I’m moving!

A couple of handfuls of months ago, I said I was upgrading and redesigning…then a whole lot of life happened.

But I think tonight’s the night. VegtasticVoyage.com should migrate to the slightly fancier new site. It’ll still be the same URL, and I’m using the subscription migration service, so you should still be subscribed (if you are now, that is).

I’ll wait to post anything new until I’m sure the redirect happens…so, um, I guess this is it. Wish me luck!

UPDATE (not really): Still in transition! I’m getting help from a friend because webstuffs is not my strong suit, so I’m working around his schedule and waiting for hosting sites to talk to each other.

If you want to see what the new site will look like, check it out here: http://micheletruty.com/vegtasticvoyage/!


vida vegan con news!

Vida Vegan Con III Date Change landscapeAs you may know, I’m one of the trio behind Vida Vegan, home of Vida Vegan Con, the vegan media and lifestyle conference. We started out as purely a blogger conference but have widened our scope a bit to include video, audio, presenting/speaking, publishing, and some general philosophy/sociology/lifestyle aspects of veganism. We figure if folks are better at writing and talking about a cruelty-free life, that’s going to help those around us see that this vegan thing ain’t so weird or tough. Good for the animals. Good for the earth. Good for our health. Boom.

So with that out of the way, two giant bits o’ news:


After a gut-punching monkey wrench of a scheduling error, we have finally been able to announce our new date for Vida Vegan Con III, in (one of my favorite vegan-friendly cities) Austin, Texas: May 29-31, 2015. Mark those calendars, ’cause it’s on. Regular registration doesn’t open until August 1, but as part of announcement #2 (don’t skip ahead!), limited Early Bird registration and inclusive packages will be available tomorrow, Friday, June 13, at 8:00 a.m. PST. These are $60 off regular price, so cha-ching! (It’s below cost for us, but it’s fun and we’ll just work super hard to get loads of great sponsors to make it up.) For more information on this and speaker applications, visit our site.

Vida Vegan Membership Drive

One of the coolest things about Vida Vegan Con is that the attendees and speakers are really on equal footing and are able to turn to one another for advice, skill sharing, and general friendstuffs. We hang out when we travel, we consult one another when we’re buying a new camera—you get the idea. We have a private Facebook group for past VVC’ers and it’s great except if you’re not on Facebook. So the grand plan is to expand our website to include member pages and a forum. That costs cash. Like a ridiculous amount of cash.

So we’re baby-steppin’ it. Our members will be part of our inner-circle-type group, which we’ll turn to for input as we move forward with Vida Vegan developments. Members also have a chance to opt in to be connected with vegan-friendly brands for potential samples, reviews, and such—and of course they’ll receive VVHQ discounts and other opportunities.

To kick things off, from June 13 through July 31, we’re holding a Membership Drive, with crowdfunding-style perks: from shout-outs to a personalized postcard or Instagram photobomb from VVC III (if you can’t join us), all the way up to a trip to Portland and brunch with me and my VVHQ co-founders, Janessa and Jess. You know you want to brunch with us. Janessa will have a bag of nooch in her purse, Jess will ask you lots of questions, and I will make funny faces and show you how to order the best breakfast of sides.

So I’m off to do what I can to ensure a smooth launch. Wish me luck, and I hope to see you in Austin!

vegan v. plant-based: fight!

vegansocietyIf you’re not as obsessed with vegan products and marketing trends as I am, you may not have noticed the uptick in the use of “plant-based” by companies to market their products. You might assume “plant-based” is less scary than “vegan” to the mainstream, so this new moniker simply reads as healthier and more natural, so  normal, not-crazy-vegan folk will buy it.

We, the public, would also assume these products are vegan, as we’ve been using both terms for a while, and this assumption would be safe, by 2010 standards. Hey, it might be good enough for many of us now. But here’s the whole flipside to this “plant-based” trend: A plant-based product might not necessarily be cruelty-free, as we are becoming increasingly aware (by the power of the Internet and lightning-fast social media). Companies are beginning to understand that calling something “vegan” really needs to be animal-cruelty-free, and they are protecting themselves, getting in front of the backlash they might receive, should loud or numerous voices point out that maybe “vegan” does not apply to their products.

A danger of reliance on the “plant-based” label is that the floodgates are open. Bone-char-treated sugar might no longer be a concern, nor would any other plant-derived ingredient that underwent animal-related processing, such as albumin in wine. If the final substance is free from animal ingredients, then no rules are being broken—“plant-based” it is, and we’re none the wiser. Hell, by definition, a plant-based product could have been developed using animal testing.

Then there’s palm oil. It’s still a hot issue because of the way it’s being farmed. While some palm oil is grown sustainably, it’s a pretty small percentage, and deforestation has increased massively to meet our demand for this crop, displacing so many animals—most notably, the orangutan. Many products we have come to rely on as vegans (including alternatives to dairy products) now have this sinister aspect to them.

Ugh! It was supposed to get easier to go vegan!

So we have a choice: to try harder to find new alternatives or keep using these products when we feel we must to get through the day, perhaps feeling guilty while we do it. Either way, we can appeal to these companies—threatening boycott or not—and ask them to please discontinue their use of these tainted ingredients.

At the end of the day, we do need to be able to A) live in this imperfect world and B) live with our imperfect selves. We have to do the best we can to survive and feel good about how we’re doing it. We accept the evils we buy into, such as petroleum, plastic packaging, and pharmaceuticals. We try to lessen our entitled human footprint by avoiding paper products made from virgin trees, recycling and upcycling, and buying quality, local, sweatshop-free goods.

True, not everyone can read every label then write to the companies to find out whether that lactic acid is derived from plants or animals. Not everyone is aware of the less-than-perfect aspects of products they buy, whether it’s exploitation of animals, the environment, or workers’ rights. How much can we rely on that super-unofficial “suitable for vegans” on the label—or even the Vegetarian Society’s little flower icon—do these designations mean a product is perfect?

I trust this isn’t reading as hopelessness. We can still make better choices and fight our fights. I think it’s important to find out as much as you can about what you buy or put into your body, and it’s important to make companies profiting off these products aware of the fact that you care and that you are willing to walk away from something that might taste really, really good if they don’t produce it ethically. I mean, y’all walked away from cheese, and you friggin’ lovvvved cheese, right?

diaclaimers & such: being honest about blogger perks

I received a press release for lemons. Lemons. Maybe you’ve heard of them, but they’re fruits and they’re good for…oh, come on, they’re friggin’ lemons.

You may not know this, but bloggers are sent loads of press releases, marketing packets, and free products. Because of you, the reader. Many bloggers support themselves in part via advertising on their blogs. Sometimes it’s super obvious, like when pop-up ads block whatever you’re reading until you interact with them. But quite often, a blogger will feature or review a product that they’ve received free. They’re supposed to tell you when that happens, but they rarely do.

Another way companies get exposure is by hiring bloggers as brand ambassadors or bringing them on as recipe developers. I’ve gotten a couple of these offers, but since I’m not strictly a food blogger, I think it would be weird if I started featuring recipes based on these products. (Some of these “recipes” are pretty funny—don’t know if you’ve noticed them—but the product is sometimes used as a topping or thrown in a cookie or it serves as a layer in a parfait. Snore.)

Perhaps it’s because I spent a few years as an in-house magazine staffer and my interaction with other bloggers (in my experience with Vida Vegan I’ve seen a full spectrum of blogger behavior) that I have such a low tolerance for sneaky paid ink. I don’t care for the dishonesty, and I think it’s pretty transparent. I’ve seen feigned excitement in print that I know for damn sure wasn’t felt by the writer. Hey, ever notice a bunch of bloggers writing about the same thing at the same time? It’s not a coincidence. It was a busy mail day.

When you’ve seen posts here featuring products, I bought them and either liked them or thought they were crap. The times I was treated to free food, I’ve told you well up front and was honest about the highs and the lows. If I ZOMG-love everything and am always so excited about <insert new thing here>, why should you believe me? Oddly, PR groups don’t seem to care about that. They just want the ink. And who can blame them? It’s the cheapest, most natural-looking exposure out there. And for a small, independent company, blog features just might be the best use of a limited marketing budget.

You know, this post has sat unfinished in my draft folder for a while, because one thing has really given me pause about hitting “publish”: Most vegan bloggers are, I believe, truly passionate about what they’re presenting to you, and it does take a bit of time and money to produce a blog. We buy domains and hosting and try to have a decent camera, and we need stuff to photograph and try out so we can tell you all about it. So some of us welcome, even depend on, being compensated in some way for these costs.

This is not to blame those bloggers selling ad space or for saying “yes” when they’re offered free stuff. I just want everyone to be honest about what they’re doing, because there’s a shift in vegan (or “plant based”) business happening right now, as marketing folk realize vegans are starting to make up a nice little consumer category. Suddenly there’s a bunch of money to go around to target you, the reader, and not everyone’s getting an A+ in Ethics. So I want you to keep your eyes open, to know when you’re being sold to.

By the way, I really do like lemons. Always have.

meditator’s delight: gettin’ by in kathmandu

meditators_delightI have to share my boy Tom’s recent adventure with you. See, he just got back from five weeks in Kathmandu, Nepal, where he lived and studied at a Tibetan Buddhist monastery.

He credits this little sandwich, which he named “Meditator’s Delight,” with his well-being. (This and his UV water-purification pen.) The sandwich is—brace yourself—peanut butter, garlic chutney, and chili sauce on rice cakes. Sounds kinda Thai, right? Almost? He swears it’s surprisingly tasty…but I’m gonna have to just trust him on this one.

kathmandu_groceriesWhile he spent pretty much every waking and sleeping moment within the monastery grounds, he was able to walk down to the market for supplies. The catered lunches were largely Northern Indian food, with vegan options, but there was nothing for him at breakfast (again, not all Buddhists are vegan).

He’d packed a couple dozen Clif bars and Tofurky Jurky, and he picked up some vegan sausages and other treats on his previous stop in London (some jobs are just THE WORST), but he needed to supplement. Especially that immune-system wunderkind, garlic.

tight quartersSpeaking of THE WORST jobs, this space served as the classroom for the month. Every surface, nook, and cranny was just so elaborately crafted and decorated.

The downside of this setup? Look at how close those cushions are. A few hundred folks from all over the world spent their days in this space, bringing their new and exciting microbes to share with one another. Tom said not 30 seconds could go by without a sniffle or cough or some other such phlegmy noise; he called it the upper respiratory orchestra. If I were faced with this many cold-havers, I’d order me up a Meditator’s Delight too.

I can’t share all his stories with you—he has so many amazing tales that all I can say after each one is “Thanks for coming home!”—but here are some super fun photos of Nepalese animals:

monkey thiefIn the city, these monkeys were everywhere, and you had to be careful to avoid eye contact because they’d attack. Check out that little guy in the center of the photo, stealing the Buddha’s offering. What a noodge!

goatAnd this is the best goat ever. The monastery has loads of rescue goats (and cats and dogs and such) who roam the grounds. Tom, of course, made friends with them all. At the end of the course, he went to a big picnic where one of the performances was a play featuring a bunch of super young monks (like 5 years old!) dressed up as a brahman, a farmer, and a goat to teach people compassion and why it’s wrong to kill animals. And yes, it was apparently as adorable as it sounds, complete with kids forgetting lines and goofing off.

I seriously need to find some buried treasure so I can go on these trips with him. This year’s obligations include—ugh—Australia.