Words by retired holistic practitioner, veteran vegan and TCA community member, Gill Hibbitt
March 2020 - June 2021 : Thailand, UK, Turkey and Bulgaria
I spent the first part of lockdown from March 2020 to July 2020 in Thailand...
...most of the time I volunteered at Pete’s Mission, Pai, which is a vegan rescue looking after dogs, pigs, a horse and a chicken. It was our own bubble of vegan-life: the animals are fed vegan food and volunteers are only allowed to bring vegan food onto the premises...heaven!
I then had 2 weeks travelling once lockdown was relaxed and we could travel out of our area. So, I headed south visiting Sukkatai and Bangkok en route. I have both the Happy Cow and Abillion apps on my phone so I can locate vegan-friendly places in the areas I’m visiting. Seriously helpful, as is Google Translate!
Bangkok has a plethora of options and Sukkothai had one. I usually carry health bars/nuts and dried fruits with me to eliminate the possibility of being stuck somewhere with no food.
I went back to the UK for a few weeks for my annual visit to see family and friends at the end of July...
...and left again at the beginning of September to avoid being stuck! My base there is at my sister’s in Bournemouth: a very vegan friendly place (both Bournemouth and my sister’s!), not only in terms of eateries but also supermarkets have come on leaps and bounds, as well as established health food shops.
On to Turkey...
...where I visited Antalya and Calçis (both with good vegan options) before going to volunteer at Koycegiz Dog rescue. Here I was due to stay in a volunteer house with meals included... sadly, the other people there were dog lovers rather than animal lovers…not a vegan amongst them!
The lady in charge was adamant that she couldn’t cater for vegans...I decided to leave the house, rent a flat and sort myself out whilst volunteering. A great move as it was easy to find healthy food to cook and several of the eateries were “accidentally vegan”, as in that they had vegan options on their menu without classifying them as such.
On to Kusadasi where I initially stayed with vegan friends I’d met in Thailand before renting a flat from the parents of one of the girls. In Kusadasi we were in and out of curfews and lockdowns...too numerous to mention!
Fortunately, it was an area of fresh fruit and veg readily available as well as nuts, dried fruits and vegan Turkish sweets! A lot of the time I was there, restaurants were closed. When open there were some featured in Happy Cow that offered vegan food, and in reality, other places also offered vegan food. Now it was time to move to Bulgaria before a 17-day, full-on-lockdown in Turkey.
It was a breath of fresh air to arrive in Burgas...
...people were walking in the streets, socialising in cafes, whilst observing social distancing. I was fortunate to arrive about 2 weeks after Lockdown had been lifted.
My room was small and had a kettle, so I made my own vegan breakfast and lunch there. In the evenings I went to a great vegan restaurant. Again, loads of nuts and dried fruits were available.
Next up: Plovdiv...
...where I stayed in a hostel where it was easy to self-cater, as well as eat out in a variety of vegan-friendly places. There was also an amazing health food shop where I could stock up on really good vegan cheeses, nutritional yeast etc. Once again, being vegan was easy-peasy.
On to Bansko and Bansko Street Dogs, set up and run by a lovely, dynamic vegan called Sarah. This is my home for 2 and a half months. I rent a flat, so I can choose to self-cater or to eat out. Once again, the Happy Cow app is a great travelling companion!
At fundraising suppers and quiz nights, there are always vegan options on the menu. The health food shop is nowhere near as good as in Plovdiv…however, it and other stores have plenty of vegan food, and fresh fruit and veg in the markets and from small greengrocers are plentiful.
So, being a travelling vegan during the pandemic was all good for me...
...let’s see what North Macedonia has to offer in August!
Gill Hibbitt is 69 years young and has been travelling for nearly 7 years, while being vegan for over 30 years! She is a retired holistic practitioner and trainer. As someone who's had numerous “close shaves” in her life, she feels that it must be because she's supposed to do more to help animals and the planet.