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Living vegan on the road

A converted ambulance called Bertie, and the ins and outs of van life.

It’s often said that travelling in a van is the best way to reconnect with nature. It’s about going back to basics, eating local food and getting off-road.

That’s exactly what fellow vegans Dora and Hugo went in search of when they swapped their homes and jobs for some time in Europe with an old converted ambulance called Bertie, a slack line and a bouldering mat. Dora and Hugo took some time out to speak to us about living vegan on the road.

How did you prepare for eating well on the road?

Dora: We stocked up with all sorts of food before we left the UK, just in case we couldn’t pick stuff up in other countries. We bought a 12 pack of Oatly and two packs of Huel for quick power powder food. We had Nakd bars and Trek bars, four jars of peanut butter, seeds, nuts and dried fruit.

Hugo: As our van kitchen cupboards are quite large, we were able to smuggle all manner of ingredients across the continent, our favourites being chilli flakes and nutritional yeast, which is excellent on toast.

How about utensils and cooking equipment?

D: Space is at a real premium living in a van so we could have economised a bit by not taking our entire selection of herbal teas with us (but they do look good on the shelf). Our favourite utensils are the wooden bowls and enamel mugs which you can get at any good car boot sale. They are more robust than ceramic, and not as tacky as your nan’s plastic picnic set!

H: Our two ring gas cooker has been a real asset but you really need to check where you can get gas along the way. I would recommend a cooker that has a flexible hose so you can put any regulator and cylinder on. Or buy a CampingGaz cooker with cartridge style bottle, as these are available throughout most of Europe.

When you weren’t eating out, what meals have you made in the van?

D: For breakfast we have chia pudding, muesli or porridge with dried fruit, cinnamon and whatever fresh fruit we can get at markets or pick en route. Wraps are possibly the eighth wonder of the world and we often wrap last night’s dinner up and take it out for lunch.

H: ‘Waste not, want not’ as my grandma used to say.

D: For dinner we’ve made a few curries consisting of tinned lentils, tinned beans, potatoes and the fresh veg we bought that day. It’s generally warming, comfort food when we’re in the van.

H: Dora’s special recipe of mash and French onion gravy has been a real home comfort food. The gravy was a combination of onions, vegetable stock, soy sauce and cornstarch for thickness. Nice and easy. We then mixed some Oatly and coconut oil in with the mash.

What snacks have been the best when you’re on the go?

D: Our favourite snacks while driving have to be a bottle of Huel (a nutritionally complete powder) and a bag of unshelled peanuts left on the dashboard. If you’re buying unshelled peanuts, it seems the ones imported from America taste the best but if you’re concerned about air miles, the peanuts from Poland aren’t too shabby either.

H: Our go-to quick snack when parked up is always coconut oil and nutritional yeast lavished on toast. When we’re out and about, you can’t go wrong with hummus and a French baton or any other edible spoon… celery, carrot, broccoli etc.

Which foods have been hard to cook or prepare in the van?

H: Things that needed soaking overnight: foraged runner beans or pulses like chickpeas and lentils; we were trying to reduce our gas usage by soaking for longer but it then meant we had a pan out of action and a high likelihood of cornering too hard and spilling the beans into the four corners of the van.

D: Potato has been hard to mash using just our little forks, but a little improvisation with a block of wood resolves this issue.

How has it been eating vegan food, Hugo?

H: I guess I have found relinquishing milk chocolate quite hard, I still succumb to its milky chocolatey ways when buying fuel. I guess the solution is to get Dora to pay for fuel. I’ve also struggled to find a product that would emulsify in my coffee as well as milk. I should buy better coffee that doesn’t need milk to cover the burnt taste, instead. I am still learning.

What would you recommend to other vegan road trippers?

D: One of the challenges has been reading the labels of foreign foods. Our tip would be to write a list of ingredients that you want to have/avoid and their translations before you go.

H: Also, if you don’t want to give your bank a tip every time you shop, try and get cash out beforehand as every card reader will either offer you its own abysmal exchange rate, or your bank may kindly decide to rob you with a set of transaction fees for using its exchange rates. Our tip would be to shop around before travelling and find a debit or credit card that offers decent rates and no transaction fees, many well-known comparison sites can advise you on it.

D: We’ve found that it’s cheaper to stock your cupboards in Eastern Europe than the UK so don’t worry about filling your van for the whole trip. Just buy the things you think will be hard to acquire. If you have a preferred dairy alternative stock up on that, as many of them have a long shelf life before opening.

See more of their travels doradc.co.uk.

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