I’ve had a passing interest in vegetarianism for many years now. I can remember attempting to actively pursue a vegetarian diet 4 or 5 years ago while in school. I went to Costco and bought granola bars, muesli, a bunch of beans, and organic Pop Tarts. I thought that would be enough to last me for a while. It wasn’t. I grew bored of the diet about a day and a half into the endeavor and abandoned it. Those cans of beans are still probably sitting uneaten on the shelf in that apartment.

Why now?

Fast forward to today. I’ve been in Nepal for one month now, and I decided before I came here that I would again try a vegetarian diet for my first month in the country and see how it went. There was one big factor that led me to believe that I would have more success with my attempt this time around:

I don’t cook.

In fact, I haven’t cooked anything—not so much as boiled a pot of water—for something like 10 months now. I eat out for every meal. It’s glorious. Now, Nepal is a predominantly Hindu nation. (Fun fact: It is the world’s only constitutionally declared Hindu nation.) And Hindus don’t eat cows, because cows are believed to be sacred. And a lot of Hindus don’t eat any meat at all. As a result, vegetarian restaurants are legion in Nepal. In other words, it’s easy to be a vegetarian here because I don’t have to change my behavior at all. And, having spent a month here in Nepal last year, I knew that all the best food here was vegetarian anyway.

About 95% of my wanting to try out a vegetarian diet was curiosity. I wanted to see 1) if I could do it, and 2) if I felt any different after doing it. The other 5% was for environmental reasons. My extensive research (i.e., I think I read a headline about it once on Twitter) has shown that vegetarian diets are more eco-friendly than diets high in meat. In real-world terms, any one person’s diet makes no difference, but I suppose I like the feeling of moral superiority that comes from not desecrating Earth nearly as much as, for example… you.

The past month of being in Nepal has been a good testing ground for my vegetarianism for another reason: I spent 8 days trekking in the Himalaya. So that’s 8 extremely physically demanding days of not eating any meat. That’s about as good of a test of a vegetarian diet as any as I can think of.

Looking down the Langtang Valley from the top of Tserko Ri (16,350 ft/4,984 m) with Langtang Lirung (23,710 ft/7,227 m) on the right.

Above: Looking down Nepal’s Langtang Valley from the top of Tserko Ri (16,350 ft/4,984 m), with Langtang Lirung (23,710 ft/7,227 m) on the right. Veg power!

The results

I’ve found that I’ve enjoyed this change in diet for two reasons:

  1. It’s cheaper. A bowl of veg curry is cheaper than a bowl of chicken curry. This means I can use that saved money to buy important things like French fries.
  1. It has encouraged me to eat things that I otherwise normally eat. This means branching out and trying new foods. It’s been fun. I had some sort of weird but tasty fried spinach pie thing the other day, for example, and that’s something I never would have bothered trying if meat were on the menu.

I do not feel any healthier. Nor do I feel less healthy. In fact, I feel exactly the same. I have found that I’ve been sleeping better since being in Nepal, but I chalk that up more to the fact that 1) I no longer live right next to a construction site like I did in Cambodia, and 2) it’s chilly here at night and I sleep best when I’ve burritoed myself in a warm blanket.

I don’t feel any more or less hungry than I normally do. That is to say, I’m starving all the time, but that high level of hunger has neither increased nor decreased since moving to a meatless diet.

Being on a vegetarian diet was not an issue on the trek. In fact, eating yak meat that’s been hanging in a stone hut for who knows how long was not even in the least bit appetizing or tempting. Though I did eat yak and chicken a couple times on my Everest trek last year, the majority of that trek was vegetarian as well.

What’s next?

First, I have no desire to push it further and experiment with a vegan diet. I love cheese. I will never not eat cheese if cheese is around.

Second, I will continue being a vegetarian for as long as I’m in Nepal (and India, too). It’s easy to do, and it has required literally no effort on my part. It’s a fun experiment.

Third, I will probably not stick to a vegetarian diet after I leave South Asia. If it becomes too much of a pain in the butt to find vegetarian restaurants, or if I get tired of eating the same veg meals (which would likely be the case if I went to Europe or North America)—in other words, if it requires too much effort on my part—I will likely abandon the vegetarian diet.

And that’s pretty much it. Until next time, check out this delicious and completely vegetarian Israeli food sampler I had a few days ago:

Falafel, salad, tahini, baba ganoush, hummus, etc.

Above: 100% vegetarian goodness in the form of falafel, salad, tahini, baba ganoush, hummus, yogurt, etc.