Back in 2013 I had the chance to connect with and interview someone that has been an inspiration for me for years: Kristin Lajeunesse from Will Travel For Vegan Food. She was in the end of her solo journey of traveling for vegan food around the USA and it was great getting to know more about her and her adventure.
We’ve kept in touch, I joined her for her project on helping online business through an excellent course and I followed all her steps of writing and finishing her book Will Travel For Vegan Food. The book is out now and before the launching I did a second interview with this amazing woman who went through a travel for much more than vegan food, a truly inspiring tour of self enlightenment and discover.
Will Travel For Vegan Food, the book, is a must have for all of us, vegan or not, into traveling or not. It’s a powerful personal story that had to be shared!
When I interviewed you back in July 2013 you were close to end your two years traveling journey for vegan food and would focus on your book. I’ve noticed that many other projects took place as well, could you talk a bit about what you’ve been doing in these last two years?
The past couple of years have been absolutely magnificent, and a touch terrifying at the same time. There’s something a bit nerve wracking about coming off of a journey wherein I lived entirely off of donations for 2 full years, and then having to find my stride and earn a proper income again.
The neat thing about the various projects that came about, is that they were/are all directly tied to that road trip and the vegan community. One of the first things I dove into was one-on-one consulting for small business owners and entrepreneurs.
This came about rather organically as I found I was answering tons of questions about how I was able to quit my job and go do this crazy thing (eat at every vegan restaurant in the US while traveling full-time). I soon realized that life and business coaches were a thing and began charging for my time.
Since I was new to coaching and was attempting to learn how to now write a friggin’ book (!!) finances were extremely tight. So I sought out additional opportunities in the coming years, including trading housing for marketing consulting (which allowed me to save on paying rent for a few months), an online video training series (which I’ve launched and hosted twice now and it has gone over quite well—I’ve made the majority of my income the past 2 years from those courses), and finally my most steady gig thus far: freelance communications work. I work part-time and remotely for an animal rights group, curating their weekly newsletters.
Every one of these opportunities came about fairly organically, by way of folks reaching out because they’d heard about me through the Will Travel For Vegan Food project.
Now, for this year my primary focus is on the launch and promotion of my first-ever book: a memoir about the 18 months I spent living in my renovated sports van (Gerty), traveling the U.S. in search of vegan food; while maintaining my freelance client and a few one-off consulting gigs, to keep the minimum bills paid.
I’ve also since found myself in Chicago. I am so in love with this city it’s not even funny. I had visited a handful of times before my trip, and then during the trip of course, and for a brief stint in the winter of 2013-2014. I keep getting drawn back here somehow. I seem to have these crazy life-altering emotional shifts of growth and self-care take place when I’m here. It’s really quite something and feel blessed to have made Chicago my home base for the year.
Let’s talk about the physical result of your years after your decision to hit the road for vegan food: Will Travel For Vegan Food, the book. When did you get the book deal with Vegan Publishers? Was it before the travel itself or while you were on the road?
It seemed rather random, actually. I was about halfway through my trip and received an email from an acquaintance in Boston. He asked if I had time to jump on a phone call as he had a business proposition for me.
I soon learned that he and his wife were making plans to start their own publishing house and they wondered if I was planning to write a book about my journey.
A few more conversations later and we had a loose contract. No real deadlines at that point but the order was in motion: I was going to write a book! Initially it was going to be a coffee table book—made up of the thousands of photos from my travels. After re-working things a bit we settled on a memoir.
It seems so surreal now.. talking about it in this way.
I watched your sneak peek videos and they gave me even more excitement for the book. Tell us first: “All for something?” What’s “all” and what’s “something”?
Oh my! I wasn’t expecting to start crying from reading this question. Haha.. goodness. Yeah, this is a GREAT question.
It’s derived from the saying, “all for nothing.” Which means that one has perhaps worked hard toward something/done everything they can to make something work or happen, but the result weren’t as expected, or useless.
The use of “All For Something” to title Chapter 1 of the book is twofold. It speaks to a new relationship that has formed at the outset of the journey. A romance that we learn, from the very first sentence, is doomed. The second is a reflection, I believe (though I’d never thought about it in this way until now) of all the time and effort I’d put into grad school, into my job, into a comfortable romantic partnership with someone else. The years spent shaping a career I thought I wanted; only to drop it all for this unconventional adventure.
These things, however (the new presumably failed romantic relationship and the “wasted” career and life I’d been building) were not in any way a failure, or a loss, or for nothing. They all so perfectly led me to the moment in which I’d experience the most self-growth, inner-resilience, and … what we learn later in the book, peace, confidence, and security… and as we now know, incredible job opportunities and the ability to live a life that is defined but what moves me most – not by what I thought I needed or what society told me I should do or be.
So you see… the start of the journey at the time felt like it COULD have been all for nothing, but it turns out it was for something. A big something. An undefinable, life-altering, game changing something that is the life I lead now as a direct result of those early and sometimes incredible painful points of the journey.
You mention “female traveler” I few times in the reading videos. What were the hardest aspects of traveling alone as a female?
Honestly, the most challenging part was overcoming what everyone kept telling me should be my challenges traveling as a person with lady parts. Of course, I wouldn’t really know what it’s like to travel as any other gender but… yeah; I didn’t feel as though there were any true roadblocks.
Like any traveler should do, I listened to my gut and if something felt off I’d simply change plans. I took caution because it’s in my nature, not necessarily because I was thinking “I must since I’m alone and a woman.” I slept with mace on one side of my pillow and a hammer on the other. Because I wanted to be prepared, not because I’m female.
I wore skirts and dresses out and about, I made eye contact with and talked to strangers, I slept on couches and freshened up in homes of people I’d met only a few hours earlier online, and I made decisions primarily based on how a situation felt. Regardless of gender I think we all do this to some degree. It’s in our nature to protect ourselves and our instincts are always correct.
The reason I mention it the “female thing” a few times in the early chapters of the book is because of the preconceived notions of how woman should or shouldn’t act in order to protect themselves. Yes, I know there are some countries that the rules are entirely different. And there are parts of the U.S. where gender bias is still very strongly in play. But there were very few occasions that I felt threatened or unsafe due to my gender.
If anything we should be criticizing the people who take harmful actions toward others and ask ourselves why we aren’t putting more emphasis on disciplining them rather than telling others how to protect themselves against the ill-minded people out there.
Did you “Break Free, Find Food, & Make Love”?
Haha! Absolutely!! I “broke free” from the 9-5 grind, from a romantic partnership that existed out of comfort rather than true love, and from traditional comforts that I was brought up to believe were necessary in order to live the American Dream. I found SO much food. So much. Haha.. and I created love by turning inward. By looking to myself for support and acceptance, rather than believing that I needed to find it in the arms of someone else.
To be frank, while I made incredible strides through the Will Travel For Vegan Food journey, my ‘work’ is far from over. I find the biggest challenges still in the romantic relationship department. But that’s why we’re here, right? To do the work and share our journey with others, along the way.
Did you face hard moments to finish the book?
So, so, so many, yes. Writing a book has been one of the most challenging experiences I’ve ever faced. I had no clue what I was getting into. Haha!
Some of the most noteworthy moments included: revisiting and essentially reliving heart-wrenching moments that I thought I’d moved past but truly hadn’t overcome. As my accountability partner, Aurelia would say, “Writing is free therapy.” Also, as someone who never considered myself a writer, I found it extremely challenging to put interesting descriptions or captivating summaries on the immense emotional shifts that took place. Plus, how many times and in how many ways can one describe certain foods? Haha! There were a number of times I spent hours toiling away on one paragraph, looking up synonyms and definitions, aching to find a better or more interesting way to describe something.
Also, having deadlines, working with multiple editors, and just finding the emotional space to keep plugging along. Realizing you can’t “fit it all in” or that some of what you’ve written is just crap. Yes.. pretty much the entire process is rather stressful. Or, I found it to be. But man, once that baby is born it sure is one of the most rewarding feelings ever, ever, ever!!
Did writing your experience and, mostly, reading it back, especially for the videos, make you have a different – or fresh – view or feeling to everything you lived in the road?
Yes, for sure. Sometimes I couldn’t stand to re-read a chapter, and other times—if some time had passed—I’d cry all over again recalling the experience I’d written about. Sometimes it was sad crying, other times it “wow I can’t believe that happened/this is my life” realizations.
I found it to be true though, what Aurelia (my accountability partner) told me about writing a book—especially a memoir—it truly is therapeutic. Re-reading the book several times gave me greater appreciation for that time in my life, for where I was and where I am now, and for how heavy some things felt that I realize now aren’t as sad or crazy as they seemed at the time. Sometimes it feels like I’m reading someone else’s journey. Other times it feels like an out of body experiences… like distant dreams or fantasies I’d have vs. actually lived through.
Though I will say that reading them was a bit of a different story (ha.. punny). It took about 14 hours, from start to finish, to record 4 chapters in one day and have them edited and produced and whatever other fancy words are associated with working with a real recording studio. I can’t tell you how many times I messed up in the readings (I lost count). And I’m sure I drove the recording studio guys nuts. But they were very supportive! If anything, the actual recording process removed me from the book a bit because I was so focused on pronunciation and not wanting to mess up.
This is another question mostly about traveling than vegan food but it came to my mind a lot while listening to your reading videos: I’ve read somewhere that our generation is actually going more and more against the “normal adult way of life” to experiment and explore. Have you seen much of this spirit around you while traveling or even after all these years?
It is that exact spirit that inspired my journey. I stumbled upon the likes of Tim Ferriss, Gary Vaynerchuk, Chris Guillebaeu, Pat Flynn, Corbett Barr, and others who were all living lives that seemed so unconventional, so foreign, so amazing. They all had different tales about how they started doing what they do. But one thing that I saw in all of them, and the other “lifestyle designers” out there, is this: they allowed themselves to be led largely by their passions and intuition.
I can’t say I met too many unconventional folks while traveling (just a few here and there). But I have been hearing about more and more people learning how to give themselves permission to create a life around the things they love most; and to not be bogged down by the ‘should do’s’ that many of us grow up learning about (ie, finish school, get a good job that you’ll have for life, get married, buy a house, make babies, etc.)
What’s next for Kristin Lajeunesse? Book tours, I’m sure, but what else? I know you don’t stop, won’t stop!
Yes. It’s not planned out yet but a book tour will certainly be in order. Heck, who knows if or when I’ll ever write a book again. I’m going to go all out! I also have a handful of speaking gigs lined up around the U.S. at various veggie festivals; to talk about my journal and vegan activism. My goal for this year is to focus on the launch of my book and the Will Travel for Vegan Food brand.
In 2016 my goal is to do a 2.0 version of the journey – taking it internationally and via TV (instead of a written blog version). Just waiting for Ellen or Oprah to call to let me know they’d like me to host a vegan travel show.
Something that I learned through my travels though is that, as we move toward and spend time on the things we most enjoy, incredible opportunities will arise to support our healthy habits and biggest dreams. Part of risk in chasing those dreams is trusting that they will work out – which often means letting go and now planning too much. So, even though I could list out more “realistic” life goals for the coming years, I’ll leave it at the TV show. Yeah. That sounds good.