This Vegan Really Ties The Room Together: 10 Questions With Kristin Lajeunesse of “Will Travel For Vegan Food”

I have gone way beyond excited and into a parallel universe of starry eyes and sweaty palms because, as the inaugural post in my new interview series, I had the honor and pleasure to interview my new friend Kristin Lajeunesse. Kristin is the brains and beauty behind the widely popular website Will Travel For Vegan Food. And yes, before you even ask, you will want to head out on a road trip after you visit her site. What makes Kristin a vegan goddess? In 2011, she quit her full time job to head out on the open road in search of vegan food in Gerty, her loyal yet quirky van. She found more than the best vegan food these 50 states have to offer. Kristin developed an insatiable need for the nomadic lifestyle, in addition to becoming an awe-inspiring entrepreneur. Yesterday, her brand spanking new book “Will Travel For Vegan Food: A Woman’s Solo Van-Dwelling Mission to Break Free, Find Food & Make Love” was released to the world. I was lucky enough to receive an advanced copy and almost went blind as I read it at break-neck speed. Inspiring, honest, and raw, Kristin’s shares her heart with us and brings us along on her journey. But what does Kristin have to say about it all? Take it away, Kristin!
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What inspires you to travel? What drives your wanderlust?
It’s driven by something I can’t necessarily describe. Initiated by this deep sense of knowing that this project was something I *needed* to do, leading to a lifestyle I feel in love with unexpectedly; the drive comes from a passion within. Perhaps some people are just wired that way. 🙂
What led you to entrepreneurship?
I always knew I wanted to work for myself but had never taken action on it until deciding to go on the Will Travel for Vegan Food journey. I was initially planning to work from the road, so I knew I had to redefine how I’d work and what I’d work on. The trip turned out to be too big a project to do while also working, so I ended up living off of donations the full two years of the trip. After the trip ended I was delighted to be offered some freelance opportunities. I was also getting quite a few inquiries about the lifestyle I had created for myself and some of those turned into paid coaching or mentorships opportunities. Turns out, I *LOVE* love love helping others learn how they too can turn their passions into profitable careers. Today, I offer mentorship programs, online business training courses, and give talks around the country about vegan business marketing and management. In truth, I’m still ironing out the details of that business model for myself. But what I do know is how much I love working one-on-one with people who are passionate about what they want to do with their lives. It’s incredibly invigorating and rewarding.
Being the Yoda in female entrepreneurship, what advice would you give for females striving for self-employment? 
Oh my! That’s quite the compliment. 🙂 ::blush:: For other women who seek something different, something more, something in the realm of self-employment, my advice is this: start where you are. Start with what you have. Start now. Do not let potential confines of what other people or society have placed on what you “should” be doing with your life. You define the rules and you are allowed to make and break the ones that govern your life. Even if you’re not totally clear on what your first move should be, or what your career will be, the most important thing is to take action. Any action: journal it out, meditate, buy the domain of yourfirstnamelastname.com; whatever feels right, just start moving. As my dear friend and fellow female entrepreneur Kelly Bennett would say, action equals clarity.
Who is your book written for? What do you want your audience to take away?
My book is written for people who want more out of life; it’s for travelers, nomads, lifestyle designers, entrepreneurs, vegans, non-vegans, go-getters, and those seeking inspiration about a life-changing journey.
If nothing else I’d like my audience to be left with feelings of empowerment, joy, and inspiration. To know that anything is possible; thoughts become things; and that if you want something badly enough, you’ll find a way to make it happen.
How was the writing experience for your book? Organic, forced, hectic, exciting?
All of the above. Haha! If I had to sum it up, it would be: one of the most challenging experiences of my life. Parts of it came naturally. I felt blessed to find ways in which to express myself that I didn’t know I was capable of. And folks who would review the chapters as I went along would point out tie ins or neat connections made that I didn’t even realize I had incorporated. Things that I suppose you could say came about organically. The looming deadline made it feel forced and hectic at times, naturally. And the elation I felt when the first draft was done, was nothing short of exciting. As is the journey ahead. I love marketing and promotion, so I’m very much looking forward to those aspects of launching the book out into the world. 🙂
What advice would you give for newbie vegans and those curious about veganism?
Start where you are. Do your research and find a support group (or even one other person who is vegan or who wants to be). Once you have clarity around WHY you’re choosing to learn more and possibly go vegan, the easier the journey will be.
What do you think of veganism as a trend (i.e. celebrities trying veganism)? 
Although I’ve never considered it a trend personally, or among my fellow vegan friends and activists, I have noticed the wave of celebrity mentions of veganism that you speak of. If anything I often find myself disappointed in the criticisms that fellow vegans place on celebrities for trying it out. Often times the person in the spotlight is “not vegan enough.” Yet at the same time we elevate celebrities to ungodly levels when they do claim veganism; and then tear them a part again if they choose to forgo that way of living.
What is your favorite cruelty free/vegan brand (clothing/makeup/household products/shoes)?
Hmm… this is a tough one. There are so many I adore. Since, as I’m writing to you in the moment, I’m wearing a Herbivore Clothing Co. zip-up sweater—and considering I wear this one almost everyday, often times with another of their shirts underneath it—I’ll go with the Herbivore Clothing Co. Another point *for* Herbivore Clothing is that I actually have a tattoo on my right forearm of one of their designs. It’s the elephant that once appeared on their “I’m vegan and I love you” t-shirts.
What would be your last meal on Earth? No limitations on quantities or locations! 
Vegan Treat’s Peanut Butter Bomb!
Imagine I’m a meat-eater who thinks vegans are weak salad eaters and I’m coming to dinner. What would you cook for me? 
I wouldn’t! Instead I’d find out what your favorite food is, and order a vegan version of it from my favorite nearby vegan restaurant. I’d much rather get something I know tastes amazing rather than risk making it myself (I’m only occasionally a good cook). 😉
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Many thanks to you, Kristin! Check her book out (it’s sitting pretty at #1 in Solo Travel Guides) and be sure to leave a review.
NOT SO FINE PRINT DISCLOSURE: I was given an advanced copy of Kristin’s book but all opinions are my own.
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PlantBasedATL’s Second Book Club Meeting: Skyping with Food

We were oh so lucky on Saturday to be greeted with sunshine, wonderful smiling faces, and a TON of delicious food. Who are we to complain? We dug in and prepared for our second Book Club meeting! We read Matt Miner’s graphic novel “Liberator” for this round, and I for one am so glad we did. I’ve only read one other graphic novel in my life (“Maus“) and while I do consider myself slightly nerdy, I’ve never delved into comics or graphic novels (save for Archie and that fool, Jughead). So this choice was particularly exciting for this nerd.

I cannot recommend Liberator enough, or Matt Miner for that matter. Liberator centers around animals activists that try to liberate animals from a furrier. I cannot wait to get my hands on his “Toe Tag Riot” comics because this is the description: “TOE TAG RIOT is: A tongue-in-cheek horror/comedy series about a punk rock band cursed to become zombies whenever they play their music. Being that this is a band of ethical punk rockers, they use their “zombie superpowers” to take on racists, homophobes, sexists and, eventually, the Westboro Baptist Church”. HOLY YES, right? Not only do I love zombies (I’m on Season 4/Episode 8 of the Walking Dead and am contemplating buying the complete graphic novel set like a loser) but don’t you just love that these zombie’s are taking on the bad people of the world? That’s the kind of zombie I would want to be.

Skyping with Matt Miner!

Skyping with Matt Miner!

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We were extremely lucky to have Matt Miner along for our Book Club meeting via Skype and he lovingly answered our questions and was an amazing host. We learned about his dog rescue program that he runs in New York and all about what makes him a generally awesome person. After the Skype chat, we all talked about Liberator  some more and then began to feast:

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My plate (yes, I went back for seconds)

My plate (yes, I went back for seconds)

Sigh. Doesn’t it just warm your heart to see all of this food made my hand for this wonderful Book Club? The mac-n-cheese was DELICIOUS as was Chef Billy’s homemade potato salad (we live and die by the age old adage of #allthecarbs). I wanted to live on that table forever and ever and keep eating it all, especially the homemade apple crumble.

We’ve decided that the next book we read will be Sherry F. Colb’s “Mind if I Order the Cheeseburger?: And Other Questions People Ask Vegans” and I am SO excited about this one. Anyone is welcome to join us for the next PlantBasedATL Book Club meeting or any of our meetups! We welcome all who are open minded and also hate being hungry for any length of time.

PlantBasedATL’s First Book Club Meeting: Or, To Eat is Human, To Nerd Out is Divine.

We did it! We had our first Book Club meeting! I suppose the biggest surprise of all is that people not only came to the meeting but also read the book. A roaring success all around! We were thrice blessed on Saturday with location and sunshine and food and people (I realize that is more than three things…but I couldn’t figure out how to make four plural. I even Googled it.) and it was awesome.

We couldn’t very well have a Book Club meeting without food, so we went INSANE (per usual) and had way too much. Holly and I snagged a vegan pizza from Whole Foods, some chicken fried tofu (behind the scenes secret: I made Holly retrieve it from my backseat so that I could eat some on our way to the Book Club. IT HAD JUST COME OUT OF THE FRYER, PEOPLE. I had to.), faux crab cakes, and we set that out for munchies while the real magic happened. Chef Billy, also known as Daniel’s Brazilian husband, was busy whipping up a MAGNIFICENT vegan feast for all of us to enjoy. More on that later.

#veganpizzaboner

#veganpizzaboner

Pizza, chicken fried tofu, crab cakes, etc.

Pizza, chicken fried tofu, crab cakes, etc.

We chose “Green is the New Red” by Will Potter as our first book to read. Will did an excellent job of simultaneously frightening me and empowering me. This book delved deep into the world of Animal Rights Activism and the frightening ways that activists can be labeled as terrorists. It is simply unfair the way the world works sometimes, and yet, I find comfort in the simple fact that I am not alone in my way of thinking. We all felt moved by Will’s book and troubled by what we are up against. I firmly believe that if any one of my friends or family skip meat for one meal that my activism is working.

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We talked and drank wine, thought about the book and what it taught us. We were honored to have Kayla Worden, owner of Full Circle Farm Sanctuary, be in attendance at the meeting and speak about her history of activism. I don’t think any of us have the right to be frightened by bumps in the night now that we’ve heard about Kayla getting arrested in China. I mean, seriously…I was sweating profusely while listening to her stories and her absolute fearlessness while protesting. She is a force to be reckoned with, I assure you. Our friend Scout also shared her story of recent activism and brushes with the law. It was so powerful to hear from those that have been on the front lines in the Animal Rights Activism world.

Chef Billy cooked the entire time we gabbed about the book. Billy is not a vegan but cooks vegan at home with Daniel, and we reaped the benefits on Saturday night. He made:

Tofu bacon.

Tofu bacon.

Roasted sweet potatoes.

Roasted sweet potatoes.

HOLY SHIT.

HOLY SHIT.

Tofu with chickpeas and veggies.

Tofu with chickpeas and veggies.

Baked veggies and quinoa.

Baked veggies and quinoa.

Pad Thai.

Pad Thai.

Delicious peas and beans.

Delicious peas and beans.

Wild rice and peas.

Wild rice and peas.

A round of applause for Chef Billy!

A round of applause for Chef Billy!

Can you tell that it was indeed a magical night? We had amazing conversations, we ate delicious food, we laughed into the night and made plans for our next book and meeting. I am thankful for these amazing people and their love of food, because now I feel less alone in the world!

Krista!

Krista!

Kayla Worden!

Kayla Worden!

Daniel, Adriano, Michelle!

Daniel, Adriano, Michelle!

Kristine and Amy!

Kristine and Amy!

The Book Club Crew

The Book Club Crew

Laughing into the night...

Laughing into the night…

 

Seasonal Jobs and Resolutions

It’s been a very very very very long time since I’ve lost written anything worthwhile. You and I can blame K, my seasonal job, for that. That job zapped all energy, any discernible Christmas cheer, hope for sleep, or feeling in my toes. The pros of a seasonal job: 1) people get it. They get that you’re working when you’d rather not be, and they appreciate your pasted on smile and fake laugh. They feel your pain. I did not have ANY mean customers; 2) extra money. I paid for my Christmas presents with my employee discount and coupons and “won” when my nephews chose my gifts as their favorites. Not that it’s a competition, but I WON; 3) what else was I doing? Not jogging? Mainlining popcorn and (vegan) chocolate? Being bitter? I can do that when I’m dead (right after I sleep).

Now that the season is over, the seasonal job is morphing into a part-time job, with may be 1-3 shifts a week. Any money I make from it will be directly funneled into the “get SarT out of debt” fund. Which brings be to Resolutions. I used to never make them, for fear of letting myself down and feeling bad about it. In 2014 I realized something amazing and superbly simple yet powerful: there is always hope and anything is possible. You want to learn to walk only on your hands? That is completely wack-a-doo but I applaud your originality. You want to eat better, do better, be better? Get on that shit. The world waits for no (wo)man.

When I sat down to think about my Resolutions for this year, I looked back at the ones I made on January 2, 2014 @ 9:14 pm:

be active

be healthy

jog my first 5k

jog the Peachtree

-have a plant based whole foods diet

-continue yoga

-walk/jog every other day

-Spain

pay on credit cards

be a good person

donate to Ruffus Rescue

donate to Farm Sanctuary

Seemingly, I rocked the shit out of last year’s Resolutions! I’m still working on getting my diet right, I didn’t make it to Spain, I did not jog/walk every other day, and I stopped going to yoga in the winter when life got super cray. But I tried my hardest and 2014 was an amazing year filled with great times, new friends, TONS of food, and new hair styles. Seriously, though…I went from auburn to blonde. #YOLO, homies!

This year is special. If last year was when I still had training wheels on, then this year is when I learn to ride on my own. So far, these are the Resolutions for me:

-be active

-be healthy

-jog my first half marathon in June

-jog my second half marathon in December

-donate to Full Circle Farm Sanctuary

-sponsor an animal from Full Circle Farm Sanctuary

-pay off credit cards

-quit my job

-begin teaching

-have a plant based whole foods diet

-run one race each month

-remain grateful, centered, and regain my power.

You may note that this year will bring with it some heavy balls and major changes. Quitting my job? Starting a new career? Paying OFF credit cards? Ahhhhh yes friends…it’s time to cut the bullshit and harness this beast known as potential. Why wait for the world to just toss great things in your lap? I’m bringing good things to me every day. I’m shaking off the cobwebs and the Christmas crank, the extra lb’s and the crappy food wants, and I’m doing a proverbial round house kick to my life’s face. There is no time like the present. Anything is possible. There is always hope.

Anyone else make some awesome Resolutions?

Jenny Brown’s “The Lucky Ones”

As soon as it arrived in the mail from the lovely Amazon, I stopped whatever food industry book I was reading and began reading Jenny Brown’s “The Lucky Ones.” I ended up reading this book in about 3 days, not including time spent crying. And yes, it made me cry.

Jenny Brown is one of my newest unsung heroes. You see, many of my new heroes are those that pave the way for others in this world, and these people do this without much hesitation. They do what needs to be done. The common folk would most likely not name Jenny Brown as a hero, and therefore she is unsung. But after reading this book and learning of her life’s work, she will remain firmly planted in my “I Want to be Like Them When I Grow Up” list.

Hero.

Hero.

This all started with Gene Baur and Farm Sanctuary. So we can blame him for his awesomeness. He began Farm Sanctuary (http://www.farmsanctuary.org) many moons ago and he has based his life’s work on helping farm animals that come from factory farming, hoarding, and breeding situations. These animals are intelligent, gentle, kind, loving, and have a mommy just like we all do. The wonderful people at Farm Sanctuary make sure these farm animals never know anger, fear, hunger, or loneliness like they once did. Side note: did you know that 99% of all meat eaten comes from factory farming? If you don’t know what factory farming is, read about it at the Farm Sanctuary website. Better yet, watch “Earthlings.” Be warned, it will change your life forever.

Farm Sanctuary lead me to Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary which lead to me to Jenny Brown, Woodstock’s co-founder. Her book is amazing and witty, full of love and life. I cried when I read about her losing her cat, because one day I will lose mine. The mere thought of my cat dying is enough to make me sob. I found my journey to veg-head to be similar to Jenny’s. I was not born vegan and neither was Jenny.  It took many years, for the both of us, to find what best suited us. Her book is filled with amazing stories of what lead her down this path. She is a very talented person that had an amazing career, and she decided to choose a different path. There are many differences between Jenny and I (and it’s not just that she has a prosthetic leg), but there is one huge one that resonated with me while reading her book.

Jenny is brave, while I am not. My desire to work on a farm sanctuary has grown to epic proportions recently. I want to quit my job, take all of the money I have, and move to a farm sanctuary so that I can help these animals. I want to learn the ins and outs of running a farm. I want to wake up to roosters crowing. I want to learn all of the quirks of these animals and be chased for belly rubs. I want to fall asleep as soon as my head hits the pillow because I am exhausted from feeding animals all day long. I want to be with like-minded people that are vegans and share recipes and share the load. I want to greet the newest animals and help clean the barns and understand the way animal sounds are amazing. I want to live this life.

But I am scared. Who the hell does that? I’m leaving my family and my freakishly adorable nephews to go feed farm animals? To go live somewhere else? Who would understand that? Who would support that decision? I am envious of Jenny because she did what her heart told her to do. And against all odds, she followed her heart to help animals. She created a safe place for them where their every need is forever met. She is an unsung hero of mine.

When I begin teaching in the fall of 2015, I’ve already decided that I want to intern at a farm sanctuary for the summer of 2016 (summers off for teachers ftw!). If I choose not to dedicate my entire life to farm animals, I can dedicate my summers to them.

Please check Woodstock and Jenny out: http://woodstocksanctuary.org/

What did you do when you learned the truth about eating animals? – Jonathan Safran Foer

Mayim Bialik’s “Vegan Table”

This is the newest book that I’m currently obsessed with. Am I the only one that, when you decided to go all veg-head and crazy, you bought approximately 80 thousand vegan books? I can’t be the only one, right? I am still sifting through cook books, printing off recipes daily (free printing at work FTW), and trying new ones out. It would seem like an overwhelming task, but those that know me know I’m up for a challenge. They also know that I don’t have much else going on. I digress.

Mayim’s book is cowritten with Dr. Jay Gordon, a pediatrician. While the book is aimed mostly at veg-heads that have children, veg-heads without munchkins can also love this tome. Her french toast will be made and eaten by yours truly this Saturday, and I’ve been looking forward to it all week long. The book offers some great advice for new veg-heads about stocking your pantry, information about substitutions for meats/dairy, and essential vitamins and the like. I find the “voice” of the book to be warm, as if Mayim herself were telling you “We don’t eat much processed foods in our home, but I love a white pasta Mac ‘n Cheeze just like the rest of ’em!” Apparently the Mayim in my head has a southern accent and uses chewing tobacco. A disgusting habit, Mayim.

I do wish there were more pictures. (Yes, I’m a small child and like books with pictures. Sue me.) There’s a section in the middle that has certain recipes and their delightful pictures, but sometimes I like to make sure that my recipe looks like it does in the book; which it never does, but still. Safety blanket, and whatnot.

Many many recipes will be made from this book, as opposed to other veg-head cookbooks that give recipes for 5-star dishes that no one in their right mind would make at home. I have a feeling that this book will doggy-eared and spattered with love in no time at all.