Some people really walk the talk – or the other way round. One of them is Kristin Lajeunesse, a self proclaimed “food and travel enthusiast” who recently set sail on a year-long road trip across the United States. Nothing special? A part from the fact that she travels for vegan food: between August 2011 and October 2012 she wants to visit all 50 states, eat at every single all-vegan restaurant she can find, and share it every step of the way on her website, Will Travel For Vegan Food. “The goal is to spread awareness about veganism”, says Kristin, whose 30th birthday on October 28th marks the end of the trip, “connect vegans to vegans, and follow these two (of many) passions I have – food and travel.”
“It´d be so much easier to say that I had a single ah-ha moment that led me to this wild adventure I´ve just begun”, Kristin says in one interview, “but to be honest, it was a combination of things that all culminated into a single decision: to create a lifestyle around my personal interests and desires while simultaneously helping to spread the word about veganism.” When approaching her 5-years-vegan-anniversary Kristin said, “I found myself in a place in my life where I would say things like “I´d love to travel but…” or “I really want to do x,y,z but..”. I became tired of being an “excusitarian.” And when she jokingly wrote on her Facebook wall something like, “I´d love to eat at all the vegan restaurants in the country”, the positive response was immense. The plan for Will Travel For Vegan Food was born.
And now, how is life on the road?
What surprised you the most during the trip?
Kristin: I still have many months left on the road but so far, I suppose what has surprised me the most — or, made me feel most at ease — has been that everyone I’ve met through the trip has been incredibly kind and generous. Whether it’s someone who has offered their place for me to sleep or to treat a meal or invited me to speak to their veg group.. simply everyone has been delightful. What I’ve learned through this is that most people are good people. Heck, GREAT people. And that’s really awesome!
Oh and in terms of “for real” surprises, I was surprised to learn that Florida has a large number of raw vegan restaurants, the most I’ve encountered in any state. Perhaps it has something to do with everyone wanting to look amazing since they’re always running around in bathing suits. I don’t know. But the raw movement sure is taking hold in Florida.
Which person you met during your trip has impressed you the most?
Kristin: Everyone is extremely supportive, generous, and kind. I haven’t met one person who has made me feel uneasy or judged. I love chatting with others … especially when I get to talk to them about THEIR goals and dreams in life. I love to help them learn how to make these things a reality. It’s so exciting!
One person.. ooooh.. now that’s a question I haven’t gotten before … I’ve met a number of outstanding people but one person who has continued to leave a lasting impression on me is Ben Strothmann, also known as Honey LaBronx, Vegan Drag Queen. Ben is a gay-, vegan-, animal-activist out of NYC. Back in October, my then travel partner and I conducted a 2-part video interview with Ben and also appeared as guests on his vegan cooking show.
Ben is one of the most compassionate, well-spoken activists I’ve met. He’s incredibly kind and has such a beautiful way of talking about veganism. He’s definitely one of the most memorable people I’ve met on the trip so far. If you’re ever in NYC, look up Honey LaBronx and/or Ben Strothmann and ask him out for a meal or two. You’ll have a blast and probably learn a thing or two about yourself in the process!
How would you describe your trip in 3 words?
Kristin: Delicious. Adventurous. Introspective.
If someone wants to follow your path and do the same, what would you recommend and what would you have liked to know in advance?
Kristin: There is no right or wrong way to do something like this. Simply focus on the areas of that you’re most interested in, work hard, and stay positive. I believe having a positive outlook on all things in life, in a way, helps you to achieve your goals and accomplish your dreams – instead of just chasing them or looking at them from afar. There’s nothing I would change about how I got to this stage of the trip. It’s all been a magnificent learning experiencing and I imagine that it’d be the same for anyone else who wanted to do something similar. Having said that, don’t go into something like this thinking that it’s going to be a grand vacation. If you plan to share your adventure with others (like through a website and/or other social media) it’s a LOT of work.
One of the many restaurants worth a stop: The 100% vegan Loving Cafe in Fort Wayne Indiana. Photo by Will Travel For Vegan Food
You are only traveling in the US, do you have further plans like extending your trip to another continent?
Kristin: The trip is focused in the US, yes. However, I have already ventured to Montreal, Paris, and various parts of Italy during the last six months. I also plan to make a stop in Toronto and Vancouver as well. I’m open to exploring other continents in the future but I’ll likely keep it “local” until I finish this journey. Perhaps I’ll take Will Travel For Vegan Food Part II to Europe!
What have you learned during your trip and what would you tell the ones who stayed at home?
Kristin: I’ve learned a lot about myself and the type of person I want to be. I’ve had a lot of time to myself.. to sit with my “core issues” that I’ve created for myself, over the last 29 years. And I’ve found this journey a great way to get to know myself better and to take actionable steps to correct my personal path in various ways. I feel that I’ve changed tremendously, in the last three months especially, and I like this new awareness. As my friend Ryan would say, “we have a lot to unlearn in life.” So…while on this journey I’m teaching myself to “unlearn” things that have been engrained for some time…to become more confident in who I am and who I want to be, and to take this life by storm.
For those who are interested in stepping out, maybe leaving your 9-5 job, or starting a new career, or taking that trip that you’ve always said you would but came up with reasons why you couldn’t… there is always a way. If you want it badly enough you’ll find a way to make it happen. It’s fear that holds us all back. We’ve been molded by society in a lot of ways, with expectations of who we should be or what we should do with our lives. But the truth is, it’s your life, it’s your body, it’s your mind. Do what you love, accomplish your dreams, and learn to be a happier you. You’ll be amazed at how you start to pull in others who are compassionate and caring, and dream catchers, just like you. It’s a beautiful world out there, don’t be afraid of it. Go get it.
Thank you, for this delicious interview!
Kristin says, two books were influential for making her dream happen: The 4-Hour Work Week: Escape the 9-5, Live Anywhere and Join the New Rich and Crush It!: Why NOW Is the Time to Cash In on Your Passion