Some of the sweetest moments in life happen while sharing a meal. The closeness that it can bring between people, the laughter around a dinner table, the extension of nourishment from one being to another is extraordinary. Proper sustenance is a basic human need, and maybe this is why it is such a great joy to share with those around us. Will Travel for Vegan Food: A Young Woman's Solo Van-Dwelling Mission to Break Free, Find Food, & Make Love, written by Kristin Lajeunesse, is a memoir of travels that led to many encounters on various dinner tables around the United States. Over the course of two years Kristin took to the road and visited every vegan restaurant in the United States. She shone a new light on vegan cuisine and on the restaurant owners who have created havens of compassion by opening establishments dedicated to vegan fare. Beyond highlighting some of the most amazing vegan food in the states, Kristin's book documents a personal journey through family memories, growth, and inevitable change. The book will touch you in ways that you never expected. Kristin has been reading excerpts of her book and posting them online for a while now, and listening to each one has made me laugh, cry, contemplate and honestly made me feel every emotion across the board. The way this book will touch you is exactly what sets it apart. She makes you feel desperate for the mouthwatering food she describes with precision and ease. She reminds you of the importance of love, companionship and friendship. She makes you want to live life with every fiber of your being and hug every person you love all the time because you never know if that hug will be your last. I am so excited and honored to bring you an interview with Kristin, a look inside this amazing writer's mind and a chance for you to get closer to this incredible book! Enjoy!
Hello Kristin! It is such a joy to have you. Before anything else, congratulations on the publication of your incredible book!
Thank you, Michelle. It's great to be here, in this moment, with you. :)
To jump right in, was this an adventure you had always foreseen for yourself, or was it something that you came to later in your life?
Oh gosh no. Up until the moment that the words “Will Travel for Vegan Food” appeared before me that day at work, I never would have imagined I'd quit my job to live out of a vehicle for 18 months. Having said that, there was a point wherein I realized I was talking about how I'd like to travel someday, but was never doing anything about it. It wasn't long after that, the project idea came to me; in what seemed like a completely random fashion.
When did you decide you wanted to make your adventure into a book? Did you keep a journal during your travels?
I never considered myself a write (blogger maybe, writer no). I hadn't considered writing about the journey at all until an acquaintance approached me about a new business he and his wife were cooking up. One day on a call he shared with me that they were starting a vegan owned and operated publishing company, and asked if I was planning to write a book about my travels.
After a few more chats we decided we'd create a coffee table book together—and then that eventually morphed into a memoir. Haha! :)
It wasn't until a couple of years after signing the contract with Vegan Publishers that I was thumbing through an old journal I kept long before the trip began. I randomly stopped at a page that listed a few life goals. Number seven read, “Get published.” In the moment I completely broke down and started sobbing. I'd forgotten I ever had that on my list of life goals and to be reading it WHILE working a real book. Well, I still get the happy-shivers when I think about it.
Regarding a journal while traveling—no I didn't keep one. I was way too busy trying to keep up with blogging for the project website that I rarely kept personal notes for myself. My days were packed with writing, driving and eating my way around the country.
This wonderful book really dives deep into your life. Is there a childhood memory that has defined you as the person you are today?
I suspect that many of my childhood memories have remained with me, because they've shaped me in one way or another. But the ones that are the strongest, and still make me incredibly emotional, are those that involve having grown up with horses. Our family pony, Spirit in particular. She taught me SO much about compassion, kindness, respect, hard work, and dedication. I'd spend hours in the pasture with her, hanging out, grooming her, learning how to work with and around her. We grew up together. She was 8 years old when she joined our family, and I too was 8 years old at the time. She spent more than 20 years with our family. I talk quite a bit about her in the book. :)
During travels we are almost always confronted by some of our largest fears. Did you have a moment like this that you could share with us?
One thing that required a huge adjustment was sleeping in the van. I'd often be parked on side streets or in Walmart parking lots. One of my biggest fears was someone breaking into the van while I was asleep. I even slept with a can of mace on one side of me and a hammer on the other. Yep. Thankfully nothing bad like that happened. However, almost EVERY night I'd have a nightmare that would lead me to panic-myself-awake for fear that someone was breaking in. It made for quite a few sleepless nights and tired days.
What would you like your readers to take from your book? Is there a particular message that you felt compelled to share with your readership?
There are two driving feelings that led me to share what I did. They are: (1) Give yourself permission to be led by your passions and intuition, and (2) Most people are good people.
During your time on the road how did your personal feelings with the vegan life change, did you become even stronger in your activism?
Before the trip I was pretty firm in my dedication to veganism. And since I had fallen in love with food AFTER becoming vegan, it made the driving force behind the journey quite enjoyable to chase, of course. :) Having said that, being on the road and truly living veganism, in every way imaginable, I did find myself talking about it way more than pre-trip. As a result I'd say my conviction for the cause grew stronger, as did my understanding for why it's such a critically important lifestyle choice for anyone who cares about the environment, animals, and/or their own health and the health of people they love.
It's also filtered into my career. I do freelance work for an animal rights group, and mentor vegan business owners through their marketing projects and event promotions. Vegan is my life and I can't imagine it being any other way. :)
I think everyone would love to see you travel the world and visit vegan restaurants popping up globally. What are your top five places you would want to visit in the world and why?
In no particular order, the following are on my list of to-visit: Thailand, Australia, New Zealand, Germany, and England. Mostly because I haven't been to any of these places and I've heard great things about the vegan food stuffs there (in certain cities, of course).
If I had a camera that could take a photograph of the inside of your imagination, how would you describe what we would see?
The inside of my imagination... I'll see if I can sum it up in five words:
Share with us your absolutely perfect meal. Every last detail!
I think I'll leave that with the one I talked about (in silly detail) from Vedge Restaurant, in Chapter 6: CONTRAST. I can't begin to tell you how long it took me to write that chapter. Haha! But the short version is: I'm pretty sure I lost consciousness during that meal.
Did you have many home cooked meals on the road? If not, did you miss them at times?
Not many. I'd say 98% of my meals were at restaurants or from food trucks, cafes, etc. The few I did have were fantastic though. I can't say I craved home cooked meals more or less than the food I was eating while dining out. It did, however give my body a nice break. When it was all said and done I gained about 25 pounds from the trip!
If you could go back and go one more place, or change anything about your trip would you?
I managed to visit all the places on my list. However, I do wish that Tal's restaurant, Crossroads was open when I was in Los Angeles (it didn't' exist yet, when I was there). And I wouldn't change a single thing!
Touch, smell, sight, hearing, taste, out of the five senses which would you say you adore most?
They are all equally magnificent! I'm incredibly thankful to have them all.
Can you share a favorite quote from your book with us?
“If you’re feeling helpless, help someone.” - Aung San Suu Kyi
To conclude this amazing interview is there any last words you would like to say about your book, your journey, or anything else?
You know that thing you keep telling yourself you want to do someday? Don't wait. Do it now. If you want it badly enough, you'll find a way to make it happen. And I'm willing to bet you won't regret it.
Purchase this amazing memoir today by clicking HERE!