Eating Vegetarian Food in Spain

If you’re used to eating vegetarian food in America, get ready for a challenge in Spain. 

Vegetarianism is still a weird concept to a lot of Spaniards, so explaining your preferences can lead to confusion. Not only do Spaniards eat a lot of carne, they often don’t consider finely shredded meat or flesh-based products (like broth) to actually be meat. (If you shred up the jamón really small, it doesn’t count, right?) Finding vegetarian food can be an adventure or a chore, depending on how you spin it. But fear not, it can be done!

Tip #1: Speak some Spanish.

I never had any major issues in Spain because, while my spoken Spanish is rough, I’m able to get “I’m vegetarian”, “does this have meat?” and “no ham, please” across with ease.  If you don’t speak Spanish, you’ll probably want to study up on some phrases (see tip #3) or bring a print-out explaining your dietary needs.

Tip #2: Have patience and be flexible

People will give you weird looks, call over their managers, accidentally bring you extra meat instead of no meat. Have endless patience, do your best to communicate your needs up front, and laugh off the worst interactions. (A waiter in Toledo flat-out told me I should stop being vegetarian.) You can always get a bocadillo (see the next tip) or mushroom tapas later.

Tip #3: Do your research and have go-to choices

Before I went to Spain I researched vegetarian tapas choices and used Pocket to save the most useful blog posts to my tablet for offline access. (I’m not sponsored by Pocket or anything, I just think it’s undervalued as an app for travelers!) Bocadillos were a favorite, even though the idea of an egg, potato, and tomato sandwich is still weird to me. I also liked mushroom and egg tapas (I asked for the jamón to be left out) and, of course, the gazpacho.

If you don’t speak Spanish, lists of food vocabulary words like this one may be helpful. I also saved this article, which is a fantastic primer on eating vegetarian in Spain. Print the lists or save them offline.

Tip #4: Eat Middle Eastern

This was the easiest compromise for our family, which includes one meat-lover, one meat appreciator, one will-eat-meat-sometimes type, and me, the vegetarian. Middle eastern restaurants are plentiful in the south of Spain and have quality choices for meat eaters and abstainers. Bonus: they seemed to be open earlier than Spanish restaurants, which was great for us since we weren’t able to adjust to Spain’s 10pm meal time.

Tip #5: If you get stressed, just try a vegetarian restaurant

Sure, eating at a sit-down restaurant can be hard on the wallet, but you know what? Sometimes it’s worth it. Vegetarian-only places can be a nice haven if you’ve had a hectic day (or few days) of struggling to find food that suits your needs. This is what we ended up doing in Toledo, where vegetarian food was especially scarce. Madre Tierra gets my family’s seal of approval for having good food, a quiet atmosphere (if you’re there right when they open), and a great wait staff (although there weren’t quite enough of them).

Best of luck to all you vegetarian travelers out there! Please share your favorite veggie restaurants, tapas dishes, and bocadillo shops below!

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Why You Should Always Carry a Tactical Flashlight

I’m not sure when I started carrying a tactical flashlight, but now I won’t travel without one. Why? Protection! Finding lost things! Adventuring! Oh, let me count the ways!

Before I launch into a rhapsody (okay, an enthusiastic listicle) about why I love tactical flashlights, let’s make sure we’re on the same page. Tactical flashlights are meant to be used with weapons and in other tactical contexts. They tend to be very bright, water resistant, and tough. (Here’s a brief overview from Art of Manliness.) Lots of preppers (and non-prepper people who like to have more-than-average levels of preparedness) carry them every day.

I’ve carried a Streamlight ProTac 2AA for four or five years now.

 

Why should you invest in a tactical flashlight? Let me count the reasons:

  1. See human attackers first
    Carrying a flashlight helps diminish the element of surprise that muggers and other no-good characters rely on. If you can see into the dark alleys and grimy corners, they can’t hide there.
  2. See animal attackers first
    This is less relevant in certain parts of the world, but is still a useful bonus.  At the very least you won’t be startled when a hungry, mangy pup approaches you after dark.
  3. Temporarily disrupt attackers’ vision
    Tactical flashlights are usually much brighter than their standard issue cousins. If you’re carrying one, you’ve got a chance to shine the light in any attacker’s eyes, disrupting their vision enough to give you the temporary upper hand.
  4. Can be used as an improvised weapon
    I mean, you’ll be carrying a small but solid tube of metal. It’d hurt to get hit with a tactical flashlight. Plus, they’re pretty much universally legal! (There’s still a slim but real chance they’ll get confiscated if you go through strict security, though.)
  5. You always have a tough flashlight on hand
    Every point in favor of tactical flashlights up to this point has been about self-defense applications. Those are valid, of course, but let’s not lose sight of what flashlights are for: seeing in the dark. If you’re out exploring abandoned buildings or ancient temples or picking your way through a swampy campground to the toilet in the middle of the night, a tough flashlight will make things much easier on you. It’ll probably be tough enough to survive getting dropped in the toilet or knocked off a castle wall, so you’ll be able to use it for future adventures, too!
  6. Improve your night visibility
    Make it easier for cars to see you if you’re out after dark without reflective gear. (Just don’t blind any drivers, please.)
  7. Good for living where electricity is spotty
    Tactical flashlights easily fit in (men’s) pockets and often come with a clip and holster. If you’re spending time somewhere where the electricity isn’t reliable, having a flashlight on hand 24/7 will make your life easier.
  8. Good for finding things
    I thought I was the only one who relies on their tactical flashlight for finding lots items, but I am apparently not the only one! (This writer uses his to find remotes, I use mine to find stuff in the bottom of bags and drawers.) Seriously, this perk is practically worth the ticket price.
  9. Good for exploring ancient ruins before the sun rises
    What do you mean this hasn’t happened to you before?

    The first sunrise of 2015 over Angkor Wat.

     

    Oh, and I guess you can use them to shoot guns in the dark. That’s a thing, too.

Convinced that you need to add a tactical flashlight to your next packing list? I hope so! If you’ve got questions (or even more uses for tactical flashlights), drop ’em in the comments.

I am not affiliated with Streamlight or any of the sites linked in this article.

Best Travel Tips of 2016

Do you ever feel like you make a travel breakthrough? Like, you discover this one little thing that suddenly makes you shameful for all the years you spent without knowing it?

The past few years I’ve traveled a lot by myself, and a lot with family. I’ve gone on road trips with friends, with each member of my immediate family, and with my entire family. I’ve traveled for debate competitions, for school, for fun, and to move across the country. There have been a lot of learning experiences and a lot of adventures. Here are some of the things that stuck out to me the most this year as “YES, THE INTERNET MUST KNOW!” sort of things.

  1. Always bring fuzzy socks on the plane. It almost makes economy feel like first class. Almost.
  2. Keep your body and your skin hydrated. Bring lotion and chapstick on the plane! Carry a water bottle everywhere you go! Especially if you live somewhere hot, you can’t afford to get stuck without water.

This was a pretty big treat. . . . . | #helicopter #losangeles #la #california #cali #ocean #coast |

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3. If you bring your own mug and tea bag, the coffee shops in the airport will give you free water. You get a lot more tea than you would on a plane AND it’s made with much cleaner water than airplane water.

4. Book the hotel room beforehand. I always book hotels and hostels ahead of time, even if it’s just the morning before I need the room. My mom and dad don’t, and let me tell you – after two separate road trips that involved frustrated room searching, they’ve converted to the “book before hand” mindset!

 

5. Seek out the weird. Atlas Obscura and Roadside America are essential tools for planning a trip that’s a little bit colorful. Eat something weird! See something quirky! Adventure a little!

6. Be the first in the airport. Not in a pushy way, but in a “plan ahead and know what you’re doing” sort of way. Be the first to volunteer to take a later flight. Volunteer to switch seats with someone. Keep a close watch on flight updates so you’re first in the customer service line when your flight gets canceled.

7. See stuff close by. You know how long we’d lived in New Hampshire for before we went to explore NYC? Eighteen years. Yep, nearly two decades living four hours away from one of the greatest cities on the planet before we ventured in. Hop on your favorite travel website or Atlas Obscura and see what’s near you.

8. Always bring boots. Once I left my boots behind and we got stuck in a blizzard. I had to wade through snow in my dress shoes. Once I had to borrow my mother’s shoes to go on a challenge course. (This was uncomfortable for everyone involved, since she’s a 6 and I’m an 8.) Bring boots everywhere! (If you’re not a boots person, I would plead with you to change your ways – if you absolutely refuse, bring sneakers instead.)

9. Educational travel can be awesome. I went on a trip with my school this summer to study the geology, history, and culture of Montana, with a special focus on Lewis and Clark. You know what we did that we couldn’t have done if we weren’t university affiliated? Go to one of the most famous and scientifically important paleontology sites in the world. It was AWESOME, and I learned a lot, too!

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10. Be a force of calm. We broke down three times in Montana and ended up returning home early. I can’t tell you how many times we got terribly lost or couldn’t find a hotel room when driving between New Hampshire and New Mexico. Asking “what can I do?”, keeping a positive mindset, and being willing to compromise are such important skills for frequent travelers that I can’t over emphasize them. Learn to spread a sense of calm and you will leave a positive impression with everyone you meet on the road.

11. Modular packing is awesome. Whether you use compression bags or modular bags, this style of packing will improve your trip one hundred fold. Promise.

12. Get a good sunscreen. Ideally, you should have two: one for your body, one for your face. They should be good for your skin, not a pain to wear, and easy to apply. I had no idea how much of difference a good sunscreen could make until I got one. My favs are Neutrogena’s Ultra Sheer SPF 100 Spray (body) and Ultra Sheer Liquid Daily Sunscreen SPF 70 (face). Both are light, non-streaking, and good for sensitive skin. You can even pat the liquid sunscreen on over makeup if you’re careful about it. If you want something that’s good for face and body, Aveeno’s Baby Sunscreen SPF 55 is a quality (and cheap) pick.

13. Always bring anti-nauseous. Yep, I’m the girl who always has Bonine or ginger tea for you. I can and will offer it to queasy-looking strangers. Sure, it costs me money, but it improves life for everyone, since no one’s getting sick and no one has to deal with a vomiting stranger. It’s a win-win.

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What have your travels taught you this year? I’d love to hear from you in the comments!

Disclaimer: None of the links on this post are affiliate links. Product links go directly to the primary distributor.