continue the movement by passing them on to your friends and family too.

Plant-Based Pause No 50: Make a Pledge

In November 2011, I made the decision to progress towards a plant-based diet and lifestyle. Since then, I have learnt so much about where our food comes from, and what it does to our bodies and the environment. Along the way, I have encountered many obstacles and challenges. I have also been asked lots of questions, most of them valid and a few off them more than a little odd. One of the aims of my blog is to chronicle my experiences as a plant-based traveller. So, hopefully these Plant-Based Pauses will provide a little more explanation and maybe answer some questions that my readers may still have.

‘Life is an echo. What you send out — you get back. What you give — you get.’ – Anonymous

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So, you’ve been reading my posts about living plant-based and it’s got you curious. Maybe you’ve read or heard other things about converting to a vegan or plant-based lifestyle. If you’re still not convinced, making a pledge could be a good idea for you. Pledging to cut animal products from your diet for a week, month or year is a great way of trying the lifestyle and experiencing the benefits without having to commit to anything long-term.
I’ve pledged with The Vegan Society, and their website has lots more advice and guidance about living a healthier and more environmentally friendly existence. What about taking the pledge for Christmas and experiencing a cruelty-free Christmas?
Don’t want to go the whole hog (excuse the pun)? Meat Free Mondays ask you to pledge to give up meat for just one day a week. If everyone made just this small change, it would drastically affect our impact on the planet and prevent many unnecessary human deaths. A friend of mine recently joined the Meat Free Mondays movement with his family, and amongst the many benefits they have happily noticed they are much more creative in the kitchen and are eating a much larger range of food.

Plant-Based Pause No 49: When Life Gives You Lemons…

In November 2011, I made the decision to progress towards a plant-based diet and lifestyle. Since then, I have learnt so much about where our food comes from, and what it does to our bodies and the environment. Along the way, I have encountered many obstacles and challenges. I have also been asked lots of questions, most of them valid and a few off them more than a little odd. One of the aims of my blog is to chronicle my experiences as a plant-based traveller. So, hopefully these Plant-Based Pauses will provide a little more explanation and maybe answer some questions that my readers may still have.

‘The conventional view serves to protect us from the painful job of thinking.’ – John Kenneth Galbraith

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Or, in this case, when life gives you squash you’d better think of something to make with it. I’m very proud of the squash that we grew in the community garden this year, but when it came to harvesting it we had an awful lot of veg to use up. One of the joys of eating seasonally is that you’re not always sure what you’re going to eat until you know what’s available to you.

With the help of some fresh carrots, also grown in the community garden, the squash soon turned into some delicious soup and pumpkin muffins.

Plant-Based Pause No 48: Move Out of Your Comfort Zone

In November 2011, I made the decision to progress towards a plant-based diet and lifestyle. Since then, I have learnt so much about where our food comes from, and what it does to our bodies and the environment. Along the way, I have encountered many obstacles and challenges. I have also been asked lots of questions, most of them valid and a few off them more than a little odd. One of the aims of my blog is to chronicle my experiences as a plant-based traveller. So, hopefully these Plant-Based Pauses will provide a little more explanation and maybe answer some questions that my readers may still have.

‘You only ever grow as a human being if you’re outside your comfort zone’ – Percy Cerutty

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When you’ve grown up on a typical Western diet, living plant-based is all about being outside of your comfort zone. It flips what you know about food, health and lifestyle on its head.
Living plant-based has also given me lots more energy and confidence, which makes me want to try more new things and venture even further outside of my comfort zone. Or my comfort zone has got a whole lot bigger, depending on which way you want to look at it.

I’ve taken up rock climbing to conquer my fear of heights (although I still have the occasional wobble).

Rather than avoiding social situations, I now put myself in them.

Three years ago, I’d barely set foot in a gym. Now, I’m a qualified personal trainer.

Since moving back to Wales, I went to night school to learn Welsh and try to speak it whenever I can.

I make myself do activities that I would have been too scared of before (see picture above). I know I’ll only regret it if I don’t.

My list could go on and on. My challenge to you is to put yourself out of your comfort zone and try something new. Let me know where it takes you 🙂