This week on Chewing the Fat, we are so excited to welcome one of our favorite travel writers: Kim of So Many Places. While our own travel blog was still just a glimmer in the milk man’s eye, we followed Kim & her husband Brian on their journey as they saved towards their dream of traveling the world, inspired not only by their journey and commitment, but also by Kim’s passion to discover and hone her writer’s voice. While we certainly read widely in the travel blogosphere when it came to planning our own trip and fueling our dreams, So Many Places is surely one of the sites that pushed us towards documenting our journey on a site of our own.
In May 2012, Kim and Brian sold their home in Oregon (along with all of their stuff), left their jobs, and set out to travel the world. Their adventures have taken them through South American and into India, and they spent an epic two months walking in the mountains of Nepal (and eating momos!).
For months now, Kim & I have been yammering on at each other on Twitter and in comments about how we just *have* to meet up one of these days over some drinks. Our paths have yet to intersect in real life, but for now, this interview is definitely the next best thing (plus all of our readers get to join the party!). Read on as Kim discusses the difficulties of being vegetarian on the road (especially when you’re in South America), the soul-satisfying delight of dining in India… and subsequent weight gain, and so much more!
We’re a big fan of “foodcations”—on more than one occasion we’ve taken trips motivated solely by the desire to eat our way through our destination. Of all the places you have visited in your travels, if you were limited to only eating the food from one country, which place would you choose and why?
India, without a doubt. I’ve got to say that neither Brian nor I are foodies at all. Perhaps this is because I am a vegetarian, which can be a bit of a logistical nightmare while traveling. So it was such a relief to eat in India where I could show up ANYWHERE and eat almost ANYTHING. Street food was my favorite, followed closely by naan. Ohmygod the naan! I could eat India food every day for the rest of my life and I would weight a thousand pounds because of it.
And the flipside: of all the places you’ve visited, which country had your least favorite food? Why was that and were you surprised?
Probably Peru but all of South America was hard for me. In big South American cities like Buenos Aires, for example, I had no problems eating. But in Peru and Ecuador especially I would sometimes eat crackers for dinner. It was terrible. I assumed that I’d be able to at least find beans and rice in South America but I couldn’t. I was shocked.
What’s the most exotic/adventurous edible you’ve sampled and what did you think about it?
Oh man, I am terrible. I can’t think of one adventurous thing I’ve eaten. I suppose I ate a reed on an island on Lake Titicaca. The islanders said it would taste like ice cream but it definitely did not! Brian has eaten alpaca and ceviche (raw fish cooked in lime juice), but he really isn’t much of an adventurous eater either.
Many travelers mention succumbing to McDonald’s or other fastfood cravings while on the road… what is the guilty pleasure food that you indulge in when traveling?
I still don’t eat fast food, even on the road, though I was tempted by the masala burger at McDonalds in India! My guilty pleasure is Coke. I drink so much coke while traveling. I never drank soda at home! Also, I eat a lot of snickers bars. And I ate my weight in ice cream in Ecuador before I realized I had to control myself. Ha, after reading this it’s no wonder I’ve gained weight on the road.
Sometimes you don’t know a good thing until it’s gone! If there were one food from back home that you could eat RIGHT NOW, what would it be?
Mexican food. I would go to my favorite Mexican restaurant in Portland, order bean dip and nachos and a margarita and stuff my face. To be honest I have that exact fantasy at least once a week.
If you knew we were coming to visit you in your hometown, what would be the one food you would make sure we tried?
Well, I’d probably take you to that Mexican restaurant mentioned above! But Portland, Oregon has a street food scene that is really great, so we’d go there for sure. And then we’d go on a brewery tour. Portland has the best beer in the world!
We’ve heard some horror stories about vegetarians trying to find decent meals while in South America, the very continent you kicked off your travel adventure in. As a vegetarian, what was your personal experience traveling there? What were the best and worst countries for you food-wise, and do you have any failsafe dishes for other South American-bound vegetarians to look out for?
I wish I had some good news for vegetarians traveling to South America but I don’t. It is HARD. I ate so much cheese pizza; I don’t ever want to eat another cheese pizza again.
In most of the tourist towns in South America I was able to find something to eat… pizza a lot of the time or pasta, sometimes healthier options though rarely. Every single time I ate a salad I got sick, so after awhile I swore those off.
The best countries for me food-wise have been India and now Nepal. Tons of veggie dishes, lots of vegetables and fruits, noodles, rice, etc. It’s wonderful. I think part of the reason that I have loved traveling in this part of the world so much is that I can enjoy the food. The momos here in Nepal are fabulous. Everyone should come to Nepal and eat momos!
On the other end of the spectrum, you’ve also spent three months living in what is perhaps the most vegetarian-friendly country on the planet: India! What was your experience eating Indian food in India? How did it compare to the version you had experienced back home? Given that many vegetarians in India refrain from eating meat for religious purposes, did you ever feel that the meals you were eating had a heightened spirituality to them?
The Indian food in India is amazing. So good, better than back home. The best meal I had was actually out of this tiny shack in some small village in the middle of nowhere. I was driving a rickshaw through India and it broke down in front of this place and we had a meal and it was phenomenal. Oh, and the chai!! The chai is to die for in northern India. I could spend the rest of my life drinking chai from Rajasthan.
For me, India overall has a heightened sense of spirituality and that applies to everything, even the food. I loved being in a country that has the same belief system that I have when it comes to food, it was such a lovely change of pace.
While some long-term travelers crow about all the weight they have lost since leaving on their trip, on your own blog, you’ve written about how at times you have felt that you’ve become less healthy! Have you found it difficult to maintain a well-balanced diet while on the road? What are some of the biggest stumbling blocks you have encountered when it comes to maintaining a well-balanced diet and an active, healthy lifestyle while traveling?
Yes! It’s probably pretty obvious after reading about the things I ate in South America.
I ate a pretty controlled diet at home in Oregon and I was very, very active. I’m a marathon runner and a soccer player and it was normal for me to get at least two to three hours of intense exercise every day- there’s just no way I can maintain that on the road. Even walking seven hours a day isn’t going to do the same thing for my body as a twenty-mile run. As a result I’ve gained a lot of weight. I feared this would happen and it has. Now that we are in Nepal (and in India too) I’ve been able to run and hike more and eat better and I’m hoping I can lose some of the weight I’ve gained. Even with the weight gain, though, I would trade traveling for anything. I have the rest of my life to spend in a gym if I want to, so I’m just trying to go with the flow as much as possible for now.
Back home in Oregon prior to leaving on your trip, you and your husband Brian often liked to kick back with a good beer or two. Have you discovered any great beers on your travels? What American beer do you miss the most?
The American beer I miss the most is any west coast IPA. We haven’t found any beer out here in the world that can beat an IPA. Here in Nepal, the Everest beer is pretty good. In India we drank Tuborg which was okay but not great. The beer in South America was pretty bad but the wine was good, so we drank that instead. I may have had some problems finding food to eat but I’ve never suffered much from lack of booze!
Thanks so much to Kim for being so game and answering all of our questions with her characteristic thoughtfulness and humor! I’m lookigng forward to the day when we finally clink bottles of IPA or fight over who gets the last cheese nan! There is so much we are looking forward to experiencing for ourselves when we reach India later this year and I have a suspicion it will be all too easy for the two of us to follow in Kim’s footsteps and gain back a few pounds as we tackle those massive dosas! 😉
Like what you read here and want to be featured in a future installment of Chewing the Fat? Great! We’re always looking for new people to dish about dining with! You don’t have to be a long-term traveler, or even have your own blog to participate; all you need is a healthy appetite and an appreciation for food. Contact Us letting us know that you’re interested in taking part in this series, and we’ll get back to you with all the information you need to get started.