Interview With Will Travel For Vegan Food, Part 2

In Part 1 of the interview I talked with Kristin Lajeunesse about her goals and dreams, as well as creating a mobile lifestyle. In Part 2, we talk about the actual project of Will Travel For Vegan Food on Kickstarter, and her partner for the trip, Ethan Dussault, discusses how he came to the project. Again, there’s still a few days left to help them out, so head over to their Kickstarter page to pledge – any amount helps!

TNTSU: Why was there hesitation in using Kickstarter as a funding source in the first place?

Kristin:  I think my hesitation going in was thinking, “people will just assume that I’m going on this big vacation” and that they’re supporting this vacation sort of a trip. And it really wasn’t that way at all but I was worried that it would be interpreted that way – that people would think it was a waste of time and that people wouldn’t want to support it that way.

[Then] before I knew it I was getting donations in through the Paypal button on the website before even starting on the Kickstarter project, and then when I posted the idea to the blog, I got some comments and a lot support from people who said “just go for it,” etc.

Why use a 30 day time limit instead of the default 60 (as most Kickstarter projects do)?

Kristin: I wanted to feel like there was a tangible time limit, and felt like 30 days is reasonable. [Sixty] would draw it out too much. [I didn’t want] people to just say “oh I’ll go back to it” or “I’ll donate later.” I wanted them to feel like there was a little more pressure to get it done sooner rather than later.

Ethan, I know you’re involved in music and the recording industry, but how did you get involved in this trip?

Ethan: I’ve spent the last 11 years of my life working in a recording studio in Boston. I don’t plan on giving up that job, but taking a break is not such a bad thing. Basically Kristin saw a post I had made on a Facebook page for a local vegan event and she messaged me and we became friends and the timing was right so the invite was extended.

Are you planning on doing the entire trip together?

Ethan: We’re kind of jumping and seeing what happens. There’s no…trying to put any heavy expectations on anything. Just diving in and see what happens. I don’t like to try to predict anything. I’m trying not to set any expectations in any direction.

You’re vegan as well, right?

Ethan: Yes. Have been since 2005.

After going to that Vida Vegan Con last month, I really appreciate the activism and positivity of the vegan community. Vegans will think your project is awesome, of course, but I wonder if there will be mixed responses to “we’re on a road trip to visit every vegan restaurant in the country.”

Ethan: Well, there’s going be detractors [like] “well, you’re in this gas guzzling van…you’re talking about being environmental…” [but] at the same time, we don’t have a heating bill. Our footprint will probably be smaller than an average homestead, I’m sure in the end we could do a calculation that could show that. We’ll also be purchasing carbon credits and at some point upgrading our ride to something truly energy progressive.

Ultimately the goal of this trip is to create a tighter community. The community is already tight, but I think when they start to put faces to restaurants, boutiques and sanctuaries and there’s this one place you can go and see this web of people all involved in the same thing, it just will bring strength to the lifestyle.

Talk about the mixing you’ll be doing for people who pledge certain amounts. What styles have you worked with?

Ethan: I’ve done across the board. I’ve done country rock, I’ve done electronica records, I’ve done hardcore, punk, metal records. Indie rock – anywhere from like shoe gaze to heavy indie like Fugazi, Girls Against Boys-style. I love music, so I’m pretty open to working in any genre and making it happen.

It was the first passion that I followed. It has been very fulfilling. I’m going to hopefully be able to maintain this professional life but also follow another passion of mine and that’s activism and veganism and the whole gamut, you know? I don’t want it to be a lopsided experience, so hopefully I’ll be able to do everything.

[Besides that] there’s definitely a link to veganism and underground rock, lots of bands with messages, a lot of those people have vegans in the band, or they’re all vegan. The reason I’m able to do it so cheaply is that I’m not paying a studio because I’m going to have this mobile set-up. And no overheard except for the cost of gear and my time. It’s a cheap way for bands to finish their album, and continue to stay on message.

It sounds like both of you guys are going to be working hard while still trying to manage the travel and food aspect of the trip.

Kristin: Part of the beauty of the trip is that while there is kind of this soft end date, we’re really just going to go with the flow [like] if there’s a place that we need to hunker down in for a little longer in order to get work done. Or we happen to stumble on to a place we really like a lot we might spend more time there.

We have some plans in place in order to have access to the internet, wherever we are, and because we will be working on the road, part of the priority is to make sure we do have internet and can get our work done. That will come before seeking out the next vegan restaurant. We’ll always be headed to the next one of course, and that will be the over-arching goal. But we’re not going to say “okay, we have one week to get from here to there no matter what.”

Obviously the East and West coasts are bustling with all-vegan places, but what about some of the less dense spots, like Montana, or Idaho?

Kristin: One of my life goals is to visit every state in the country. Even if some place doesn’t have a 100% vegan restaurant, we’ll probably wander out there [as] there might some fun touristy thing, or a park to drive through, so we’ll be hitting up every state – at least that’s the plan. It actually makes it a little easier, because we’ll be spending a lot more time on the West coast and East coast, where there’s a lot more vegan restaurants, and that way we don’t have to worry so much about making our way through the middle of the country where there might be fewer places. We’ll just stop in, hang-out, do touristy stuff and then keep going, and we won’t have to stress about wanting to spend more time elsewhere.

What about Hawaii and Alaska?

Kristin: We’re still planning on going there! I know there are some vegan restaurants in Hawaii. Until I know I’m headed in that direction I’m not going to spend too much time investigating yet.

I can vouch for Louisville’s vegan scene – even if you’re here for a day you can do more than just the food truck (Morels) – we have vegan cupcakes for instance, but I bet there are some cities out there that have like one little thing, you know, and that might be it. That will be interesting.

Kristin: There are other elements to the trip too: we’ll be interviewing vegan business owners, and going to meet-ups and volunteering at farm sanctuaries and doing other humanitarian work. So the trip is not being restricted to only writing and reviewing restaurants, it’s really going to incorporate a lot of different things. This is a complete kind of lifestyle change where we are moving everything including how we’re doing our work and where we’re living to a vehicle essentially. So we want to take advantage of that and focus on a lot more than just the restaurants.

Once you hit the road, that’s pretty much it – your whole life is gonna be contained in that van, right?

Ethan: The idea is to be able to bring our bikes so that when we “land: in cities we use [less] gas and ride around to all the restaurants. So we’re going to have to put a bike rack on there. The inside – we’re going to empty it out and build a little sink area and a bed with storage, maybe a closet and some shelves. A typical camper van-type conversion. [We’ll] just do it from scratch and just have a blast doing it.

I wish you the best of luck, and I can’t wait to read a consistent voice (WTFVeganFood.com) reviewing all the wonderful vegan restaurants out there. Anything else you want to add?

Ethan: Something that people like to joke about “oh, you guys are just going on a vacation” and I guess I want to make it clear that it’s not a vacation. It’s going be some pretty heavy work, and we’re taking it pretty seriously. We do have a goal of building a hub of information and networking and basically showing the world that you can do things like stand up for what you believe in and have a professional life at the same time.