Hello 2015 & A Vacation Recap

Happy 2015 everyone!

New Years may just be my favorite holiday. I love that it is a time of reflection and a time to rejuvenate and restart. I love that the whole world celebrates it, but in different times and slightly different ways. I love reading ” top ___ lists” of the previous year and what the upcoming trends may be for the new year. And most recently, I love reflecting on my progress and setting new goals for myself.

I have been looking back on my 2014 resolutions and making new ones for 2015. I have broken them up between more general resolutions for the year and more specific, measurable monthly and daily goals. I have also categorized them by personal and professional. Tomorrow, my Monday Link Up post will focus more on New Years, resolutions and goals, but for now I want to post a vacation recap about my recent journey to South Africa!

Gray Travels Green

Traveling out of the country can be stressful. Traveling with 18 of your family members can also be stressful. Traveling as a vegan or a health-conscious person can also be stressful. But traveling out of the country with 18 of your family members as a health-conscious vegan? Extremely stressful! Luckily, it was not as bad as I thought it would be and I happily rose to the occasion and survived the challenge.

South Africa is most definitely not a food destination and my family members are definitely not foodies. I went in with the best possible attitude and tried to be as flexible as possible. Even though I follow a plant-based diet almost all of the time, I will still eat eggs or seafood on occasion.

Eating vegan in a foreign country is very difficult because of the language barrier (yes, I can have soy milk, no I cannot have Lactaid milk, etc.) I found that there was a vegetarian option pretty much every where I went and then I would focus on the fact that I have a dairy allergy. I didn’t go so far as to ask if every little thing contained eggs, so long if there was no dairy I was content.

It is also necessary to let go of some health ideals when you travel. For example, I ate a lot more “white carbs” than I normally would but I just focused on fueling myself with the best-possible option available so I could do what I was really there for, safari-ing, sight-seeing and family bonding.

Normally, when I go places, I have a laundry list of restaurants and markets I want to eat at and see and I want to experience the food culture as much as possible. It was hard for me to let go of that on this trip, but I did my best to go-with-the-flow.

Here’s a recap of my food journey through South Africa and some useful tips for health-conscious travelers.

Be Prepared

As any vegan or health-conscious person knows, the best advice is to just be prepared. In hindsight, I probably should have brought even more snacks and meal-replacement bars, just in case, but luckily I was able to restock at our second destination. I tried not to be too prepared because I definitely wanted to try the local cuisine and eat what the rest of the family was eating in order to not isolate myself (if it was up to me I honestly could eat protein bars for every meal because I love them so much).

I tried to pack snacks that could withstand two weeks of intense travel in the heat (I ate the bars I had chocolate in them first). I packed an assortment of Vega, GoMacro, GoodGreens, LARABAR, and KIND bars. I also packed a huge Ziploc bag full of trail mix; dried figs, dates, cherries, and raisins and walnuts, peanuts, and almonds.

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During the trip I bought another big bag of dried figs and a bunch of single serving nut butter packets. South Africa is known for their macadamia nuts so this almond/macadamia spread was a winner.IMG_7148

Safari 

Our first destination was the Thanda Private Game Reserve. Set in Middle-Of-No-Where, South Africa my food expectations were very low.  Luckily world class travel agent (also known as my grandma) prepared the lodge for dietary restrictions, including dairy-free (much of my extended family avoids dairy), picky children and non-red meat eaters.

Upon my arrival, I was pleasantly surprised. Think of the safari dining room as a cruise dining room of sorts, I ate a lot of tropical fruits, vegetables, cereal with soy milk, and pasta. What I did not count on, however, was coming down with a terrible case of food poisoning on the third day. After that I counted on dry toast and eggs (I will still eat eggs occasionally) to sustain me for the rest of my time at the safari lodge. I’m not sure what caused the food poisoning, I didn’t eat any meat or dairy products, it could have been the water that was used to wash the mass amounts of fruit and vegetables I was eating.

IMG_7020The food highlight of the safari was stumbling upon some fresh, local pineapples in a neighboring town. Of IMG_7022course, the animals and the sheer beauty of the African bush was the real highlight and I loved every minute of it.

Winelands

Our next stop was Franschhoek, a beautiful town in the South African winelands. The highlight at this stop was, of course, the wine. I discovered my new favorite variety of wine, Sauvignon blanc and tried a variety of different reds, whites and “bubbles” as they call champagne in South Africa.

IMG_7136Our lunches at the winery were absolutely delicious. I was able to get coconut “curry” dishes at a couple of different restaurants which I found interesting. And a variety of amazing salads, vegetables, hummus and grainy breads. This region’s food had a bit of a French flair to it.

Amazingly I was able to find a South African brand of Kombucha at a little health food store in the University town of Stellenbosch.

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The hotel staff cooked us a barbecue one night, complete with corn, roasted veggies and three different vegan grain salads. I was in heaven! This place also served plain “porridge” for breakfast which I happily topped with nut butter each morning.

Cape Town

I felt right at home in modern, hipster-esque Cape Town. The V&A Market on the Wharf was like a South African Chealsea Market, I could have spent all day there! I enjoyeIMG_7222d a green juice from Dr. Juice and some raw plant protein balls.

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I also discovered an coffee beverage at an artisan coffee shop that consisted of cold brew coffee, local raw honey, soy milk and ice blended together. Definitely making my own version of this at home!

Speaking of coffee, the coffee everywhere was delicious. Unlike in the United States, even the most basic hotel cup of joe tasted like the perfect cup.

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IMG_7225The seafood on this coastal town was another favorite, so I enjoyed some langoustines one night.

Overall, this was an amazing journey filled with exhilarating natural beauty and family. I couldn’t be happier to be home, but my memories, photos and newfound love for South African wine will last a lifetime.

On that note, I am looking forward to doing big things in 2015! See you back here tomorrow for the Monday Link Up.

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