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All-or-none thinking. None for me, please

Last night I was out with some folks and we were talking about vegetarianism. Being “vegetarian” is something I’ve played around with, especially in the many months prior to my trip. I read Jonathan Safran Foer’s book Eating Animals last year and it had a big impact on the way I think.

From what I remember of JSF’s reading in Brookline, MA, he said it’s important to act upon your convictions. If you know eating meat is bad for you, just don’t do it. But he also argued (and this was the most important thing for me) that if you “mess up” and end up eating meat one day, who cares? That doesn’t mean you’re a failure or that you’re no longer vegetarian. You shouldn’t have to be all or none. Because once you believe it’s either/or, if you break the cycle, you’re essentially screwed. You think you’ve failed so you’ll just give up. Bad news.

So, while I’d like to be a better vegetarian (I haven’t been vegetarian since April, and even then it was pretty loose), I’m okay with eating whatever the hell I please. So long as I know its impact.

I also really dislike being grouped into a stereotype. Just because I may act or do something a certain way, I’m automatically categorized. (Well, maybe not me personally, because I am awesome and defy all stereotypes.) I’m guilty of this myself, though, so I can’t complain too much. Why can’t we all just be people?

This post turned confusing rather quickly, didn’t it? Here’s a bulleted list, which maybe makes more (or less) sense:

  • eat what you want.
  • stereotypes aren’t cool.

In conclusion, I’m sorry for rambling. But know this: ultimatums suck.

  1. I hate that. I find some hard core people that get more satisfaction criticizing others than they get by practicing certain behaviors themselves. Vegans, minimalist backpackers, environmentalists etc. In these groups, there are some that practice their beliefs 100%. To them I say, “Awesome!” I find that very respectable and disciplined. But please don’t be one of those people that criticizes the crap out of me and my not perfect behaviors. I don’t think you are helping your cause or our friendship at all.

    • Adam says:

      Yep. I’m all for those that have hardcore, passionate beliefs. I actually really admire those that do, too.

      “Good for you, but let me be!” sums it up nicely. I haven’t actually had too much trouble with people pushing their beliefs, traditions or styles on me while traveling. I just have a hard time believing those that are so strongly passionate will never “mess up.” And if/when they do, it shouldn’t suck. It’s just how it is. Life goes on.

  2. Ayngelina says:

    I’ve met some great vegetarians on the road in Latin America. They all agree that some compromises are made as often beans are cooked with lard but share your perspective to just do their best and not stress about it.

    • Adam says:

      There are a million other things to stress about while traveling rather than tiny, relatively insignificant details!

  3. Alouise says:

    It’s a little ridiculous to think that a person won’t ever mess up or fail in their convictions, whether it’s Vegetarianism or something else. This is a good point to make, just because you fail doesn’t make you a failure. If everyone just gave up after they messed up for whatever they were trying to achieve, I don’t think we’d go very far.

    • Adam says:

      It’s true. While I greatly admire those people that have strong, strong convictions, it’s okay if you mess up. Your beliefs don’t change because of one small step in the other direction.

  4. Shawn says:

    Everyones chemistry is different, and that is what most people who generalize miss, such as a comment “meat is bad for you”. How does that person know what is good or bad for each unique individual chemistry.

  5. Anonymous says:

    I’m a full veggie for over a decade now, and tho I have eaten meat in that period of time, it’s never really a fail unless you live an incredibly rigid lifestyle- I dont see it as a fail, but more adapting to circumstances. Traveling is one of those things that forces flexibility and that even extends to vegetarianism so it really bugs me when I meet people on the road who wont, like you said, just go with the flow. Eating healthy is one thing, going extreme just makes you difficult and no fun to be around in many cases! :-)

  6. Nicole Tedesco says:

    Vegetarianism while traveling is tough–some of us are vegetarian for religious reasons, which leaves a little less room for “I’m feeling lazy, I’ll just get something off the menu, even if I’m eating chicken tonight.”

    Having said that, if you’re vegetarian for ethical or health reasons, there’s no reason why you should beat yourself up for having the occasional meat dish (or, for example, eating beans cooked in lard!). Especially while traveling, it can be a lot of fun to go to the same restaurants your friends are visiting, and especially fun to try local dishes!

    I think it’s important to understand why people do what they do. Like you said, stereotypes suck! There are many motivations for being vegetarian–or not being vegetarian. It’s a bummer that you feel like people are stereotyping you, or making assumptions about you, just because you sometimes choose to eat (or not to eat) something.

    • Adam says:

      Hey Nicole,
      Thanks for the comment! Eating new foods while traveling is definitely one of the things I enjoy a lot. And I’m trying not to limit myself on too many ultra-strong convictions. Though I’m a bit of a hypocrite because I do really admire people who are so full of passion that it drives so much of their life.

      • Nicole Tedesco says:

        Yeah, it’s one of the things I really enjoy, too. In previous travels, I ate ANYTHING and EVERYTHING that was put in front of me. It made for some, uhhh…. “surprising” experiences and great stories!

        I’ve noticed that vegetarian food generally seems to be less “exotic” than non-vegetarian food. Think about it… most of the “weird” stuff that people eat is related in some way to an animal product, whether it’s animal blood, insects, or an animal body part (cow eyes, anyone?).

        (“Exotic” and “weird” go in quotes, because it’s not exotic or weird to the people who eat this stuff every week!)

        So, I guess there are a few advantages to not keeping strictly vegetarian on the road, and hilarious food stories would be one of them.

        Anyway, here is one strict vegetarian who certainly doesn’t look down on mostly-veggies. :-)

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