Brighde was thrilled earlier this year to be interviewed by the German You Tubers Yes 2 Life. Have a look and a listen to find out why we started World Vegan Travel. You can also read a fairly well cleaned up transcript of the video too.
Sure, so I’m Brighde, and I’m one of the cofounders of a new luxury vegan tour company that’s taking vegans and vegan-curious on incredible unforgettable experiences to some exciting destinations.
So that sounds like a very interesting concept, before meeting you, I had never seen it before so quite curious like so how long ago have you already been doing this?
We have been existing as World Vegan Travel for about one year now but for the year prior to that we were working with Colleen Patrick-Goudreau, she’s a good friend of Seb and myself and we worked with her to create two really exciting trips to Thailand and Vietnam with her and her followers. We did one in the end of 2017 to Thailand and then we did one in Vietnam just under a year ago so we’ve been working on this project for a couple of years now.
So I’m going back to the beginning of the project. I saw that you and your partner Seb came up with the idea. What is the story of the beginning of World Vegan Travel? How did you come up with the concept and how did you stumble upon vegan travel.
Well Seb and I have long been travel fans indeed, we worked in the travel industry for several years. I worked as a tour leader for a sort of an adventure travel company in my 20s called Intrepid Travel and I did that for five years working in places like Southeast Asia, France and Morocco and that was actually where Seb and I met we met in Morocco where he was a tour leader as well and in Vietnam I had my own travel company for a short time and Seb, he’s been working in production services like TV production services for many years now and we decided to put all of those skills together to create a travel company.
So you both have a great background in traveling to many countries and that somewhere in there, you were introduced to veganism. How were you introduced to veganism?
So, I’ve just celebrated my 10-year vegan vegan anniversary and I was inspired to go again by listening to the podcast of Colleen Patrick-Goudreau which is actually the person who has now become a very dear friend of mine and who we collaborate together to run many of these trips so it’s it’s funny how that has happened and I I was a vegetarian before then and as soon as I had an understanding of what has to happen to animals in order for them to be our food and understanding the ideas of animal exploitation and how that’s really unnecessary, it was a no brainer to go vegan and I was thrilled when Seb became vegan at 6 months later so we’ve been living at a vegan lifestyle for 10 years. I should add that Seb and I even in the past five or six years whilst we sort of been mulling over these ideas of luxury vegan travel, Seb has become a travel hacker in recent years. I don’t know are you familiar with what travel hacking is?
Is it a device to help you with travel?
Not so much it’s really like collecting points through credit cards and in order to trade them in for nice hotels and these kinds of things so you know we realized that we had a taste of what luxury travel was like through this travel hacking and we always felt a little bit disappointed I guess you would say when we would go to really really nice places and there just weren’t a lot for vegans we didn’t feel that it was a very good value. You could work with the chef’s to create something at a nice hotel but usually it would be maybe like a tomorrow pasture or nothing very exciting and it just felt a little bit ripped off I guess and that’s okay I understand why that is. They haven’t necessarily had a lot of experience in eating vegan but we thought wow, wouldn’t it be nice to be able to take vegans on these incredible experiences where the food was amazing. You know vegans can be really spoiled because often vegans do get the short end of the stick with food and with experiences generally and also do activities and have excursions that are things that really align with their values. So not going to tanneries, not doing elephant riding, not going to a snake farm not doing those things but instead going to places that with their values so an a real elephant sanctuary in the true sense of the word or visiting the Duc Langurs projects this incredible project in Vietnam where they’re trying to educate the local people about the importance of these types of primates and the work that they’re doing to increase their habitats and to raise education about these animals. So it was sort of like a mixture of all of those things that’s how we got the idea.
Back to ten years ago, when you suddenly became vegan and you and Seb, you were traveling how was it back then for travelers? You already mentioned that high quality hotels may not have the options or you have to talk to the chef but overall how’s the experience compared to nowadays are there similar challenges?
Things have definitely improved I think we would all agree that people are becoming more educated about what veganism is and why people are choosing to go vegan and they’re seeing that it’s actually a really smart decision to be able to make vegan options available because it’s not just vegans that want to have vegan options actually. There are some incredible bloggers out there that are making destination guides that are really helpful for people. There are amazing people actually going and consulting with 5-star hotels to educate them on veganism so that they can provide more vegan options which is amazing. I still think that for people who really want to have a luxury experience, and for people who have you know nine days and this is their only holiday of the year, they just really want to relax. They want to just not have to think about this at all and they are hopefully prepared to pay a price to have that and you know we have to work very closely with hotels to come up with incredible menus. You know vary things that switch things up so that people will have a wide variety of food so definitely things have improved but I think in order to have an amazing luxury experience, that’s still challenging.
So you came up with the idea of creating a luxury experience for vegans traveling the world and I assume that that post when you started a lot of different steps. First of all contacting hotels, finding the right restaurant, finding the right tours. How did you go about each of these aspects?
So our first tour was to Thailand, that was in 2018 and I spent a lot of time in Thailand so I have a good grasp of what’s out there, but saying that you know we simply still had to do a lot of work. We had to work very closely with the home you know we have to explain what veganism is. We had to go to the hotels and sit down and have many many meetings with the hotel food and beverage people and the chefs. It was a lot of looking for ingredients that were available in that local area so we had to do a lot of work with that. We also have to vet the sanctuaries and the organizations that we wanted to visit. We wanted to make sure that we were taking people to organisations that we would be proud to support. Often the word sanctuary is not necessarily a reflection on reality so we have to be very very careful about that and even down to working with guides. You know often we have to work with people that are not vegan of course we want to do that but we wanted to make sure that they weren’t sort of going through the markets, going through the meat section for example and we all know that the meat section exists in the market but we really want our travelers to have a bit of a break from that. We want them to be traveling with like-minded people and to be able to know really have a break. Being vegan is sometimes a challenge so we want to you know really have them to just relax and not have to think so it’s very very carefully thought-out and we worked for many months in the lead-up to it.
How was the first trip? Did it meet expectations? How did the participants like it?
Yes, it did meet our expectations, of course we were very very nervous you know we were down at breakfast first thing before anyone came down and checking all of the food as it came up just to make sure that everything was ok, and it was incredible the food was amazing the hotels really stepped up to the challenge. There was one one meal I think that was less than excellent standard, The feedback was amazing we had people saying it was the best holiday or vacation of their entire lives and we’re very happy that many of the people that have joined us in Thailand and Vietnam are booked on to join us in Alsace or in Rwanda. So you know having repeat customers makes us feel so happy.
I saw that your next trips will be as you’ve just said to Alsace and…?
We’ve got two trips in Rwanda coming up in June July and then we’ve just confirmed a trip to Alsace which will definitely be happening Christmas 2019, just before Christmas.
And for each of these trips the same amount of preparation goes. Is it a part of the whole planning, do you have to go to Rwanda before to meet everyone involved in the trip?
The reason why we’re going to Rwanda is because we have been before and it’s such an incredible destination for so many reasons. We’re working with some local partners in Rwanda, so the trip is in June and July. We have two trips and I’ve just started to work with the hotels now to really get the menus organized. The itineraries have sorted but we’re working to get the menus which is out there. So we’re hoping that we’ll have repeated trips to the same destinations, for example Alsace we’re going to again in December so there will be a little bit less work of course we’re going to be trying to make it even better, but of course the bulk is the work of the work has been done now.
Any other countries that you’re planning to do trips?
Yes we are going in April 7 I will be going to France again to be looking to be scouting for a couple of trips one to the Dordogne in the southwest of France and the other to Provence in the South of France and that’s collaboration with our friend Colleen Patrick-Goudreau and just before Rwanda Seb will be going to Botswana and Kenya to look at some potential places there for a trip that we hope to run in 2020. We have so many ideas for trips and places that we would love to take vegans to.
So, okay so you had the idea with Seb, you organized your first trips. Now, I think something a lot of people are interested about especially when they run their own business or want to start businesses are how to get people to know about you and how we can help people get to know about what the business owner offers.
Sure, sure okay so we were and still are very fortunate to be working with Colleen Patrick-Goudreau. She has a very big audience already so she has been able to share this and she comes on the trips and of course people are very excited to travel with her as well. So this is an interesting model for us especially whilst we are still new and maybe not so many people about us yet. We work with amazing vegan influences who are interested in traveling, who will collaborate with us and create and a trip that aligns with their brand and then you know that they can hopefully gain interest for the trip with their audience, and then plus the vegan influencer can come with us and enjoy the trip and of course the other guests can travel with them as well so it’s an interesting model and it’s one that we’re looking to develop we would also love to be running our own trips as well.
Your trips are marketed to vegans in general but are there also non vegans or vegetarians that take part in the trips or how do they usually respond to the idea of vegan travel?
We have had a few non vegans come on our trips and of course they are very welcome. Often their husbands or wives of the vegans who are coming or sometimes friends and they’re fantastic. They are involved in everything, all of the activities they are very respectful of that it’s a vegan trip and that is wonderful and we’ve had some really good feedback from the non vegans that they’ve actually learned a lot about veganism by coming on the trip. So they’ve been for what I can tell really positive about it.
Where would you like to see your company in five years from now?
That’s a great question. So our mission I think is to be the biggest provider of vegan tours in the world of luxury vegan tours I should say and we would love to be operating in many different countries. Right now it’s just Seb and I leading the trips. Maybe in the future we will have a team of dedicated tour leaders who would be able to run the trips to our standards that would be amazing. It would be wonderful to be running with trips to some incredible destinations like Antarctica would be incredible, Scandinavia would be amazing. It would be wonderful to be running trips to lots and lots of different countries.
So what would you say is the main difference between luxury travel and regular travel?
So I think there are a few key differences. First of all the level of accommodation is much much higher. there are some amazing vegan tour companies out there that are doing incredible things but I don’t think that there is anything that’s really focused on luxury so that means very high standards for accommodation, very high standards for transportation, very high standards for food and experiences . Also the amount of time that we spend in the front up to the trip the fact that there are two tour leaders rather than just one we usually have two tour leaders so seven I that we will often have an extra person as well who sort of like a runner doing things for us. So you know you’ve really got two people looking after everything and you know we really go that extra mile in terms of the care and attention to detail.
Are participants being pampered the whole journey?
Yep so we really want to pamper our travelers so that they really get a break from being a vegan in a non vegan well so we’ve just tried to spoil them as much as possible everyone deserves to be spoiled of course from time to time and vegans too so we wanted to do that.
For any vegan anybody who’s listening to this who are travelling but cannot do it on a tour for instance? What would be some travel advice you could give them for this on how to find food or friends?
Happy Cow is of course always a great bet because they’ve got everything covered often in certain countries they’ll be a dedicated website for for vegan restaurants and vegan foods as well for example I know in France there’s one that’s called VegoResto which is all in French but I think that it is much more comprehensive so if you can you know try and find these country specific databases that could be helpful if you speak the local language. Bloggers also created city guides for certain for many regions or countries or cities around the world so they’re really good. If you just go onto Facebook and you look like vegan Bangkok or vegan Thailand you’ll be able to ask questions. I think the food is pretty much covered there. In terms of experiences if you want to be you know interacting with animals but maybe you want to make sure that there’s no sort of exploitation of animals that’s going to require a little bit of work and maybe talking to vegans in countries finding out if there are any sort of vegan approved sanctuaries or rescue centers where you might want to visit or you might want to volunteer your time. There are lots of hotels that are vegan or vegan-friendly now there’s Veg Visits which is like an airBnB that is for vegans and vegetarians which is pretty cool and actually there’s a recent blog post on World Vegan Travel where it talks about 7 handy apps that are helpful for vegan travelers so listeners might want to look there maybe I can give it to you and you can share that as well so I think that’s pretty much you’ve got most of your bases covered with that. I certainly would not say that you have to be on a luxury vegan tour to travel as a vegan, of course not, but you know if you only have a limited amount of time and you just to really relax and enjoy and let someone else do all of the hard work then a tour is really beneficial.
How do you see in general that the movement will evolve over the next coming years?
Well I wouldn’t say I’m an expert on this and I haven’t done a huge amount of proper research into it but certainly there seems to be so much happening every month. For example I just found out a couple of days ago that the Miyoko’s cheese and Beyond Burger and these incredible brands are going to be coming to Thailand by the end of the year. This is something that three years ago would have just been a dream there’s just so much happening so I just think it’s gonna just get stronger and stronger and stronger and I don’t know I think we’re gonna have a vegan world in my lifetime yeah I’m predicting it.
And the vegan scene in Bangkok and Thailand specifically I mean compared to Europe, it seems to me a little small. What is your take on veganism in Bangkok?
I don’t know if I’m qualified to comment on that I have lots of Thai vegan friends who who say that there are there is increased awareness definitely and that is really exciting but I can’t really comment much more than that and certainly I don’t think things are advanced compared with Germany for example but you know things are changing at a good pace.
Maybe we can go more in depth on some of the travels you have coming up. I checked out your website and so it’s already sold out. What do you plan to visit in Rwanda and what are the kinds of activities will you do?
Rwanda is really a vegan dream destination. When we went a couple of years ago we would just blow away our big dream of course to see the gorillas. it’s one of two countries where you can see gorillas in the wild and it’s very very carefully managed when we went we felt very comfortable about seeing the gorillas. You can also see the chimpanzees as well Golden Monkeys which is seriously cool, it’s amazing and they also have a new sort of safari area in the east of the country. When the genocide happened pretty much all of the animals were killed in that area of Rwanda and they’ve had a very very successful rehabilitation project of this area so we’re really excited to be going there. It really appeals to people that are interested in social justice and environmental issues because Rwanda is doing some really interesting things in that area. Of course the recent history of Rwanda is very sad but the way that they have come back from that is really interesting and there’s a lot of lessons that we can all learn from what they have done. 64% of government positions are completed by women, it has the highest number of women represented in government by a long shot in the whole world. Plastic bags are illegal they have these incredible weekly meetings where everybody has to get together. Everybody has to but they want to get together to do street cleaning or helping community mend houses so there’s a real community work aspect well which is really interesting. It’s a fascinating destination and it’s so beautiful to like it’s a small country, the scenery is absolutely spectacular. It’s a great destination.
What is the typical food in Rwanda?
From our research and from when we were there before it’s you know it’s not like you can go to a regular restaurant and find a vegan option other than French Fries I’m sure there are exceptions to that but you know we ate a few French Fries on our first visit but we’re staying in very nice hotels and with now starting to work with these hotels and you know I’m super impressed with their attempts so far. They are sending me now potential menu ideas and they’re really good like they’re trying to use a lot of the local ingredients which is really cool. One really exciting thing is avocado it’s like a staple food there’s avocado everywhere so you know I’m happy just from that but of course we’re trying to make some really incredible dishes that are either accidentally vegan or have been veganized as well so we really want our travelers to be experiencing the local flavors but with without of course the meat, dairy and eggs.
What are the most vegan-friendly destinations to travel to now?
Oh my goodness, there are so many now. Germany obviously France continues to surprise me. Every time I go back there I’m surprised at just how much more vegan friendly it is certainly in the cities and in terms of the numbers of vegan restaurants that there are, but also in supermarkets in the countryside you know you can get a huge selection of vegan cheeses and meats and things. You can even get incredible vegan camembert , the artisanal vegan cheese is incredible. So the United States of course is great in the big cities there Canada I think Thailand is great, Vietnam is great, Australia’s great you know it’s not everywhere but you can certainly have amazing culinary experiences there.