On her blog, Veg Travel and Fitness, Oregon-based travel writer Teresa Bergen covers everything from vegetarian and vegan travel to soft adventure, nature, wellness, spirituality, culture and history.
Here, FWT Magazine catches up with Teresa to find out how she got started in vegetarian and vegan travel writing – and to get her top tips on the best places to visit for health-conscious travelers.
AS TOLD TO JACQUI GIBSON
Q: Teresa, how long have you been travel writing and how did you choose your particular writing niche of vegetarian and vegan travel?
I’ve focused on travel writing for about five years. I developed my niche by letting my weaknesses become my strengths.
Instead of it being a hassle to try to fit exercise into a busy trip, and to find vegan food, I figured I’d write about those areas.
Q: What’s been your best vegetarian and vegan travel gig so far?
The most surprising one happened in an unlikely place for vegans: Sioux Falls, South Dakota.
While there for the 2012 Travel Media Showcase, I Googled the town’s best restaurant for vegetarians and came across Sanaa’s, whose eponymous owner cooks food from her native Syria.
We scheduled an interview. She was delightful and a great storyteller. She invited me to stay for lunch and said I should sit at her husband’s table.
It turned out that her husband was Jim Abourezk, America’s first Arab-American senator, who represented South Dakota from 1973-1979.
He eats at his wife’s restaurant every day, joined by his circle of friends, including ex-politicians. He told me about his life, including a hilarious story about secretly being a vegetarian for health reasons while representing a beef state.
If this wasn’t all exciting enough, his friend George McGovern (senator, representative, 1972 presidential candidate) showed up to join us for lunch. This was just a few months before Mr. McGovern passed away.
It just proves you never know what will happen when you go out of your way to find the best vegan meal in town.
Q: What’s the hardest thing about covering healthy travel?
Maybe sticking to my own fitness commitment on days with very full itineraries.
I try to at least do 10 or 15 minutes of bodyweight exercises in my hotel room. And I pack a lightweight resistance band and yoga mat.
If I don’t make an effort to keep up healthy habits, I feel like a phoney.
Q: As a vegan travel writer what makes your perspective on travel unique?
I try to scope out what like-minded travelers would want to know.
Depending on the town, that could be vegan hotspots or just where to get a passable veggie burger. What hotels have good gyms? Where can you run, walk, hike, kayak or snowshoe? Are there any unusual fitness-related activities? For example, I recently attended a yoga class on a frozen lake in Winnipeg.
Q: What’s the best feedback from a reader or follower you ever got?
Probably when some idealistic entrepreneur takes a chance and opens the first vegan business in their town, I write about it, and they’re happy about the coverage.
It’s important to me to support these conscientious risk takers, and it makes me really happy if I can help promote them.
Q: Where are you travelling next – and how do you decide?
Next, I’m going to San Diego to see my mom and sisters. My sisters and I are planning a trip to a new reptile petting zoo, which I hope will be newsworthy.
I wouldn’t necessarily skip a meat-heavy country, but I have been known to get paranoid and overpack the vegan snacks.
I once took 15 emergency granola bars to Iceland, but it turned out I didn’t need any.
Teresa’s picks of the top three places to go if you’re vegan
- Portland, Oregon!
- Vancouver, British Columbia
- Montreal, Quebec (amazing vegan sushi and a cat café with an all-vegan menu).