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!

 

dosa
Kim with a dosa in India. In her words, “Dosa is India! This one is stuffed with onions, potatoes, and masala spices. Delicious!”

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.

This man was a street vendor in Kathmandu, Nepal who was making bhelpuri. An order of bhelpuri costs about $0.25!
This man was a street vendor in Kathmandu, Nepal who was making bhelpuri. An order of bhelpuri costs about $0.25!

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!

Bhelpuri is street food in India and Nepal. The men and women who sell it mix it by hand (literally with their fingers)  in a little plastic bucket and serve it to you in newspaper.
Bhelpuri is street food in India and Nepal. The men and women who sell it mix it by hand (literally with their fingers) in a little plastic bucket and serve it to you in newspaper.

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.

Dal Bhat is *the* traditional Nepalese meal.
Dal Bhat is *the* traditional Nepalese meal.

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!

Website: www.so-many-places.com (Kim) and www.wanderingsasquatch.com (Brian)

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/SoManyPlacesTravelBlog

Twitter: https://twitter.com/RTWsomanyplaces

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.

Written by: Stephenie Harrison


In another life, I moved from Toronto, Canada to Nashville, TN to pursue my doctoral degree in Psychology. That chapter of my life is now finished, but I did earn the right to demand you call me Dr. Steph (though I respond just as well to plain old Steph). I am an avid reader whose book collection is rivaled only by my many pairs of cute shoes. I also like to knit, hold impromptu karaoke parties, and try new and unusual foods. Generally not all at the same time. I also really love to learn languages, which may explain why I took 3 years of Latin in highschool. I'm turning over a new leaf, so instead of looking forward, I'm going to work on enjoying the present, so the country I'm most looking forward to is whichever one we're in right now!

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Read comments (16)

  1. July 5, 2013 at 8:29 am
    Jul. 5, '13

    Ah, reading this has made me long to be back in India!!! While I was there with Kim I introduced her to my favourite restaurant in Goa called “Sabina’s” – it serves the best paneer tikka masala I’ve ever had and was a regular haunt for both of us. There is also a tiny little chai shop called “Little World” in Palolem that I can assure you lives up to it’s name. I really hope you guys make it down to Goa later this year so I can give you a food tour 🙂

    • July 8, 2013 at 11:24 pm
      Jul. 8, '13

      This all sounds so fabulous, Hannah! We love Indian food and have found that it’s probably the “non-local” meal we most frequently splurge to have and we kept saying on the basis of food alone we probably had to make a visit to India a priority on this trip… I hope we do get to spend some time in Goa and will have the chance to take you up on your offer! I’m drooling at the thought of paneer tikka masala right now! 😀

  2. July 5, 2013 at 8:42 am
    Jul. 5, '13

    You published this and yesterday was the FIRST TIME I ate fast food. Oh, the irony. Thanks for the interview Steph!

    • July 8, 2013 at 11:24 pm
      Jul. 8, '13

      Ah, the irony! Truly a case of eating your words, I suppose. 😉 Thanks so much for taking part, Kim!

  3. July 8, 2013 at 9:53 am
    Jul. 8, '13

    Wow. Those are incredible photos. I’m hungry now. I’m going to go check out their blogs now! 🙂

    • July 8, 2013 at 11:25 pm
      Jul. 8, '13

      This series never fails to make me hungry (though sadly, often for foods I can’t have!)…

  4. July 8, 2013 at 9:58 am
    Jul. 8, '13

    I love Kim’s blog! How cool that my blogroll is all connected to each other already 😉 Kim, I have to agree with several things – India has the best food, and Portland (or the PNW in general) has the best beer around. I actually miss a good craft brew when I’m on the road, after being spoiled so much by the breweries in Portland and Bend. I can’t imagine being a vegetarian on the site – more power to you!
    Jessica J. Hill recently posted..Scams in Jaisalmer India

    • July 8, 2013 at 11:29 pm
      Jul. 8, '13

      Despite having traveled quite a bit around the U.S., we never made it to Portland (or anywhere in Oregon), but it definitely sounds like we need to rectify that! Also, I can’t wait to get to India to try all the food. Indian is one of my top 3 favorite foods, and I can only imagine what it’s like to have the real deal!

  5. July 8, 2013 at 9:54 pm
    Jul. 8, '13

    I think every trip should be a “foodcation” – this is probably why some of my pants no longer fit haha!

    I’m so surprised that rice and beans aren’t a staple food of South America! Whenever we go for Peruvian food in Western cities, that is always one of the sides. Indian is one of my favorite cuisines, but I’ve been scared by the prospect of actually eating it in India because of the dreaded “Delhi Belly.” But it sounds like my fears may have been blown out of proportion.
    Heather recently posted..Longhua Temple and Martyrs Cemetery, Shanghai

    • July 9, 2013 at 4:28 am
      Jul. 9, '13

      I’m pretty sure that if people aren’t taking foodcations then they are doing something wrong!

      I’m really excited about eating Indian food in India, but I am also concerned about Delhi Belly. Kim is one of the few people I know who has made it through India without battling a case!

  6. July 9, 2013 at 4:10 pm
    Jul. 9, '13

    Mmm…beer. Hopefully you got your fill when you were here for a week, Kim.
    Carmel recently posted..TO DO LIST

    • July 14, 2013 at 10:32 am
      Jul. 14, '13

      I saw the photo they posted when they hit the beer aisle in Oregon… looks like they had plenty of choices to quench their thirst!

  7. July 10, 2013 at 2:05 am
    Jul. 10, '13

    Finding food you can eat and enjoy is so important when you’re travelling and I agree that it can be especially difficult if you’re a vegetarian. Andrew and I have found that eating well can definitely make the difference between loving and hating a place. I’m surprised (and a bit worried) to hear that it’s so difficult to find vegetarian food in South America; India sounds amazing though.
    Amy recently posted..This is Not a Holiday…

    • July 14, 2013 at 10:34 am
      Jul. 14, '13

      Tony and I are not picky eaters by any means, but our first month in Japan was really stressful in part because so many of the meals we were eating were a mystery to us. I can’t imagine what it would have been like if we had strict dietary restrictions!

  8. July 10, 2013 at 2:14 am
    Jul. 10, '13

    Great interview. I am a big fan of So many places. I love Indian food too. We found a great Indian restaurant here in Phnom Penh and order a take away from them once a week. They even recognize our voice now, so I don’t have to give them our address anymore. Like Kim said Indian food is definitely one to watch though-so many calories, but sooo good as well.

    • July 14, 2013 at 10:36 am
      Jul. 14, '13

      Indian food has really become our go-to food while on the road. Back home we used to say you could always count on pizza to be an acceptable meal, but I think that’s true of Indian food in Asia (whereas pizza can be far dicier!). I have had to put a ban on Indian food until we actually get to India as I don’t want to burn out before we arrive!

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