A Little Confession…Yep, I Travel as a Vegetarian Hypoglycemic

Last updated on December 2, 2017

I’ll tell you right up front the point of this blog post if you haven’t extrapolated an inkling of a notion from the title – for those who approach me with yearnings to hit the road and recite a litany of reasons they can’t do so: figure out the solution, it exists.

Street meats in Taipei, Taiwan at the Shinlin Night Market.

A common refrain I hear when I tell people I travel the world is “wow, I wish I could too.” And of course I tell them they can. And I talk about traveling is cheaper than most people assume. It opens your mind to new cultures, new languages, changes your perspective…the benefits are there.

But there’s always some retort. If it’s not money problems, it’s health. Age. Kids. Something.

Isn’t that life though? For the record, I faced obstacles too but I purposely choose which hurdles had a worthwhile payoff – and that payoff isn’t travel for all people. For some though, travel really is the Holy Grail and in that case it’s worth really assessing what’s holding you back from realizing your dream.

Two of the circumstances I face are a bit different than some travelers: I’m a vegetarian and hypoglycemic. The vegetarianism is really not a huge issue per se though it’s one of the first questions people ask me – I get a “Really?! Aren’t you hungry all the time?”

The hypoglycemia is a little more difficult, it means I have lower than normal blood sugar levels…my blood sugar yo-yos a lot. It has worsened in the past three years and the effects of having hypoglycemia means I have to ensure I eat very, very regularly, which can be hard to keep consistent on the road.  I was once left an emotional wreck at a food court in Thailand because I passed my “healthy” hunger point – I was teary, moderately incoherent, and minutes from passing out because the woman kept handing me pork and rice when all I wanted was rice.

It Smells So Good
Vegetarian cooking class in Laos

Those are the two obstacles I personally face that could seem insurmountable and yet each one has a solution – I adapted my travel style by traveling  slowly so I don’t encounter 20 hour food-less bus rides, and I stay flexible so that I could leave Bosnia after a mere week of meat-tastic foodie culture and one hungry Shannon.

To be fair, there are people with way harder obstacles. And some with easier obstacles.  But I figured I would be the first to put two of my biggies out there into the world (and trust me, those are just two of the myriad I can scrounge up) so that others can take heart: everyone has obstacles but the payoff on the other side is shiny-and-nice. I travel because I couldn’t imagine living without it; I love what travel brings to my life.

I feel like it’s easy to put obstacles in front of any goal as a way of covering up the fear under it all; “I can’t travel because I have student loans” – I call bull on that. Most obstacles are solvable you just have to want to find the solution. Nobody’s travel style is more “right” than another so the real opportunity is to find whatever works for you to realize your dream.

Dried Figs! A fav snack: a bit of sugar and fiber, yumm :

Oh, and my secret tip and brilliant solution for other vegetarians, hypoglycemics, and really all other travelers: keep food on you. A granola bar, apple, nuts – keep them in your day pack. You never know when a short bus ride turns epic. Maybe it’s Ramadan. Or you’re on a hike and you get lost (so been there). Crap crops up when you travel, so do any travelers in your vicinity a favor by having snacks – everyone’s blood sugar can drop and simple snacks help prevent that.  :)

What sort of obstacles are holding you back from traveling, or what obstacles did you overcome before hitting the road?

21 thoughts on “A Little Confession…Yep, I Travel as a Vegetarian Hypoglycemic”

  1. First time here… I’ve really enjoyed your blog.
    I’m a vegetarian at home, but while traveling I allow myself the “ignorance is bliss” excuse. In SE Asia fish sauce and fish paste are so ubiquitous such that innocent looking things like stir fried veggies might not be 100% vegetarian.

    I think the biggest obstacle to travel that people have is that they simply do not want it bad enough. Because if you do, you’ll make it happen.

    • Like you, I *totally* do the ignorance is bliss in Asia, and I daresay that
      if you have truly backpacked Asia as a veggie then you have too…it’s just
      way to prevalent in the food to ever truly eliminate it! :)

      Very true on your last point, if you truly want something you’ll find the
      way to make it happen, for some it’s a moderate goal, and not a passion –
      that’s when it’s tough to overcome the obstacles, when you’re a tiny bit
      wishy-washy about it all! :)

  2. An obstacle I am currently facing in preparation for my first big trip to Asia: I hate planning! also.. I have bad orienteering skills. Oh well.. I’ll learn

    • Hmm, that’s a tough one on the planning…but don’t despair, if you have a
      good deal of time for your trip then just leave the planning until you get
      there! It can be scary to do that the first time on a big trip, but it’s
      really liberating to just book your first week in a new place and then
      decide your route as you go, be-friending and following the advice of others
      along the way – I know that not everyone is okay with that open of a travel
      plan, but if you hate planning (I do too) then just book your transport from
      the airport and your first week’s stay! :)

  3. Thanks for being so honest – we all have our obstacles, and it’s great that there’s a community of travelers that can relate and offer tips for support to keep us connected with our dreams.

    Whatever it is you care about in life, there’s always something that you could let keep you from it. It’s a matter of setting goals, sticking to them and not letting life’s challenges keep you from your goals.

    • So agreed Bessie, I know that I often look to others in the community for
      their advice and experiences just for the heartening feeling that there are
      others who have gone before and succeeded :)

  4. I’ve been very fortunate as I don’t think I really have any challenges. However, food-wise I’m always amazed by people with gluten allergies. Also in Quito Ecuador I met two deaf guys from the States who were also traveling through South America and was so impressed. Although they cannot read lips in Spanish they are proficient in Spanish and carry a pen and paper, they told me it was much easier than anyone would imagine and that people were very helpful.

    • Oh I have to agree – gluten-free on the road is a tough one…same with the
      vegans! Also really inspiring to hear that both of the deaf men decided to
      set off and travel together, truly a testament to embracing the love of
      travel no matter what :)

  5. I too fall into the catagory of hypoglycemic vegetarian and I’ve never really had a problem while traveling. Although a big part of that is down to that fac that, for years now, I’ve been in the habit of always having food about me just in case. My boyfriend is also excellent. He can see when I’m getting to that breaking point and will instantly force me to stop and eat. I nearly fell apart in a food court in singapore when I got too hungry and just couldn’t drum up the brain power required to get myself some food. So I empathise entirely, but also agree that we can all overcome hurdles to achieve our dreams if we want them enough.

    • Thanks for stopping in and sharing your experiences Sarah, I never realized
      there were so many of us out there on the road! :) It’s great that you
      have your boyfriend to help take over when you reach that point, when I am
      traveling with a new person for a couple of weeks I always make sure to tell
      them so that they don’t just think I’m crazy when my mood swings, and they
      have always been really helpful locating some fruit in an emergency!

  6. There will always be reasons why people can’t travel. Many are very valid, but often if you look hard enough you can come up with a solution to manage.

    When Dan and I first traveled together long term after we got married, all the fights came from me breaking down from not eating regularly and falling into a zombie mode of indecision and snappiness. It was not fun. Fortunately, my case is on the border and is manageable. Your advice about traveling with granola bars, nuts and other snacks should be required reading for everyone.

    Although I often prefer vegetables to meat, it certainly helps my food options that I can eat meat. I often feel bad for the offerings vegetarians have to put up with in many parts of the world. You’ve got a great attitude about it and have managed well so far – that’s an inspiration for others.

    • That’s a pretty accurate description for it – zombie mode. When I get like
      that I get “stuck” in this glitch and have a hard time snapping out of it
      without getting all emotional. I found that I am normally the one splitting
      my granola bar with others who didn’t plan ahead but are reaching that
      point….I always feel like the mom of the group when I am travel with other
      backpackers and I’m like “hey guys, don’t you think you should pick up some
      snacks too?!” Thanks for the support and words of advice here Audrey;
      looking forward to maybe hunting down some veggie street eats in Thailand
      with you guys :)

  7. I didn’t have that much to overcome. Since I’m European, it was a lot easier for me to find an “excuse” for travel – we encourage the gap year. It wasn’t until I found *how* cheap it can be that I actually hit the road – working as a waitress and giving private English lessons for three months bought be a 5 month trip in North America. I wouldn’t say my 9$ a day budget is for everyone, though – but so what if you have to save a little longer? My mom gave me very valuable advice when I was young: Money, Houses, Things, even People can go away. But nobody can take your memories from you. :)

    • So very true – the European out-look on travel is a whole lot different,
      much more encouraged. Agreed about travel being a whole lot more affordable
      that it seems – I go budget but how did you manage $9 a day in the US?!
      Camping? My mentor gave me very similar advice about money and things: You
      can’t take it with you when you die….we strive to accumulate so much in
      the name of having stuff, but it’s the experiences and enjoyment that you
      remember at the end :) Thank you for popping in and commenting Ivy!

    • So very true – the European out-look on travel is a whole lot different,
      much more encouraged. Agreed about travel being a whole lot more affordable
      that it seems – I go budget but how did you manage $9 a day in the US?!
      Camping? My mentor gave me very similar advice about money and things: You
      can’t take it with you when you die….we strive to accumulate so much in
      the name of having stuff, but it’s the experiences and enjoyment that you
      remember at the end :) Thank you for popping in and commenting Ivy!

  8. I’m a veggie too! Proudly been one for over a decade now. I’ve actually had no problem with traveling and the few times I *might* have had a problem, like you said, I always had some sort of food on me. Awesome post!!!

  9. Well said! It is remarkably easy to take any obstacle that we face and use that as an excuse that stops us from taking bold steps in life. Your example is a great, real-life situation that you’ve overcome and figured out how to integrate into your traveling lifestyle. Most people know that they can overcome such obstacles but they need examples such as yours to gain that extra confidence, making this a super-useful post.

    And you have motivated me to go purchase some food before I leave for my 18 hour bus/foot/taxi/bus journey that begins tonight!

    • Hope that your bus ride has gone well and was snack-tastic :) Thanks for
      weighing in Earl, it truly is just needed a concrete example with solution
      to overcome some fears and obstacles!

  10. Oh man. I completely understand. I, too, am hypoglycemic which makes for interesting experiences while traveling for sure. On our last road trip, my friend could not understand why I was so confused, unhappy, and felt deathly ill. A cookie quickly snapped me out of it, but I always feel like a burden.

    We were just discussing the other day how I’m going to have to keep granola bars and snacks in my backpack while going through South America… because we will encounter epic-ly long bus rides. I’m so glad I’m not alone in this.

    • Though I’m sorry to hear you’re hypo too, it’s nice to know that there’s
      another one out there :) Yeah, the problem with Central American buses for
      me was that some of the “food stops” were for fried chicken! Granolas bars
      are a must though, and good that you have a traveling friend to help too!


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