The holidays are here! And that means many of us will be traveling to see family and friends – possibly providing an opportunity to explore a new city or country.
Portland-based Sadie Bowman and Joe Bourguignon specialize in the latter, as the duo comprise The Intrepid Herbivores, the “future #1 international TV travel guide to vegan food.” With all the adventure of a food-based travelogue and none of the fried bugs, the show aims to get a broad audience excited about exploring the world in a compassionate way.
This past summer, we were lucky enough to get a sneak peek of the pilot episode, filmed in Thailand, during a screening in our Los Angeles office. Now we’re excited to share with you the just-released pilot preview, as well as our conversation with Sadie on vegan eating abroad and tips for holiday travelers.
Q: What inspired you to create The Intrepid Herbivores television travelogue?
A: I had a difficult experience traveling in Japan several years ago. I didn’t do my research and showed up unprepared. Had I known what to look for and how to ask for it, I could have eaten vegan quite easily while still having the cultural experience of eating local food. I started taking notes for a series of guide books about vegetarian tourism and the idea percolated in my head until I met Joe years later. He had a complementary film idea about a vegan chef who tours the world learning to prepare different cuisines. We kept talking and “The Intrepid Herbivores” was born.
Q: How did you decide to feature Thailand for your first episode, and what’s next on the itinerary?
A: I get so much more out of a trip if I go with the purpose of learning – planning a destination around a language course, dance classes, or a cooking course. Thailand was a location that Joe and I were keenly interested in and neither of us had visited before. Our vision for a complete first season is a 12-episode loop around the Mediterranean, visiting Morocco, Portugal, Spain, France, Italy, Greece, and Turkey. But we’re in Mexico City shooting right now! Get a glimpse on Facebook.
Q: What is the typical response when you tell a local that you’re vegan?
A: Most people are accommodating. If there is a language barrier it might take a few attempts to be sure we have been understood, but I’ve never encountered anybody who wasn’t willing to try to make out what I was trying to say. In Thailand, though, it was GREAT, because we learned that there is a tradition connected to a specific sect of Buddhist monks which embraces a cruelty-free diet. Rather than trying to explain the concept of “vegan” we could say that we eat the same diet as these monks. The key word is pronounced “jay,” and it was like a password – it was crystal clear to everyone.
Q: Have you discovered any new favorite foods during your travels?
A: In Thailand we took classes at three different institutions and they absolutely changed the way I cook at home. The main thing I learned is about the balance of spicy, salty, sour and sweet. It was like learning color or music theory – how these elements complement or harmonize with each other. We also like to bring home cooking tools, such as a special mortar and pestle made of wood that is used for making salads in Thailand – it not only expands our range in the kitchen, but reminds us of our trip (and wows our friends!).
Q: What is the goal of your show – what do you want viewers, especially pre-vegans, to take away from it?
A: We never overtly say you SHOULD be vegan; we just try to show that we have a great time traveling and that eating vegan while traveling is an opportunity for discovery. The focus of the show is on food, but we try to visit local destinations that will call to attention issues of animal exploitation, the environment, human rights, etc. For instance, in the Thailand pilot we feature Elephant Nature Park, an elephant sanctuary near Chiang Mai. The show’s focus is on food, but we leverage our chance to raise awareness when we can. Our aim for the omnivorous viewer is to chip away at common misconceptions and to demonstrate that expressing compassion is actually very easy.
Q: What are the best tips you can offer vegan travelers?
A: Don’t be afraid to ask for things. It is WELL worth your effort to learn a few simple words and phrases in the language of your destination (that includes “please” and “thank you”). You have the opportunity to be a global ambassador for something important to you, so be patient with yourself and those you meet.
Follow the Intrepid Herbivores’ adventures on Facebook – and watch the pilot preview below.