Green Life: Meet Moshe, the Vegan Travel Expert

Vegan signMoshe, also known as The Top Ten Traveler, traveled for the first time to Paris at the age of ten. His passion has always been about travel but at that age, he wasn’t aware that he would later find another passion in life — veganism. Born in Israel, Moshe explains why his home country has become a firm favorite as a vegan travel destination. Moshe has been living a happy vegan lifestyle with his partner, another follower of a plant-based diet, in Brooklyn. 

Moshe’s fondness for vegan travel involves planning trips abroad that include choosing which plant-based restaurants are on the itinerary. He enjoys mapping out his trip according to the exciting places to eat out. Madrid’s varied vegan eateries are one of the examples he shared. In between meals, he fitted in seeing the sights of the Spanish capital. It’s a pleasure to introduce Moshe Huberman.

How old were you when you became a vegan?

I became a vegan about three-and-a-half years ago at the age of 34. 

Why did you make the switch?

All my life I was a carnist, and enjoyed eating everything and anything. Even when my partner turned vegan, I continued eating whatever I wanted. We had both vegan products and non-vegan products at home until one day I saw a short movie. This talked about how milk is so bad for our body and that was my trigger. We already had all the vegan stuff (cheese, milk, and meat alternatives) so I decided to go for it. Just like that, on one summer day, I cut out all animal products and switched to veganism.

Israel food is the best way to vegan travel

When did you become aware of veganism? 

In 2014 a vegan activist was on the Israeli Big Brother show. Tal Gilboa talked about animal cruelty and the meat/dairy industry for the first time on prime time in Israel. Eventually, she won, and that made this topic become even more popular. I was touched by that, but at that point in time, it didn’t make me change my lifestyle.

A few years later, while living in New York, we met up with old friends who had also moved to the city. When they invited us over for dinner, we realized they were new vegans and that was a major part of what we talked about that night. They raised many legitimate arguments in favor of veganism. Unfortunately, I pushed them all away, as most people do when they first engage in such conversation. A few months after I made the switch for health reasons. Nonetheless, I believe that the only reason I am still vegan today is feeling compassion for animals. 

When did you first hear about Veganuary? What role does it play in increasing the popularity of veganism?

When I turned vegan, I didn’t know that there are so many trends that promote veganism, such as Meatless Monday, Veganuary, Challenge 22, and many more. For people who struggle to make the switch, I think it is an amazing community to join. This is especially the case for community support, which is so important. During these challenges, people learn about all the vegan products that exist out in the world, how to cook vegan at home, the best vegan travel destinations, and which restaurants in their area offer vegan food. However, in order to make it last for a long time, it must come from within you, from the heart. 

Try vegan travel and grab some breakfast in Israel

Which steps would you recommend that those who switched to a plant-based diet in January follow to continue being vegan?

Find vegan communities to be part of — it can be either friends, group chats on Twitter, vegan inspiration on Instagram, vegan Facebook groups, etc. It’s really important to be surrounded by people in the same mindset, as they can support you when it feels hard, share tips, and inspire you to continue.

Then I would say, keep on trying. There are millions of recipes out there for cooking vegan. Plus, supermarkets add more and more vegan products (and prices go down) while restaurants keep updating their menus with vegan options. It does require a little bit of research at first, but after a while, it becomes your norm.

What effect has veganism had on your body and mind?

Not long after I made the switch I started feeling so much better. I felt fresh, I slept better at night, and woke up more easily in the morning. My body was lighter during the day and I was more energetic. I wasn’t expecting that, and it was amazing to feel it.

Is vegan travel different in Israel? For example, are products easier to find?

Israel is one of the best countries for vegans in the world. I wasn’t vegan when I left Israel, but I am a member of several Facebook groups of Israeli vegans. Every time I return to visit, I am thrilled to see vegan food everywhere. There’s something about the culture there that makes it easier to absorb veganism. First, for Kashrut (kosher) reasons, dairy is not mixed with meat, so many products that might contain dairy by default elsewhere, do not contain dairy in Israel (for example, cooking in oil and not in butter). Second, like in many other Mediterranean cuisines, Israeli food is prepared with lots of vegetables and legumes. 

While the vegan food scene in New York is amazing with many 100% vegan restaurants and growing options in non-vegan restaurants, in Israel it’s easier to find vegan options almost in every non-vegan restaurant and nationwide cafe. It already goes beyond the big cities and can be found everywhere. 

To what extent have family and friends followed your lead?

Amongst my family and friends (except for the close vegan circle that I mentioned before) I was the first one to go vegan, so I was “catching all the fire” about that. When my brother-in-law, who is an athlete, moved to veganism to improve his performances, nobody asked him why or criticized the move. Then, my sister became a vegetarian, and my friends started sending me pics when they cooked something with tofu instead of meat. My mom constantly searches for vegan recipes and proudly shares pictures with me when she makes them. Even if they are not fully vegans, the awareness of what they eat is constantly on their minds.

Where do you stand on lab-created meat?

I think it is the future of meat production and something that can significantly change our world. The suffering of farm animals will be over and there will be no need to artificially create animals, just for killing them later. So much land will be freed so we can grow more crops for human consumption, rather than animal consumption. It will help to feed more people on the planet. People will not be afraid to be labeled “vegan” as they continue to eat “meat”. It will be easier for the masses to adopt, unlike using meat alternatives. If the price is right, and it is easily distributed, especially in larger nations like China and India, it will help to save the lives of billions of animals.

cows grazing

And what about fast-food chains: do they have flexitarians more in mind than vegans?

Some fast-food chains add 100% vegan items to their menus while others are on the flexitarian scale. I don’t necessarily understand why they choose to sell plant-based patties with dairy cheese on them, but it doesn’t really matter to me. If someone goes to Dunkin’ or Burger King and orders their plant-based patty, it’s one less meat patty that is sold and it’s already a good thing. 

Down the road, the vegan audience is strong, and if big chains want to reach that audience and not just flexitarians, selling a plant-based patty with dairy cheese or a non-vegan bun is not enough. Businesses exist to make money, and catering to vegans will attract more people and make them more money. 

A vegan burger in Madrid

Moshe is looking forward to traveling again. He is especially excited about returning to Israel to see family when travel is not restricted. For more vegan travel top tips, be sure to catch up with the Top Ten Traveler in our upcoming resources section.

by Leesa Truesdell

New York City’s Top Ten Traveler

 

An image of Moshe, the Top Ten Travel Writer

Who is the Top Ten Traveler?

“I’m a 37-year-old guy named Moshe Huberman. Originally from Israel, I’ve lived in New York City for the last four-and-a-half years and have been happily married to my wonderful husband for almost five. He is the best partner I could have ever asked for in everything we do, including traveling. We have a beautiful seven-year-old mixed-Labrador Retriever, and we live a vegan lifestyle together.”

When did you begin traveling?  

“The first time I got on a plane was at the age of ten with my parents. We were on our way to Paris, France. We landed late at night, and everything was closed — even in the airport! The streets were incredibly dark and far too quiet, so my first impression was a bit traumatic. The next morning, when we woke up to our first day in Paris, however, I felt astounded and extremely charmed by everything. I still remember it so vividly. I learned the metro lines by heart after one day and I led all the conversations in English (not my native language). To boot, I even learned a few words in French from the people at the hotel’s front desk. I developed traveler skills at a wonderfully young age.

An image of New York City from a pier, provided by the Top Ten Travel writer

After that, I traveled a few more times in Europe and in the US with my family. When I finished my service in the IDF at the age of 21, I packed my bag and flew to Australia, then New Zealand, for three months. That trip was my first big trip as an independent traveler.”

What started your travel bug?

“I guess it was the first trip to Paris with my parents. Ever since I was a young kid I was a big fan of the world’s countries and cultures. I memorized the world’s capitals and flags. Plus, I read all the volumes of the Geographical Encyclopedia. My older siblings’ Atlas was my favorite book. I always felt excited to watch the Olympics’ opening ceremony just for the Parade of Nations. I had, and still have, the world’s map on my bedroom wall.

An image of New York City from the River, provided by the Top Ten Travel writer

So, the moment I could leave my country for the first time to start seeing and experiencing the things I had only been reading about, was mind-blowing. From there, I just had to see more.”

Why do you like traveling?

“I always felt fascinated by diversity. I grew up in Israel. It’s a small country, but it has an amazing mixture of cultures. The Jews in Israel came from all over the world, bringing their unique traditions, stories, and foods. Even my family’s roots are from both Syria and Poland, which I always liked to explore with my grandparents — where did they come from? What was their childhood like? Etc. For me, traveling is the ability to take this exploration one step further and get to know the diversity of the entire world. I want to know and see how other people live, what their history is, what language they speak, what religion they practice, and, of course, what food they eat.”

Why are you The Top Ten Traveler?

“After I graduated from university and started my first real job, I realized that I could not travel three to four months out of a year anymore. My trips now must align with the vacation days I receive and with my work responsibilities. It changed my perception:  more short trips in a year, rather than one exceptionally long. Now, when taking shorter trips, your time is limited. You need to know well in advance what you want to see and do. This is where the top ten come in. Ten is a magical number; if there are not ten things to see or do in a place, it’s not worth going. If there are more, I really tried to focus on the top ten things I could not miss.

When I started The Top Ten Traveler, I did it for two main reasons. First, to share my experiences and to re-experience them through writing. Secondly, to give people an easy summary of the main ten things to see and do in each destination. I think listing the top ten things is easier to read, easier to remember, and easier to execute when you travel.”

What is the best trip you have taken in the last five years and why?

“I would say my trip to Playa del Carmen and Cancun, Mexico. On one hand, it was the first trip in which I have learned how to relax on the beach for a few hours without becoming bored. On the other hand, we traveled and learned about the interesting history of the Mayan culture in sites like Chichen Itza and the ruins of Tulum. Plus, the Mexican food was amazing. It was the perfect combination of exploration, relaxation, shopping, and partying.”

An image of Moshe, the Top Ten Travel writer, at a Mayan ruin.

If you had one place to recommend to someone who has never traveled before what would it be?

“That is an easy one:  Argentina. It is an amazing country for travelers (but not for living, unfortunately). It is huge and has everything to offer from glaciers to deserts, from mountains to beaches, from awesome cities to a beautiful countryside. The people are some of the nicest and warmest in the world. It is one of the safest countries in South America (though you always need to keep your eyes open when you travel, all over the world) and it is relatively cheap, so you can get more with your foreign currency. Therefore, for a first-time traveler, this is the ideal place.”

Which place do you want to visit the most but haven’t had the chance yet?

“There are so many places in the world that I want to visit, each for its own unique reasons. However, if I need to choose only one, it would be Syria. Although not the country you would think about for traveling, I feel really intrigued to see where my family came from. More than that, I follow other people who traveled in Syria and they always fall in love with this country. The food is said to be one of the best in the world (which I grew up on, so I can definitely relate to that). They also have many historical and archaeological sites, like Palmyra, which dates back to over 3,000 years ago, and the old city of Aleppo, which has now been partially destroyed after the war.”

You live in New York City — Is this by choice or for work?

“My workplace relocated me from Israel to New York City at the end of 2015. It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to live abroad, so we jumped on it. After all, exploration is at the heart of the Top Ten Traveler. I didn’t know how the move would affect my husband and I as a young couple, but after experiencing the New York City way of life, we liked it and decided to stay. New York City is amazing and it never ceases to surprise me. I still don’t think I know all of its hidden gems.”

An image of a New York City bridge, provided by the Top Ten Travel Writer

What would you recommend to do if someone only had a day to visit New York City?

“Explore the city by foot. The streets and avenues of the city are amazing and different. Fifth Avenue is nothing like Ninth Avenue and is nothing like the streets of Soho, Financial District, or other neighborhoods. So strolling between them, you can catch all the important landmarks of the city while also enjoying the unique charm of each area or neighborhood. I once had a 12-hour layover in the city on my way from Israel to Argentina. To kill some time, I walked from Central Park to Battery Park, just to see the statue of Liberty. It was so much fun, and on the second flight, I slept like a baby. For a lunch or dinner break, I’d recommend trying one of my favorite vegan restaurants in the city, as described in my Top 10 Vegan Restaurants in New York City post.”

What would you recommend a frequent traveler to do in New York City?

“Many people come to New York City to watch a show on Broadway. I have watched a few and I really love the theater, but there are crazier and more special theatrical experiences than Broadway. One that comes to mind is Sleep No More. It’s an interactive show performed in a five-story building designed to look like an old hotel. You can follow the actors and move from one scene to another whenever you want. Two tips: come in your sneakers and walk alone.”

by Moshe Huberman

Visit Moshe’s website, The Top Ten Traveler, to find the top ten best sites to visit on your next travel destination!