Being the only vegan in the village can feel a little lonely. It’s not so bad if you are surrounded by people who support you, respect your decision, and keep a packet of Linda McCartney pies in the freezer for when you pop round for dinner. But for lots of people, it can feel like it’s you against the world.
But it isn’t. Really, it isn’t. There are 542,000 vegans in the country and I bet some live closer to you than you think! When I moved to a new small town, I was amazed to find a lovely vegan woman – now a good friend – lived just six doors away. Vegans are everywhere; you’ve just got to find them.
Start with Facebook, The Vegan Directory and Meetup.com to see if there is a vegan social group in your area. These groups usually meet once a month at a local restaurant and you get to spend the evening enjoying a meat-free meal and the company of like-minded people. But what if there isn’t a group near you? Well, it’s really not that difficult to start one.
First, choose a date and a venue – probably a café or restaurant that can cater for vegans. It is easiest if you choose, for example, the second Thursday of each month, so people get used to the routine. Start by inviting anyone you know who is vegan or vegan-curious. Contact the national vegan and animal protection organisations to see if they could invite their members in your area. Are there any local animal sanctuaries, yoga classes or healthfood shops? Could they put up a poster or pass on the details? What about an online noticeboard for your town, the local newspaper, magazine and radio station? They might run a feature about the new Vegan Meet-Up Group.
It doesn’t matter if you get four people or forty, this is a wonderful way to spend some time with others who understand why you’re vegan, and have made the same commitment themselves. And you’ll find that over time, as word spreads, the numbers increase.
One of the great things about being part of a vegan meet-up group is that it supports local meat-free businesses (if you are lucky enough to have a vegetarian or vegan restaurant near you), but it also encourages other pubs and restaurants to add vegan meals to their menus. Many vegan social groups also go on to organise other events, like vegan fairs, film screenings and their own vegan challenges, but it’s best to start small and work your way up to these things.
Eating out each month can be expensive so, once you know the group’s members, why not start a pot luck night where everyone brings a vegan dish, and you all tuck in together? It’s cheap, it’s fun and you get to try new foods and swap recipes, too.
If organising your own group is not possible for you, find the nearest group to you, even if it is 50 miles away. Just joining their Facebook group can be a great way to pick up local tips and advice, even if you never go to a gathering in person. Or perhaps you could get to their meals every now and again, and stay in touch with the people you meet there in between visits.