Category: Travel Unravel

How Difficult Is It To Travel If You’re Vegan?

vegan lufthansa

Recently, after posting photos of the vegan meals being served in business class flights on various flights, a reader asked how difficult it would be to travel after switching to a vegan diet. It’s a big question with a lot depending on where you go, how you travel, and your personal preferences.

How Strict Are You?

There are a group of very strict vegans and those who don’t mind eating an egg or honey on occasion. (Up to a third of vegetarians eat meat when drunk, for example.) People “go vegan” for a variety of reasons – health, animal rights, lactose intolerance – so you may decide on shorter trips to just do your best. If you do, it’s better to accept the decision completely; stressing about finding suitable food options can easily ruin a vacation. On the other hand, if you’re committed to sticking to a strict vegan diet, you’ll need to prepare.

Planning Ahead Is Crucial

You hardly ever need to show up to an airport 3 hours before a flight but if you’re going to fly as a vegan, at the very least you need to arrange your meals well in advance. Ideally, you’ll need to specify at booking that you want a vegan meal. Practically, you’ll need to call the airline as well because in most cases if you don’t, expect a vegetarian meal with cheese.

shephards salad with cheese

Also, you better get to a grocery store first as well, since vegan meals on flights are rarely completely vegan, not to mention mostly salads or vegetables. (Lacking the beans, nuts, and soy many vegans use to supplement their diet with appetite-satisfying protein.) Apps like HappyCow can help you find vegan restaurants but remember that grocery store shopping is going to be a regular part of any trip you take.

More Developed Doesn’t Always Mean More Choices

Many people often assume that more developed countries have more vegan options. Scandinavians use a lot of dairy in their dishes for instance and the Japanese tend to have a diet rich in fish. Conversely, nations with meat-heavy traditional cuisines like Serbia and Kosovo are excellent for vegans. Much of Turkish cuisine too, is unintentionally vegan. India, famous for its vegetarian cuisine, can be hard for vegans due to the common use of clarified butter (ghee).

food chandni chowk

Vegan options actually vary much more between cities than nations. Germany, for example, isn’t the most vegan-friendly country but Berlin is one of the best cities for vegans. Larger cities tend to have more vegan options simply due to size, though it doesn’t always mean the restaurants will be close to your accommodation. Again, plan accordingly and get used to grocery store visits.

On the surface, it might not seem like a big jump to go from vegetarian to vegan because the world is getting close to being caught up on what a vegetarian is. Keep in mind that the concept of vegetarianism is still be confusing to many around the world, even though vegetarians make up about 20% the world population. There are far, far less vegans; therefore much less understanding of what vegan is.

To travel as a vegan you’ll not only need to get used to planning, shopping, and arranging your travels around the food you eat, but become very used to explaining as well. The summarized version of no-meat-no-dairy usually isn’t sufficient so study menus well, list ingredients, and accept that not every restaurant or waiter will be sensitive to your dietary restrictions.

Are you a traveling vegan? What would you add and what have your experiences been? Feel free to share in the comments below!

Why Do People Travel To Star Trek Conventions?

People travel for many reasons and for 10-20,000 every August in Las Vegas, that reason is Star Trek. Although I’ve been to the Creation Entertainment Star Trek Convention in Las Vegas several times, I still have trouble answering the question I’m asked most about it: why do people go to Star Trek conventions?

As you can see in the video above, as I spoke with other Trekkies at the convention this year, people attend Star Trek conventions for a very human reason – one that won’t feel alien to any traveler or person. Plus, you’ll get to see a glimpse of what goes on at the largest Star Trek convention in the world.

This post is part of Geek Takeover Week 2017.

When You Travel In A Plane, Time Slows Down For You: Here’s How To Calculate By How Much

andorra dali clock

We all know that our clocks change as we cross time zones in an airplane. Did you know however that you are actually traveling a bit further into the future, relative to your friends on the ground when flying? This effect is called time dilation, predicted and later proven by Einstein’s special and general theories of relativity.

Let’s quickly start by clearing up the title of this post since there are a few details which couldn’t so easily be summarized in a few words. The first thing to know is that whenever you move through space, by walking, running, driving, etc. relative to people who aren’t in motion, you are traveling just a bit slower through time. This effect has been confirmed by atomic clocks placed in airplanes as well as orbiting satellites and compared to those on the ground.

Additionally, according to Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity, time moves faster in the absence of a gravitational field. (Relative to others who are in stronger gravitational fields; in other words, closer to ground, for example.) The higher up you are, the further you are from Earth’s mass, which means slightly less gravity for you and a slightly faster clock. While standing, even your head is ever so slightly moving a bit faster through time, since it’s a meter or two higher above the ground than your feet.

How noticeable is this effect? Well, not very as gravity is weak force, but using what’s known as a gravitational time dilation formula (originally discovered by the Dutch physicist Hendrik Lorentz) we can calculate it.

time dilation formula

Assume you’re flying at 10,668 meters for 8 hours at roughly 1,007 kph, from true south to true north, where your friend is sitting at sea level; when you arrive, your watch will be running about 0.00504 seconds faster than theirs.

What’s all that north-south business? Well, since the Earth rotates and planes usually fly across this rotation, that would change the calculation a bit as you and your friend are moving in directions relative to each other.

Let me help you figure out how much in the “future” you are on your next 8 hour flight.

t1 = time elapsed (for person not moving)

t = time in seconds spent traveling
v^2 = speed, kilometers per second squared
c^2 = speed of light, 299792.458 km/second squared

So, t1 is what we’re looking for. t is time we’ve spent flying: 8 hours, or 28800 seconds. Let’s say our plane is flying at 920km/hour, that’s .25km/second. And c (the speed of light) is a constant in the universe. After inserting those numbers in the time dilation formula, t=28800.0000003. For the lazier, here’s an online time dilation calculator that does the number crunching for you. That means your friends, asleep (not moving), on the ground have experienced .0000003 extra seconds relative to you.

There are numerous time dilation formulas accounting for various scenarios, with gravity in mind, used to keep GPS satellite clocks in sync with those on Earth, among other things. So the next time a friend picking you up at the airport complains about your flight being late, tell them if they hadn’t been stuck in the past, they might have arrived at the right time.

This post is part of Geek Takeover Week 2017.

Is It Still Possible To Visit Socotra Island?

socotra dragon blood tree

The Socotra archipelago, particularly its main island, is one of the most neglected tourism destinations in the world. A big part of the reason, in addition to Socotra’s remote location in the Arabian Sea, is that it’s Yemeni territory. Despite being 380 kilometers (236 miles) off Yemen’s southern coast, visas, not to mention a precarious security situation on the mainland had kept most people away.

A frequent question I’m asked is whether or not it is still possible to visit Socotra, as Yemen’s civil war continues, bypassing the mainland altogether. The answer is technically yes; but you’re not going to like the details.

Flights To Socotra, Sounds Nice

I visited Socotra and the Yemeni mainland several months before war made it too dangerous for travel – obviously, a lot has changed since then. For a while, flights from Sharjah, one of the United Arab Emirates near Dubai on Felix Airways to Socotra’s capital Hadibu were infrequent, but flying occasionally. Those flights have stopped completely, despite the claims by a few tour operators in the UAE. I reached out to several of the tour operators in the UAE and Yemen, as well as some airlines who all floated the sentiment they were hopeful regular service would resume soon, despite there being no change for many months.

socotra island beach

Believe In Ferries

Some tour operators based out of the UAE sign people up to tours, claiming to arrange Socotra trips by ferry. Practically all are canceled, so be very weary before booking or giving money to any tour operator. All of the other options are fairly unofficial, such as traveler Johnny Ward coaxing his way on to a cement shipping boat, with a lot of local help.

“One whole week of phone calls, paperwork, cash, documents, visas etc. went by… to ensure my visa to Yemen wasn’t canceled… to ensure that immigration in Socotra would accept me via the cement boat.”

Clearly, not a travel plan possible, or desirable, by most of you.

Situation Determination

You really have to be persistent, determined, and adventurous to even attempt a trip to Socotra, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. There are substantial costs, not to mention risks, right now in doing so. Travel to Socotra is likely to be practically infeasible as the situation in mainland Yemen continues to deteriorate with more than 70% of the population – most of these peopleneeding humanitarian assistance.

Those of you still wondering why you might want to visit Yemen can take a look to what was and hopefully what may be again one day.

This Bridge In Sarajevo Is Where World War I Started And Nearly Didn’t

latin bridge sarajevo

History flows like a river but most of the time we concede we’re only privy to a small section viewed from the shore. But along the small Latin Bridge in Sarajevo over the shallow waters of the Miljacka River, history happened all at once and almost not at all.

It Begins With An Act Of Indecision

The 28th of June, 1914 began with Archduke Franz Ferdinand along with his wife Sophie, visiting the capital of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Sarajevo; then a province of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Ferdinand had went to Bosnia a few days prior to observe military operations, sent by his uncle Emperor Franz Josef. Bosnia and Herzegovina was annexed from the Ottomans in 1908 by the Austro-Hungarian Empire and Ferdinand was there to wave the flag (in the face of Serbian nationalists who made claim to the territory.

The Assassination of the Archduke: Sarajevo 1914 and the Romance That Changed the WorldThe Assassination of the Archduke: Sarajevo 1914 and the Romance That Changed the World

amazon buy now

Ferdinand was to inaugurate the new state museum in Sarajevo, accompanied by his wife Sophie who worried for his safety. On the morning of June 28th, Ferdinand was touring the city in his motorcade. He passed Muhamed Mehmedbasic, one of several Serbian nationalist conspirators who had planned to assassinate Ferdinand. Fearful, Mehmedbasic never used the grenade in his possession. The motorcade passes unmolested until coming across Nedjelko Cabrinovic, who did toss a grenade at the Archduke’s car. Bouncing off the vehicle it exploded behind Ferdinand’s car (since the driver sped up upon seeing it) injuring several members of Ferdinand’s entourage seriously.

latin bridge sarajevo bosnia and herzegovina

One Failed Murder, One Botched Suicide

Cabrinovic tried to kill himself by jumping into the Miljacka River which is often shallow. Only centimeters deep that particular day, Cabrinovic probably thought the expired cyanide pill he swallowed would finish him. As it were, the pill only made him ill and he was arrested.

latin bridge sarajevo

So, Ferdinand is still alive, having cheated death twice and a number of Serbian nationalist assassins have time to contemplate how it all went wrong. And wrong again. Plus some. One of Cabrinovic’s co-conspirators, Gavrilo Princip, frustrated with the morning of failed killing, went to a cafe on nearby Franz Josef Street, sulking at having missed all assassination opportunity.

latin bridge sarajevo

Elsewhere in Sarajevo, after some time passes, Ferdinand decides he wants to visit Sarajevo Hospital where the injured have been taken. Military officer General Oskar Potiorek, traveling with Ferdinand, advises the caravan avoid the city center. For unclear reasons, Potiorek never told the driver that. So, Ferdinand’s convoy continues across the Latin Bridge, makes a right turn… right on to Franz Josef Street.

Serendipity In Reverse

To Princip’s surprise Ferdinand’s car rolls towards him. The driver by now has been made aware of his mistake, tries to reverse, stalling the car’s engine in the process. Car stuck and seizing the opportunity, Princip opens the door shooting Ferdinand and Sophie. Both die within an hour; mobs attack Princip, disarming him. He’s later arrested. Austria-Hungary blames Serbia for the plot, declaring war one month later. Allied nations jump in to support both sides and World War I officially begins.

ferdinand assasination spot

Today, you can walk across the Latin Bridge, built in the 1550s by the Ottoman Empire, and see the plaque noting where Ferdinand and Sophie were killed on the corner of Franz Josef Street. Their assassination story is one of my favorites from history for the sheer amount of circumstance and implication of fate. Visiting these sites during a HYH City Tour (whom I highly recommend) was one of many highlights from my visit to the city you voted best to visit in 2012.

All Of The Bizarrely Large And Controversial Monuments Around Skopje, Macedonia

stone bridge skopje

You may not think of Macedonia’s capital city Skopje often, but once you’ve been there one thing nearly impossible to forget are the Mario-super-mushroom sized statues everywhere. Massive bronze statues sitting high up on stone pillars with the central Macedonian Square lit brighter than the near side of the sun, you can’t initially help but be impressed.

As unusual as the sight is from afar, things get even strangers the closer you look.

Rapid Rise And Transformation

All of the gigantic monument construction in Skopje began in 2011, as part of a government project to rebuild landmarks lost in a large 1963 earthquake. Within 2 years, more than 20 new buildings and 40 statues had been constructed, including a 22-meter (72 feet) tall Alexander The Great in the middle of Macedonia Square. Oh sorry, it’s called “Warrior On A Horse” wink wink, so as not to completely piss off Greece, who among many things has a problem with Macedonia calling itself Macedonia.

skopje macedonia construction

Locals also have a strong disdain for the gross displays of manufactured nationalism with money that might be better spent elsewhere. Estimated costs for the Skopje 2014 project range from 90-565 million US dollars; nearly 6% of the Macedonian GDP in a country with 25% unemployment. Such large ranges for costs estimates usually indicate unaccounted money – in other words, corruption – in a nation that doesn’t score well in that particular category internationally.

There is something to be said however for the potential tourism effect; since Skopje 2014 began, the country has seen an increase of 500,000 annual tourists, up three times the 2011 average.

skopje big statue skopje man on horse statue

Arch Of Abortion

Macedonia is clearly spending all of this money, upwards of 168 million dollars a year, to bolster an infant tourism industry. That makes one particular inscription, a quote by Mother Teresa who was born here, on its iconic Porta Macedonia Arch odd indeed:

porta macedonia arch

“I think that abortion has become the greatest destroyer of peace today.”

Not the kind of message you expect to see on a tourist monument. Maybe, “welcome to Skopje” instead? Or perhaps another quote by Mother Teresa, “Never travel faster than your guardian angel can fly,” seems a little more travel-related?

Look Down On What Goes Up

The more you ask about Skopje’s newest landmarks with a dopey traveler’s naivete, it becomes increasingly clear Macedonians are very skeptical. You know there’s a big doubt when people look up at the 66-meter tall Millennium Cross (worth visiting I must say) and curse the government for building it while trying not to get struck by lightening.

skopje millennium cross

Though as a traveler passing through, you are drawn to the spectacle that illuminates memorable experiences like watching the universe from Macedonia Square. Skopje in particular becomes much easier to recommend because of the artificial ambiance that is contagious for everyone who visits these sights. A lot like Austin, Texas, Macedonia has chosen to keep Skopje weird, though I’m not sure how intentionally.

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About Anil Polat

foxnomad aboutI'm the blogger and computer security engineer who writes foXnoMad while on a journey to visit every country in the world. I'll show you the tips, tricks, and tech you can use to travel smarter. Read More


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