In today’s episode, we are talking to Faik Bouhrik The Vegan Stay: The NEW Platform Connecting Vegans and Sanctuaries. Instagram showed me one of the first posts from The Vegan Stay. When I saw the post I knew that this was someone that I wanted to talk to. I reached out to Faik to ask if he’d like to be on the podcast and he said that he did and he kindly found the time during the launch of the platform to have a chat with me. By the time you listen to this podcast, the platform will be a few weeks old, but I have high hopes for it and personally, I am really excited about it because when I travel, I love to visit or even better, stay in sanctuaries and as someone who researches and looks for sanctuaries for our trips it is quite hard to do this, especially when it is a small sanctuary, is in a different language or perhaps doesn’t have a web presence so this is answering a real need!
We talk about:
- Faik’s skillset and how he came up with the idea for The Vegan Stay
- The hybrid non-profit / business model
- How he partners with sanctuaries
- How it is similar to other apps and how it is different (part Airbnb and part aBillion)
Learn more about what we talk about
- Animal Save Sanctuary
- Peanuts Wellbeing Sanctuary
- The Black Sheep Animal Sanctuary
- Rowdy Girl Sanctuary
Other World Vegan Travel content connected with this episode
- Is it a sanctuary? How to vet animal sanctuaries when traveling the world
- Nine Best Tips For Vegan Travel Anywhere
- #16 | Vegan Accommodation Analysis | Anna: My Travel Scrapbook
- Review of Orestes Hütte: 100% Vegan Mountain Refuge in the Aosta Valley, Italy
Connect with Faik
Brighde: Hello. Faik thank you so much for joining me on the World Vegan Travel Podcast.
Faik: Thank you very much for inviting me, Brighde. I have been looking forward, to this all week.
Brighde: Great. Well, I don’t know, how it happened, how it came to be, but I managed to stumble across on Instagram, one of the first-ever posts that you have made. And that’s not to say that you did this post a long time ago. It’s a new account. It’s a new concept, a new thing that you are doing. And I’m so excited because I do think the listeners of this podcast are going to be so excited to get in, on this new idea early on.
I know that must sound very mysterious to everyone listening. Faik, but why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself and what you’re doing in the space, then we’ll dig more into The Vegan Stay.
Faik: Absolutely. So my full name is, Faik Bouhrik. I live in Sacramento, California. I am originally from Algeria. I came to the United States 20 years ago, to attend college, and then I stayed. Right now I teach physics and mathematics here at a small private college in the Sacramento area.
I do research in astrophysics at UC Davis. I research cosmology, which is the physics of the universe at the largest of scales. I actually, in particular research galaxy clusters, their interactions, and what they can tell us about dark matter and its properties.
I became vegetarian as soon as I came to the United States. And as soon as I became familiar with the idea. And I did it actually for animals, from the very start. And I thought being vegetarian was all I needed to do, in order not to harm animals. You know, I bought into the myth of the happy cow and the humanely raised chicken.
And, I convinced myself. I said; Hey, well, animals have been around humans for a long time. And some of them co-evolved with humans. I mean, all domestic animals, have been quite a driving force in that evolution. And perhaps they have been in ours as well. And so I said, this has been how it has been done for a long time.
So what’s the harm there? But then I came, to realize four years ago that the type of relationship that we human beings have had, with animals for thousands of years has mutated. This intense animal farming is, really a mutation earlier. I would say more codependent relationships with our animals.
And even there, I mean, there are things to be said, but still, there is certainly a huge difference that has happened particularly in this century. And just the idea of exploiting animals, just simply because they are weaker and we can overpower them. It just did not sit with my conscience. I just cannot take it.
And I became vegan and an animal rights activist on the same day. That was four years ago. And a very dear friend of mine, Linda Middlesworth, lives here in Sacramento and she has been a vegan and animal rights activist for 30 years. And now she’s almost 80 and her health is just so amazing.
And so, we used to drive to these events organized by Animal Save. We go and give water to pigs, right before they enter slaughterhouses. Afterward, I looked for sanctuaries to volunteer and I was volunteering and it has been, and in fact, I’m back to it after COVID. And I had been going frequently recently to Animal Place here in Cross Valley California, which is one of the largest and oldest sanctuaries in the country. And I got to interact with animals, a lot more.
And firsthand, I came to understand the struggles that these sanctuaries go through and how hard it is for them to secure funds. How constantly, they have to struggle because usually this line of work, attracts people with immense empathy. And in my experience, it has been mostly women and couples, but I have not yet met a single man running a sanctuary, but I have run into single women running sanctuaries.
It’s just a pattern I have noticed. And I think what this says, is something also about gender justice. It’s lots of issues, but I would like to focus on the central one now, and then we could, can elaborate on the new ones later. So then I realized that this idea of soliciting donations all the time does not usually arise enough funds and is incredibly resource-intensive.
So, then I started thinking, can I contribute? What is it about myself that I can do? And I can do well, and that can allow me to contribute something. And, before that, I have never even remotely considered the idea of becoming an entrepreneur one day. So I went into becoming an entrepreneur to realize this idea, which I initially conceived as a nonprofit because I was, you know, let’s create a nonprofit, but then realized eventually again learning experience, it’s neither the appropriate legal structure nor would it allow me to generate the resources that I need for this particular project. So I settled for a hybrid. So even for The Vegan Stay. And it’s part of a bigger vision as a company, but the way I present it and created it and think about it, I think of it as a hybrid charity and business. So it’s somewhere in the middle and it tries to integrate the best aspects of both, to achieve its aims.
Brighde: Thanks for that explanation. So what is The Vegan Stay? You’ve talked about, how it’s about, helping out sanctuaries, somehow with raising revenue, which then of course supports the animals that they’re caring for.
So what is it that you’ve created? That’s going to try to solve this or help solve this constant problem for sanctuaries.
Faik: Absolutely. So. There is that problem that they just stated. And there is another problem that on the surface seems unrelated. That is, usually the type of challenge that vegans face when they travel, finding all vegan accommodations, from food to residents, or lodging.
And all of that. Well, perhaps this can be solved, but I can solve it, in a way that both of these problems create a synergy. That’s going to inform, each aspect of this relationship informs the other. And how do I help sanctuaries? Many ways. So the first and fundamental way. One is that I invite sanctuaries to partner with The Vegan Stay, which means that one is a sanctuary.
That satisfies two basic criteria. Number one is that it is not for profit. Number two, it has some kind of outreach program of some kind that is actively engaged in educating the public about the need to treat animals for the sentient beings they are. So what does it mean? They partner with us.
So once we partner with this sanctuary. If the sanctuary has a bed and breakfast, they can list it on The Vegan Stay. In addition to getting 100% of the rental, of course, The Vegan Stay donates 100% of the service fee collected for them. So for example, I give example, Airbnb will collect a basic service fee that Airbnb keeps, which is about 13.5% plus a few more things.
In this case, if it is a sanctuary, The Vegan Stay does not take the money, but gives it to a sanctuary, as a contribution. And, if the bed and breakfast is not operated by a sanctuary but operated by somebody and that person chooses a particular sanctuary too, as they favor sanctuary or the sanctuary with which they are affiliated, The Vegan Stay donates 50% of the service fee to that sanctuary.
So sanctuary makes more than The Vegan Stay, which is perfect. And that’s, that’s exactly the vision. So this allows people in the community, to support the sanctuary in this indirect way. So if somebody already has a bed and breakfast and wants to list it on some platform. Listing it on The Vegan Stay allows them to have this additional way of supporting their sanctuary.
So the sanctuary can benefit from its bed and breakfast, from the extra fee that we give to them. And from the fees that other people donate to them. So in the first three months, we’re gonna be slightly different because we are working on the infrastructure as we go.
For right now this will take effect on January 1st, 2023. But for now, this extra money that we get the 50% from the extra or non-vegan, or we call them vegan, not non-vegan, non-sanctuary we call them. A Vegan Stay means the bed and breakfast is owned by a person, sanctuary stay means it’s owned by a sanctuary.
So 50% that comes from service fees comes from vegan sanctuaries. We get to distribute to sanctuaries ourselves for now based on size and location and need. Until the start of the year, then it’ll automatically be added to each person’s provider and they will have that choice. And if some person does not have a sanctuary, they are affiliated with, we will give them a list of sanctuaries that require membership and support.
So that’s another way of logistically supporting sanctuaries. And that being said, we are also would be adding soon I’m talking about the next two, or three months. We will be adding events. We will be adding experiences. We’ll be adding travel packages. So The Vegan Stay is an umbrella, it’s more than just, beds and breakfasts and all these additional components. The contributions we make to sanctuaries go exactly on the same principle. So there will be a variety stream of opportunities for these sanctuaries to be able to raise money with the hope that this frees them, or at least partially if not fully, at least partially, to focus on what they were created to focus on more, which is saving lives, caring for animals and educating the public about it.
Brighde: As you were talking about that I was thinking about apps, websites, and programs that have different aspects of what you are talking about and you’ve brought them all into one. Like on one hand, it reminds me of Airbnb because, you’ve got that fee, that the people who list their homes, have to pay.
And of course, that goes through Airbnb for lots of things, but it reminds me of a billion as well. And a billion is one of these websites where every time the user uses it, a dollar goes to a sanctuary or an organization. It is like a mixture of all of these different things.
So right now, like you launched this week. I reached out to you before you had even launched. What is it that people can do right now? If they go to the website?
Faik: What they can do at the moment, is they can list their vegan stays or sanctuary stays. And if it is a sanctuary, Of course, we have to prove all stays, but with sanctuaries, we would like to have a conversation. And in fact, we are going to formalize the process or the website so they can apply directly.
But for now, because the volume is not too high, I get to meet with the sanctuary founders, and myself and have a conversation with them. That’s exactly what they would be doing this afternoon. So what can people do, is create a profile if they have a stay, they can list it. If they are a sanctuary and they would like to partner with us just contact me and I would love to talk to them. They can find all that information on our website and also contact me I can put my, email out there and I have been doing that through social media. It is just Faik.
And you could see my name on the screen, [email protected] and I would be very happy to answer any questions or concerns. I would be very happy to guide them as to what needs to be done. But the website itself is built in such a way that it is very user friendly and it is very easy for people to list their stays and to be able to participate. One more thing that I just want to say about Airbnb. This was inspired by Airbnb. At least Airbnb is original conception, you know, that’s less commercial and more communal but doesn’t matter. It is still Airbnb.
I have heard about a billion only recently after I have already conceived the idea and started executing it. And somebody the same person that introduced me to Trevor Banergy, who’s an amazing business coach, based in the UK has helped me execute this vision. So the same person who introduced me through a friend talked to Trevor, who’s the one telling me a billion because of my interest in helping sanctuaries. He said, oh, a billion is doing this. You could probably talk with them, but Airbnb is central to the inspiration for this. Yeah.
Brighde: So definitely, listeners can certainly contact, if they have friends who have vegan Airbnbs or maybe they’re volunteering at sanctuaries and maybe they want to let sanctuaries know that Vegan Stay exists with, even if they don’t already have accommodations set up, maybe they’re thinking about it.
They’re knowing that such a platform is coming to pass, would be maybe motivation for them to want to do it. But I guess I’m really curious from the traveler’s perspective. So if I’m wanting to travel right now, what will I see when I go to the website and maybe whether it’s not just now, maybe in the next year or so? What might people expect to be able to do and find and experience on the website and their experience, on their stay?
Faik: Absolutely. So as you go to the website, on the top, that is a search engine. For right now, what you can do, you could see all the vegan stays. And the sanctuary stays that is, that has already been listed with us. You could either look for all of them, by pressing on the search icon or enter the location and exactly what you’re looking for, in the dates.
And it will tell you what’s available under the search criteria we have just started. So just a couple of days ago, we already have stays in a few countries. It’s just about 10 or so, but quite a few people have contacted me this week. And there is a logistical detail that we will be working on and solving over the next two days, which is trying to sync our calendar and make it able to communicate with Airbnb and older platforms’ calendars so that hosts don’t have to manage multiple platforms at the same time. And that is doable. And we have a very talented web designer. Nikita Boominathan and she’s incredibly dedicated. She’s also a very, very passionate animal rights advocate.
So she’s working on that right now. And in the next few days, people will be able to do that. So, which means that if somebody just wants to try it out, without having to lose that already established momentum in Airbnb or any other platform. Even if they can just use it as an additional one or exclusively, perhaps we are not there yet, because it’s gonna take some time for us to build momentum.
But certainly, they will have that option in the next few days. Let’s say three months, you would be able to see external blogs because we are inviting external bloggers, who travel extensively. And so what we do is that we ask them to repost that content on the website. So that gives us content and it’ll give them additional exposure.
So they will use the same content that they have in their blocks and their websites. And they put it, so we hope to have vegan London, vegan New York, vegan Tokyo, and all the major cities until we spread to the other ones. And so when somebody goes there, they would have an idea about not just accommodations and be able to search for them, but extensive information about good restaurants, where to go, and itineraries. And also there will be travel packages. Because there are different companies that, that have, cruises and all kinds of things that are vegan, but they’re all over the place.
And we hope to bring all of that in one place. And capitalize on that power to allow vegan travelers and event attendees, to be able to find it all in one place at the same time, helping sanctuaries as I do that and helping sanctuaries in a very meaningful way as I have described earlier.
Brighde: Fantastic. So as a traveler, if I go onto your website and I explore the world, I happen to be looking at the website right now and I can see you have many listings. 1, 2, 3, 4 different continents, which is amazing.
I’m sure it’s just going to continue like that right now, but can you specify whether when people stay at these sanctuaries, are they volunteering? Or are they just staying at a place that happens to be a sanctuary and maybe they might be able to little, get a little guided visit or behind-the-scenes tour? Or do they have to clean out the pigpens?
Faik: No, they don’t. This is strictly a bed and breakfast, just happened to be owned by a sanctuary and operated by the sanctuary, for the benefit of the sanctuary. So they just stay there. Later tours will be added and their experiences, but it’s completely separate.
And also they can explore the sanctuary directly and what else they can do, but just, have a place to stay. And, on the page for each sanctuary, they explain what else is there. So there’s information there for each page like for example The Peanuts Wellbeing Sanctuary right outside Sydney. So the host cooks meals for the guests. So certain things come with the accommodation and that should be all listed, but this is not a volunteer program. This is just staying. It just happened to be a bed and breakfast that is at the sanctuary. The other components are independent.
Brighde: I cannot tell you how much I love this idea. I love the fact that if I travel and I stay there, not only am I going to be supporting these sanctuaries, but also I’m gonna be supporting a vegan business, not with the sanctuaries, but with the other places, I’m gonna be supporting vegans who have a bed and breakfast or have some sort of stay.
And then I really love this idea that the revenue that they create, is not gonna be used to exploit animals either.
So I just think this is great. Where do you see, The Vegan Stay being in 1 year, 5 years, or 10 years?
Faik: That is a very good question. And in fact, we are working towards getting it to that place. And considering the excitement, I have been receiving. And in fact, there are quite a few people, who contacted me and said they’re just waiting for the calendar syncing or platform integration. So they would be able to host, in addition to hosting at other platforms for the time being, and the people who have accommodations, very exciting things that they have been following. I could see that they are following our page. They just want to learn a little bit more because it’s completely new. Very understandable.
They just, okay. We love the idea. But give us some time just so that we could learn, and see what’s going on. And so in a year, I would expect the coverage to be quite more extensive because as I said, we just started and for now we have four sanctuaries. We have five animal places, not visible only because they haven’t reopened after COVID not yet, but they have a guest house that’s listed already.
There are some vegan stays, which are bed and breakfasts at people’s houses. So in a year, I would expect this to be a lot more extensive and there will be a very active blogging component. And this is like external bloggers and there will be other components for events and travel packages and experiences that all of that should be added, within a year.
And it would be added in phases. So some of the things would be lagging behind other ones, and that is very natural. So it’s just how it is with the business it just takes time. But I do expect there will be quite a bit of activity and I expect the number of sanctuaries we will be working with directly and making a meaningful impact on to be more than 250. Because we have barely started and we have connections with already about 15 centuries. Yeah, 15 sanctuaries in eight countries already and this is just barely starting so that alone in a year. Once we get all of this working, our goal is, is to try to support as many sanctuaries as we can in any logistical, and financial ways.
And just to make it very clear to sanctuaries, it will not be several sanctuaries competing for a limited income as we come as a community, and as we can tap into all of that together, each sanctuary will be supported independently. It is not a certain amount and they will not be competing against each other. And in fact, we will be complimenting each other and I would love to have this as a venue for sanctuaries, from all over the world to come and learn about each other’s experiences and to find support because sanctuaries range from micro sanctuaries to very, very large sanctuaries with huge support and resources to sanctuaries that are barely starting.
And I think it would be great to have that emotional and logistic and financial support, for us to come as a community. Particularly that we are all aiming at creating awareness of animal beings as fully sentient beings. And I think this is something that is incredibly, incredibly important, not just for the sake of animals, which I think is very, very worthy causing itself.
But I think even for the sake of humanity. We have to release ourselves from this bondage. The oppressor is in a different kind of bondage, but it is bondage. I would love to in any way I can, tailor this mission, to eat away at that. And I don’t think this world is gonna know peace without it.
Brighde: I agree, and I love what you’re talking about. Something that just bubbled up when you were saying just before about how all sanctuaries will be able to benefit from this, it made me think about how more successful some sanctuaries are than others in terms of fundraising, even for like day visits or bed and breakfast stays, for example, just because of where they’re located. If they’re located in a town that has transport connections, or if they’re located near a big city, like Animal Place, I imagine in California, it’s well located. It’s easy to get to, but a lot of the time, people that found these sanctuaries, have to live in the middle of nowhere because that’s where the cheap land is, which allows them to be able to do this work.
But then it makes it very difficult for people to go and stay there. Maybe there’s not even anything of much interest to, for people there, but the fact that sanctuaries that are registered with your program will be able to financially benefit. Even if they’re not getting a lot of guests makes me feel really good.
Faik: Absolutely, and those sanctuaries would receive particular attention because it is about this logistic and financial support tailored, to the needs of each sanctuary. So sanctuaries would need certain things more than other sanctuaries. That’s why we’d have to work with them.
Vegan Stay has a social media person. And I would love to have an entire team, just sponsored by The Vegan Stay, paid for by The Vegan Stay, helping sanctuaries that need that kind of help build their social media presence. Increase their memberships to get more programs, more people in the area or the region, and more businesses interested in the sanctuary than trying to work with the sanctuary.
So sanctuaries and support for sanctuaries are at the very core of this vision. And that’s something, this vision was created for that purpose. It’s not like I was sitting one day and said, okay, what kind of business I’m gonna create? So let me, oh, that, how about that? Now it was the other way, how can I help sanctuaries?
And then it evolved. So initially I conceived it as explained, as a nonprofit, then that evolved to this sort of like a hybrid. To me, that is the core. And if The Vegan Stay loses that, that vision it’s no longer The Vegan Stay something different and I don’t want it to be something different. Cause I want it to be this and I want to do everything in my power so that it stays this.
And I believe that I can. And I want, because as I said, incredibly special people, I can tell you a story, like a short story, about somebody who’s become a friend of mine, just through social media. Her name is Mediwara. She runs a sanctuary in Mexico in Cancun, Mexico. So she’s a scuba diving instructor, and she stayed behind because she wanted to rescue a black sheep.
She created a sanctuary called Black Sheep Sanctuary because she cannot get her animals into the United States. Now she’s outside of Cancun, living in the jungle. And watching what she has gone through the last year. I have nothing but admiration, just the kind of courage and integrity that this woman has shown everyone is incredibly remarkable.
And if there is anything it can do to contribute to that mission, I will do it. And she knows, she’s part of our program and I’m very excited that I can contribute in a meaningful way to what she’s doing. As you could see, and we’ll be starting a podcast for sanctuaries as part of The Vegan Stay, to invite these sanctuaries, to tell us our stories.
And we would love to share that with the whole world, each one of them, even the big ones you would hear their struggle. For example, Animal Place is a big sanctuary now with a lot of support, and amazing people that work there. I volunteer there and I was just there last week I’m gonna plan to go back next week.
I love what they have done, but you would hear what, how they started 30 years ago and even farm Sanctuary in upstate New York. Very similar, very similar story. And in fact, I’ve just met a wonderful, wonderful person. Her name is Renee King and through my friend, Linda Middlesworth she is, the founder with her husband of Rowdy Girl Sanctuary, in Texas.
Her husband was a cattle rancher. And at some point, she was not able to accept this idea of sending those cows to slaughter. She started a sanctuary and now she’s helping other ranchers find alternative ways of supporting themselves. So they don’t have to harm animals. And we just connected. And if these stories, the variety of people running sanctuaries, the variety of sizes, and the walks of life people come from, I think these people have an incredible, incredible, incredible lesson to teach to all of us.
And it is a voice that needs to be heard. And I will do everything in my power to allow The Vegan Stay to be a platform, for them to be able to do just that.
Brighde: That’s wonderful Yeah. The people are going out there and saving the lives of animals and not just saving their lives, like being prepared to look after them for the rest of their natural lives. It’s a huge commitment. It’s a huge commitment. And when I think about it, I feel overwhelmed at like how I would be in that situation. It’s yeah, it must be incredibly difficult incredibly. I’m looking at your website right now, and I see that you do have a newsletter sign-up form, and I think anyone listening to this podcast, should go over to theveganstay.com and go and sign up for the newsletter because it’s evident to me that you’re gonna be doing some amazing things over the next few years, and now it’s very early days. So I’m sure the number of possible sanctuary stays or bed and breakfast stays, is just going to exponentially increase. So I invite everybody to go onto the opt-in there and to the newsletter form and fill in their details. And I’m sure you’re gonna be announcing new sanctuaries that have joined your database and other content that you’ve created.
Faik! This is such an interesting and exciting platform. I do hope, it is a success and that it will become an incredible database of these sanctuaries that we can just go and stay at. Even if we can only see, and spend a little bit of time with the animals, I think we can all agree that spending time with these animals and meeting these inspiring people does enhance our life experience. Our world view so much. So before we say goodbye, can you tell our listeners how they might contact you and get involved with what you’re doing?
Yes. So one of the things all people do to stay informed is to follow us on social media. My Instagram handle is The Vegan Stay. Facebook, just put The Vegan Stay and that we are the only Vegan stay. So it’s going to show up on top of the search engine.
The other thing I would advise is, if you would like to have any questions, either direct them to [email protected] or [email protected] and Faik you could see the spelling on the screen also I would advise anybody visiting our website, of course, to look at all the information.
Particularly read our story at the bottom. And in the next few days, we will be creating a page for each one of the sanctuaries, that are part of the network. So you’ll be able to see every single sanctuary and then that will connect you to their website and social media. But there will be a page for each one of them, on our website and we would be inviting all of them to our podcast.
And so you get to learn about all of their experiences. I find incredible inspiration and I hope more people get to learn about these brave souls and what they have been doing for the animals and for all of us.
Fantastic. Faik, I wanna thank you so much for sharing theveganstay.com with our listeners. I am gonna be watching, very closely to see how it goes and I’m gonna be having The Vegan Stay, in my shortcuts in my bookmarks. And, whenever I go traveling to a place, I always go and see, look at www.Veggiehotels.com to see if there might be a vegan hotel where I’m going, or and I’m certainly gonna add The Vegan Stay, as part of my research process to see, if there is a sanctuary that I can go to, as well.
Thank you so much, Faik. I wish you all the best of luck with this really exciting venture.
Faik: Thank you very much. And I just want to say that you could stay at a sanctuary or with some vegans, you have options. And, hopefully, we get to add more things, but vegan is the bottom line and sanctuaries are at the core of that project. Thank you very much for having me. And I just love what you do. I have been following you on social media and I find what you do incredibly inspiring. And thank you for giving me a voice through this to communicate to a wider audience. I appreciate it.
Brighde: You’re very welcome.