Category Archives: vegan adventure

The Day Chalet, Our Vegan AirBnB

Last November, Dr. D. and I decided to open our home to travelers through AirBnB using our spare bedroom. At first, we were a little hesitant about having strangers in our home but had confidence in AirBnb’s system as we learned more about ways to vet our prospective guests. Although many people around the world have turned to AirBnb to make money using a spare bedroom, a rental property, or a vacation home, ours was going to be unique. ¬†Most AirBnB listings have house rules such as, no smoking, no parties, no pets, etc. but we had special house rules.

You are welcome to use our kitchen but please keep it free of animal products as our home is vegan.

Most guests understood this and many wanted to talk about it after they arrived. “Can I eat Cheez Doodles in my room?” one guest asked. I told him I wasn’t going to kick him out for eating Cheez Doodles but had a bag of the Earth Balance equivalent waiting for him in his room when he returned for the day. He loved them!

I had another AirBnB user send me this message prior to booking,¬†“I’d like to know if it’s allowed for me to cook my dinner. I eat salad with chicken or rice, eggs. I don’t eat meat.” I gently explained that as stated in our profile under House Rules, we don’t allow any animal products in our home (and told him that chicken was, indeed, meat) which led him to give me warnings about Vitamin B-12 deficiency. He found another place to stay.

Our experiences with guests has been nothing short of fabulous. We’ve shared tea at midnight, bourbon after our usual bedtime, and lots of stories of travels at home and abroad. We’ve welcomed a motorcyclist during his cross-country trip and an older couple from a town 30 miles from us who were attending a concert and didn’t want to drive all the way home in the dark. We’ve had guests from India, Canada, Germany, Scotland, China, and many other places in the world. Each one of them enriched our lives during their short stays.

We quickly found that travelers were encouraged to book more readily after I added pictures of our cat and dog to our profile. “We want to meet Willow the Wonder Dog” or “your cat is adorable. I just had to meet her” were common remarks. Did this weed out some people who weren’t animal lovers? Maybe. But that was okay.

Marsali
Willow the Wonder Dog

What I found interesting is that we have not had a single person stay with us who identifies as vegan. We’ve had a couple of vegetarians but everyone else has been omnivorous. There’s no sense in “preaching to the converted” and we are happy to use our home to open up ways to passively promote veganism; it could be in the form of a conversation they initiate, a comment about a book they found in their room, or simply the aroma of delicious food cooking when they arrive. Or maybe simply finding out that vegans are friendly, welcoming, and kind.

We donate monthly to The Coalition for Healthy School Food, a non-profit founded by our friend Amie Hamlin and discovered that noting in our profile that a portion of our profits go to the organization helped spread the word about the work they’re doing. During Labor Day of 2017, we donated all our profits to Hurricane Harvey animal rescue relief efforts. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to make money using AirBnb but we feel our good fortune should be shared.

Our AirBnB business will be going international as we build our home in Nuevo Arenal, Costa Rica. With the help of a property manager, we hope to be welcoming guests there by late 2018. In the meantime, check out our current listing here. If you’re interested in setting up your own AirBnB, please contact me with any questions or use this link and I will donate our referral bonus to an animal rescue organization of your choice.

Coming in 2018!

 

Field Trip! Albany Vegfest!

Dr. D. and I took a field trip this weekend to the Albany Vegfest.  After I found out Colleen Patrick-Goudreau was speaking, I knew I couldn’t miss it. For those of you who read my blog post Why I Love Colleen Patrick-Goudreau, you know she’s my hero and how much I admire and respect her work.  When I mentioned to Dr. D. that she would be at the Speaker Recognition Dinner the night before the Vegfest, he talked me into leaving a day early and staying over.

The dinner took place at the Century House in Latham and around 70 people attended.  The food was phenomenal!  All of it was vegan and all of it was delicious and creative.  Our friends, Sherry and Mike were there with their adorable girls who held me to my promise to kiss the chef if I saw him.

Picture taken by Meena Colbdorf

We sat with some very interesting people who provided us with great dinner discussions. I also got to meet Liz Rotundo whom I had “friended” on Facebook a couple of weeks earlier.  She was a very busy woman all weekend as one of the organizers of Vegfest and I was so impressed with how she pulled it all off.

Colleen was wonderful as expected and got laughs from the audience when she admitted how much she loved that her hair smelled like goat after spending all day at the Woodstock Animal Sanctuary.  Her words were engaging and motivating and her closing which was more like a benediction, brought me to tears.  I really wish I had recorded it.

When she was finished, I approached her to tell her what an influence she has been on me as a new vegan.  She held my hand for a long time before giving me a huge hug.  She is one of the most genuinely kind and friendly people I’ve ever met.

Me and my hero


One of the highlights of my weekend!


The next day we did a little shopping before heading to the Polish Community Center where the Vegfest was being held.  Our tablemates from the night before had highly recommended Honest Weight Food Co-Op so that was our first stop.


It reminded me of Greenstar in Ithaca but bigger and with higher prices.  I was thrilled, however to find the pre-made vegan pie crusts I’d been looking for.  I also found this selection of goodies, many gluten-free and many vegan:



And this book:  

Because nothing turns a vegan on like kale!


We don’t have a Trader Joe’s within 100 miles of Binghamton so a pilgrimage there was on my list.  My heart fluttered a little bit when Dr. D. announced it was his “new favorite store”.  I just love this man!

My goal for this visit was to pick up some of their K-cups for myself as well as for a female soldier serving in Afghanistan.  It was on her wish list for herself and her fellow soldiers.  Trader Joe’s K-cups are around 10 cents less per cup than any other brand and I think the coffee is superior to any others I’ve tried.  The Trader Joe’s brand of vegan mozzarella was recommended to me by one of their crew members so I picked up some of that as well.  And mushrooms.  Lots of mushrooms.

Trunk full of goodies, we left for the Vegfest.  There was a line out the door when we got there and both of us remarked about how thankful we were for the unseasonably warm weather.  

Our first stop was the heated tent where Sherry F. Colb would be doing her presentation.  Sherry is the author of Mind If I Order the Cheeseburger? and a brilliant and charming speaker. I’m also honored to call her my friend. We thoroughly enjoyed her talk on how to answer the most common questions vegans are asked.  She collected questions from audience members which made the presentation interactive and entertaining.

After Sherry’s speech, we were urged (okay, begged is a better word) by her young daughters to visit the table selling the amazing vegan desserts.  These desserts were outstanding by any standards and to know they were free of animal products made me feel like a kid at Christmas!


Dr. D. and I shared a tiramisu (far right).
Gorgeous, right?

We walked around scoping out the place and I was thrilled to have so many choices for lunch.  Despite all those options we decided on pizza.  I hadn’t had pizza in three months!  We both got a slice and I thought I’d died and gone to cheesy, saucy, doughy heaven!  It was amazing!  In fact, it was so amazing we both got second pieces.

We stopped by our friend Amie Hamlin’s table to say good morning.  Amie is the Executive Director for the New York Coalition for Healthy School Food which is something important to me as I still have two children in school.  Her table buzzed with activity for most of the day so it’s obvious it’s an important topic for many.  

The vendors were varied and ranged from animal rights groups to a soy candle vendor to booksellers where Dr. D. picked up a copy of Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease by Dr. Caldwell B. Esselstyn, MD.  Dr. D. had a mild heart attack a few years ago that resulted in two stents being placed.  His health has vastly improved since then but he is very curious about the good effects of a plant-based diet.  We walked around several times before heading back over to the tent to hear Colleen Patrick-Goudreau’s presentation.


Colleen had this picture up during her presentation
and told the story of the rescue of Linus.

Colleen was brilliant as usual and Dr. D. listened intently. I watched him and wondered what was going through his head.  Was he regretting coming with me to the event?  Did he think all of this information was too radical and extreme?  I would get my answers later that day.


After Colleen’s talk, we headed back inside to pick up a copy of her book, The Vegan Table and get it signed.  I now officially own all her books except for one.  I have instituted a new policy for myself; for every vegan cookbook I buy, I give away one of my non-vegan ones.  I’m one book away from an intervention from my loved ones.  However, this new book is the most special of all because of the inscription its author penned. 

Colleen signing books


Satisfied both in my heart and my belly, we hit the road back to Binghamton.  It was early so we decided to stop in Greene for a drink and to check out the menu at the newly renovated (and beautiful!) Sherwood Hotel.  We sat down with our cocktails and the menu.  I found a portabello entree I felt could be made vegan and told Dr. D. we could eat there if he wanted to as the entrees for him were plentiful.  

The next thing he said blew me away.

I’ve made the decision to eat vegan whenever we eat together. I can see how important this is to you and want to support you.

Colleen’s message was very powerful and I think the health benefits alone are worth me making this change.

I left out quotation marks on purpose as I cannot remember exactly what he said but the message was clear and I am so happy he’s made this decision.  It’s a step toward better health and a step forward in this journey we’re taking together.

Lots more pictures can be seen here.  Make plans to attend next year and I’ll see you there!