Tuesday, 9 June 2015

Huge Ass Vida Vegan Con 2015 Recap

Oh Vida Vegan Con, what a whirlwind of wonderful you were. I literally could not have been more excited when the VVC crew announced that the con was moving from Portland to one of my favourite cities in the world, Austin, TX. Hell yeah! Any excuse to come back right?! The SE Asia - USA - Europe route around the world has to be one of the more ridiculous ones ever but it has been beyond worth it to be able to take part not only in VVC but also in the warm hug that is Austin's vegan community. I love it here and right now it feels more like home than, well, home. (Note: Jeeze, I knew that I wouldn't be able to write this post without crying!)

Unoficially Vida Vegan Con began on Thursday night with a meet and greet at Buzzmill Coffee. Sweet Ritual were in attendance, Golden Spike Railcart were cranking out tacos and egg rolls and the sun was shining - it was fun and kinda overwhelming and I enjoyed hanging out by the name tag station meeting (and greeting!) everyone as they arrived.

The official conference fun kicked off with the Vida Vegan Con Bazaar at the Marchesa Hall and Theatre which was the most perfect venue ever. Everything fitted in so perfectly; there was ample parking, space for not just one but four food trucks including Arlo's, The Vegan Nom and Cool Beans, a huge theatre for talks and demos and plenty of room for all of the fantastic vendors and all of that with space to breathe!

After diving into the exclusive attendee only Miyoko's Kitchen Cheese Hour (I think all events should start with an exclusive vegan cheese hour btw) I hopped behind the speaker table with crackers in one hand and cheese in the other to sell some copies of my zine, European Vegan. That didn't last for long though because there was just so much to do (and eat!) and staying rooted to one spot was impossible!

I attended the parenting panel with Sayward Rebhal of Bonzai Aphrodite, The Sexy Vegan aka Brian Patton, Monique Koch of Brown Vegan and moderator Joanna Vaught because despite having no intentions of becoming a parent I am endlessly fascinated by people and what great people these are. It was really interesting and I think I definitely learnt some useful stuff even as a non-parent, hearing about people's life experiences is always interesting! Also, Joanna is endlessly hilarious and awesome so of course she was brilliant. The next panel that even the lure of tacos couldn't keep me away from was the How We Made Austin Awesome panel starring the man behind some of my favourite tacos, Chris Rios, Kristen Davenport of Capital City Bakery, Rabbit Food Grocery's Jessica Morris, Molly Frisinger of Lone Star Plate / Texas Veg Fest Fame and moderator Stefanie Bogdanich aka Lazy Smurf.

They started out wonderfully with this ridiculously catchy song (that apparently now makes me quite emotional!) and it just continued to be awesome from there on in.

The next morning it was time for registration and swag bag collection and I was immediately drawn to this section of the coffee stand where some genius decided that mini-marshmallows are now an appropriate breakfast item. They were meant for topping off your coffee but as a non coffee drinker I just threw a handful of Dandies mallows into a mug and went on my way!

The swag bag is an important part of VVC and despite being part of team swag bag (we spent hours stuffing these things!) I was still excited to have one of my very own. So excited in fact that I only managed to snap this Instagram ready snapshot that I was then too excited to post! Ridiculous!

My excitement levels weren't set to drop anytime soon because what came next was breakfast and woah what a breakfast it was! There were two buffets to choose from, a breakfast taco buffet, it is Austin y'all, and an artisan toast buffet. I'd been eating my way through Austin's tacos for a couple of weeks by this point and the toast options looked too good to pass up so I dived right in. I had toast with cheese spread, toast with avocado and coconut bacon, toast topped with tofu scramble, toast with Chao on the side. Toast toast toast toast toast. I love toast!

After breakfast, and a quick break to pop the Swag Bag of Wonder in the car, it was time for some learnin' and I headed straight for Jackie Sobon from Vegan Yack Attack's class on Blogging Etiquette and Social Media Essentials where I learnt about how to expand the reach of my blog and the tools I can use to make that easier. It was a really helpful class and now I just need to find the time to read my notes and action all of the the things I learnt!

Vida Vegan Con's speaker line up this year was stellar and making decisions about where to go and what to see was hard. I felt like I had tough decisions to make for every class which is why I was overjoyed at the amount of people that chose to come to the Feminism and Veganism panel I was speaking on with Anika Lehde, Nicole J. Georges and our wonderful moderator Julia DeNoto.

As you can see feminists are humourless fun ruiners. NOT! We talked about the patriarchy, why Peta are awful and why calling your new food product skinny anything is a horrible idea. We discussed how food and food advertising are gendered and why that's uncool and of course we addressed the fact that we were an all cis white able-bodied panel and how we felt that a lot needs to change in the AR movement to welcome people of colour. We discussed intersectionality and Sistah Vegan and the Food Empowerment Project and why appropriating the #blacklivesmatter tag for your animal rights message is both appropriative and totally inappropriate. It was pretty damned wonderful to be up there with these amazing & inspirational lady people getting this anger making shit off of my chest! 

After the break I went to see Sayward Rebhal talking about Facing Failing Health as a Vegan and as someone who's had recent experience of this I was very interested in hearing what she had to say. It was great to hear someone else's story. After lunch I headed to Room 301 to hear The Vegan RD, Ginny Messina, talking about how to prevent ex-vegans by discussing strategies to help people maximise their success as vegans. I love her no-nonsense, science based attitude to veganism and health and I think that a lot of the blogging world could benefit from concentrating on the realistic benefits and ethics of veganism rather than throwing overblown health claims out there in the hope that they'll lure people towards veganism. 

I rounded out the day with Touring Your Book or Project with fellow veganism and feminism panelist Nicole J Georges and I found her advice both timely and invaluable. As well as inspiring everyone with her stories of taking her show on the road she also spoke about how it doesn't really matter whether you're feeling nervous about public speaking! She said that people don't really want to hear that, they've come to see you perform, in a way, and so telling everyone how nervous you feel doesn't fill your audience with confidence. They've chosen to spend their time seeing you speak so give it your all, whatever that takes. 

Given that my talk (that I was in fact feeling super nervous about) was the very next day this advice couldn't have been more timely. I took her advice and ran with it, every time I had a negative thought about whether I could do it I shut it down with a positive thought (this is something I've been doing when working on body positivity for years) and then I took her advice to get into the zone with your favourite tunes and went right out there as a more confident version of myself. Thanks Nicole! 

Sunday soon rolled around and after another epic breakfast the first talk of the day starred my friend and fellow blogger Randi with her hilarious and informative talk Stop Breaking the Law A$&h#* where we learnt about copyright law, libel and how to run competitions online legally and fairly. Top tip : most of you are doing it wrong and you should definitely read Erika's write up of the class here for a more in depth look at why.

My second stop of the day was the talk From Vegan Blogger to Internet Entrepreneur with Jill Pyle of Vegan Cuts / Vegan Backpacker fame. Now I don't see myself building a business anytime soon but I enjoyed hearing about her journey anyway, it's always fun to hear about other people who are following their dreams even when those dreams differ from yours. Before lunch I popped into Brian Patton's talk Tweet Like You Give a Damn which was funny because Brian's a pretty funny guy! I learnt that I'm mainly doing social media right (in Brian's opinion!) which was nice.

Lunch was soon upon us and it was taco buffet time! They had mac & cheese! Genius!

It turns out that Chef Brad whips up a mac & cheese that is tastier than the sum of it's parts and he was happy to share the recipe with the VVC crew. You can access it right here. Food aside another amazing thing about the shared meals and breaks at VVC is that you're surrounded by amazing people the whole time! People like Amey and Joanna. Love!

I managed to squeeze in my friend Josh's talk about apps and a little of Whitney Lauritsen's YouTube workshop before high tailing it outa there to prepare for my own talk, Adventures in Vegan Travel Blogging. 

Photo Credit Lazy Smurf

Erika from Sews Before Bros wrote a fantastic round up of the talk here so check that out if you're interested in my adventures and tips on travel blogging. Personally I thought the talk went fantastically and I've had some incredibly lovely feedback from some of the attendees. It was the first time I've ever felt comfortable speaking to a room full of people which proves that the fake it 'til ya make it approach will get you there in the end! 

The closing party at queer friendly downtown patio bar Cheer Up Charlie's was a whole lotta fun and it was great to relax and wind down with a cocktail and a whole lotta food after such a hectic weekend. Arlo's, the food truck with the best burgers in town, is parked outside Cheer Up Charlie's so of course I needed to eat one, Thai Fresh were also there with a delicious spread of desserts including ice creams and croissants. A basket of vegan croissants has to be one of the most beautiful things in the world right?

I was also super pleased to see Bistro Vonish making an appearance especially because they had mac & cheese kolaches! Kolaches! Filled with mac & cheese. It was like all of my dreams became a delicious reality! 

As if this evening couldn't get better the winners of the Red Hot Vegans Scavenger Hunt were announced and I won!! And my pal Amey came second! Hell yeah! We were both incredibly overexcited that our commitment to taking ridiculous photos all weekend and collaborating with each other and even going off together to take some of the more challenging pictures (two stepping to a live band anyone?!) had paid off. The excellent prizes (and maybe just a little smidgen of competitiveness) were what drove me to complete every single task thrown our way and I was ecstatic when Amey suggested the very thing that I was already thinking - splitting the prizes - so that we both took away $100 to spend at Rabbit Food Grocery and $50 to spend at Lugusta's Luscious. Yum!

I made a fun video of our Rabbit Food Grocery shopping spree which you can check out right here on my new You Tube channel.

Food and classes aside one of the most amazing things about Vida Vegan Con is the people, we make so many great connections online these days but it's often challenging to turn those online friendships into real life ones especially when those people, like Susan, live on the other side of the world!

I loved being surrounded by so many fun, inspiring and compassionate people and I can't wait to see you all again - I'll have you regretting inviting me to stay "whenever" pretty soon I'm sure! 

I'm not ashamed to admit that I've cried my eyes out on more than one occasion when I've been reminded that this was that last EVER Vida Vegan Con. It seems to me like VVC was flourishing and growing and becoming even more amazing and whilst I totally understand why Jess, Janessa and Michelle need a break from the sheer amount of work needed to put the conference together I can't help but feel that I (somewhat selfishly) wish it could go on. You really can't beat spending a weekend immersed in a supportive and enlivening vegan bubble surrounded by your friends from all over the world and I can't wait to see what pops up to replace it. Heck, maybe I'll come up with something, but for now I'm going to continue to immerse myself in my notes and let my brain process all of it's new knowledge!


  1. What an awesome wrap-up! You really captured the spirit, enthusiasm, and sweetness of the weekend. That's great that you and Amey split your prizes. You'll have to show us what you bought with your bounty! I'm thrilled that I finally got a chance to meet you in real life, and I hope that our paths will connect again. If your travels ever take you through or around Iowa, you're always welcome here!

  2. Yay!!!!!!!! Loved reading this recap. Just brought me back! It was so great seeing you, and I hate that our talks were at the same time because I wanted to hear yours! :-) Also, I heard a rumor that you'd started a "mug full of Dandies" trend. Ahahaha! And "Everything Is Awesome" is STILL STUCK IN MY HEAD. It will not stop.

    Hope I get to see you in real life again someday!!!

    1. And ditto what Cadry said. If you ever come through Memphis, lemme know!

  3. Vida Vegan Con sounds amazing! It sounds like it's on a much bigger scale than our Vegfests in the UK, but I share your enthusiasm for being surrounded by compassionate, like-minded people. I may even enjoy that more than all the amazing food!

  4. I was one of the lucky ones who got to see you at the name tag table!! Great recap, and loved the feminism and veganism talk!

  5. I'm so happy I got to attend your talk on vegan travel! Super inspiring, especially considering the fact that I've been moving about so much that I've only been home two weeks this year. Sorry I was incredibly lame and too shy to say hi, though.

  6. Loved reading this. Great to hear that everything went so well. I can well imagine how sad you were to leave.

  7. so much cool food! i am so jealous of the swag & food bar set ups!

  8. Great recap. Now plan the next one :P

  9. Antisocial hermits like me get to enjoy Vida Vegan Con via awesome recap posts like yours. It really does look like whirlwind of wonderful!

    Marshmallows for breakfast? Yes, sign me up! All the food sounds amazing, and so do the panels and talks. And look at all the awesome people! Amey, Susan, Bianca, you! :)

  10. Wow it looked so rad and your dress you wore for your talk was totally adorable. Plus mac & cheese tacos? We need to recreate that when we next attempt a flungefest.

    Also, as an ex-events person, I'd totally help you if you wanted to organise something. Just sayin! :) xx

  11. You have insane skills, summing up those three days so succintly! I can't wait to see where our adventures will have us meeting next. <3

  12. This is an amazing wrap up. I want to go back!

  13. Thanks for such a detailed account of VVC; now I almost feel like I was there! I really do hope someone steps in to organize something like this again. I know I would love the chance to meet some of the other vegan bloggers out there and learn from each other.


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