The Veggie Pilot dishes on veganism, travel and the best vegan meal abroad
Matthew Ayer, a pilot from the US, has made a name for himself in the YouTube world sharing to his subscribers how he navigates being vegan while he travels across the world.
Clinton Moodley spoke to the 32-year-old about veganism, his travels and the best meal he has ever tasted.
Can you tell us what prompted you to become a pilot?
I decided to apply to flight school in Florida once I completed high school. I wanted to be a pilot as I loved the idea of operating heavy machinery and travelling for work.
You are known as the Veggie Pilot. How did your vegan journey begin?
I grew up a vegetarian, and so did my parents. About three years ago, after I started Veggie Pilot, I was interacting more with many vegan groups. I later came across a video of a dairy cow that was extremely dehydrated and was frothing at the mouth. It had a huge impact on me and prompted my decision to go full vegan.
Many vegan travellers have difficulty when they travel. Can you share some information on how to ensure those vegan travellers have a splendid trip from start to finish?
Preparation is the key for vegan travellers. They should do lots of research beforehand on vegan restaurants and other vegan-friendly spots. Once they established that, they should find accommodation close to these attractions for easy access. It gets super exhausting when exploring a new city, and if you’re not close to a restaurant with vegan options, it’s going to get tough. This is especially important when visiting a country that doesn’t have a lot of vegan options.
Vegan travellers should always carry vegan protein powder. It's a life-changer. It's easy to get vegan carbs and veggies. The difficult thing is getting vegan protein at some destinations. Vegan protein powder offers the necessary nourishment during your travels. If you start your day with a protein shake, you have more freedom in your day to eat less healthy.
What are some of the challenges of being a vegan traveller/pilot?
The biggest challenge is eating healthy while you are at work. If I try to eat at the airports, then I’m going to spend a lot of money and eat mediocre food. Airport food is notoriously bad and being a vegan means that the options are quite restrictive. It's tough when you stay at a hotel that does not have vegan options or if the area does not cater to vegan travellers.
How do you deal with these challenges?
My best advice is to bring your own food. I try to bring enough food for the duration of my trip. Not only is this option cost-effective, but it also helps if there are no options at your destination.
Can you recollect one of those challenging moments during your travels?
It was Christmas a few years ago. I was working for a little turboprop airline in Kansas. We were stuck in a snowstorm, and there were no food spots opened as it was a small town and Christmas Day. Luckily, I was able to make myself a peanut butter and jelly sandwich from ingredients that I carried with me.
How do you encourage other crew who want to adopt the vegan lifestyle?
I tell them to get a good protein powder and to start learning to cook.
What are some of the vegan-friendly destinations?
Los Angeles is the Mecca of vegan food. Then there's New York, Edinburgh in Scotland and Mexico City. These destinations have many cool vegan spots. What is the best vegan meal you had abroad, and why?
It was a soy pork rice bowl in Tokyo. It was outstanding. The vegetables in Japan were unbelievably fresh. Tokyo is a wonderful city with some stunning vegan restaurants.
What are some of the things you do during layovers?
I love trying local vegan restaurants. I usually rent bikes or electric scooters to explore the area.
Where are you travelling to next?
I’m visiting Tulum in Mexico with my friends for a vegan vacation. I have a big vegan friend group.