The Hardest Places in the World
I am a firm believer that there is nowhere off limits if you are adequately prepared, but there are some places that are exceptionally challenging to visit as a vegetarian. Usually very remote places with minimal outside influence and strong tribal traditions; places like Mongolia, Siberia and the Massai tribes of Kenya, who live almost exclusively on milk and cow’s blood. Places where the guidebook will just tell you that it can’t be done. It can be done, but you need to work at it and prepare carefully.
Rule No. 1:
Make a plan of action in advance and work out everything you’re going to eat. Winging it in these places will lead to you starving and potentially putting your health at genuine risk. Realistically, you will need to compromise on spontaneity in order to facilitate your travels in the area. A ‘Tough Guy or Chicken’ contestant named Ben Roper was vegetarian and his ability to cope with his Siberian challenge was severely hampered by the fact that he ate almost nothing for the week, just a handful of apples. You will not be able to go hiking and riding and doing exciting things if you are weak with hunger.
Rule No. 3:
The more mutual language you have to explain yourself, the better this is going to go for you. Get a local to help you write flashcards and work on your specific phrases (see the understanding page). More than ever these are really necessary. Again, do not rely on saying ‘I am vegetarian’, it means nothing in these places, be specific; this is what I can eat, this is what I can’t. When you’re planning your trip, try to find places to stay that are a bit more used to foreigners and their mad habits.
Rule No. 2:
Take a lot of your own food. Keep a working assumption that you will not be able to get anything and sacrifice a good chunk of backpack space to exciting stuff like packets of just-add-hot-water instant noodles. Stuff that only requires stirring in a cup with boiling water is your friend. Be careful of taking things through the airport, you’ll need to check the restrictions about what you can and cannot fly with or you’ll find all your food confiscated. If you can’t buy before you fly then pick it up around the airport. Most of the time you will fly into a city and then make your way out to the remoter places. If you’re in a city you’ll be able to find this kind of food and stock up. Make sure you restock at every opportunity and ration yourself. 3 packets a day or something. It’s not going to be wildly exciting cuisine, but who cares when you’re having an epic adventure.