Over the past year, I have tried to become more conscious of the products I am buying, trying to ensure that I am purchasing items that are better for my health and the environment, and making sure that nothing I am using has been tested on animals. The first switch was based mainly on beauty products, but I hoped to eventually make a bigger change, focusing on my diet. I started eating more vegetarian options, but wasn’t sure I could give up meat fully. Knowing that my first month in India would be vegetarian, I knew it would be my chance to try out the diet and decide at the end if it was a switch I was ready for or not.
While I was worried that I would miss my favorite dishes, the longer I ate vegetarian, the less I wanted meat. By week two, just the thought of meat would make me cringe, even though it wasn’t anywhere near me, as Rishikesh is a meat free town. In my mind, this was a good sign that I would be able to keep up with the diet.
As the weeks at Rishikesh Yog Dham continued to pass by, that aversion to meat stuck with me and I continued to enjoy the vegetarian options that were being offered to me at the school. If I wasn’t bored with the diet after a month, I felt inspired to keep it going, especially because I had no desire to change back to the way I used to eat. I began to realize that this was a lifestyle I could continue once I returned home.
Leaving the safety of Rishikesh made me nervous, but I was determined to stay vegetarian, at least for my remaining time in India. In Agra, we saw meat on the menu for the first time, although I had no desire for it. In Bangalore, I was lucky enough to have dinner made for me, and even though I was one of only two vegetarians in the house, and I was surrounded by meat each day, it didn’t bother me and I wasn’t tempted to eat it. Actually, I was a bit repulsed by the idea of ingesting it, even though it didn’t bother me to see other people eating it, I had no desire to put it in my body.
On my way home from volunteering, I would pass by butchers and see meat hanging up at the stalls, which only increased my desire to remain a vegetarian. I thought back to the conversations we had in anatomy and philosophy classes about being a vegetarian and thinking about where our meat was coming from. Those rickshaw rides really drove that home for me.
The biggest test, however, was my arrival home. America isn’t as easy for a vegetarian as India was. Sure, there are plenty of options, but I do feel that they aren’t as healthy as what I was eating in India. But, even with Christmas, in an Italian family who loves their meat and fish, I was able to bypass anything with meat and figure my own way around it. I’ve only been home about four weeks, but I am finding recipes and options out there and sticking with my plan. Even my favorite meat options, hamburgers and prosciutto, are suddenly unappealing, which is something I never believed would have happened.
What I am most interested in is what will happen while I am traveling. I used to be a very adventurous eater, making sure to try it all, especially while traveling, but now that I am no longer eating meat and fish, that will change a few things. In a way, I am excited for the new experience as it will give me a perspective and make me pause and think before I eat, which in turn will make me more mindful toward food. It will change the way I see and understand a destination a bit, but I don’t feel like I’ll be missing out too much. I guess we’ll just have to see.
Will I stay a vegetarian forever? I am not sure, as that’s a relatively loaded question, since I have no idea what my future holds. But, as long as I continue to feel as good as I do and as long as it’s what’s best for my body, I will continue my life meat free. For now, I feel better than I have in a long time, and I have my yoga and vegetarian diet to thank for that.
Are you a vegetarian? Vegan? How has it affected your travels? Do you have any recipes for me? Leave a comment below, I’d love to hear from you!