top of page
  • Writer's pictureXimena Diaz Velazquez

Exploring the World of Vegan Travel with Rebecca Gade Sawicki

Updated: Jan 22




In the latest episode of the Plant Based on Fire podcast, our host Bryan introduces us to a fascinating entrepreneur in the world of plant-based businesses. Rebecca Gade Sawicki, the founder of Veggies Abroad, shares her journey from a career in fundraising and event management to launching her very own vegan travel company. In this blog post, we'll delve deeper into Rebecca's inspiring story and explore the exciting world of vegan travel.


Plant-Based Entrepreneurship: A Journey Rooted in Ethics


Rebecca's journey into the travel industry is a unique one. As the pandemic hit, she felt the need to align her career with her ethics, driven by a growing awareness of the global issues related to health and the environment. However, finding a job with a vegan or environmental company proved challenging. This setback led her to embark on a creative path – starting a vegan travel blog.


The blog was initially meant to be a learning experience, forcing her to acquire new skills like website development and connect with like-minded individuals. Little did she know that this decision would set her on a path to becoming a successful entrepreneur in the world of vegan travel.


Challenges and Triumphs of Vegan Travel Entrepreneurship


Rebecca's journey was not without its fair share of challenges. One of the most significant hurdles was the overwhelming responsibility that comes with being a one-person operation. From daily emails and networking to pitching media and handling bulk work, every aspect of the business fell on her shoulders. Balancing this level of responsibility can be daunting, especially when transitioning from a more traditional work environment.


Another challenge was the unpredictable nature of running one's own business. The stability of a regular paycheck was replaced by the fluctuating income that often accompanies entrepreneurship. This can put a strain on personal relationships, and Rebecca acknowledges the importance of having a supportive partner.


The Growth of Veggies Abroad


Despite the challenges, Veggies Abroad has experienced remarkable growth since its inception. Rebecca began with the launch of her vegan travel blog and gradually expanded into offering travel planning services, tours, and more. The company successfully completed its inaugural tour in Thailand, leading to three more tours planned for 2024. The demand for her services has grown so much that Rebecca is considering expanding her team to keep up with inquiries and requests.


The Future of Vegan Travel


As the vegan travel industry continues to evolve, Rebecca predicts several exciting developments in the next five to ten years. Firstly, she anticipates more hotels, even non-vegan ones, adopting vegan options due to the increasing demand for plant-based choices and sustainability practices. Additionally, she expects to see a rise in vegan B&Bs and hotels as travelers seek accommodations that align with their values.


Furthermore, Rebecca believes that travelers are becoming more aware of the impact of their choices, not only in terms of food but also in supporting local communities and sustainable practices. The future of vegan travel seems bright, with more destinations and businesses embracing ethical and sustainable travel experiences.


Connect with Rebecca and Veggies Abroad


If you're interested in exploring the world of vegan travel or seeking travel planning assistance, Rebecca welcomes inquiries and collaboration. You can reach out to her through the Veggies Abroad website or connect with her on Instagram.


Rebecca's journey from a vegan travel blog to a thriving travel company is a testament to the potential of plant-based entrepreneurship. Her story inspires us to align our careers--and our vacations--with our ethics and make a positive impact on the world while exploring its wonders. As we venture into the future, let's support and celebrate entrepreneurs like Rebecca who are shaping the future of vegan travel.


LISTEN TO OUR OTHER PODCASTS





Podcast Episode Transcription:


"Please understand that a transcription service provided the transcript below. It undoubtedly contains errors that invariably take place in voice transcriptions."


Bryan (00:02.755)

Hello everybody and welcome to Plant Based on Fire where we talk about plant based businesses and their inspiring stories to thrive in the industry. I'm your host Brian and joining us today is Rebecca Gade Sawicki, founder of the vegan travel company Veggies Abroad. Welcome Rebecca.


Rebecca (00:22.938)

Well, thank you so much. Welcome. I'm welcoming you to your own podcast. Thank you so much.


Bryan (00:29.637)

It's so great to have you on the show. I have to say you have been very helpful in helping me plan some of my adventures that I have coming up here. So I'm so excited to talk to you, but I want to dig into the woman behind the company a little bit. Tell us how has your personal journey with veganism influenced your business?


Rebecca (00:52.398)

Sure. So I have not been in the travel industry my entire career. My path into it is a bit unique, maybe somewhat say a bit odd. Prior to launching Veggies Abroad and kind of going down that path, my career was in fundraising and event management and a little bit of communication stuff. And once the pandemic hit, I really wanted to align my career with my ethics. And so I started.


looking for a job with a vegan company or an environmental company, I just felt like the pandemic kind of plays a spotlight on everything that was just going wrong in the world from health impacts to environmental impacts. And I felt like I needed to, I couldn't sit on the sidelines any longer and do nothing. And that if these things were truly important to me, I needed to become active within them.


So I started looking for a job with a vegan company and I couldn't find one. I applied for a bunch of things. I looked in all different areas. Like nothing was really panning out. And so I thought, all right, I've got to get creative with this and kind of reinvent myself. And so prior to the pandemic, my husband and I did travel quite a bit and people were always really enamored with what in the world did I eat.


I go on a diet. Did I lose weight? Did people understand what vegan meant? I have to bring all of my food through TSA. What do the TSA agents say? Like, no! The push is gonna go on and on. So I thought, all right, maybe I'll start a vegan travel blog and that's gonna force me to have to learn a ton of new skills. I'd never built a website before, I managed one. And then hopefully network with like-minded people. I'd find a new job.


Bryan (02:10.607)

Yeah.


Bryan (02:16.891)

Hahaha


Bryan (02:31.524)

Yeah.


Rebecca (02:36.066)

pivot away and that would be the end of the story. Well, what I didn't realize that ended up happening is that the blog ended up growing. It ended up opening me up to different freelance and consulting opportunities. And then I started to like really think about this whole travel industry as a whole and how could I be involved in it? How could I make a difference within it?


Bryan (02:56.153)

Mm-hmm.


Rebecca (03:00.118)

And I realized there weren't a ton of people, you know, kind of preaching the things that I really wanted to preach or that I held important. And so I thought, okay, maybe I can make a difference within this space. And so I fully jumped in with like launching travel planning services and tours and, you know, a handful of other things at the beginning of last year, actually a year ago, and kind of fully thought, all right, I'm going to...


Bryan (03:12.239)

Yeah.


Rebecca (03:27.114)

I'm going to jump in the deep end and let's see if I can swim. So I still run the blog. Um, and then I do all the rest of the things, um, and in tangent with it.


Bryan (03:37.059)

That is awesome. Yeah. I mean, it's so many business owners that I speak with, uh, have that similar story where they're like, I want to be some of the change you want to see in the world. And so I start a blog just to start talking about it. And then the blog turns into a thing in a bigger business. That's even how real many plants and plant-based and fire started with just the blog a long, long time ago. Yeah. Uh, so I have to ask what were some of those initial challenges you faced?


Rebecca (03:59.426)

That's awesome!


Bryan (04:06.155)

as you transitioned AutoCorporate into the blog and then into a full-fledged travel.


Rebecca (04:11.594)

Oh my God, how much time do you have? There were so many, there are so many. Well, you know, I think one of the biggest things and still something that I fight with is balancing the fact that everything is on you. I have a couple of freelancers that do some things for me, but you know, from the day-to-day emails to networking, to pitching my own media, to getting like bulk work done, everything.


Bryan (04:13.923)

Hahaha!


Rebecca (04:39.822)

falls on my shoulders. And so that can be really difficult. Previous to this, I managed some people, I had a boss, so I always was surrounded by people on a team and you were never alone. And so that has been a huge challenge for me to kind of get through and figure out how am I gonna plan for the next six months and also plan for just tomorrow.


And that can be incredibly overwhelming. And I'd say also the roller coaster of it, going from having a very stable job that you always got to check every other Friday and you punched in and you punched out is a totally different story from running your own business. You never really punch out. Some weeks that you make 50 cents and the others that you make a more.


Bryan (05:27.668)

That's true. Yes.


Bryan (05:34.669)

Yeah.


Rebecca (05:35.278)

stable living. And no one can really, you can prepare yourself for that. Like you tell yourself, like you understand what that's like, but you don't really know what that's like until you are stuck in the trenches of it. And you know, it's difficult. And then that affects, you know, I'm married and so luckily I do have a partner who's supportive, but it can affect your relationship as well because you know, needs to feel like, oh my god, I'm not as much of a participant in this. And yeah.


Bryan (05:57.923)

Yeah.


Rebecca (06:04.342)

That's a whole different challenge that you didn't necessarily foresee.


Bryan (06:09.435)

That's right. Yeah. Oh my gosh. The list goes on. I feel like we could do a whole separate episode on that one for sure because. Yeah. It's yeah. So many little things to uncover there. Um, I, I guess if we, if we dig into the actual travel business itself, uh, talk to us about the vegan travel market, like how do you assess the current market for vegan travel and its potential growth?


Rebecca (06:14.693)

Yeah, absolutely.


Rebecca (06:36.682)

So things are really growing. You know, you see the increase of products and clothing and things like that. And that's seeping into all the other facets of industry. And places are becoming more and more aware from them realizing that they need to have menu options at their hotel facilities to then thinking about the environmental impacts of some of the things that they are decorating rooms with.


or how they're recycling water. It kind of is a very large array of things that different places are doing within the industry. But it's growing, and it's kind of diverse. Places are becoming more and more aware that people are not stopping their ethics when they travel, that they want to carry that over. And some people are willing to pay more in order


book something that they know aligns with what they care about, that maybe has more vegan options or is fully vegan. The days of vegan hotels being a complete anomaly is kind of going to the wayside. They're popping up kind of left and right throughout the world.


Bryan (07:36.727)

Mm-hmm.


Bryan (07:40.699)

Mm-hmm.


Rebecca (07:53.918)

It's from Asia and Europe here in the United States. You can find places or you can find places that are incredibly vegan friendly as well. I think the idea, the focus on sustainability and eco-friendly practices is also influencing places making more dietary changes as well. Cause the conversations are shifting, places are becoming more and more aware that what we eat impacts all of that and has to be a part of every sustainability.


Bryan (08:08.792)

Yes.


Rebecca (08:22.926)

conversation. So it's growing. It still has a ways to go. I'm excited to see, you know, what this year unfolds at the next five years, 10 years unfold. Because even if you just look back over, you know, five years ago, it's vastly different. And you know, not the same, not the same that we find today.


Bryan (08:44.675)

Yeah, absolutely. I mean, just the thing for me, I think the light bulb clicked for me in 2023. As we're entering into 2024, the light bulb that clicked for me was almost every dollar that I put out needs to vote for what I want and what I believe in and so many levels. And I've always just put it into my food and that aspects of it. Maybe I wouldn't buy something.


uh, with leather animal products in it kind of a thing, but there's so many other things that we can do with our dollars. And so that's why I'm glad I bumped into you. And then I've had a few other travel agents on doing like the Disney, the Disney vegan tours and stuff like that too. So it's just like, it's interesting to see how we, I have such a passion for travel and I want to travel. I just want to do it in a sustainable way that I possibly can. And obviously.


I don't want to go someplace where I can't find any vegan options whatsoever. So thank you for that. Um, what is, you know, like as you, as you plan out a tour for what goes into planning a vegan tour and how do you sort of select your destinations? I think you have, you have some specific tours that you run on a yearly basis. Is that right? Tell us about those a little bit.


Rebecca (09:43.224)

I gotcha, absolutely.


Rebecca (10:02.714)

Yeah. So last year was our inaugural tour and we went to Thailand and it sold out. That was in November, so not too, too long ago. And it was really fabulous. We didn't actually start off with Thailand as being the one that we were going to kick off with. And truth be told, it was supposed to be Italy, but Italy was really difficult to deal with and the pricing wasn't great. There's a whole lot of behind the scenes that goes into it that people don't really think about. And so I had to scrap it.


And for all of the itineraries thus far that I've done, I work with Intrepid Travel, which is a certified B Corp company. And I work with their local offices to kind of manage all of the things that go into the day by day itinerary. And then they help with negotiating hotel rates and putting together the whole package. And so that gives me some stability because to be very honest,


and to do the entire tours myself, I would have to dedicate my entire business to it. Or I would have to multiply myself or I just never go to bed. I don't know. None of those things really seem very possible at the moment. So when I started the Thailand one or the three that I had planned this year, we started talking about high level of the destination. Is the destination...


Bryan (11:09.956)

Hehehehe


Rebecca (11:25.73)

have options? Are these cities completely off the beaten path and going to be really difficult to deal with? Is this a different kind of thing that we would look at? Or could it be more along the lines of a culinary aspect? Because we can do things that are a little bit more off the beaten path, but you just have to know going into it, what kind of a trip is this going to be? More adventure related or more of like a food adventure kind of thing?


So, you know, I start there with looking at that and then I start looking at hotels and what are the hotels, what do they offer? Is there a vegan hotel nearby? And so that can help really drive a itinerary as well. Because if there's a vegan hotel that's not too far, I'm going to try and figure out a way to make it work, if possible. And then activities as well. So if there's like something really cool going on, like


Bryan (12:08.475)

Mm-hmm.


Bryan (12:13.272)

Yep. Yeah.


Rebecca (12:21.274)

If we were to go to London, you could have a cheese and wine tasting activity, you could do market walking tours. Some places open themselves up to being able to do a myriad of things. And then I always try and put local culture into it. So if there's a way to interact with the local community respectfully and sustainably, I really want to bridge that gap. So travelers have...


Bryan (12:26.329)

Yep.


Rebecca (12:50.246)

a unique experience that's not just a cookie cutter thing. It's not just what everybody else does. And so then they have really respect for the local destination and an understanding of what real life is like there. What's the political aspect if they're able to speak about it or want to? What's their day-to-day like? What's the cost of living like? What are their challenges?


Bryan (13:05.057)

Mm-hmm.


Rebecca (13:15.678)

And then sometimes, you know, we get to have an interaction with, you know, local families. The Bali trip that I have for later this year will do a Balinese blessing with a local family and have coffee with them, which is a really unique thing. And it's not, yeah, it's not something that you would find on a standard itinerary. And so that's really important to me and as a business is to make sure that's always a part of it. I never, I always want to come into a destination.


Bryan (13:30.003)

fun yeah


Rebecca (13:44.09)

and be as respectful as possible and then leave it better than we've found it and leave it with more of an appreciation as well.


Bryan (13:51.275)

Absolutely. I think you're going to see even more of that sort of volunteer tourism things popping up where like we go in, like, I don't know, that's something I would love to see more and more of is to be able to go on a vegan trip and work for a day or two, help them do something in the local community. I've given you a couple of business ideas. I have to say like the one, as you're saying something, the one idea that pops in my head is just, is just like, I'm building a


vegan oriented business, you are, and many other people that have been on the podcast are, and we are looking for help. And when I go to Upwork or Fiverr or LinkedIn, and I type in the word vegan, like you need to put it in your profile. Everybody who's listening, go and put it in your profile, promote this, because you might be an expert in XYZ, and I don't know that you're vegan because you're still not putting it on your profile. So that's my tip for all you out there to.


Tell us so that Rebecca and I can hire you for our businesses, because we would love to have you in our little fold here.


Rebecca (14:52.522)

Yeah, that's a really great thing. Just to add onto that, I was looking for someone, I was looking for a couple of freelancers actually to help with some writing and I really wanted someone that is vegan or is very well aware of what that means. Yeah, I can't tell you eight different ways like this is just not okay and why we can't talk about horseback riding like for the 10th time.


Bryan (15:06.971)

I have to get it. Like it's hard to even write about it unless you get it. So, yeah.


Bryan (15:17.579)

Yeah.


Rebecca (15:19.206)

And that was, I had to go through other contacts and other, you know, groups that I was a part of to track someone down. Because just searching for that, like it was, it was an abyss. So do that, please.


Bryan (15:29.967)

Yep.


Bryan (15:33.647)

Help us out. So I have to ask, you know, it's a new business in this post pandemic world that we're living in here. How has Veggies Abroad grown since its inception and what were some of the factors in its success?


Rebecca (15:34.988)

Yes!


Rebecca (15:48.386)

That's a very good question. So I would say this past year has kind of been just insane. It's been kind of chaotic. I started the year with going, okay, we're going to, or last year actually, I started 2023 thinking, okay, we're gonna launch these new services. We're gonna be fully a travel company and not really kind of understanding, to be honest, what all...


that was going to mean. And so things started off kind of slow at the beginning of last year, and I had a lot to learn. But by the end of the year, I mean, we had one sold out tour under our bell, three more planned for 2024. And now I'm starting to plan 2025. You know, and then I started with just like one or two people who were interested in some trip help.


And now my inbox is significantly picked up its pace to the point that I have now had to start pushing people off into the next month that I can't help them. I would say there's definitely been major growth, especially in the last quarter of last year. And I'm starting to get to the point where I'm thinking, okay, so I've got a couple of freelancers to help with the blog. When is it going to be my next breaking point for Scrip?


help. Because again, I'm only one person and I'm going to have to start to move some of this stuff over to someone else. So an exact percentage, I mean, I don't know, it kind of feels like it was over 100% change and everything. I mean, I went kind of from 0 to 60 in many ways.


Bryan (17:21.05)

Yep.


Bryan (17:27.395)

Hehehehe


Bryan (17:33.647)

That is awesome. I mean, congratulations on that success. These are all good problems to have as a business owner when your inbox is full of requests. So congratulations, whatever you're doing is working. And I hope all of our fellow listeners out there reach out to you if they have some travel needs. So I'm curious, we touched on this a little bit earlier, but like, what do you see in the next five to 10 years for the vegan travel industry?


Rebecca (18:00.958)

Oh, that's a great, great question. I think we'll start to see more hotels that are not vegan adopting more options. And then I think because there is such a push in the sustainability realm and with, you know, companies needing to reduce their carbon emissions and businesses feeling that push as well too, that we're going to start to see a lot of these hotels being more vocal about some of the changes that they're making. Some are slow.


Bryan (18:02.434)

What are some of those highlights?


Rebecca (18:30.166)

Some are just not talking about it, but I think it's going to become a really important part of the conversation that they're going to have to become more aggressive about implementing these things. And then also talking about it and letting consumers know in order to push business, because some of this might change pricing for some places. And so they're going to need to discuss why is pricing changing? What does this mean? I think that we will probably see


Bryan (18:30.714)

Mm-hmm.


Bryan (18:47.941)

Mm-hmm.


Rebecca (18:59.386)

more vegan B&Bs and hotels pop up, or at least I hope. I have seen some places grow and adding locations just in the past year. And then there was also a hotel in the UK that went from being a regular hotel to now transitioning to fully vegan. And a lot of it had to do with their ethics, but I think some of it had to do with sustainability as well too. So I think we're seeing more people become


Bryan (19:18.415)

That's awesome. Yeah.


Rebecca (19:28.374)

You're very aware that what you is on your plate affects more than just you. So I think that's going to affect people in their business, business changes as well. You know, on the food front, things continue to grow. New restaurants are popping up. I know that the pandemic did really harm quite a few and caused a lot of.


Bryan (19:34.884)

Yes.


Bryan (19:49.541)

Mm-hmm.


Rebecca (19:50.878)

loggers. 2023 was kind of difficult with the rates being hiked and borrowing money. So hopefully 2024, as things settle down, will help businesses so that they can borrow more if they need to borrow so that they can continue expansion plans and things like that. There have also been an increase over the last couple of years with festivals. I think that we'll continue to see more and more of those. I know that there is a really large conference that's moving into


Bryan (19:56.923)

Mm-hmm.


Bryan (20:14.317)

Mm-hmm.


Rebecca (20:21.506)

That's a really great thing to add to a trip itinerary that has a very aggressive plan to increase its presence in other places. I don't think that they're the only ones because now we're seeing more with food truck events and things along those lines. If the past five years and its change is any indication, I think that we'll start to see even more good things.


Bryan (20:24.9)

Yeah.


Bryan (20:45.667)

Yep, absolutely. I don't know, there's so many trips I wanna plan, so I will be calling you for more of them in the future for sure. It's been a pleasure. I have to say one of my favorite quotes is, travel is fatal to bigotry and narrow-mindedness. I think that's Mark Twain, right? And so everybody get out there, do more traveling, reach out to Rebecca. What can the community do? What can our listeners that are watching this and listening to this?


Rebecca (20:50.273)

Thank you.


Rebecca (20:53.634)

Fantastic.


Bryan (21:14.744)

Do to help you grow veggies abroad and what are the best ways to get in touch?


Rebecca (21:20.462)

So if you want to get in touch, you can visit veggiesabroad.com and my email is on there and many, many places. Feel free to shoot me a note. You can shoot me a note via Instagram as well. I am on there. And then as far as any other avenues, I did mention that we have three tours for 2024,


Rebecca (21:48.69)

If any of those destinations are of interest to you, definitely shoot me a note. The Africa one, I have a feeling, is probably gonna sell out in the next couple months. There's been a lot of interest in it. So if that even slightly is of interest to you, I would not hold onto it too long. And then if you're looking for travel planning help, feel free to reach out about that as well.


Bryan (22:12.664)

Well, that is all the time we have for this episode of Plant Based on Fire. Thank you so much, Rebecca, for joining us and sharing your insights and experiences with our community. Until next time, everybody, keep that fire burning.


Rebecca (22:26.818)

Thank you.


Our Real Men Eats Plants Podcast Is Here!

You can listen to our podcast on any of these portals.


Apple Podcasts     Spotify     Stitcher     Amazon Music     Google Podcasts     RMEP Podcast Website Page

bottom of page