Last month I went to a Colleen Patrick Goudreau book signing at Peacefood Cafe in New York City with my friend Sharon from Big City Vegan. After we had posed for pictures and Colleen signed our books, Sharon and I stayed in the restaurant, chatting with people and gawking at food. I happened to notice that Will Travel For Vegan Food‘s Kristin Lajeunesse was quietly eating dinner at a table near the front of the cafe. Since Sharon knows quite a lot of notable vegans, I asked if she knew Kristin, but she didn’t. “Well, let’s go meet her!” I said, and we interrupted Kristin’s eating to introduce ourselves. (Butting in on people while they’re eating is not something I normally do, by the way!) She was gracious and kind, and didn’t mind being taken away from her meal at all. Since then, Kristin and I have chatted a bit via email, and I’m planning an upcoming Montclair Vegans event where she will be the guest of honor. Kristin and I also decided to do guest posts on each other’s blogs – I’ll be doing a guest post on her site about staying healthy while traveling soon, and she’s here on VeggieGirl today answering a few questions I posed to her. Without further ado, here’s Kristin…
You’re wrapping up your vegan tour of the U.S. How did Will Travel For Vegan Food come about?
It was a combination of things kind of coming together all at once. I had a great job with an animal welfare org but was feeling unsettled. Around the same time I stumbled upon some books and blogs about lifestyle design and passive income (The 4-Hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss & Crush It! by Gary Vaynerchuk were the first two). These led me to spend nearly a year reading about incredible people who lived fulfilling lives doing what they loved for a living – some traveling for indefinite periods of time while working remotely. I couldn’t get enough of these amazing stories and journeys, and so badly wanted to do something similar. One day I jokingly wrote on my personal Facebook page, “I wonder how long it would take to eat at every vegan restaurant in the country? I just might be up for this challenge.” I got a boatload of responses supporting the idea of taking on such a crazy concept. It got to the point where I was talking about traveling and maybe doing a road trip focused on food, so much that it seemed as though the planning for it started to fall into place before I had even taken any conscious actionable steps to make it happen. But before I knew it I had given my notice at work and launched a Kickstarter.com project to raise money to purchase a van and get started. Only nine months after making that post to Facebook, I was on the road and sharing my journey via this new project dubbed: Will Travel For Vegan Food. (for more info on this topic, check out the ‘About’ page)
How many states have you visited on this trip, and how many vegan restaurants have you eaten in?
I’ve been to 48 states. The two that are left include North Dakota and Alaska – though I’m planning a trip to Alaska this fall. So, then I’ll just need an excuse to visit North Dakota to complete my ‘visit all 50 states’ bucket list item. I’ve eaten in nearly 500 vegan establishments (restaurants, food trucks, pop ups, bakeries, etc.). If it was 100% vegan, I would stop in and grab something to eat. 🙂
Do you have a favorite restaurant of all the ones you’ve been to?
Yes – One of my favorites, which has remained in the top five for quite some time now, is Vedge in Philadelphia. (you can read the post where I gush about it, here).
Oh goodness, yes. There are too many things to list them all, but some of the standouts that I very much look forward to having again include the cornmeal crushed oyster mushrooms from True Bistro in Somerville, MA; raw mint chocolate chip ice cream from Cafe 118 Degrees in Winter Park, Florida; anything from Vegan Treats; the acai bowl from Choice Health Bar in Lahaina, HI (Maui), the sushi from Shojin in Los Angeles; anything from Gracias Madre in San Francisco; the veggie burger from Mineral Restaurant in Murphys, CA; the ice cream sundae from Portobello in Portland, OR; and the cinnamon rolls from Cinnaholic in Berkeley, CA — just to name a few. 🙂
Were there any places you wanted to visit but didn’t make it to?
Mostly related to sightseeing, yes – like Moab, Yosemite and Glacier National Parks. Of course I’m still very excited to someday visit Anchorage, Alaska. But in terms of food, I came away quite satisfied with everything, not feeling as though I missed a thing! 🙂
I sometimes suffer from the misconception that it’s as easy to be vegan everywhere in U.S. as it is where I live in suburban New Jersey. Were there any areas of the country where being a vegan on the road was really difficult?
There are about six states in the US that do not house a single all-vegan establishment. But simply picking up some fresh fruit, veggies, hummus, guacamole, or Vega bars will do the trick. Though some areas may not offer the convenience of vegan restaurant dining, there are still plenty of ways to eat healthy while visiting these areas or traveling. I tend to think it’s “easy” to be vegan anywhere. If there fruit and veggies can be had, you’re good to go. I would stumble upon a health food store here or there, or even – last ditch effort – a Walmart as many of them have a robust grocery section these days. A couple states I drove through which didn’t have much in the way of vegan dining but had more than could imagine for beautiful landscape, included South Dakota and Wyoming. Breathtaking and worth risking a hungry belly to see, should it come down to that.
Were there any areas of the country that surprised you for their vegan-friendliness?
Yes – Memphis, Tennessee was a surprise. At the time I stopped, there were only two vegan eateries but they were both fantastic. One, a raw food/juice bar, and the other home-style cookin’ with some of the best burgers and faux meats you’ll ever try. Even though there were only two they are both excellent – the food and service wonderful. (read about both places, here)
You’ve pretty much been living out of a van for over a year, and now you’re wrapping up your trip in New York City. Do you plan on settling down somewhere after your NYC visit is over?
I’ve always wanted to live in NYC, just for the experience. And it’s worked out well since I also need to finish eating my way through this city, and also plan the end-of-trip festivities. I’ve been here for about six weeks – as of mid-May – and I do love it quite a bit. But I am planning to continue to live a somewhat nomadic lifestyle once my time in NYC has passed. My intention is to move every 3-4 months to a new city within the US during 2014. Then in 2015 I’ll be launching the 2.0 version of Will Travel For Vegan Food – details are still top secret but stay tuned for something completely new and exciting! 🙂
I know that you’re working on a Will Travel for Vegan Food book. Congratulations! When should we expect to see it in stores?
The goal is to have it ready for distribution by early 2014. Check out Vegan Publishers to stay up to date on book details as they unfold.
What’s next for you?
I have exciting plans for the Will Travel For Vegan Food brand, which will continue to unfold throughout the next two years. While working on that I’m also re-building my social media and online marketing consulting business – which is my background and what I was doing before the road trip; and will be re-launching Rose Pedals Veagn Weddings – a vegan wedding resource guide I had started in 2011, just before the road trip.
My hope is to continue to build a location independent lifestyle that allows me to work digitally from anywhere in the world, to continue to travel, and to spread the good vegan word. 🙂
From nine-to-fiver to lifestyle-designer, Kristin Lajeunesse has taken her background in marketing and applied it directly to the things she loves most: food, travel, and helping others discover ways in which they too can do what they love for a living. On February 14, 2011 Kristin launched the first and only vegan wedding resource website, Rose Pedals Vegan Weddings. While she was finding her entrepreneurial legs she honed her communications skills while working for the World Society For The Protection of Animals, and her social media consulting skills with Vegan Mainstream. Before long Kristin’s entrepreneurial and traveling spirit grew stronger, she left traditional comforts behind and in September 2011 hit the road on an epic, life-changing road trip across the country. Will Travel For Vegan Food was born and has since blossomed into a growing business venture. Kristin is currently working on a book about her road trip, and continues to stretch her entrepreneurial stride as she helps others grow their businesses through social media and online marketing guidance.