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Vegan in Japan (Part One)

History and Practical Tips

We made history running the very first vegan group trip to Japan, and it was a huge success. (And then we ran a second right after!)

While Buddhism-inspired vegetarianism has been part of the Japanese culture since around the 6th and 7th centuries, “veganism” as a concept is very new. In this first episode of what will be a podcast series, I provide a frame through which to understand the challenges and the threads of eating plant-based in Japan, including 

  • the influence of Buddhism and other factors that resulted in a mostly plant-based culture for a good portion of its history
  • how the move toward modernizing Japan — as of 1868 during the Meiji Restoration — instilled the habit of meat consumption 
  • the fact that Japanese cuisine is very regional and dependent upon tradition and location
  • how chefs are revered as the end-all, be-all of food preparation and to question ingredients they use (including animal products) could be seen as a challenge to their skill and expertise
  • the “foodie” fervor surrounding Japanese cuisine can sometimes border on the absurd, which gives rise to elaborate food rituals and ceremonies but can also provide ample material for satirical commentary

In the episode, I also provide a number of suggestions for what to look for generally if you are traveling in Japan as a joyful vegan, including

  • which items to look out for that typically have animal products in them
  • what and how to ask for vegan options
  • where to find the best options, generally speaking

LISTEN TO THIS EPISODE!

Vegan in Bordeaux

Finding delicious plant-based meals in this historic city

Eating vegan in Bordeaux is easier than ever before. Not only are there vegan-only and vegetarian-only restaurants, being a diverse, cosmopolitan city, there are numerous international restaurants and cafes. Join me on a vegan journey to Bordeaux in today’s Food for Thought podcast episode!

Resources Mentioned in this Podcast

Ecoles de Vin — for the least expensive glass of wine you’ll ever drink!

Da Bartolo Osteria Pizzeria — great pizza marinara!

Tripletta PIzzeria — great, authentic pizza marinara

Monkey Mood — vegan Indonesian restaurant

L’échoppe à Sushis – L’échoppe à Poké — Japanese / Poké / Vietnamese restaurant (non-vegan with lots of vegan options

Dis Leur — vegan tapas bistrot

Au Nouveau Monde — Québécois pub with vegan options, including poutine

TY’K Affinage — vegan cheesemaker in Brittany, France

Joyful Vegan Trips — all-inclusive vegan trips around the world

Vegan in Northern Italy {Venice, Lakes, Dolomites}

Andiamo in Italia!

After canceling all of our 2020 trips, I am very grateful to have renewed our Joyful Vegan Trips — taking all the precautions necessary (and required) for traveling during a pandemic (now endemic) and doing everything we can to neither spread nor contract Covid-19.

In June 2023, we will be running our third trip to Tuscany, which has a few spots left, and our second to Northern Italy. The latter is called Mountains and Lakes and Canals, because, well…Dolomites (Italian Alps), Lake Garda, and Venice!

We’re almost sold out, so book your spot right away! The full itinerary and the booking page are here, but here are some highlights:

  • Travel with me and David (it IS a Joyful Vegan Trip after all!)
  • Stay in a 100% vegan hotel in the mountains
  • Enjoyed guided hikes in the Italian Alps
  • Stay at (another) veg hotel at the foot of the dramatic Dolomites
  • Sip Italian wine from at a local winery
  • Stay at a beautiful countryside villa near Lake Garda
  • Explore Lake Garda by boat
  • Stay at a canal-facing palazzo in Venice
  • Explore Venice by boat, gondola, and on a guided walking tour
  • Take advantage of free time to go off on your own for some hiking and biking in the mountains and countryside
  • Stroll through romantic Verona on a guided walking tour
  • Enjoy a cooking demo with me!

Rwanda: A Clean, Green Country

Updated July 2024

I have been to Rwanda four times and am returning again for a fifth time this November. I’m lucky enough to return again and again as a host of vegan trips, but I do so because I love this country. It is a place I had been drawn to as an early adult, having learned about Dian Fossey, the gorillas in the Volcanoes mountains, and the 1994 genocide.

You don’t have to join me on a Joyful Vegan Trip to experience Rwanda. Here a few things to help you plan your own adventure!

WHERE TO BEGIN

Kigali, the capital city, is the obvious place to begin and end a journey around Rwanda, but it’s just one of the many things we love about this country. Take a few days to get to know the city and its people, enjoy some delicious cuisine, connect with Rwandan animal advocates, and take time to visit some of the genocide memorials in and around Kigali.

While our all-inclusive vegan trips to Rwanda focus on the food and culture — as with all of our trips — the emphasis here is on nature and wildlife (particularly primate safaris to see mountain gorillas, golden monkeys, and chimpanzees), and I recommend it for you, too.

Traipse through the Nyungwe forest (in the south) tracking wild chimpanzees, trek through the Volcanoes national park (in the north) trekking for mountain gorillas and golden monkeys, drive a couple hours east of Kigali to visit Akagera national park, where you can enjoy a safari drive in the home of lions, giraffes, hippos — even rhinos. In addition, you can honor the work of Dian Fossey at the Ellen DeGeneres Campus of the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund, spend a day on Lake Kivu, and relish the green rolling hills throughout this gorgeous country.

I talk in detail about all of that in my podcast (see recommended episodes below), but let me answer some general questions about traveling to Rwanda.    

HOW SAFE A COUNTRY IS RWANDA? 

Rwanda is a very safe country, with virtually no crime directed at tourists. Still, it’s a good idea to use common sense and not flash your wallet in public when in a city or at a market. Exercise the same common-sense precautions as you do back home, and you should be fine. But in general, it’s a very safe country, and — even as a woman — I walk around the city and countryside with no concerns.

WHY IS RWANDA SO CLEAN?

One of the main reasons Rwanda is so clean is because they made plastic bags illegal in 2008! Rwanda is one of the few countries that has imposed a ban on plastic bags, and they DO actively enforce it. (Most luggage is searched during your arrival at the airport at customs or baggage retrieval, and they will confiscate any plastic bags you bring in with you.) 

The other reason it is such a clean country is because of a monthly communal ritual called Umuganda, a Kinyarwanda word that translates to “coming together in common purpose to achieve an outcome.” You can read more about our experience of it here.

WHEN IS THE BEST TIME OF YEAR TO TRAVEL TO RWANDA?

Between December and February or June to September. These periods are when temperatures are more moderate and there is less rain. As an equatorial country with a rich primate habitat, rain can be expected daily, but that’s one of the reasons this country is so green and verdant!

WHAT IS THE WEATHER LIKE IN RWANDA?

Rwanda has a temperate tropical highland climate due to its high elevation.  Most of the country is located on a plateau, around 5,000 feet (1,500 meters) above sea level, so for most of the year, and despite being just south of the Equator, Rwanda enjoys pleasantly warm day temperatures and cool nights all year round! In November, for instance, daily high temperatures are around 25°C (78°F), rarely falling below 25°C (73°F) or exceeding 28°C (83°F). 

HOW DO YOU GET AROUND THE COUNTRY?

The most common forms of local transportation are moto-taxis and buses, though most tourists get around the country on small or private tours that often use minivans and sedans. On Joyful Vegan Trips, we work with Amahoro Tours — our partners on the ground — to transport us around in landrovers since we go to national parks (to visit the mountain gorillas and the chimpanzees), and the terrain requires more rugged vehicles. I highly recommend using them for your own excursion, and tell them you heard about them from Colleen Patrick-Goudreau and World Vegan Travel.

WHAT IS THE INFRASTRUCTURE LIKE IN RWANDA? WATER, ELECTRICITY, WIFI, ETC.?

WATER: Tap water is NON-DRINKABLE in Rwanda. For this reason, bottled water is recommended. On our Joyful Vegan Trips, to cut down on individual plastic water bottle usage, we have large several-gallon water containers in all our vehicles and in our hotels so our travelers can fill up their reusable bottles with filtered water. It’s also a good idea to use bottled water for brushing teeth and avoid ice cubes in drinks unless you are certain they were made from purified water.

ELECTRICITY: In Rwanda, the power plugs and sockets are of type C and J. The standard voltage is 230 V and the standard frequency is 50 Hz. 

WIFI: Internet reliability is generally good in Rwanda. All hotels have WIFI. On our trips, we provide WIFI on board all our vehicles, though connectivity and speeds vary while we’re driving through the countryside.

WHAT LANGUAGES ARE SPOKEN IN RWANDA?

The country has four official languages: Kinyarwanda, English, French, and Swahili. You will do just fine speaking English here, but as a visitor to any country, it’s nice to learn a few courtesy words and phrases. 

WHAT VACCINES ARE REQUIRED IN RWANDA?

There are no mandatory vaccinations required to enter Rwanda, though according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the following vaccinations are recommended for Rwanda: hepatitis A, hepatitis B, typhoid, yellow fever and rabies. Other recommended vaccines include meningitis, polio, measles, mumps and rubella (MMR), Tdap (tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis), chickenpox, shingles, pneumonia, and influenza. Most of these vaccines last for several years; some need boosting after a few. Just check with your medical professional. 

IS MALARIA A CONCERN IN RWANDA?

Malaria is endemic in Rwanda. Antimalarials are the best protection against infection. Be sure to use mosquito repellents as a second barrier against the disease. Like with the above vaccines, it’s up to the individual traveler whether or not you want to take any anti-malaria medication, and again, it’s a good idea to consult your medical professional. 

HOW VEGAN-FRIENDLY IS RWANDA?

I have lots to share about the food in Rwanda, and of course on our trips, we ensure our travelers are spoiled with incredible cuisine, but the short answer is Rwanda is incredibly vegan-friendly. I often quip that everyone says they don’t eat a lot of meat, dairy, and eggs, but in Rwanda, it’s actually true. Most Rwandans don’t eat meat more than a few times a month (and when they do, it’s a small amount), and the typical diet consists of sweet potatoes, beans, corn, peas, millet and fruit. Of course, in a cosmopolitan city such as Kigali, international cuisine abounds.  

More soon on the food, gorillas, national parks, conservation, and so much more! Ask your questions below, and I’ll be sure to address them!

JOIN ME IN RWANDA for a trip of a lifetime!

You Might Also Enjoy

Ethical Tourism The Healing of Rwanda Avoid Animal Cruelty

Traveling in Tuscany: A Conversation

In this special episode, my travel business partner Brighde Reed (of World Vegan Travel) and I chat with some of the travelers from our Tour of Tuscany trip. First airing on the World Vegan Travel Podcast, in this special conversation, we talk about food, culture, language, highlights, surprises, and recommendations. If you have been curious about our vegan tours or just want to bask in the wonders of Italy — especially from a traveler’s perspective, this is the episode for you.

Join me on an all-inclusive luxury vegan trip: JoyfulVeganTrips.com

AFFILIATE PARTNERS

Nama Juicer — Use this link and coupon code COLLEEN10 and get 10% off my favorite juicer.

Plaine Products — Use this link and coupon code “compassion” for 15% off my favorite zero waste bath and body products.

Complement — Use this link and coupon code “joyfulvegan” and get 10% off my favorite supplements.

Finding a Cat Sitter When You Travel

Why My Cats Need a Companion When I’m Away From Home

In the work I do — as an animal advocate, as a vegan cookbook author, as a cat lover — I am forever debunking myths — about animal welfare, about plant-based eating, and about animals in general. And that’s fine with me. I chose this work for that very reason — to normalize compassion for animals and to normalize (and elevate) the consumption of plants (over animals). 

When it comes to cats, one of the ideas I’m constantly pushing back on is that cats are solitary, aloof creatures who are “easier” to take care of than dogs and who can look after themselves for days at a time when their people go away. While it’s true that cats are more self-sufficient (because…litter boxes) and are fine being alone for several hours a day (because…sleeping), it is simply erroneous to think that cats don’t get lonely or anxious if left alone for days at a time.

While this might seem extreme to people who don’t have cats (and maybe even to those who do), my cats have never slept a night alone, and we are consummate travelers — both domestically and internationally. In fact, I host trips around the world, so we’re often gone for weeks at a time. But even when it’s just for a weekend…it’s unthinkable to me that Charlie and Michiko wouldn’t have someone staying at the house caring for their physical and emotional needs. 

How I Find a Cat Sitter

The first thing I do when we confirm a trip is secure our cat sitters / house sitters, and I’m never relaxed until this is done. We have a regular cat sitter we tend to turn to for our trips, but because she’s not always available, I tap into our larger network of friends and neighbors. 

We’ve always been very fortunate at finding good people to stay, and while sometimes we’ve worked out a trade with a sitter, I’m also happy to pay for the peace of mind that my cats are being well cared for — not just with food and clean litter boxes but with affection, attention, and love. 

For my part, I feel much more at ease when I receive regular updates and photos, and in fact it’s one of the benchmarks that we hired an attentive and compassionate cat-sitter. I communicate this need early on, and I do the best I can to find the best person. I get references, I have them meet our cats, and I try to be as discerning as possible. 

But it’s not always perfect. Despite the 8 pages of notes I provide, anticipating everything a sitter might need while we’re gone — phone numbers of friends they can call on, the location of the emergency vet hospital, what our cats’ favorite hiding places are, etc. — there have been times when I have been more anxious than not about the person we trusted with our fur babies. Thankfully, everything has always been alright in the end.

Knowing What Your Cat Needs

I understand that everyone has different standards for the level of care they provide to their cats, and this is not to say that anyone who doesn’t have people sleep at their house when they go away is neglecting or harming their cats, but it is meant to convey the fact that while domestic cats may not necessarily be pack animals like dogs, they are companion animals. 

Of course, I say this aware that cats are individuals with different personalities and preferences and some may be more content to hang out alone more than others, but it’s just not true that cats can be left alone for days at a time with a litter box and large bowl of dry food without them feeling the absence of their people.

Cats are social beings who bond with their people and can absolutely suffer from loneliness and depression when left alone for long periods of time. 

I know my cats well enough to know this, and I know me well enough to know that *I* feel best when their routines are as regular as possible when I’m not home and that they’re getting as much affection and companionship as possible. 

What about you?

Do you have people stay at your house with your cats when you’re away?

How do you find the cat sitters you can trust and rely on?

Have you ever used a service like Trusted Housesitters?

Do you pay? Do you trade? 

Tell me in the comments below, and give some smooches to your kitties for me. 

Ethical Tourism and Elephants

What Ethical Tourism Is Not

I’ve had the privilege and honor of being in the presence of elephants in:

  • Thailand
  • California
  • Texas
  • France
  • Rwanda
  • Botswana

In the first four, they were in sanctuaries. In the last two, they were in the wild.

But despite what they call themselves, not all animal outfits are ethical.

As I discuss in my Food for Thought podcast episode Ethical Tourism: Avoiding Animal Cruelty While Traveling, please remember (and remind your friends and family) to avoid any outfit — both domestically and internationally — that involves / sells / promotes any of the following experiences: 

  • Elephant Rides
  • Elephant Paintings
  • Elephants in Zoos
  • Elephants in Circuses 

…or the use of elephants in any form of entertainment. 

The Red Flags of Green Washing

  • Chains
  • Ropes
  • Hooks / Bull-hooks
  • Baby elephants without their mothers
  • A place that calls itself a “sanctuary” but has elephants chained in any way or allows riding or sells paintings by elephants

Just as ivory belongs to elephants, elephants belong in the wild.

See Animals (Ethically) on a Joyful Vegan Trip!

In September 2023, we took 20 travelers on our Joyful Vegan Trip to the Loire Valley and Dordogne Valley, where we had the honor of visiting these magnificent beings in France at Europe’s first sanctuary for elephants — rescued from circuses and zoos. (Check out Elephant Haven.)

Visit JoyfulVeganTrips.com, and join us to experience the joy, abundance, camaraderie, and compassion that characterize our trips around the world with moi my amazing husband, and my incredible travel partners, World Vegan Travel

HAVE YOU BEEN TO AN ELEPHANT SANCTUARY? Please let me know in the comments below!

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World Vegan Travel (In Conversation)

Listen to my conversation with World Vegan Travel founder Brighde Reed about how joyful and abundant it is to travel when compassion is your compass. We discuss vegan travel to Italy, Rwanda, Vietnam, Cambodia, Botswana, South Africa, France, Japan, and more. Join us on a Joyful Vegan Trip!  

In this special bonus episode, Brighde and I answer such questions as:

  • How do you choose the vegan trips you do?
  • How do you vet the places you go and know that no animals are being harmed or exploited by human presence?
  • Is there such a thing as eco-tourism?
  • What are some of the mishaps you’ve experienced on your trips?
  • Why are they called CPG Trips?
  • What are the advantages of group travel?
  • How does Brighde spoil every New Year’s Eve, according to Colleen? 
  • What countries do you really want to visit? 

AFFILIATE PARTNERS

Nama Juicer — Use this link and coupon code COLLEEN10 and get 10% off my favorite juicer.

Plaine Products — Use this link and coupon code “compassion” for 15% off my favorite zero waste bath and body products.

Complement — Use this link and coupon code “joyfulvegan” and get 10% off my favorite supplements.

3 Tips for Avoiding Animal Cruelty When Traveling

We may not intend to, but there are so many ways we contribute to animal cruelty and exploitation while we’re traveling (domestically and abroad)! National Geographic published a hugely important article about the rise of attractions around the world that exploit animals for tourists. Three of the recommendations for travelers:

  1. avoid any kind of attraction where you pay to directly interact with wild animals (don’t pay to pet, bathe, get photos with, or touch wild animals).
  2. make a point to see animals in national parks, protected habitats, refuges,  and ethical safaris that help generate income to protect wild animals and their homes.
  3. support genuine sanctuaries that provide refuge to rescued animals who can no longer survive in the wild. (Do your own research; just because they call themselves a “sanctuary,” it doesn’t mean they are. Always reach out to trusted sources if you’re unsure.)

I talked about exactly all of this in great detail in my podcast episode called Avoiding Animal Cruelty When Traveling to Thailand and Everywhere.

Sadly, one of the reasons we visited so many animal rescue groups in Thailand is because of how much animal cruelty, wildlife trafficking, and animal exploitation there is in that country, allowed by the government and deeply entrenched in the culture. For instance, elephants used in the tourism/riding and logging industries endure a lifetime of suffering and separation.

Seeing wildlife in their natural habitat — like the mountain gorillas in Rwanda, lions in Botswana, bison in Yellowstone, or the deer in our own backyards — is heart-stopping, breath-taking, and supports the animals, their habitat, and the local residents.

Of course, when we travel (either on our own or on the group Joyful Vegan Trips we host), we take care to avoid animal cruelty, and we visit true sanctuaries and protected habitat where the safety and well-being of the animals are the main priority. We take this very seriously and vet our partners very carefully.

We have hosted trips to Rwanda, Thailand, Botswana, Vietnam, Italy, and France, and we have upcoming trips to … well, see for yourself! I hope you can join us one day to experience the trip of a lifetime—while supporting the care and conservation of the animals whose homes we visit.