Embracing the Vegan Way of Life: An interview with Kristin Lajeunesse of WTF Vegan Food
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Though many people still perceive veganism as a type of diet, those who had chosen to become a vegan insist that it is far beyond that – it is a way of life. The reasons for people to adopt the vegan lifestyle greatly vary – from an effort to improve their health and wellness, to contributing to the end of exploitation of animals, to helping to protect the environment and many more.
Over the years, the vegan lifestyle has increasingly gained popularity and it appears that it shows no sign of stopping. Nonetheless, misassumptions and myths about veganism as well as those who opt to adopt the vegan way of life is still very much rampant.
In effort to seek out the truth and learn more about veganism, the BookCulinaryVacations.com team chatted with one of our favorite vegan bloggers, Kristin Lajeunesse of Will Travel For Vegan Food where she shared insights on veganism and charming stories about her own vegan journey.
1. How long have you been a vegan? Could you share with us as to why you had decided to pursue a vegan lifestyle?
I have been vegan for a little over nine years. It started because of my parents. I was 16 years old when my parents told me that they wanted to become vegetarian as a family. My brother, Josh is five years older than me and he introduced the idea of vegetarianism to my parents. When they found out that he had already become vegetarian they were immediately worried about his health, as they thought—at that time—that eating meat was necessary for optimal nutrition. But instead of telling him why he was wrong or shunning him entirely, they did what awesome parents do: they researched the heck out of vegetarianism. I think they were looking for a way to prove to him why this diet was bad, but instead they came to the undeniable conclusion that not eating meat is a much better way to live.
I went off to college and my parents kept up their research, joined a local vegetarian group and continued to learn about the influence that diet has on health, the environment, and animals. Every time I came home for a break or holiday there was something new and “healthy” in the refrigerator—or worse, something missing. I still remember coming home one summer to no more milk or cheese. It was gone and I was devastated: not the ice cream!
By the time I finished college my parents were full-on vegan but I was still vegetarian.
Then, in the summer of 2006, at a veg event in upstate NY, the sea parted and in walked Registered Dietitian, George Eisman. Despite the fact that my parents had at one time or another gently provided the same information that Mr. Eisman presented on this day, once I decided to listen and truly understand how very bad dairy was for my body and for animals, I was done with it. That very night I ate my last cheese pizza and never looked back.
It took me a good year as a relatively unhealthy vegan to start doing even more research—like learning how to prepare meals instead of buying ready-made ones. But some new reading material (hello VegNews Magazine) and a change in my environment (hey there, Boston) soon helped me learn how to live a healthy vegan lifestyle.
It all started with my brother, was followed by my parents’ amazing support, and then happily grew into an education, a group of friends, and a lifestyle that I wouldn’t trade for anything.
Kristin with her parents who are also vegan lifestyle enthusiasts. Image credit: Will Travel For Vegan Food
2. Was it a difficult transition? What were the challenges that you currently/previously faced in maintaining a vegan lifestyle?
Since my parents had already transitioned to veganism before I did, and I had been surrounding myself with other vegans, the transition was extremely easy. The most challenging part at the time was being in a romantic relationship, living with that person, who wasn’t vegan and had no interest in being vegan. We made it work for a period of time but about three years into our relationship I decided to start the “Will Travel for Vegan Food” project. We’d agreed that once I left for that journey, we’d end our relationship.
Currently, I don’t see any challenges in living a vegan lifestyle. Aside from perhaps the obvious one of having to do a tad more research and where to go out to eat. Which hasn’t really been an issue since I’d spent a good two years traveling specifically to all the vegan restaurants here in the US via the aforementioned project. :)
If anything, it can sometimes be within the vegan community where there is the harshest judgements or more difficult conversations. For example, there’s a lot of vegan junk food out there and sometimes those who choose to eat healthier will publicly criticize those who post a photo of candy or cake, even though it’s vegan. It’s always struck me as odd since we’re all working toward the same thing really: an environmentally sustainable lifestyle that does as little harm as possible.
Kristin and “Dylan” at the Woodstock Farm Sanctuary. Image credit: Will Travel For Vegan Food
3. In what way has becoming a vegan changed your life?
The moment I chose to live vegan, and fully dive into it as a lifestyle (not just the food) absolutely everything about my life changed. My career focus changed. I went from a projected career in horse training to that of working with animal rights groups and then as a self-employed marketing consultant for restaurants and vegan business owners.
Because of veganism I left the corporate world to see what it would be like to travel for vegan food. I literally lived in a van and spent two years attempting to dine at every single vegan restaurant in the country. That in turn led to new career opportunities, like marketing consulting with small business owners and entrepreneurs. It also led to my first-ever book deal. I’m a real life traditionally published author, thanks to veganism and the travel adventure it sent me on! I’m even, in this moment, looking to take the project to the next level: an international TV version. And I only see it growing from there. I’ve loved becoming a “face” - if you will - of veganism and solo female travel.
The van Kristin lived in while traveling across the United States. Image credit: Will Travel For Vegan Food
Not only has it changed these obvious and outward facing aspects of my life, but it’s changed me personally. Which I had explored in my memoir quite a bit. But the short version of that is this: I know better who I was before veganism, who I am now, and how I want to live my life going forward. I feel good about the choices I’ve made and the lifestyle I’ve been growing into. And I’m incredibly excited to see where it leads me to next!
4. What are the main differences between vegan and vegetarian?
Vegetarians consume dairy (cheese, milk, yogurt, etc.) and sometimes eggs. Vegans do not consume anything that comes from an animal (including dairy, eggs, or honey).
5. As a vegan, could you give us a “sneak peek” as to what dishes/ meals you typically enjoy on a daily basis?
I love starting my day with a smoothie or bowl of cereal. I make my smoothie from frozen blueberries, spinach, almond butter, dates, Sun Warrior protein powder, cacao nibs, and water. For lunch, I might make a veggie burger or have leftovers from the night before (which could often be pizza, these days). At dinner time, when I’m visiting my family in New York (like I am now), my mom will often make a stir fry of some kind, or a lentil loaf, or sauteed veggies with mashed potatoes. Where as in between meals, I might take myself out for an almond milk mocha latte at a nearby cafe, or snack on fresh fruit.
A delicious vegan cinnamon roll from Cinnaholic in Berkeley, CA. Image credit: Will Travel For Vegan Food
The nice thing about being vegan today is that there is a vegan alternative for pretty much everything one might have enjoyed as a non-vegan. So, there really is nothing to miss out on! :)
Thank you for taking the time to check out this article! To read more great content on food, wine and travel, please visit our blog section. If you’re looking to become an expert at preparing delicious vegan food, why not check out one or more of our vegan cuisine cooking holidays? Browse through the vast choices here.