Eating vegan on your home turf is always easy, you know what spots to hit, what to avoid, and at the end of the day you can resign yourself to that overpriced apartment (hello Boston!) for shelter and company. Throughout my veg adventures I have done some traveling and tasting, but every once in a while I have to tip my hat to a fellow vegan who has put his/her self out there and logged some serious miles.
Meet Kristin Lajeunesse, a profound pounder of pavement, dedicated vegan, scribbler and all around entrepreneur. She is the founder of Will Travel for Vegan Food, a cross-country crusade to visit all 50 states and eat at each one’s respective vegan restaurants, while documenting it all on her website.
At sixteen-years-old Lajeunesse began her dissent into the world of vegetarianism when her brother, followed by her parents, made the plunge. In 2006 she decided to go vegan when she saw George Eisman, an esteemed R.D. who preaches the health benefits of a plant-based diet, speak at a veg fest in Syracuse, New York. Lajeunesse describes listening to Eisman’s “Dairy Is Not Necessary” talk as, “like in a movie when that ethereal creature walks toward the main character and the rest of the world fades away…and it’s just the two [of] them.” Needless to say, Lajeunesse was transfixed and garnered some good advice as to why she should drop the dairy. That night she ate her last piece of cheese pizza, and has never looked back.
Since then Lajeunesse has racked up some serious vegan credentials. She worked at Vegan Mainstream, World Society for the Protection of Animals, New England Anti-Vivisection Society and is the founder of the website Rose Pedals Vegan Weddings—for all the cruelty-free kids looking to get hitched!
Lajeunesse is completing the Will Travel for Vegan Food mission in a ’95 Chevy sports van she affectionately dubbed Gerty. The stipulations of her journey are that the restaurants she visits must have a 75 percent vegan menu and if she can manage, she wants to dine at every single 100 percent vegan restaurant. She finds out about the eateries through a series of networks and websites, notably VegDining.com, HappyCow.net, facebook posts and emails with suggestions that she is constantly receiving.
The original plan for funding the excursion was a work as you go, freelance on the road deal, but with all the time and effort it takes just to keep WTF Vegan afloat, Lajeunesse rarely has the opportunity to write for cash, “Between the planning, writing, interviewing, editing, picture taking, socializing, finding places to sleep oh and and eating.. yeah, it’s a LOT of work,” she writes in an email interview. She accepts money via paypal and in place of money, she lets supporters buy her dinner. The Rose Pedals website has also brought in some supplementary income through vendor listings and advertisers.
Lajeunesse can’t pinpoint when she decided to take up the nomadic lifestyle, she knew she always wanted to roam, but like many stagnant Americans, the main thing standing in her way was…herself, “I would categorize myself as someone who said that they’d love to travel but would then follow it with a list of reasons why it wouldn’t work out,” she says.
A series of influences began to shift her mentality and travel ascended her list of interests and priorities. Lajeunesse recalls a coworker at the New England Anti-Vivisection Society who came back from a month long hiking trip in Australia, and how amazing her stories and photos were. There was also literature that helped make travelling a priority—there is always literature. First it was Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert, and then 4-Hour Work Week by Tim Ferriss and Crush It! By Gary Vaynerchuck. She claims the latter two helped ease the pressure of maintaining a job while traveling: “I read these two books within a few weeks of each other and they completely, totally, overwhelmingly shook my soul and made me realize that I could in fact travel.”
Social media and the internet have been a positive contributing factor for Lajeunesse, whether it is for contacts, updates or donations, but it has also been a source of inspiration. “At some point I jokingly wrote on my Facebook wall that I’d like to eat at all of the vegan restaurants in the country. It triggered an overwhelmingly positive stream of replies. Between this response and my mind now being set on creating a mobile lifestyle I began to think more seriously about a potential road trip,” she says. After she spent two weeks in Turkey, Lajeunesse was committed to the idea of traversing America.
According to the Will Travel for Vegan Food official website, Lajeunesse has made substantial progress but still has a long ways to go—she has been to Maine, Massachusetts, New York, Vermont, New Hampshire, Indiana, Illinois, Massachusetts and Rhode Island, as well as Móntreal. Gerty (the van) is doing well after many visits to the mechanic, and Lajeunesse’s spirits seem to be high.
When asked about what she will do when she hits the states that are less metropolitan and less likely to have vegan food, her response is one of lemons into lemonade—or soy beans into soymilk if you will—“I look forward to those areas because I’d love to have time to explore and be more ‘touristy’ at some points. Go hiking, site seeing, adventuring, etc. There are no parts of the country I’m worried about at this point. I’m confident that I’ll make all this work, no matter where I am.”
Editor’s note: Donate or buy Kristin food! She will mention you on her website and there is no such thing as too much good karma!