A little while ago I gave a vegan tour to a couple of friends who had just gone vegan. I came up with this brilliant plan after thinking back to when I first went vegan.
I had given it a go all on my own at first, I didn’t know any vegans, I didn’t know what to eat, where to shop or what the heck nutritional yeast was. A few months into it I met Ryan over at a Vegan meetup. I was doing a photo shoot for his lovely and beautiful family. I was shocked when I found out that they were vegans and I was so excited to see vegan cookbooks (TONS of them) on their kitchen bookshelf. A few weeks after meeting them, Ryan sent me a few books to help in my journey, I also read pretty much every thing he had posted (I’m pretty sure this makes me a vegan stalker) and it made a HUGE difference for me. Just knowing someone else, someone who I could ask questions to that I felt were stupid, someone who was out there that had done this for a while.
For a long time I’ve really tried to help people as much as possible in the quest to go vegan. I’ve sent books, dvd’s, set up workshops, set up help pages on facebook, tweeted, e-mailed, taken people out for meals, cooked for people, IM’d and have had long phone calls with all sorts of people. I think it’s that huge of a decision for so many reasons, and I don’t see it as a burden to help people who want to be helped.
So all of this lead to me thinking that I really should give vegan tours. I was half way kidding, but then a couple of friends were going vegan, we happened to be living in their city at the time (we travel full time) and so I offered to give a tour of Austin. It is an AWESOME thing to do and I think it really helped them out (or at least, I hope it did)
A few things I did:
Eating out: I picked a few of my favorite vegan spots to eat.
I chose a place to get some of the traditional vegan meals (like tofu scramble) and then a place that is mostly raw and also serves green smoothies (they were with me for breakfast and then lunch later on). I helped them pick out some stuff and ordered a few extra single servings of various things. I tried to point out the other vegan spots and how to order things at non-vegan places. A few days later I sent a huge list of all of the vegan places in Austin as well as how to handle being out with people.
Grocery Store tour: We headed to Whole Foods as well as a local co-op.
I went through all of the vegan friendly aisles, showed different veggies that they might not of heard of, pointed out things that if you haven’t used before, you would have no clue was in the store. Nutritional yeast is in the bulk section, Pomi tomato’s are on the bottom shelf of the pasta aisle, there is a difference between silken and firm tofu and a difference in how it is packed, silken is usually in the Asian section (you get the picture) .. The combined tours took a couple of hours, but they were fun. And along the way I could answer questions and point out various foods that they no longer eat, and why it’s a good thing they no longer eat them.
Gift bag: I filled up a gift bag of all sorts of vegan goodness and included a couple of vegan books.
I chose these books because one of my friends in an avid athlete and really wanted to understand that health and fitness side of being vegan.
Chances are you have some stuff that you could re-gift or just give to a friend or family member who is going vegan.. Some books, dvd’s (like a copy of Earthlings) or cook books that you are not using, vegan nutrition bars, some stickers from Herbivore Clothing, a container of nooch, you don’t have to spend a ton, but it’s a really nice thing to do for someone.
Introduced to them to a couple of other vegans: Invite some friends!
Having other vegan friends to lunch with you, or meetup on part of your tour. Sometimes knowing that you are not the only one is really comforting.
Answer questions that you know you had when you started: These can really help new vegans!
Sometimes there are questions you don’t even know to ask when you first start – where will I get my vitamin D and B12? Is honey vegan? What about Omega 3 fatty acids? Be sure to address as much of those things as you can. And please, please, please – become educated about vegan nutrition. There are enough awesome books out there to help. And people need to know the health side of it as well – I think in large part to deal with their friends and family and so that they know that what they are doing (in going vegan) will not harm them in anyway. If you haven’t read the following books, I urge you to pick them up..
The China Study (T.Collin Campbell), Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease (Dr.Esselstyn) , Dr.Barnard’s program for Reversing Diabetes, Breaking the Food Seduction (Dr.Barnard).
Those are really just for starters.
In addition – read up on environmental issues.
And of course, be sure to read up on animal cruelty issues. There are still questions sometimes about ‘humane meat’ or ‘free range’ and it’s good to have a good and non confrontational answer when talking about those things.
Most importantly, be positive and encouraging when you take someone on a vegan tour! It’s such an awesome choice for someone to make, and so great that they have a friend like you to show them the ropes, to make it all a little less daunting.
What would you include in a vegan tour?