Hello? Is there anybody out there?
Following up on Yifan’s great post about making new vegan friends, I’m chiming in with some tips for what to do when you live in a place where it feels like there aren’t any other vegans! I live in a community that has events like the “Beast Feast,” featuring a smorgasbord of animal meats, and large-scale barbeque competitions, and it’s also pretty common to be sitting behind vehicles with Bone Collector and hunting club membership stickers. So, while my area is a great place to live for many reasons, yes, sometimes I do feel like a lonely vegan.
But, I’m not one to wallow in my loneliness, so here are my top five tips for combating the vegan lonelies, some of which Yifan mentioned too:
1 – Do some research
First, you may think you’re the only vegan in town, but you might be surprised! Definitely check Meetup.com; for example, although there isn’t a meetup in my town, there is a vegetarian meetup in the larger town to the south of me, which is about an hour away. There is even an annual Veg Fest there!
Find out if there are any nearby health food stores. We are lucky to have one health food store in my community that sells vegan options, which makes me suspect there may be more of us (see #5 for more on this theory). Just knowing I’m in a place with vegan options makes me feel less lonely.
Embrace your veganism and talk about it! I was looking at a vegan cookbook in our local independent bookstore, and the sales associate asked me if I needed help. With a simple reply about how glad I was to see a vegan cookbook, we struck up a great conversation. Turns out she is mostly vegan and so is her mother-in-law. See, they are out there!
2 – Get to know the written word
I find vegan publications to be a great way to connect to the vegan world. I routinely scour my local library for vegan books. My latest find – Isa Chandra Moskowitz’s Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar. I have also checked out a couple of the branches of the library system in the community south of me, which has even more options. This is a fun way to review cookbooks before committing to a purchase.
I subscribe to VegNews magazine, which I eagerly devour when it arrives in the mail (yes, I still get the snail mail version). They always have fantastic articles, and everytime I read it, I immediately feel like part of a bigger community.
3 – Go virtual
It seems pretty obvious that there is a wealth of information online (ahem, you’re already here!). I’m continually amazed at the websites, forums, and resources for veganism that I keep stumbling upon. I read a statistic that only 2% of American adults identify as vegan, and I find that hard to believe based on the amount of web traffic on the subject.
Twitter has been my favorite community-building tool so far. I have “met” some really cool vegans across the country through Twitter. Although they’re not in my town, it’s nice to be able to reach out electronically to just say hi or get feedback on a new recipe. And I can’t neglect mentioning ChicVegan – I decided to try writing as another way to build my vegan community. I also very much appreciate email newsletters from VegNews and VegWeb, and I’ve signed up to follow several vegan blogs. We all recognize the world has gotten a lot smaller through technology, and this is one instance where that is a real advantage.
4 – Get out of town
When time and money permit, why not take a trip based on a vegan interest? Yifan had a great tip to get involved with vegan or animal organizations. Last year, I did Farm Sanctuary’s virtual Walk for Farm Animals online. But this year, I’m making a road trip out of it to do the walk in person. It’s about a four-hour drive, but I’m combining it with a visit to family and friends and turning it into a fun weekend getaway! I’m very much looking forward to joining up with like-minded folks, even if they’re not my immediate neighbors.
5 – Go forth and lead the way
While being an outlier can feel lonely, it can also be invigorating if you reframe your perspective. I’m not lonely, I’m a trailblazer! A leader! I have been lucky to connect with two local veggies, and we are looking to start a local vegan potluck Meetup group. We think there may good interest in this group, either for those other mystery veggies out there we don’t know yet (see #1) or those who are veg-curious. I also found that we didn’t have a good online resource as far as veg options, and so I worked with Farm Sanctuary’s Compassionate Communities Campaign to create vegfirstcoast.com.
Hopefully with a little effort and some positive thinking, you can stave off singing “One is the Loneliest Number!”
Image courtesy of Flickr’s The Commons