This past weekend my boyfriend and I travelled to Applecross for a night of camping.
He rented one van and drove us from Dundee to Aberdeen to meet up with the rest of our party. His friend in Aberdeen also rented a van, so all 16 of us (plus one well-mannered Bassett Hound) piled into the vans and we caravaned it westward Saturday morning.
In my pre-vegan days, a weekend camping would involve copious amounts of alcohol and barbeque, plenty of junk food and even smoking. I expected to answer questions through the weekend as we were the only vegans in the group. Not only are we vegan, but we only eat whole fruits and veggies, and neither of us drink alcohol or smoke.
I’m a weird sort of vegan with this high carb low fat, whole foods, super clean lifestyle, and since I moved to Scotland I’ve been completely spoiled with my friend situation. All of my friends here are vegan. I know so many vegans, that I can actually pick and choose which vegan friends I’ll hang out with on regular basis. I’ve never experienced that before. Because veganism is so popular in Glasgow, Edinburgh, and Dundee (as I’ve recently learned), I live in a vegan bubble. I forget people still drink cow’s milk, that people still eat non-vegan sausage rolls when the vegan ones are perfectly delicious, and that people just eat and drink whatever they can scrounge up at the petrol station without checking the ingredients….
Because I live in a vegan bubble, I’m taken aback when I socialise with non-vegans. This weekend reminded me that vegans are still in the minority. I wouldn’t eat any of their chocolate or snacks and turned down every offer for a beer or soda. Instead, Kuba and I explained to our perplexed group of new friends that we only drink water (seriously, no drinking alcohol at all) and only eat fruits and veggies, then proceeded to plow through several kilos of grapes, clementines, bananas, and a few smoothies.
The most shocking part of the day was after we arrived at the campsite. I knew some people would be grilling meat, but I was not prepared for the smell. Seeing charred meat bits clinging to the barbecue grate made my stomach turn. Watching them eat meat was even worse. I couldn’t avoid it!
Part of me wanted to shout, Wake up! It’s 2016, why are you still eating meat?! Do you care about the environment? About your health…? But I refrained. I could have been angry and judgemental, but that wouldn’t have solved anything.
I know this isn’t the best way to introduce veganism to a crowd. If I had never heard of veganism, an angry vegan preaching to me wouldn’t have persuaded me to try it.
I try not to judge those who aren’t vegan. Some people might not be aware of veganism, or they may just be misinformed. They might not know that plenty of people thrive on plant-based foods alone. Even if some people have heard of veganism before, we all arrive at conclusions in different ways. For some people, it takes time. It might not be one experience that motivates them to try a vegan lifestyle. Instead, they may decide to try veganism after an accumulation of experiences, no doubt positive ones. The vegans they meet through the years, vegan foods they try and enjoy, and documentaries they watch can all have an impact.
So we didn’t preach to anyone. We enjoyed our grapes and clementines in the grass while others chowed down on their burgers. A few of them started asking questions. One guy even guessed we were vegan. I was stoked that someone had heard of veganism before, and happily explained how and why I eat this way.
I’m so lucky my boyfriend lives this way, as well. It’s always nice to have another vegan by your side when fielding questions!
In the end, I felt very fortunate that we were able to have a conversation about veganism at the campsite. Hours later, as we all huddled around the bonfire, one of the guys who we spoke to earlier started asking questions again. Clearly it was still on his mind. That is always a good sign to me!
Remember to be a positive example of veganism even when faced with a difficult situation. You might be the first vegan they meet, and you never know, you may end up planting the seed of veganism in their minds.