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Making Vegan Friends

By LJ Steinig, Guest Contributor

As vegans, I feel like we are united by some really important beliefs and ideals. How we live our lives stands for something: we stand for animal rights, we stand for environmentalism, and we stand for health and nutrition. However, we are on the so-called “fringe” of mainstream society (I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else), and because of that we’re under a microscope. If we really want to make a difference, if we really want to make the world a better place, we must do so together. So why is there so much infighting? Why does blogging sometimes feel so competitive? Wouldn’t serving the community be a better use of our energy? And why does it seem so hard to make Vegan Friends?

I love making Vegan Friends. And nothing makes me quite as happy in quite the same way as having a community of Vegan Friends, both online (read: around the country and the world) and in “real life.”

Vegan Friends

Last year, I’d been considering a move to Austin. It fell through for a variety of reasons (and I know now that I am meant to be in Miami Beach), but that didn’t stop me from my Amazing Austin Adventure (and by adventure, I mean awesome vegan food binge) last October. And you know what made that weekend so very amazing and awesome (besides the food)? Making Vegan Friends. Through the magic of social networking (primarily Twitter, I can’t recommend it enough), I met a whole lot of people, and upon arriving in Austin, I had people to hang out with. I went to a Meetup at The Vegan Yacht and a Halloween party with people from Vegans Rock Austin. I spent the day driving (and eating) around Austin with my friend Nanette, who taught me all about the neighborhoods I wanted to live in.

What drew me to Austin was its thriving vegan community. At that point, there were not a lot of vegan or vegan friendly places to eat in Miami, and my only Vegan Friends were online. It was lonely locally. But as I said, my move to Austin fell through, so I started to focus on finding ways to help create the kind of vegan community in Miami that they have in Austin.

I started to do some searching, and I discovered that while I’d been preparing to move, more and more vegan and vegan-friendly restaurants were popping up in the area. Meetup groups had become more active. The vegans I’d been looking for were coming out of hiding! And they were all doing some awesome stuff! Activism! Potlucks! Waffle Parties! I could finally make me some local Vegan Friends! Do you hear the choir of angels singing?!

In an effort to do my part in building up Miami’s vegan community, after two years writing my personal vegan blog, I created It’s Veganlicious and the Veganlicious Miami Meetup.  And I’m making local Vegan Friends! And even more important than that, other local vegans are making local Vegan Friends! It’s a win for us all!

So today was the monthly Vegan Waffle Party at Sweat Records. I carpooled there with my (vegan) friends Tommy and Jen, made plans to meet my (vegan) friends Boyd and Jen there, chatted with my (vegan) friend Scott upon arriving, met my (vegan) (twitter) friend Sam for the first time in real life, and hung out with my (vegan) friend Lolo (owner of Sweat Records) while she made us some waffle-y goodness!

So. (Vegan.) Happy.

As thrilled as I am with this blossoming vegan community locally, I also have a deep love for my online Vegan Friends, many of whom I have plans to meet in real life, some of them sooner than others! Our online connections are so important, especially for people new to veganism, or living somewhere without a strong local vegan community.

And if you don’t have a strong vegan community yet, you can start building one. There are Vegan Friends in your city too, you just don’t know them yet. Here are a few tips:

  • Check out Happy Cow, and start frequenting restaurants listed there. New Vegan Friends eat at vegan-friendly places, it’s a great way to meet like-minded people. (And while you’re at it, keep requesting vegan eats wherever you go, but ask nicely. Chefs need to know that we’re here and that we’re hungry and that we’re awesome.)
  • Look for Meetup groups in your area. Search for Vegan, Vegetarian, Raw, and more. If you don’t find what you’re looking for, create your own group and start hosting potlucks or gatherings at vegan-friendly places. People will find you.
  • Join Twitter. If you’re not on it yet, pause in your reading and go create an account right now. Seriously. I’ll still be here when you get back…. Great. Now that you have your Twitter account, do a search for Vegan and your city (e.g. Miami Beach), or even Vegetarian and your city. You’ll find people, I’m sure of it—start following them, introduce yourself, make conversation, make Vegan Friends. (All of the people I mentioned above, I met via Twitter or Meetup. All of them.)

There’s no need for competition. There’s no need for infighting. We all have so much knowledge about the issues, we all have so much talent, we all have so much to give and share to make the world a better place. So go forth, my Vegan Friends, and build your community! Make Vegan Friends!