why I changed my diet for a year of travels

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Prior to this past year’s personal sabbatical, I had lived the previous few years on a diet of mostly plant-based foods and avoided meat, eggs and dairy. Eager to see if it gave me more energy and a better overall feeling in my personal health, I jumped right into this way of eating in 2010, enjoyed trying new foods, old foods new ways, and loved scouring the internet for varieties of recipes to try at home.

As September 1, 2013 approached, I made a conscious decision that I would forego this type of diet for my travels. It wasn’t so much that I was ready to give up that lifestyle for my old carnivorous ways as it was me wanting to eat what I wanted in places that I wanted. We would be in a car, tent, hotels, other people’s homes for an entire year, and I wanted things to be simple. I didn’t want to create difficulty for me or anyone else worried about what I would/could eat or not eat.

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In-N-Out burgers in California // barbecue in Texas // cheese in England & France // quiche // bratwurst in Germany // Sunday roast at the pub in England // Belmont pizza in Richmond // french macarons everywhere

I wanted to eat all of these things and not hold back from enjoying the foods I would desire during my travels. Leading up to my departure from Seattle, I wondered how I would feel about eating things that I avoided the previous few years? How would my body handle it? Would it be difficult?

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The answer is certainly in the billion pounds 12 pounds I’ve gained over the past year! Oops. Apart from the day of being in a horribly uncomfortable food coma after a heavy meal at The Salt Lick in Texas, it has felt completely natural to break free of any rules, and I never looked back or felt much guilt about what I’ve eaten. Honestly I’ve always eaten what I wanted, it just happened to be more specific the years I was avoiding animal products.

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^^ this ham and cheese toasty heavenly pocket warmed my heart and soul on a cold December day in Berlin

If you know me, you know food is really my thing in so many ways. It is my addiction, my obsession, my passion. Even though I am pretty much a disaster in the kitchen, I still love cooking for people who appreciate a good meal. I love teaching myself how to chop veggies, prepare new things, find my own shortcuts and substitutions for recipes. I love shopping for food at the grocery stores, and I love seeing amazing photographs of food as art on social media. Everything about beautiful and delicious food appeals to each of my senses.

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^^ I am not prepared to think about the past year occurring without this sticky toffee pudding

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I have eaten some truly delightful meals over the course of the year. Many of them while being a guest in the homes of family and friends. Man, can our friends and families cook some serious meals! And family in the UK – their meals and presentation put anything I know or do to shame and therefore I will from this point forward be forever honing my domestic skills and etiquette. I bow down to them! ((by the way, I am super sophisticated & stuff because I know how to eat with a fork AND knife after so much time spent in the UK and now want to force everyone else I know to use their knife instead of their fork to cut food)).

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My preferences haven’t changed much. I still prefer healthy meals put together from fresh whole food ingredients. I prefer veggie to meat choices a lot of the time because vegetables in any form are my favorite. But at the same time, from this experience of ‘no rules’ I have a new outlook on what the next year and beyond will look like. I no longer want to label myself based on what I am or am not eating. I want to eat what my mind and body desire. I want to be healthy and feel energized and cook with quality ingredients. I want to avoid processed foods as much as possible, and especially avoid anything with high fructose corn syrup in it. I hate that stuff. I could go on for days about how detrimental it is to our health is in this country, but I’d digress.

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The past few years for me have been quite the interesting evolution of diet. I grew up on so many processed foods like Fluffernutter, Kraft mac & cheese, and Banquet fried chicken in a box, then lived on what was cheap & easy to prepare during college and well into my 20s ((insert Ramen noodle jokes here)). Living in the PNW opened a whole new world of how foods should really taste and I do miss that about living there. I plan to continue to nurture my own personal evolution of preferences and educate myself about new foods and their benefits. I am anxious to be back in a kitchen of my own. Like over the past year, I plan to eat what appeals to me ((but hopefully burn it off on a more frequent basis!)) and not just what follows the rules of a certain diet, fad or label. So many unforeseen lessons starting to seep out from this year off, eh?

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^^ don’t worry my dear garlic, my undying love for you has never wavered

Do you stick to a certain way of eating when you are traveling, or do you institute a ‘no rules’ clause?

3 Comments Add yours

  1. A really interesting read Mary. I actually eat pretty much everything, which comes in handy when you’re travelling in countries where you don’t speak the language! However my boyfriend is a vegetarian and takes a much more relaxed attitude when we’re travelling. While he wouldn’t choose a meat option on the menu, he doesn’t get stressed if he accidentally ends up eating meat – which was good when I gave him a cheese and ham empanada by mistake in Argentina! I think a relaxed attitude definitely leads to a more enjoyable trip 🙂

    1. Mary says:

      I couldn’t agree more. I think you have to decide ahead of time if you are going to be strict or relaxed, and go with your decision 100%, otherwise things will be unnecessarily miserable for all involved!

  2. Sharon says:

    Exploring the world has opened your views about many things, food being the most important topic. I have to say, when I travel, I seem much more open to trying new foods. I love your blog, keep going, Mary!

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