It’s a new year again and that means it’s time for a new commitment to vegan hiking! I have been vegan for almost eight years now and I’ve been reflecting on what that means. In my daily life I don’t much think about it. After a while, eating vegan becomes less about “foods I don’t eat” and becomes more about just “food.” I don’t walk into the kitchen and think, hmm, don’t eat eggs, don’t eat bacon, what can I make?? In reality, I don’t even think about those kinds of things anymore, it’s become normal.
Planning for my thru-hike in 2009 was a real challenge, and one of the only times when I seriously considered whether staying vegan for the duration would be possible. I did my research and found woefully few online resources for folks like me; I wanted to hear that it was possible. (As readers of this blog know, that lack of web presence and encouragement is why I started this website!). By March, right before I set out to Springer Mountain in Georgia, I resolved that I would try as hard as possible to stay vegan but that I would have an open mind and be willing to compromise if it became too difficult.
That was a really tough decision and one I didn’t come to lightly.
Every new thru-hiker is grasping for something in those first weeks. They are looking for an affirmation of what they hoped a hike would be like, or for a confirmation that this crazy adventure is worth the undertaking. Everyone is scrambling to hand out and be offered a new trail name, to make it real, to live up to the image of being a thru-hiker. Many will leave with the trail, but many will push on, accepting that the trail is nothing like we imagined.
By a few weeks in to my hike I quickly discovered that not only was it possible to stay vegan, but it became important as well. To think so much about the food I ate and then decide to consciously renege on my commitment and effort was no longer an option. I remember a change of heart, staying vegan on the trail became more than just important, it was part of my identity as a hiker.