(The title of this post is a reference to the album of the same name by Vance Joy. Dream Your Life Away is one of my favorite albums to listen to while driving, editing photos, writing, relaxing, enjoying the view of a gorgeous sunset... truth be told, Vance Joy is one of my favorite musicians.)
After a successful two days at California State University- Long Beach, we set up our display at the Black College Expo in Los Angeles. I had no idea what to expect from the event, but I was overwhelmed by the positive response our display received! In addition to high school students preparing to go to college, I talked to a lot of parents, grandparents, and younger siblings eager to learn about veganism, and excited about how easy it is.
Once we were en route to Arizona- after stopping for chili cheese fries, buffalo cauliflower, and baked potato pizza at Mohawk Bend in Los Angeles, that is- it felt like tour had really started. We pulled in to our hotel in Mesa late Saturday night, but I was up early on the morning of Super Bowl Sunday, so I headed to the Starbucks near our hotel.
It was such a lovely morning; the weather was perfect and I soaked in the atmosphere around me while enjoying my coffee outside. The mountains in the distance?! Unreal- they fill me with awe- and I've seen cacti before, but somehow they still are amazing to me- I guess because it's just so different from the East Coast scenery I'm used to, so I always get a kick out of seeing them.
One of the best parts of tour is being able to see friends all over the country, and one of my best friends since childhood, Emily, lives in Arizona, so we went out for lunch at The Cutting Board. I had a vegan pesto breakfast pizza, which was bomb, but the best part was getting to catch up with a treasured friend that I hadn't seen in ages.
The next two days were spent at Arizona State University in Tempe, a school of around 75,000 students. We didn't meet all 75,000, but I did talk to a lot of people both of the days we were there- I really love getting to interact with so many people every day and educate them on a cause that's important to me.
I'm hardly what you'd call a nature lover- I'm not one to suggest hiking or camping as an activity- but wow, it's impossible not to appreciate the beauty of a gorgeous sunset. The colors in the air seemed different in Arizona.
Next on our itinerary was the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque; after a while of driving through the mountains, once we'd reached a flatter landscape we pulled over to take in the sunset. I think it's important to do those things once in a while.
I met Audrey, the peta2 campus rep at UNM, when she was on Warped Tour last summer, and it's so inspiring to see how in her first semester on campus, she's already begun to make an impact at her school! I love seeing people taking initiative like that.
If we're going to talk about taking initiative and making a difference, I've also got to talk about Faraz, the campus rep at Texas Tech University in Lubbock, TX. We were at Texas Tech for two days, and it was our first time encountering loads of agriculture students- which naturally lead to a lot of interesting and lengthy discussions. The bigger cities in Texas- Houston, Dallas, Austin, San Antonio- are relatively vegan-friendly, but West Texas? You have to hunt a little more for the options, but they are there! After our first day on campus, we met up with Faraz and some of his friends at Mama Fu's, an Asian restaurant in town- and they had a separate menu listing all of their vegan items (spring rolls with peanut sauce, and a tofu veggie stir fry?! Yum!). We all went dancing at a place called Wild West afterwards- I took part in the group dance lesson to do the two-step, and it was so much fun! I danced with a few people afterwards, and while I may be new to how they dance in Texas, any chance to move in rhythm with the music is one I'll take.
Faraz joined us at our display both days we were set up. He's a PhD student and he's incredibly well-spoken about veganism and animal rights. I loved watching him do outreach, and talking to students about how easy it really is to be vegan and what he eats and where he goes. We got a few dozen people sign up that they were interested in joining the animal rights group at Texas Tech (of which Faraz is the president). Faraz's friend Joey also joined us to do outreach on the second day. Joey has only been vegan just over a month, but he's also very well-spoken on his reasons for being vegan and was very friendly to everyone I saw him talk to. Getting to meet people like the two of them is so rewarding and exciting.
We have the weekends off, so after our second day in Lubbock we drove to San Antonio to spend all day Saturday. After yet another Starbucks stop we went to a protest at SeaWorld.
There were a decent amount of people at the protest from various walks of life- from a six year old girl who appeared to be there with her mom to college students to parents and grandparents. I also met a very cute dog, Renny!
We headed to Vegeria for brunch after the protest- white chocolate raspberry waffles, tofu scramble, and rose petal lemonade? Hell yes! I also picked up some Valentine's Day cupcakes for my tour mates.
We spent the rest of the afternoon exploring the River Walk downtown. It's so cool how this little river runs right through all the action of the city! The best way to take it in? Sit down and have a drink and just look out at it all.
Sunday was spent driving down to McAllen, relaxing by the pool, and at the movies! On Monday, we were at the University of Texas- Rio Grande Valley. It was pretty hot out during the day- despite the fact that it's only February, the weather is like what I'm used to experiencing in the middle of summer! The students there were incredibly receptive to our campaign- many of them were really surprised to learn the statistics.
After a Denny's stop (their veggie burger is vegan, and super delicious!) we were up to San Marcos for Texas State University. Texas State proved to be one of our toughest load-ins: finding a place to park our van was tough enough, but getting heavy equipment down a few flights of stair wasn't easy! But we did it (vegan power!) and, as always spent the day outreaching to students and passersby.
Stickers around some of the restaurants here advertise that Austin is the "vegan Mecca of Texas", and if the past 24 hours mean anything, it certainly is. Before checking in to our hotel, we headed to Counter Culture: I got buffalo mac and cheeze balls and a barbecue jackfruit sandwich. If you haven't jumped on the jackfruit train, you should- when it's shredded up in a sandwich the texture is so similar to barbecued meat!
We had a successful first day at the University of Texas here in Austin. We were in a very high-traffic spot (loads of students walking past all day), and there was even a professor offering his students extra credit for coming by the display!