Jess's random travel life


Travel for me is about more than seeing beautiful places, it’s also about the beautiful people you meet and experiences you share. Connecting with people I hardly know has never been as easy as it was in Vienna.

Featured image

Hike with new friends at Schönbrunn.

I decided to go to Vienna on a whim. My sister and I were in Budapest and when she had to go back to work I decided to stay and travel on my own. I looked at a map and thought “Ah Vienna is close, and I’ve never been there…”, so off I went. My stay in Vienna started with a stranger from Couchsurfing who gave me a key to his apartment and also gave up his room for me while he slept on the couch. The kindness of those I met in Vienna melts my heart, and it just kept getting better. He welcomed me to join him and his friends at a local veg pub where we drank microbrews with the owner, ate vegan schnitzel, and talked about his work in immigration rights, veganiam, and about life. We laughed a lot, as all those I met in Vienna seem to do!


Schnitzel at Rupp’s.

My second day in Vienna I met with Carina, another stranger who immediately felt like a best friend. She educated me on the growing vegan scene in Vienna, with new restaurants, availability of vegan options, activism, growing public awareness. I could write for days about the vegan scene here but I’ll try to give you a quick brief…there are multiple animal rights groups, a vegan clothing store, 2 vegan grocers, 2 vegan ice cream shops, a vegan wine bar, a vegan hotel, and a big vegan dumpster diving scene. There is even a restaurant that started in the 1700’s with traditional Austrian food that transitioned to becoming vegan and is opening their second location next week! What more could I ask for. Oh yea, as I mentioned the vegans there know how to have fun! I got the celebrate New Years at an all vegan parted hosted by Felix, the President of the Vegan Society. The Viennese were a great reminder of the need to love more, laugh more, and embrace the positive energy that life can have.

Featured image

Veganz Vienna

As much as I travel I still sometimes over plan to try and avoid missing out, but the truth is I usually miss out when I plan to much. I planned too much this trip. I was meant to leave my Couchsurfer’s home after 2 nights and travel back to Budapest where I had a flight back to Frankfurt. Good news is it’s never too late to change your path, in travel or life! I decided I couldn’t leave, the amazing people (and food) compelled me to stay. I filled time with my new friends by ice skating, visiting castles, playing games, fun conversation and of course lots of eating! On January 3rd I finally left to meet my sister in Garmish, a ski town in the German Alps.


Ice skating to beautiful classical music of the New Years concert.

I’m not sure what sparks everyone I met in Vienna to be so nice, considerate, giving, fun, and amazing. Maybe it’s the free education that creates smarter well thought out population. Maybe it’s the more equal culture, where people don’t need to fight to get ahead and have their basic needs like healthcare met. Or maybe that it’s just contagious nature of those you surround yourself with.  Whatever the case, I’m heard over heals for you Vienna. Thanks for the laughter, kindness, nougat dumplings, nougat cake, and nougat chocolates galore!

IMG_8985 3

View from the highest point of the German Alps.

I’ve heard a lot of resentment from vegans about the recent buyout of a popular well loved brand, Gardirn, being bought out by food giant, Pinacle Foods. I understand the frustration from vegans that this is no longer an exclusive vegan company, and even worse that Pinacle’s parent company Blackstone invests in Seaworld. But I’m here to make the case that Gardein’s sellout is more positive that the vegan community is giving Gardein credit for.

Before we go any further, can we all agree this acquisition will lead to higher Gardin distribution? Big business care about profit before anything else, and would not purchase Pinacle if they didn’t see an opportunity to increase profits.

While I personally rather choose to support an exclusively vegan business (be it a restaurant, a vegan doctor, entrepreneur, etc) I completely support business decisions that make vegan food more widespread and accessible. Gardein could not do for the brand what Pincale Foods will be able to do. Pinacle will be able to invest more, increasing the economies of scale and lead to Gardin being distributed even more widely. We have seen what Dean Foods has done with Silk. They have made soy milk mainstream and then moved onto tapping into the almond and coconut milk industries. This no doubt has had a tremendous impact saving many cows from a life of suffering.

Imagine if more big businesses invested in vegan products, we’d no doubt have a vegan world faster. Then we could move on the tacking other problems with food giants. Some argue the acquisition comes with another range of problems like Pinacle being pro GMO or having connections with Sea World. I don’t mean to dismiss these arguments, but there are so many problems in this world focus is important. More vegan food is one of the best ways to help the world, more pressing than taking down big business or GMO’s in my opinion. One of my most important values is making veganism mainstream and accessible and if this comes at the price to selling out to a larger company, so be it. The more vegan food in the world the better.  Once it’s all vegan we can work on the next level of breaking down the monopolist food industry. We could do both right now but this would mean a slower process to animal liberation.  It is nerve racking that our food supply is controlled by so few companies, but what what me even more upset is the way animals in this country are treated.

Lastly luckily here are many exclusive companies that vegans can continue to support while Gardin becomes more widespread under Pinacle’s rule. Vegan businesses seem to  pop up every time I blink. Have you heard about this vegan food company? I just heard about Impossible Foods the other day, they are launching in 2015. There are many all veg meat companies that vegans with access can continue to support.

Tour Life

Warped Tour has been awesome! We’re reaching so many people, including a record high of 1398 people in New York. Every day we average showing the video to about 1,000 people. Most people are very receptive. aImagend want to have a meaningful conversation after. It reinforces my belief that most people love animals and don’t want to see them hurt, yet eat meat because of their habits.Image

Almost everyone pledges to try a few days a week being vegan and others pledge to go veg completely. This shows me how fast things can change with effective outreach, and also that this movement isn’t stopping it’s only getting bigger. There are so many memorable interactions everyday it’s impossible to describe them all. In general seeing how people ‘get it’ after watching the video is amazing, one guy said he used to think veganism was just a hippie thing but now he really understands why people choose it. He’s right this movement is not a hippie thing. I’ve talked to people from all walks of life including hunters who say our food system is fucked and don’t want to support it, people of all ages from a father saying he’s going to try veg days with his family to a little girl saying she’s going vegetarian.

dropping every year, we don’t have to kill animals to live so why would we?

Jersey ain’t that bad

We had our day off in Ashbury Park, along the Jersey shore.  I never thought Jersey would have anything to offer me, but I was surprised.  Walking along the boardwalk we found a place with vegan ice cream that was awesome!image

Coconut based cinnamon chocolate, om num num, the perfect thing to temporally cool us down in the wretched heat.  We took a stroll into town and found yet another place with vegan ice cream; we sampled a couple including an awesome vegan Almond Joy.

Later that afternoon we went shopping to stock up on food for the bus.  We found a natural food store that had so many vegan options, including the new Daiya cream cheese and a vegan salad bar! photoWe bought some goodies here and also walked over the Wegmans for some odds and ends. I’ve never been to a Wegmans but apparently they are big in parts of the East coasvegan shoppping t, they had tons for vegans and lots of organic foods. I love shopping with vegans!

Speaking of food, today we were in D.C so some staff from the FARM office came out to help and to feed us tons of delicious food.  The highlight was the Tofurky pockets and quiches; did you know Tofurky makes those now? Did you know these Doritos are vegan too? There is no reason to eat any animal products, we have totally badass delicious animal free foods here in 2013.  It’s better for us, better for the planet, and certainly better for the animals.Vegan Doritos

Warped Tour begins

My time on Warped Tour has begun with a bang! After getting picked up from the airport we headed to the hotel to meet our driver for the tour, we drive overnights so we met her around 11pm and headed off. I dosed in and out of sleep as the ride was bumpy and rougher than I imagined it would be. Around 7am we made it to the venue, ‘finally I can get a few hours of sleep before work starts’ I thought. Not long after I heard a loud pop, one of our tires had blown. We were able to get it fixed quite efficiently thanks to our awesome crew. We were up and running again by 11, and were able to get into the event a bit late and still reach about image

Let me back up for a second. I’m spending the next month following Warped Tour with a non-profit group FARM. They pay people $1 to watch a 4minuete video. Watch it here, I won’t pay you a dollar but it will change your life and empower you to make more conscious decisions. Actually you should give me a dollar for opening your eyes to something that is such a big part of most people’s lives but it isn’t talked or thought about. For real though check it out and if you change because of it maybe I’ll make you cookies.


image_4  Another cheap Ryan Air flight from Porto I found myself in Barcelona.  I didn’t do my research before landing so found myself spending 10euro for a shuttle to downtown. I later realized you can buy a packet of 10train rides for 8euro which are valid from the airport to downtown (check zone of your accommodation and current rates). Overall I found Barcelona quite affordable compared to other large European cities, but definitely more than Porto.

photoI stayed in the center of the city at Lullaby Hostel. It was affordable however definitely about a 2star, with no locks on any of the doors and the bed sheets smelling like chemicals, and internet only working in certain areas. Though I’d still recommend it if you’re looking for a cheap place to stay in city center. Anyway I met some nice people there, including a guy from Germany who frequently visits Barcelona and offered to show me around.

imageimage_5We started at La Boqueria, one of the amazing markets to pick up some snacks. You can find these food markets all over the city, but this one happened to be the largest and carried many fruits and veggies I’ve never heard of.  We then took the train to Museu Nacional, a beautiful building that overlooks part of the city. After we took a short hike up to Montjuïc Castle that had even more amazing views over the city and port of Barcelona. Later I went down to the beach, checkout this awesome sandcastle, yes it’s really made from sand!

The next day I went on a free walking tour of the old city. These tours are given by volunteers and at the end of the tour you can decide if it’s worth anything and want to pay anything for it.  Mine defiantly was, it was one of the best tours I’ve ever had, the guide was super informative and hilarious. I learned a lot but one of the most memorable moments was sanding where Columbus did when he announced that he found America. It’s crazy the short history the US has compared to Europe.

image_2photoOne of the highlights of Barcelona was the awesome food, I love Spanish food because it isn’t spicy but super flavorful! Being vegan I don’t always get to taste “authentic” food. But thanks the the amazing Veggie Garden I had goulash and gazpacho that were amazing! This restaurant was centrally located, uniquely decorated and had a menu full of delicious items, plus the man who I think was the owner was super nice and seemed to speak just about every language.

Some departing words from a cafe in Barcelona. It’s very true, I’ve learned so much in my travels that I would never have otherwise.image_1

Oporto, Portugal

Ericka and I decided to go to Porto (Oporto in Portuguese) when we found a Ryan Air flight for €14.99 from Frankfurt.  It was even better than I imagined! We stayed at the beautiful Gallary hostel  in the art district of the city. This hostel was affordable and easily 5 stars with a helpful staff, a beautiful room with a balcony, a large breakfast, and nice hangout areas. IMG_0119Around the corner was an organic vegetarian café and store that had awesome vegan selections and cute cats that would sit on your lap.  One day after finishing my tofu sandwich and miso soup a lady who worked there asked if we would take a survey about vegetarian tourism which was a project of a local university student;  we gladly agreed. With students studying vegetarian tourism in Porto it’s no wonder Porto was so vegan friendly!

IMG_0137Everything in Porto is walking distance, which was really nice to not spend money on transportation. Often people ask me how I can afford to travel so much, and my biggest piece of advice is only spend money where you have to.  When I’m strapped for cash I find myself buying groceries, walking everywhere, and ridesharing long distances instead of planes or trains.  In many areas you can still have a fulfilling experience without spending a lot of money.  Porto was definitely one of those experiences. We spent hours walking around the hilly cobblestone roads, popping into places like the beautiful Livraria Lello where the author of Harry Potter used to frequent, visiting the museu Portugues da Fotografia (a convereted old jail where local artists were featured portraying how the economic crisis has affected everyday people), and going to tons of art galleries in the art district, all for free! The biggest highlight however did cost a bit of money. IMG_0122

I never had port wine before, but discovered I love it while port tasting along the Ria Douro. For  2-5 euros you get a tour of one of the numerous port wine caves and several tastings.  We visited Ferreira,  Offley, and Taylors. I’d recommend all of them, though the tours are sort of similar so if I were to go back I’d do  less tours and more tastings!   IMG_0191

I know some people rave about places like Paris and London, but I’ve found places like Porto more enjoyable than either of those places.  Not only is it affordable with free museums, markets, and art galleries, the people are friendly, the weather is lovely, Port is delicious, and it’s surrounded by the beach. Definitely go here if you’re ever in Western Europe. Oh and here is an awesome website for local maps and things to do-


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.