Every now and again I come across a story about somebody who is doing something completely unique, a little bit “crazy” (in a conventional world) and absolutely awesome. When I first read about a young woman traveling around the country in order to eat in every vegan restaurant, I was in the midst of planning my own solo road trip around the country. I felt an immediate kinship with her. Who else quits a job they enjoy, gets rid of nearly everything they own, and begins driving. To every state. By themselves?! I began following Kristin Lajeunesse’s travels via her website (WTFVeganFood.com) and social media. Not only did I admire her desire to fulfill a dream, I also admired her food choices! Knowing I would soon be following in her footsteps (in a manner of speaking), I appreciated the recommendations that would fulfill my quest for vegetarian food.
As she completed her journey- and I began my own- I wondered how her travels had really gone. Was it scary? Lonely? Freeing? Tiring? Exhilarating? Most of Kristin’s posts were about food, some places she had stayed, and some volunteering (you go girl!) she had done along the way. I don’t think I was alone in wanting to know more about the travel part… the life part of it all. What drove her to follow this dream? What kept her going once she began? What was going on in her world while living in her van, driving state to state, mostly by herself?
Now…. we can learn the inside-scoop. Kristin’s new book, Will Travel for Vegan Food: A Young Woman’s Solo Van-Dwelling Mission to Break Free, Find Food, and Make Love was released today. I had received an advanced electronic copy of the book (much to my delight), and dove right in. Once I began reading, I couldn’t put it down. Do you want to know how much I liked it? I read most of it (like…. all but maybe 1-2 chapters) on my iPhone. Not one of those ginormous 6’s either. Nope. I read it on my little, teeny, tiny 4s. Sometimes in my car. When I should have been cat-napping.
Yes. The book is that good.
There were moments while reading when I felt I was riding along in Kristin’s van, “Gertie”, alongside her. I could relate to many of the emotions and wonderments she encountered. (I’m going to ignore that squiggly red line that says wonderments isn’t a real word. I can use it as a plural defined as: multiple moments that leave you in wonder. It’s my blog. My rules.) I liked the way Kristin wove elements of her past into the story – like little building blocks – creating the backdrop and foundation for who she was as a girl, and how she became this passionate, traveling woman. But mostly I was inspired by her journey into a great unknown, simply because it was what she wanted – and felt driven- to do. She not only came up with this life goal, she put it into action, and completed it. Yay!!
Kristin was gracious enough to answer a few questions that ran through my head while reading this delightful travel memoir.
Q and A with Kristin Lajenuesse, Author of Will Travel for Vegan Food
Q. Deciding to quit your job in order to travel the country is a HUGE decision, involving a lot of planning and major decision-making. When I was making my own choice to leave my job in order to travel and volunteer, I wrote to you, and you said “… don’t let this ‘excuse’ become your crutch for not leaving”. This turned out to be a valuable piece of advice. (Thank you!) What was one piece of advice you were given that helped you when preparing to embark on your journey?
My Boston-area boyfriend, whom I dated for about 3 years prior to the trip, once said to me: “Well, you do tend to bite off more than you can chew; and chew it anyway.” I honestly don’t remember the context it was in or even exactly when he said it. But it’s stuck with me and kind of become a little matnra I say to myself when I get stressed out or feel overwhelmed.
Also, just before I embarked on my journey my mom gifted me with a long sleeve shirt that has some shooting stars along the bottom. On the bottom, inside seem (only visible to the person wearing the shirt) was one word written over and over again. It is this: Limitless. When my mom gave it to me she said, “You are limitless, Kris.”
I loved it so much that I now have the Sanskrit word for “limitless” tattoo on my left ribcage.
Q. While on your journey, you stayed very much in the public-eye via social media and your website, wtfveganfood.com, while maintaining personal privacy. Your new book, Will Travel for Vegan Food: A Young Woman’s Solo Van-Dwelling Mission to Break Free, Find Food, and Make Love, reveals a much more personal side of your travels. Was this a difficult transition for you – sharing the more intimate details?
Great question! Hmmm… I’m inclined to say that no, it wasn’t difficult. In the sense that I have been pretty okay with and proud of the moments I’ve chosen to share in the book. But challenging when it came to trying to find the best ways to express myself and keep it interesting for the reader.
To be honest, even though I wasn’t blogging about all of the personal happenings from the road, I do feel that my social media persona was very much me. So perhaps that helped to bridge the gap in choosing to essentially take my Will Travel… community a bit deeper into my journey.
Q. In your book you mention the issue of safety as a female solo traveler in a few of your stories. How did you balance being safe on the road with keeping your adventurous spirit?
It might sound cliché but I truly moved through the journey primarily by listening to my gut instinct. If a situation or location felt off in any way, I’d either turn around or find another way around it. Fortunately that didn’t happen often. The only consistent time I was on edge (and this is likely regardless of gender, I would imagine) was sleeping in the van at night. Almost nightly I’d wake up to nightmares of someone breaking into the van. Thankfully that never happened!
Reflecting back on it now I realize my concerns about female solo travel were largely unwarranted. And I found myself becoming frustrated and even sensitive to articles that try to teach women how to change their behavior or clothing in order to stay safe. I understand that in other countries and cultures this may be taken different. But ultimately shouldn’t we be teaching the offenders to NOT “offend” instead of teaching people how to avoid being a victim?
There are of course risks for anyone who travels alone. But I do believe dangerous situations are farther and fewer between than we might tend to believe.
Q. One of the questions I am most frequently asked in regards to my own travels is “How can you afford to do this?” I believe the topic of making – and spending – money on the road can fill volumes, and still not answer the question for everyone. Was there ever a point during your journey when you thought you couldn’t afford to continue?
I was very fortunate to be in touch with a few generous donors who kept my trip alive and well even after my personal savings and the initial Kickstarter.com funds ran dry. Whenever I’d get low one of them would instinctively know to check in with me, and forward another donation.
To answer your question though, I suppose I wasn’t ever too worried. I had an open line of communication with the primary donors. However, today—now that’s another story. Haha!! I’m still trying to get my feet under me with freelance work and establishing my primary business models so that I can remain nomadic. Returning to a desk job/9-5 world is simply out of the question at this point. Even if that means struggling a bit right now, I still feel more freedom than ever before.
Q. You have driven a LOT of miles. What are some of your biggest road trip pet-peeves?
I wouldn’t call this a pet-peeve but I can’t tell you how many people I’ve watched pick their nose while behind the wheel. LOL. It’s as if they believe no one can see inside their vehicle!
Q. What is something you now know that you wish you would have known when you started?
I wish I knew just how amazing my life would be today, because of the journey. Perhaps then I would have been less stressed and maybe even enjoyed the trip that much more. 🙂
Q. What is your #1 road trip tip for other solo travelers?
A smartphone will be your best investment. Ever.
Will Travel for Vegan Food: A Young Woman’s Solo Van-Dwelling Mission to Break Free, Find Food, and Make Love is available on Amazon. I highly recommend it to anyone with wanderlust in their soul, and a taste for adventure.