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.
When we were traveling in Provence, France several years ago, we found vegan chocolate sauce in a local store and were pretty excited about it. So, we made this silly video — the first one I ever made on Instagram when we were limited to 15 seconds! — you might enjoy watching. I’m warning you. It’s pretty silly.
1 tablespoon ground kudzu root 2 tablespoons water 1 cup granulated sugar 1/8 teaspoon salt 3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa 1 cup nondairy milk 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Dissolve the 1 tablespoon of kudzu into 2 tablespoons of water. Stir well to combine, and make sure it’s well dissolved.
Add the sugar, salt, and cocoa to a saucepan. Whisk these dry ingredients thoroughly before adding the milk, vanilla, and dissolved kudzu. Stir over medium heat. Boil for 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and either serve hot or allow to cool. You can easily heat it up in the microwave anytime you want hot fudge sauce.
Yield: 1-1/2 cups
Let me know below in the comments how it turned out!
Rwanda is considered the cleanest and greenest country in East Africa. It’s not because Rwanda employs more street sweepers, gardeners, and road crews than other countries, and it’s not (only) because of the decade-long ban on plastic bags.
It’s also because of a monthly communal ritual called Umuganda, a Kinyarwanda word that translates to “coming together in common purpose to achieve an outcome.” Military service isn’t compulsory in Rwanda but Umuganda is — for able-bodied people ages 18 to 65 — and it takes place on the last Saturday of each month.
Because expatriates and visitors are welcome to participate and because — on our Joyful Vegan Trips to Rwanda — we scheduled our to be there on the day of that month’s Umuganda, we arranged to visit a local village to join them build a road.
Umuganda in its current form was reintroduced in 1998 as part of the effort to rebuild the country and to nurture a shared national identity after the 1994 genocide.
As a U.S. citizen in a deeply divided country, it’s not a huge leap to draw parallels between the past divisiveness in Rwanda and the present divisiveness in my own country. If that sounds dramatic, then consider this:
A recent survey (referenced in this op-ed) asked both Republicans and Democrats, “Do you ever think we’d be better off as a country if large numbers of the opposing party in the public today just died’?” Some 20 percent of Democrats (12.6 million voters) and 16 percent of Republicans (7.9 million voters) said yes.
When asked, “What if the opposing party wins the 2020 presidential election. How much do you feel violence would be justified then?” 18.3 percent of Democrats and 13.8 percent of Republicans said violence would be justified on a scale ranging from “a little” to “a lot.”
Over a 3-month period in 1994 in Rwanda, this very sentiment manifested itself into a methodical massacre in which approximately 800,000 citizens were brutally killed by their fellow citizens—neighbors, co-workers, colleagues, and friends.
If Rwandans can heal, unite, and forgive after such a massive atrocity, anyone can. We have much cleaning up to do in our own country—both literally and figuratively, and we must take it seriously.
The 1994 Rwandan genocide against the Tutsis devastated this beautiful country, its people, its wildlife, and its wild spaces. But with vigilance, persistence, vision, courage, and strength, they are recovering. When Akagera National Park was created in 1934, it was one of the best wildlife reserves in all of Africa.
Once spanning almost 1,000 square miles, sadly, in 1997, it was reduced in size by almost 50%. A large portion of the land was reallocated to refugees to Rwanda after the genocide. Before 1997, many refugees returning to Rwanda settled in the area, and the conservation area was harmed by poaching and cultivation.
I so look forward to telling you more about the work they’re doing, the animals they’ve reintroduced, the conservation measures they’re taking, and the rhinos (!) who have just safely arrived from zoos in three different countries who will now live out their natural lives in the wild.
On our first trip to Rwanda, we didn’t have the chance to visit Akagera, but we were so thrilled to make it part of our of our Joyful Vegan Trips in 2019. (On our current Rwanda trips, our travelers can visit Akagera on their own either before or after our all-inclusive trip.)
We saw zebra, warthogs, impala, cape buffalo, waterbucks, and many more mammals and birds. The highlight of the day was probably seeing a pod of hippos emerge from the water to the beach.
People can heal.
Animals can recover.
Land can be restored.
Rwanda teaches this lesson better than any other country I’ve seen.
The world lit up on fire with stories (from vegans and non-vegans, including on the BBC TV show QI) that these plants — and more — are “not vegan” because of the way they’re pollinated. Listen to this episode for my thoughts. (JoyfulVegan.com)
I’m not a girlie girl. I don’t like purses or clutches or anything that feels fussy. I like cross-body bags and backpacks, but the cross-body bags I was wearing started hurting my shoulder, so it was time to return to backpacks.
I have a very practical one from REI I like a lot, but it’s a little too casual for every occasion, so before I left for our first Vegan Paris / Alsace group trip in December 2018, I started shopping for a vegan leather backpack that was stylish as well as functional and ethical. I couldn’t find anything I liked and didn’t want to risk paying for something online that would be expensive to ship back. Alas, I ventured to Europe with my cotton backpack and figured I’d keep looking another time. (I hate shopping.)
One of the features of our Vegan Paris / Alsace Trip is a vegan / food walking tour in the Marais region of Paris, and as our lovely guide told us about the history, walked us around, and pointed out various relevant sites, she casually called our attention to a vegan leather bag shop as we walked past it. Well, far be it from vegans to pass up such a shop, so we all doubled back to see if it was open. It was closed. As we pressed our faces against the glass peering into the minimalist shop, the owner sat at his desk peering back probably wondering who this hoard of nosey Americans were. He was kind enough (and lucky enough) to open his doors for us, and it was heaven…especially for me.
This isn’t simply a vegan leather bag shop. It is a family-owned shop that specializes in one brilliant product: an animal-free, ethically made BACKPACK that comes in 3 different sizes and 10+ different colors. I couldn’t believe it. The vegan gods had smiled upon me. The bag is stylish, functional, and designed for security. (The zipper closure is hidden when closed so pickpockets can’t pick!) It’s even won awards for this design!
Truly, everything I wanted in a backpack is in this bag. It’s very stylish, very comfortable (it fits like a vest so the weight is equally distributed all over the back), lightweight, waterproof, and large enough to fit a laptop (and I got the small size!). They’re also unisex! They’re not cheap, but that’s the point: this is an ethical bag made from an environmentally friendly material that’s meant to LAST!!
The most difficult part was choosing a color. I picked a neutral dark gray color, and 4 other of our travelers bought their own: in taupe, black, teal, and mustard.
When we returned to Paris for our 2019 Vegan Paris / Alsace Trip, we made sure a visit to Arsayo was built into our walking tour, and this time we got to see their new line of cork bags (which is what they’re focusing on now since the material is more environmentally friendly than the synthetic leather).
NOW YOU CAN GET YOUR OWN with a 10% discount by visiting Arsayo.com and entering joyfulvegan as the coupon code!
Our travelers in 2019 fell in love with them as well and can’t wait to use them as advocacy tools — gifting the bags to friends and family to demonstrate how you can be fashionable AND ethical!
CPG Vegan Trips creates one-of-a-kind 5-star travel experiences all about abundance, joy, like-minded connections, delicious food, and animal protection. Take a listen to see what we have planned for 2019, 2020, and 2021, and start packing your bags!
Rich in history, sophisticated cuisine, stunning scenery, pulsating cities, fascinating culture, Vietnam is consistently rated one of the top best countries to visit, and today I take you on a journey to this beautiful place. Today’s focus is food (plant-based, of course), animal protection, nature, and culture. I let you know what animal and conservation organizations to visit and support, what to avoid in terms of animal cruelty and exploitation, and how to make the most of your trip ? whether you go on your own or as part of a CPG Vegan Trip.
You have heard me talk many times about Animals Asia and the work they do to protect bears bred, trapped, imprisoned, exploited by the bear bile industry. Bears are bred or taken from the wild and confined in cages no bigger than their bodies — or in huge shipping containers that are divided into individual windowless compartments. A catheter is inserted into their gall bladder (without anesthesia), and their bile is drained from their bodies and used in traditional Chinese medicine. (Animals Asia works to end the dog meat trade in Vietnam and China).
On our recent CPG Vegan Trip to Vietnam (and we’re running another in 2019), we had the honor of visiting Animals Asia’s Vietnam sanctuary, managed by the incredible Tuan Bendixsen and a dedicated staff, is spread over more than 27 beautiful acres at the edge of a nationally protected park, and everything they do is to stimulate the bears’ natural behaviors. There are pools, trees, and various structures that help with the rehabilitation of the bears and cubs.
Having been confiscated from wildlife traders and poachers, both adults and cubs are not only anxious and angry when they arrive, but they often suffer from ailments such as gall bladder damage, broken teeth from biting on bars, and other body conditions ranging from emaciation to obesity from being kept immobile and being fed a poor and inappropriate diet. They also suffer from PTSD and other psychological trauma.
The good news is that living among other rescued bears in a quiet, safe environment, they heal.
The sanctuary has surgical facilities that are equipped to give the rescued bears the best possible chance of recovery, and we were given the opportunity to see one of the bears in surgery having a sore tooth extracted.
It has been my dream for 15 years to go and see the work of this amazing organization. As part of the CPG Trip to Vietnam, we were able to visit this sanctuary (and you can do so if you join us on a future trip!).
After another hearty breakfast, we checked out of our hotel to make our 3.5-hour drive to Halong Bay, where we stayed overnight on our own chartered boat.
The unique beauty of Halong Bay with it’s towering limestone pillars has made it a World Heritage site in 1994. It’s emerald waters and forest topped islets draws tourists from around the world to this Gulf of Tonkin in Northern Vietnam.
After we settled in and enjoyed some welcome drinks, we headed our on kayaks to a stunning spot reachable only by a little cave. The highlight was a family of 20 macaque monkeys….
It’s been so amazing getting to know everyone in our group. I am so grateful for having the opportunity to travel and make discoveries with my fellow vegans that share my values of peace and compassion and my love for exploring the world.
The food has been beautiful, aromatic and delicious. After traveling to Thailand where the food was heavy with oils and curry, I’m delightfully surprised at how much more I love Vietnamese food that I thought I would.
We’re loving it so much that already planning our next trip to Vietnam, which would include Phnom Penh, Angkor Wat and Laos!