Meet Cara Celeste West, a passionate digital nomad mom who shares her journey of traveling abroad with her family, aiming to inspire others. Starting as a food blogger in 2017, her love for travel led her to embrace a minimalist lifestyle, selling possessions and converting a camper van for exploration. Becoming a mom introduced unique challenges, like healthcare costs and lack of paid maternity leave, prompting her and her husband to adopt a digital nomad lifestyle for its affordability and flexibility. Together, they’ve ventured to family-friendly vegan destinations, sharing their insights.
In this podcast, Cara reveals her top five vegan-friendly family destinations, offering advice on accommodations, transportation, and child-friendly aspects like parks and welcoming communities. She also discusses managing travel costs and tips for a vegan digital nomad lifestyle as a family.
In this episode, we discuss:
- Cara Celeste West’s journey as a digital nomad mom and her transition from a food blogger to a minimalist traveler.
- The challenges she faced as a new mom in the United States, included expensive healthcare and lack of paid maternity leave.
- The decision to adopt a digital nomad lifestyle for its affordability and flexibility.
- Her experiences of traveling with her family, including her husband and toddler.
Learn more about what we talk about
- Discovering and sharing insights about family-friendly vegan destinations.
- Recommended accommodations, transportation options, and travel tips for each destination.
- The family-friendly aspects of the discussed locations, such as parks and welcoming communities.
- Insights into managing travel costs and strategies for making travel with kids more manageable.
Other World Vegan Travel content connected with this episode
- S2 Ep 11 | Become Digital Nomad 2021 | Sam Anthony
- # 8 | What a Digital Nomad Lifestyle Is Like? | Nicole Abramowski
- Unlocking Lisbon: A Vegan Traveler’s Guide to the City of Seven Hills | Tara Fisher Munoz | Ep 133
- Two Huge Vegan Budget Travel Tips | Lucy Elkin | Ep 102
- Safety Wing: A New Kind of Travel Insurance | Jared Schachter | Ep 84
- Travel to Inspire and Support Entrepreneurship | Kayleigh Goodman | Ep 73
- S 4 Ep 5 | My Adventures in Vegan Travel Blogging | Rebecca Gade Sawicki
Connect with Cara
Brighde: Hello Cara, welcome to the World Vegan Travel Podcast.
Cara: Thank you so much. I’m so excited to be here.
Brighde: Yes, me too, I’m so happy to have you here because we’re going to be talking about a topic that I don’t have much experience in at all because I don’t have children but we’re going to be talking about incredible, amazing destinations for vegan families with young children and we’re going to be talking all about that. You’re gonna share the incredible knowledge that you have gained over a long time. But before we talk about that, why don’t you tell us what it is that you do in the travel space?
Cara: Yeah, absolutely. So I am known as the Digital Nomad Mom on social media, but essentially what I do is I talk about traveling abroad as a family, the different challenges that we face, all the experiences we have, and hopefully inspire other families to get outside of the box and to travel and live abroad and expand their horizons.
Brighde: So why did you start traveling?
Cara: Good question. Well, I’ve always wanted to travel, but when I started my content creation journey, back in 2017, I was totally broke, and I didn’t have the money to travel, so I focused on being a food blogger at the time, but I really wanted to travel, and I just thought, how do people do this? How does one start to become a travel content creator when you have no money? It was so good though, because I learned so much over that time frame of being a food blogger and a content creator. Because so many of those things are transferable into the travel space, I learned so much about blogging and content creation, videography, and photography.
My husband and I back in 2020 said, okay, like we want to be serious about this. How can we start to travel? I had this crazy idea. Okay, we’re gonna get a van. We still didn’t have a lot of money, and we ended up looking around at vans, and we’re like, okay, we cannot afford a 55, 000 Ford Transit van, but what we can afford is a 10, 000 Ford Transit Connect. So, we actually converted this Transit Connect into a mini camper. We went and traveled. Then, probably two months after we converted it, I got pregnant, so we had to sell it.
Brighde: Oh, congratulations. Oh, no. Congratulations.
Cara: I know, it was like, we learned so much during that process, and I think it all worked out so well because we ended up selling our van to someone who was absolutely amazing and she’s still traveling in it today. Then we put travel on the back burner to get settled and nest and welcome our daughter. After becoming a mom, I felt so overwhelmed. And I started to realize the cracks in the system in the U. S. and just no paid maternity leave, the expensive hospital bills, the expensive childcare. I just remember looking at my husband after he was working crazy hours and we were never seeing each other.
I said it’s got to be better than this, life should not be this hard, it should not be this struggle. And I started finding people just organically on TikTok who were living abroad, and living a really soft life, just not hustling and struggling. And I thought, Okay, this is what I want, and so I just deep-dived into all the research on how to become a digital nomad, and I convinced my husband to downsize, we sold almost everything, put everything in storage that we had left, and we went. We’re doing it.
Brighde: So tell me about traveling with a toddler. You’ve been traveling now for seven months in several different places. So how is that? Because kids sometimes really relish routine. How do you navigate all of that?
Cara: Yeah, that’s a great question. So I feel like it’s been easier because we started young with her. We actually got married back in 2020, but we held off on our wedding because of the pandemic and we actually got married in Hawaii. We had our wedding in Oahu, Hawaii. She was only three months old at the time, and we did an eight-hour non-stop flight from Texas to Oahu.
So, she did fantastic. So we got her started very early, and that was actually one of the indications that we said, okay, we can do this. It’s not impossible to travel with a little one. In fact, I think it’s actually easier. You have to bring more stuff, but when they’re that small, like before, they’re so mobile.
You can just take them, throw them in a sling, and you get to board the plane first. There are all these pluses that come with traveling with a baby, you get priority, and the security line, all these things. It requires more planning, you’re taking more things with you. What I have learned that I think a lot of people forget is around the world people have babies, and if you don’t have something when you get there, there’s going to be diapers, there’s going to be food, whatever you need, you will still find it in that country. Like I remember over-preparing for our very first international flight to Portugal and thinking, Oh my gosh, we’ve got to pack all these things. And then when we got there, I was like, I could have just bought all of this stuff and saved all this time. It has helped a lot now that we’ve traveled quite a bit now, but, it has its challenges especially when you have to think about flying for a long period of time. Coming to Greece, we just did a, oh gosh, 12, 15 hour travel day, and a big chunk of that was we flew from Houston straight to Turkey.
So that was a really long flight, but one of the things that we love to do is we love to take night flights because we know we can tire her out all throughout the day. And then once we get on the plane, she’s ready to go to sleep. So those are actually the easier flights. It’s actually the morning flights that make it really tough because everybody’s trying to get those early morning flights. And it’s actually more crowded and more chaotic. But when we take the night flights, it’s pretty like a chill in the airports. There’s typically not a lot of people. It makes it much easier, actually.
Brighde: Wow, I can’t imagine, I see parents with young kids are just full of awe and respect for them because it’s not always easy, but I guess, you have these tricks that make things just a little bit easier. I’m sure the benefits of traveling with kids as well are numerous. Can you talk about those?
Cara: Yeah, absolutely. Well, I can’t say as much in the U. S. other than being able to board first normally, but in other countries, there are just so many different things that I’ve experienced, especially in Europe. So, one of those instances is, especially when we are traveling, they typically have a separate line at the airport for people traveling with children to go through security, which is super helpful because you don’t have to do this rush of you know, how it is at the airport. They’re like yelling at you, take off your shoes. Oh my gosh, it’s so much, it’s so stressful and you’re trying to rush. But in Europe, it’s been so nice because when we go through security, we typically get escorted to a separate line, it’s much shorter, we can take our time going through the security line, and they’re typically much nicer as well, so that’s been a great benefit. In Portugal, at least, I experienced this, when I was even waiting in line, just at normal stores, going shopping, we got priority in line to come check out first, or if we had to wait in line for a restaurant, we immediately were brought to the front of the line, and that was honestly, one of the first times that I realized I did not want to go back to live in the U. S., and just how much other countries value families and mothers and children and that family is something to be cherished and something that I think that we have forgotten about in the US. It’s been an incredibly eye-opening experience because I don’t think I would have experienced that if it had just been me and my husband, being able to travel as a mother truly showed me the differences of other cultures.
Brighde: Do you find that when you’re just walking around and going to restaurants and things like that, that people are maybe even more friendly to you because you have a child and they’ll maybe step in and help out a little bit as well? Because that’s certainly in Thailand, again, I don’t have children, you could ask, well, you can’t ask, it will just happen organically that people will offer to entertain your child, just play with them, or spend time with them. Which I think is very different from how it might be in North America.
Cara: Yeah, absolutely. Thank you so much for bringing that up. Yes. Even now in Greece, it’s so sweet. Like, every time we go to the grocery store, it’s the acknowledgment of the children. They’re so friendly and they want to hold her or just pinch her cheeks and kiss her, love on her. In the U. S., that would just be like, oh my gosh, what are you doing? don’t touch my baby.
Cara: But here it is so normal and they truly do, like they love kids. They cherish them. I absolutely love it. It’s been such an amazing experience and even just to see my daughter’s experience and her interactions with the local people, the smile it brings to her face and I can’t wait to know one day, even though people say, Oh, they won’t remember it. I’m like, but the feeling will be there. The feeling will be there. And that’s so important. And she’s made so many great connections, even with the company that we’ve been traveling with called Boundless Life.
The staff is just absolutely amazing. And she has made so many incredible connections with them. And most of them are local to the destinations that we travel to. So it’s been really cool to see that.
Brighde: Yeah, I think kids can learn so much about resilience and being flexible and maybe, not so shy around people just because they’ve had so much exposure to these things at an early part of their life.
Cara: So true.
Brighde: Yeah. Okay. Great. So let’s talk a little bit about the places that you have traveled as a vegan family and places that you can recommend. So I’m guessing this information will be valid for whether you’re thinking about taking a digital nomad lifestyle or whether you’re just on a one-week vacation, Right?
Brighde: Yeah. So why don’t you run us through what’s your first preferred destination as a vegan family?
Cara: Okay, so I have to say Lisbon, hands down. It was so much fun. There are so many restaurants. We could not get through them all. We had our favorites for sure, but Lisbon is like this beautiful vegan metropolis, and I didn’t even think that coming to Lisbon. I was honestly quite nervous because I really didn’t know what to think about going to Portugal. My husband and I were like, oh gosh, like I hope we’ll be able to find stuff, but we were thriving. And there are so many incredible cuisines and I think that’s because Lisbon has really become this tech hub. Because of that, it’s encouraging so much diversity. It’s got so many incredible international foods and there’s such a variety of vegan food as well, too, which is so interesting to see, so it’s not just vegan Portuguese food, you can find almost anything in a vegan form there. So we really, really loved Lisbon so much and it was super family-friendly.
There are so many different things that we could do as a family. Parks with bars, which is great. Let your kid go play on the playground and you can grab yourself some wine or beer. So definitely love that. Yeah, museums and it’s such an incredible place for families, whether you’re going for a short time or you’re going to be there for a while. Like we were there for three months. Actually, we were living in a town right outside of Lisbon called Sintra, which was very family-friendly as well, too. That’s where all of the Portuguese castles and palaces are. And it’s seriously such a fairytale town, because you’re looking at all these castles everywhere, and it really does feel like you’re living inside of a fairytale. And it’s also very vegan friendly there as well, too. Not as many options, of course, as Lisbon is a bigger city, but we were able to find vegan food there as well. It was very, very lovely. We really enjoyed our time there.
Brighde: Correct me if I’m wrong, but I think that Portugal is quite a good value place to go, so staying there for three months was quite reasonably priced in terms of accommodation and food. Did you have an AirBnB there?
Cara: So we actually stayed with Boundless Life there as well, so they do offer accommodations, so we got our accommodations through them, but I will say as far as the cost of living, I remember we went to this super nice restaurant and I think it’s called A026 Vegan Project, and it’s like fine dining experience and we had two drinks, entrees, appetizer, dessert. We had the whole work and we came to get our bill and it was 72 euros. We were like, oh my gosh, like we would have spent 120 dollars in the U. S. And it was like that everywhere we went. Like it was very affordable. Obviously, the cost of living is getting higher now with it becoming more of a digital nomad hub. But it’s very affordable for sure as far as the food goes.
Brighde: Mmm, Did you feel the need to have your own transportation when you were in Lisbon?
Cara: Lisbon was super easy to travel around because you could easily hop on the train. From Sintra, where we were living, it was only a 45-minute train ride into Lisbon, and it only cost us 2 dollars and 80 cents to get to and from. So, Super affordable, and even Uber. Uber is also widely available there, so we could easily get into an Uber, and get into the city for like 20 euros. So it was very easy to get around the metro as well too in Lisbon, very easy to navigate, and it was really great because Portugal has so many incredible places to go to, like Porto and Algarve. If you’re in Lisbon, you can easily just hop on a train from the main metro station, and you can be in Porto in two hours or down to the Algarve in two hours. So it made it so easy to travel around the country and actually get to see quite a bit of it. All the places are so different from each other. And I think that that’s one reason why we really loved Portugal because you got the coastline and then you’ve got the Douro Valley and then you’ve got the beautiful beaches of the Algarve. It’s so stunning. Next time we go, we really want to check out the Island of Madeira and the Azores as well.
Brighde: Wow. Okay. That’s so interesting. You’ve mentioned Boundless Life a couple of times. Would you mind sharing what this is about? I don’t think I understand it completely, but I feel like it might be a good stepping stone for digital nomad families who are thinking of taking the sleep. Am I Right?
Cara: Absolutely yes. So, Boundless Life has been such an incredible life-changing program for us. Essentially what they do is they curate slow travel packages for digital nomad families to essentially be able to have the opportunity to kind of dip their toes into what it’s like living abroad. It offers really great flexibility. So, for example, their cohorts are normally anywhere between four weeks long, which is their summer cohort, or three months long during the rest of the year, which is really great because a lot of people may only be able to do it once or twice a year and then they keep their home base in the States or in Canada. So it allows them to kind of go back and forth without necessarily having to commit to one place. They can also travel around because there are different locations. We’re here in Syros, Greece now, but in the earlier part of the year, we were in Portugal and then they also have a new location in Tuscany. They opened up this year and also Bali as well. So four locations. They’re going to be offering more locations next year, which is really exciting. It’s just been incredible because you’re not just doing it by yourself, which could be really lonely, you’re doing it with other families and you’re meeting like-minded families as well, who have taken the leap to live this lifestyle and our kids are able to all go to school with each other.
Boundless also offers boundless education. And that’s something that I really wanted as a mom, especially becoming a mom, I wanted to really put my daughter in an environment where she could thrive and where she also had agency over her own learning and Boundless offers that. They really provide that space for the kids to explore their own passions and interests, and that’s so special. One of the things really, really beautiful that we’ve seen, not just in our cohort this time, but also last time, being that our daughter is one of always typically the smallest kids at the school, is that how much the older kids look after the younger kids. It’s such a beautiful thing to see.
For me, the biggest reason why I wanted to do Boundless Life as well was because I wanted to know that I could send my child to school safely and I know that I couldn’t do that in the U S. This has just been such an incredible experience to know that she’s so loved and cared for by the staff. The locations where we are living are incredibly safe. It’s just been a wonderful experience and we’ve made some incredible lifelong friends through it as well.
Brighde: Oh, I love it. It sounds amazing. It just sounds like an incredible program. This idea of being able to move to a place and having like instant close friends and nearly like family. It must be really nice indeed. Alright, yeah, so do you have anything else to say about Lisbon or Lisbon at all?
Cara: Other than it is so amazing, I think it’s like one of my favorite cities in the world. I cannot wait to get back there.
Brighde: It’s funny that you are talking so highly about Lisbon. I was chatting with Tara for another episode of the podcast. She was talking about Lisbon as a destination. She has the blog Vegan Family
Brighde: Oh, do you know her?
Cara: yes, I know Tara. So funny, I called her our unofficial tour guide in Lisbon, because she really took us to all the local spots, like I don’t think if it had been for Tara, we would not have seen so many of the hidden gems of Lisbon.
Brighde: Well, I will say that after speaking to her and now speaking to you, Lisbon has definitely jumped up maybe like 50 spots on my places that I want to go and visit.
Cara: O God
Brighde: It seems so lovely. Wow. So, Lisbon is incredibly family-friendly, great vegan food. Love that. What’s another place that you think is an awesome destination for vegan families to travel to?
Cara: Oh, yes, so a place that we keep coming back to, and I think we will always continue to come back to, is Oahu, Hawaii. One of the reasons why, you know, it’s close to the US. I grew up in California so it’s a quick flight for me to get there. It’s such a spiritual place. Everybody talks about when you get off the plane in Hawaii, you just feel the energy, you feel the mana. It truly is somewhere that we go to ReCharge, we go to ReConnect, and the food is just incredible. It’s so fresh, and there’s so many incredible vegan restaurants. Because we keep coming back, we’ve made really good friends with the local business owners there who are vegan. It’s such a cool community that’s there too, and just so warm, so welcoming, and some of our favorite spots there on the island, we love. There’s a grocery store chain called Down to Earth. I call it as if Whole Foods was totally vegan and vegetarian like that’s what it is, and it is so good and we love it. They have this hot bar area and we always like to stock up on it. We’re always like, oh my gosh, we spent 100 dollars and we really should have every time, but it’s so good. And there’s at least, I think, three or four different chains on the island. And then the other place that we go to every time and we always make a date night out of it is going to Tane Sushi and it’s like a very high-end, all-vegan sushi spot.
They have the best Ramen, the most incredible sushi. So we definitely never go hungry out there in Hawaii, and I always recommend people, if they’re looking for something, like a honeymoon, but close to the U. S., they don’t want to go too, too far, I think Oahu is such an incredible place, because there’s so many Incredible places to go hiking, and so many outdoor activities, and the Turtle Beach. I love it. We definitely will go back every single year.
Brighde: Are there any kind of excursions or activities that are especially family-friendly, of course, the beach, that’s always going to be a winner with little kids.
Cara: Yes, absolutely. I would say, yes, going to the beach, we really love Kualoa Ranch, not all of those are small and kid-friendly, but definitely family-friendly, and we actually got married there. It’s actually where they filmed Jurassic Park, and 50 First Dates, it is one of the most stunning places I’ve ever seen. It’s so beautiful and they’ve got plenty of excursions. My husband and I, before we had our daughter, we did the ATV tour there. We basically, did it all throughout the valleys there.
Brighde: Sorry I don’t know, ATB tour?
Cara: Oh, ATVs.
Brighde: All-Terrain Vehicles, okay got it.
Cara: Yeah, so we did the ATV tours there, but they also have a really cool bus tour that takes you to all of the different movie sets and things like that. For the smaller kids, we can do zip lining there as well. It’s such a cool experience. I always tell people, if you’re going to go to Oahu, like, definitely book some sort of tour at Kualoa Ranch.
Brighde: Wow, okay, that’s a great recommendation. And how do you get around when you are in Hawaii? And is it reasonably priced for accommodation and things like that?
Cara: If you’re staying in Waikiki, yes, you can typically find some pretty reasonable accommodations. I always like to use Airbnb, and that’s typically because we’re staying for a longer period of time. So, I try to find a vacation rental whenever I can because it just makes things a lot easier, especially because things are expensive in Hawaii. So we do like to have some sort of vacation rental so we can cook our food most of the time. That just makes things a lot easier. Then as far as getting around, I definitely recommend getting a rental car, just because of the island, even though it’s not huge. It does take an hour to get from Waikiki down over to the North Shore, and you definitely want to go to the North Shore to see, get the shaved ice, and see the turtles on the beach. It’s just such a beautiful destination, and so definitely having a rental car just gives you the ease and flexibility, but I will say what gets tough is the parking, because parking can be really expensive in Waikiki, so it’s actually not the rental car that adds up on the cost, it can be the parking.
Brighde: wow. Interesting. I know that Hawaii is famous for beautiful landscapes and mountains and things like that. Is that quite accessible?
Cara: Absolutely. In Oahu at least, there is the Botanical Garden and it’s so stunning. It’s super nice because you can just go and you can pack a lunch. There are plenty of spots where you can have a picnic and you can also go on tour through the Botanical Gardens and there’s a really beautiful koi fish pond there. It’s so beautiful and it’s like one of our favorite places to go. Then you’re kids can just run around uninhibited.
Brighde: I love it. I love it. All right. What’s another one of your recommendations for a very friendly place for vegan families?
Cara: Yeah. We went to Belize this summer and we really loved staying at the Sleeping Giant Rainforest Lodge. It was one of the most magical stays and I kept pinching myself and telling my husband, I wish we could stay longer because I had such a great time there. I will say Belize was tough as far as vegan options because it was really just, like, carbs. We ate rice, beans, these things that are locally called fried jacks, which is like a fried donut, like fried dough basically, but just no glaze, so like we ate a ton of those because they’re just naturally vegan on their own and lots of fruit, but it was really hard. I will say the Rainforest Lodge at Sleeping Giant was incredible because they had a separate vegan menu. The food was excellent and it was so nice because it was the first place we stayed that we’re like, oh my gosh, we don’t have to figure out what to make. We just have a dedicated menu and we can order straight from there. The staff was just so attentive and so welcoming and they have really great excursions there as well too.
So we did the cave tubing, which was really great. We got to know some interesting facts about the Maya culture there, in the cave. We wanted to do it but it was a little too far for us to do it at the time, but the lodge also offers tours of the Mayan ruins, which is like an hour and a half away from the actual hotel itself, so definitely next time we go, I want to go do that.
But there’s just so much beautiful history in that area and the lodge itself is just nestled into the rainforest and when you go and you’re staying there, you actually don’t see the buildings, so it’s really cool because you just feel like you’re walking through the rainforest and then you just stumble upon these little cottages. It was such a magical experience, I cannot wait to go back. I cannot recommend it enough for families because there’s so much to do, you can go kayaking on the river there. There are so many hikes around and there are so many excursions that the hotel offers a beautiful vegan menu. They treat you like royalty when you go there.
Brighde: Wow, yes, I’m really excited to hear about that. It’s not a country, a lot of people know that much about. I remember when I was listening to my geography teacher, like when I was still at school, and she had spent lots of time in Belize, and she thought it was really lovely. I’m not surprised you called it family-friendly, because Costa Rica, which is a place where we’re hoping to do our first vegan family group tour, in, yeah. It’ll probably end up being in 2025, I think. We’re going there to scout, but I’ve heard that Costa Rica is incredibly family-friendly as well, there are just so many activities that kids and adults would be really interested in. So, yeah, I’m not surprised Belize is a similar part of the world, that it would also be like that.
Cara: Very much that same vibe, the locals really love the kids and they’re so warm and welcoming and very friendly, we really enjoyed our time there in Belize. Like I said, it was tough as far as being vegan, but the beauty, the atmosphere, the water. Oh, just stunning.
Brighde: Oh, wonderful. Definite recommendation. Where’s next?
Cara: So, we’re actually thinking about heading down to Mexico for the wintertime. We’ll be going back home to see our family for the holidays and then escaping the Texas winter. Cause we’ve been told that it should be quite cold this year. So we are thinking about heading down to Mexico, potentially Baja California. Because we’ve got some friends that are going down there as well, so that’ll be really cool. And we’ve been wanting to get down to Mexico really bad. So I think that we’re gonna head down there and hopefully we will be back on this side of the world again in the spring.
Brighde: I love it. Okay great. About Mexico, I have never been, but I really want to go after we had a guest on our podcast a while ago now, Eddie Garza, during the podcast, he gave an audio food tour of Mexico through a vegan lens and it was so, so interesting. It just sounds like Mexican food can be very friendly and I just can’t wait to go. Oh my goodness.
Cara: Yes, I’ve heard incredible things, too, about Mexico City, so we really want to go spend at least, a little getaway there and do, like, a whole vegan food tour while we’re there.
Brighde: for sure. Now, you’ve also spent some time in Italy as well as a family. Do you think that’s vegan and family-friendly?
Cara: yes, absolutely. So, Italy, I was super nervous because when I went to Italy back in 2015, I was not vegan. So, I was worried going back that I would not have a good time because it’s the first thing you think about is the food. And I was actually pleasantly surprised, especially in Rome. I think that one of the things I always try to tell people if they’re traveling as a vegan, try to go to the larger metropolitan cities because you’re typically going to find, vegan restaurants there.
It gets harder the further away you move and you go into more rural destinations, but the larger metropolitan cities will typically have quite a bit of option. I really loved this one particular restaurant in Rome called Rifugio Romano, and they recently just went totally vegan.
Brighde: I heard that too. It was so exciting.
Cara: It’s seriously one of the top ten meals of my life was at Rifugio Romano. It was so good! We had pizza, we had pasta, and we had these fried dough balls with vegan Nutella on them for dessert. Oh my gosh, everything was spectacular. Florence was also very vegan-friendly. So we didn’t have any issues there. I really loved it. One of the things I tell people too, is if they’re worried about going to Italy as a vegan. I’m a luxury travel concierge and I typically service my clients for Tuscany. One of the things I have learned from just dealing with trip planning and also going there myself is that Italians want you to have a good experience. So even if you have a dietary restriction or an allergy, they will go out of their way to make sure that you can enjoy the food. That’s what really surprised me because they almost saw it as like a challenge or they’re like, Oh, no worries. Like I can make you something very special.
So when I was there on business we had a chef come cook us a like four-course meal and we also did a cooking class and we also went to go do a wine tasting as well too at the restaurant. When I told him I was vegan, he totally spoiled me, like, he kept bringing out little things for me to try, and the food was so good. Every restaurant we went to, if I said, oh, I’m vegan, and they were like, no worries, we will make you something special. Because they care about your experience, and so, I always tell people not to be afraid, even in the most rural places, don’t be afraid in Italy, because they want to make sure that you leave their restaurant and that you have a good experience.
Brighde: Exactly. Vegetables make up such a huge part of Italian cuisine, I think. They’re not like an afterthought. They really can be a big part of the meal and the quality of produce is so good. So, it doesn’t surprise me that chefs can cook vegetables really, really well.
Cara: yes. Oh, my meals were so good there. I didn’t get a chance to go there, but there is an all-vegan bed and breakfast in Tuscany, too. So that’s on my list next time we’re there.
Brighde: There’s a few I think, but there’s one, there’s a hotel, Agrivilla I Pini.
Cara: Yes, that’s the one.
Brighde: So that’s actually where we take our group tours, to the Agrivilla I Pini, and we’ve been there three times now, and we’ve got three trips planned there for next year as well. And yes, you should definitely go, it’s awesome. Oh my gosh. I just want to touch on as well, the Rifugio Romano is so interesting because not only is it now completely vegan, but the menu is enormous.
Cara: It has so many options to choose from, which is not your typical experience when you’re there in Italy, you may have like a few things, but man, do they spoil you.
Brighde: Have you been traveling with your daughter?
Cara: Yes. Mm hmm.
Brighde: How was that?
Cara: Yeah. People are just so kind. It was so funny. We went on a tour of the Vatican. I had toured it before when I went back in 2015, but my husband, he’s from a small town in Texas. He’d never been outside the country as far as going to Europe. I wanted him to experience it, and yeah, everybody was so nice. I was like, oh gosh, they’re going to see our child, and they’re going to be like, oh no, we’re on a tour with a baby. But they were so kind and she did so well throughout the tour. I will say, the thing that’s probably the hardest about traveling with a baby is, like, what do you bring?
I always tell people, if you can get a baby carrier, throw your baby in that baby carrier because it can be really tough navigating the streets and stuff, the cobbled stone streets, and the stairs and everything there with a stroller. So just having the baby carrier makes things so much easier.
And then, of course, you can travel on the train, you don’t need a car seat, so you can travel via the train super fast and go from city to city. It just makes things so much easier. So we really loved our time there in Italy as well, too, as a family.
Brighde: This is a little bit off-topic, when you’re choosing a destination that you’re going to as a family, do you deliberately consider the climate that it’s going to be at that time of year as a family? Because my last visit to Rome was in the middle of summer and it was really, really hot, unbearably.
Cara: Yes, that is something we’re always looking at, so we try to chase the weather as much as possible, so we’re always looking for, if it’s 70s weather, 80s weather, which is why we’re in Greece now, because it’s like perfect, it’s not too, too hot. I don’t know how people do it in the summertime here, because we’re walking around in September and now in October I’m like, the sun is still pretty intense here, but yes, we definitely do try to chase the weather as much as possible and stay in that 70 to 80-degree weather, makes it a lot easier.
Brighde: Oh, it does. It’s just so exhausting when you travel in that incredible heat and I can imagine with little kids as well, it would be really, really hard. Okay. So Italy. I’m not surprised you think that’s a great destination for a vegan family. It’s really lovely and I think people love kids as well. So, kids are really welcome in restaurants, and yeah, just amazing.
Cara: yes, that’s so true about being welcomed in restaurants, like they make them a part of the experience too, they include them, and I think that’s so special.
Brighde: Yeah, for sure. Do you have any other recommendations for great vegan family-friendly places?
Cara: Oh, gosh, now that I’m in Greece, we really loved Athens, actually. Even now where we’re in Syros, it’s been really amazing. This is more of a local feel than some of the other more popular islands like Mykonos and Santorini. It’s great because you kind of got this mixture of both. So you have the tourism side right as soon as you get off the port, there’s a lot of like restaurants and shops and things like that, but it’s super, super local as well, too, because it’s actually the capital of the Cyclades.
So you’ve got this local feel as well, and it’s really cool because there’s this square in the main city center of the island. It’s really lovely because at night time, it’s all the families just come out and the kids are just playing all throughout the square. And I love it because especially on the weekends, on Fridays and Saturday nights, the kids, no matter what age, they’re just out playing and the parents are having dinner and drinks and the kids are so safe. It’s such a safe island. Kids walk around 8, 9, 10 alone at night by themselves. It’s so crazy to see someone coming from the US, but it’s so normal here and it’s just so lovely because yeah I can walk home alone at night. My daughter can just run around in the square. It’s such a community, it’s so beautiful. And we’ve actually been really surprised to see how many vegan options are here because we knew we’d find them in Athens, being that it’s a bigger, larger city and the options there are lovely as well.
But I was really surprised to see how vegan-friendly the island of Syros was. A lot of the restaurants have clearly labeled vegan items on the menu. There’s also a Lidl here in town, too, which is actually, like a German grocery store. And so, they have a ton of vegan stuff inside the store for us to cook. We haven’t had any trouble finding tofu. It’s been really nice. I was a little nervous coming here because I wasn’t sure what we would expect, but yeah, it’s another place where we have had no problems at all being vegan.
Brighde: Yeah, I really think that Europe has just come on leaps and bounds in the past five years or so, and even in the most unvegan-friendly place, for example, I was just in the Dordogne, where there is like one vegan little restaurant in the whole huge region, but the supermarkets, they have so much stuff.
So if you can self-cater, or if you are happy to do a lot of picnicking. You can eat incredibly well. They have all of the vegan meats, they have the cheeses, they have yogurts, they have so much stuff. You can eat well anywhere in Europe as long as you’re self-catering. Maybe not in restaurants everywhere, but it doesn’t surprise me that Europe has just made such progress in recent days.
Cara: Yes, absolutely.
Brighde: So how long will you be in Greece after now?
Cara: We did the three-month cohort with Boundless Life, so we will be here until the end of November.
Brighde: Okay, that is amazing. All right, so thank you so much, Cara, for sharing these amazing destinations to travel as a vegan family. I want to do like a little quickfire round. Is that ok?
Cara: Okay, yes, absolutely.
Brighde: All right. So what country that you’ve traveled to so far has surprised you the most?
Cara: I would say Portugal and I think it’s because I didn’t know what to expect, and I was so blown away by how much I loved it, and I think the reason for that was the people. I didn’t realize how incredibly, genuinely kind they were.
Brighde: Okay. What country have you enjoyed the least?
Cara: Oh, I would have to say Belize because of the vegan options.
Brighde: Ah, okay, so, from a vegan food perspective, it’s the least
Cara: Yeah, I’m a foodie and so if I can’t eat well, I’m not having fun.
Brighde: I love it. And what’s the most challenging thing about traveling as a family?
Cara: Oh gosh, the tantrums now. We have entered that stage now, and it can be really tough because you just never know what mood.
Brighde: Yeah, you’re gonna be in.
Cara: Especially travel sometimes, it can be out of your hands, and if you got a flight delay, or your flight’s been canceled, it’s trying to figure out how to keep them occupied, keep them entertained. So it can be hard, especially when it’s been a long travel day, and you’re tired, but you still have to entertain them and keep them happy.
Brighde: Of course. And what are some of your favorite places that you’ve ever eaten around the world?
Cara: yes, absolutely. So, the first place that comes to mind is in Lisbon, there’s this place called Kong, and I really love it because they do vegan versions of Portuguese food, and it’s really hard to actually find a vegan version of the Portuguese traditional cuisine. And so I really love that because I was worried I was going to miss out on Portuguese cuisine because people say it’s so good.
They just do an absolutely phenomenal job at the textures. They have this one, and I can’t remember what it’s called, but it’s a fish dish. That’s typically served in Portugal and they do a vegan version of it with like, I think some sort of mushroom, and it is so close to what fish tastes like.
It was crazy and it was so good. They did it so excellently and they also made these beautiful croquettes as well and we loved that restaurant. Here in Greece, we also went to another restaurant called Holy Llama. I have to say, they’re my favorite for the desserts and the pastries, the pastries are insane. They looked so beautiful, and everything we had was just absolutely incredible. They do primarily like a brunch menu, so I can’t recommend them enough. We did the Acropolis tour and then we went straight after and did brunch at Holy Lama, which was so good because it’s within walking distance of the Acropolis.
That place was really, really good as well. And then, of course, our favorite place that we keep going back to in Oahu is Tane, vegan sushi. We just know every time we go there, we’re like, we’re going to spend 200 dollars. Like, we deserve it. We’re treating ourselves.
Brighde: I love it. So Cara, thank you so much for taking the time. I know it’s the evening now in Greece, so thank you so much for taking the time to chat with us and teach our listeners a little bit about Digital Nomad as a family and some great destinations for people to check out.
Before we say goodbye, Would you mind sharing a little bit about what it is that you offer and how people can follow you and get to know you more?
Cara: Absolutely. Thanks so much for asking. You can find me on TikTok and Instagram. It’s just my name at Cara Celeste West and I document all of our travels and our experiences there. If anybody wants to know more about becoming a digital nomad, I also offer consultations on how to move abroad and find remote work, and I also offer a course now, which has been so cool to create for people. It’s all about how to become a digital nomad starting from zero, how to find a remote job, making multiple streams of income for yourself, and all of the logistics that go into being a digital nomad, like finding travel health insurance, what’s the best phone plan, and all of those fun things you don’t think about until you’re actually doing it, and you go, oh I guess I need to access my money abroad. How do I do that? So all of the mistakes and things that I have learned and researched along the way on our journey, I want to share that with others so that it helps them get to their end goal quicker.
Brighde: I love that. Yes. So listeners, if you’re interested in taking the plunge, it would be definitely worthwhile. I’m sure to contact Cara for a consultation or some sort of program to help navigate this tricky thing. It’s not just going to another country, it’s also tying up loose ends back home as well and making sure all of that’s organized, taxes and keeping stuff in storage and things like that. I think it can be really helpful to talk with someone who’s had experience with that to just navigate that a little bit more smoothly. Cara, thank you so much for taking the time to be on the podcast and enjoy the rest of your time in Greece.
Cara: Oh, thank you so much. It’s been an absolute pleasure, and thank you for having me on.
Brighde: Oh, you’re welcome.