From September 23 to October 1, 2014, I was on tour with Chris & Jon from The Vegan Zombie. We visited 7 cities in 9 days and put on book signings, cooking demos & dinner parties all across Germany. All together we drove over 4000 km, sold hundreds of our vegan cookbooks, and met hundreds of amazing people. We also filmed videos for our partners and sponsors, made tour videos every day, and even filmed a cooking video together for TVZ on YouTube. It was a wild adventure, with lots of ups and downs.
Get our cookbooks here:
Watch tour videos on YouTube here.
22 Lessons from The Vegan Zombie Germany Tour
1. You are always an ambassador.
Everywhere you go, you are an important representative of your ideals and identity. Wherever I was on tour, I struggled to manage frustrations and expectations. A prime example of this was on the drive back from Frankfurt to Berlin. At an autobahn rest stop I asked about the veggie burger and was told it was definitely vegan. I was shown the ingredients list and ordered it, because I was hungry as hell and it looked “safe”. Well, I got a super sad looking burger smothered in mayo, and fries that tasted extremely suspicious. I sent it all back to the kitchen and really tried not to get upset. Quickly, I became aware that my attitude and behavior form ideas about what vegans are like. I really did my best to be understanding and fair, despite dealing with poor customer service and a lot of crappy excuses and misinformation. It’s important to remember: Not everyone understands my reasons and convictions for my lifestyle and dietary choices. What I do and say help form others’ ideas of vegans. I strive to be a good example of an open-minded, non-dogmatic vegan traveler. If I leave a situation and people think less of vegans or the many reasons I strive for this lifestyle, I have failed.
2. Matcha. Espresso. Yes, please.
Driving all night, spending hours in the kitchen and on the road is not easy. I travel with my matcha bowl and whisk. I have a matcha every morning to help me focus and get into my day’s groove. It’s important to take breaks from cooking and managing and have an espresso in the afternoon. I do prefer the soft glow of matcha green tea, but hey, the world isn’t fully outfitted with matcha bars. Yet. Particularly on the longer drives, coffee helped me get through some sleepy and exhausted times. It’s not just about the caffeine: Sticking to routine is helpful to stay balanced and in tune.
3. The universe provides
I tried to manage and plan all aspects of the tour so we always had places to stay in all of the cities that we visited. Sometimes this wasn’t really possible and plans changed quickly. Sometimes you just have to push through and drive on and know that all the arrangements will be sorted. Staying in hotels is boring and impersonal. I prefer to go to events and talk to new and old friends if we need a place to stay. We always found people that gave us a couch or bed to sleep in. It always worked out, and our hosts were awesome. I always felt grateful. We arrived in Solingen in the morning after a six hour drive and were offered bunk beds and a shower at the venue. In Hamburg, we finished the cooking show and quickly found hosts for the night. In Berlin, we were fortunate to have a neighbor give the boys a bed and couch when we realized another night at my place would be too crowded. In Mainz, when we were all at the end of our rope after over a week on the road – countless hours of cooking and driving – we knew the hotel room would prove too small for the three of us. My friend Jens took me to his house and gave me a bed. When you focus on opportunity and stay positive, it’s amazing how things go your way. Also with the driving, there were times we worried we’d never cover the distances we needed to in time and that we’d miss events or arrive late. I kept optimistic and drove on. The roads cleared, extra helpers were always there in the kitchen, and we managed to make every event awesome.
4. Make time for sightseeing.
Because we were on such an aggressive schedule, we were left with little time for sightseeing and relaxing. So we ended up seeing lots of the autobahn and kitchens all across Germany, but the boys didn’t get to see nearly as much of the actual cities and country that we traveled in, and I regretted this. Fortunately, our friends in Hamburg woke up early and took the guys out for some morning sightseeing. This was when I realized just how little of all the cities we were seeing. Not only did we never have time for restaurants, but we never got to really just walk around and take in some of the great sites and culture that Germany offers.
5. Too much is better than too little.
Somehow, we always managed to buy more groceries and make more food than we needed. There were often leftover brownies, an extra pot of soup, half a crate of unused avocados, or twice as many frozen bananas as we needed. Still , this is much better than running out of the yummy stuff that fans and dinner party guests had traveled far and wide to share with us. Also, even though we definitely did too much in a crazy, short period of time, I prefer it over not having done enough.
6. Bikes rule. Cars suck.
In Hamburg, I was able to borrow a bike and was on a rainy night bike ride. In the morning I got to ride around, too. It ruled, and really put me in a good mood. Germany cities are usually great for bikes. So much more relaxing and interactive to be on a bike touring around than sitting in a car for hours on end. Cars are death traps and weapons. Bikes don’t need parking spots, endless amounts of fuel, and get you around cities much better. The tour would not have been possible without a car, but yeah… the bike time was sweet. I need to fix up my bikes in Berlin and get out more.
7. Drive at night.
I hate traffic. I’d rather drive all night and get somewhere in half the time, than have a leisurely lie-in and long breakfast and spend twice as long stuck in a car. Often stuck in a line of cars and construction sites. Several times, particularly when I was alone, but also with Chris and Jon, I rolled down the window and turned up the music and enjoyed the highway. That’s not really possible during the day when there are 5 times as many cars on the road, and all the constructions site and accidents are grinding traffic to a halt. Also, I should have shared the driving more. I was nervous because I’ve had so many bad experiences with rental cars and insurance.
8. Shop early, shop smart.
Several times on the tour we had to squeeze in a visit to the shops to get our ingredients for cooking shows and dinner parties. It was totally stressful. I really wish I’d planned this aspect of the tour better so we could’ve had more time to get everything we needed. It would have been much better to have organized all the groceries and ingredients in the car so we always knew what we had and didn’t have to play guessing games with the spice supply.
9. Watch out for Porsches. And Ferraris.
Stay right on the highway and expect that when the autobahn speed limits disappear, Hans & Dieter will come blazing up the left lane in their sporty convertible going 240 kmph. Driving on the autobahn is awesome, and it was great to have a modern rental car that can keep up, but I’m often taken aback by how fast and sudden the speed demons come ripping past you.
10. Cookbook fans = The best.
Everywhere we went we met incredible people. In every city, at every event, we came into contact with some really great folks. In Frankfurt, the boys got a walking tour around town from our new friends. We talked for hours with super cool fans in all of the Veganz stores. We met mega-fans at every stop, including the young lady who brought us vegan spare ribs. Another super fan brought crocheted Vegan Zombie dolls for the guys. So cool! Every time we set up the table with our books, we got into conversations with our neighbors, biz partners and fans. People brought us food, gave us hugs, made us laugh, let us pet their dogs. I totally love experiencing everyone’s stories and enthusiasm. People were also wonderful for helping us out with tour logistics: arranging places to stay, directing us to grocery stores and parking spots, taking us around town, cooking for or with us, helping us set up, loading the car… all kinds of support and help!
11. Two days on, One day off.
The next time I plan a tour, I will make sure that there are rest days. We often went 2 or even 3 days with little or no sleep, and this was my biggest regret of the tour. My mood goes south when I haven’t slept, and simple tasks and decisions take three times as long. We hit 7 cities in 9 days, and I really wish we’d had at least 12 days. It was totally nuts! We could have had more time off for sightseeing, sleeping, chilling with friends and fans, etc.
12. Sleep is good.
As I just mentioned, we were really sleep deprived on the tour. It led to short tempers, fussiness, and lack of focus. When I watch the videos of our TV interviews and see photos of the tour, I realize I was not nearly as awake and rested as I felt. I was running on adrenaline and excitement and some magical energy reserve for the majority of the tour. At one point we didn’t really sleep for 3 days: After cooking and hosting a dinner party in Munich all day, we drove all night to Solingen for the VeggieFest where we did cooking shows and our cookbook table, then drove all night to Berlin. Then we cooked breakfast at Chaostheorie, then did a dinner party at Fast Rabbit. It’s insane that it all worked out. We averaged about 4 hours of sleep a night on the tour, and had events Every Single Day. Totally crazy. I think we literally became Vegan Zombies, or at least I think I did. The tour was tons of fun, but we would’ve enjoyed it even more and appreciated the time together much more if we’d had at least six hours of good sleep every night. Most important lesson of the tour, definitely.
13. Bring a sleeping bag.
Maybe it all goes back to being a boy scout when I was young: I like to be prepared. Not knowing I’d ever need it for the tour, but not wanting to rely on others, I packed my trusty travel sleeping bag. In Hamburg, I stayed with a friend who’d just moved into a new place and didn’t have much more than a mattress, let alone blankets and furniture. She camped out on the living room sofa with a borrowed blanket, and I slept fantastically (even if only for about 4 hours) in my sleeping bag on the bare mattress. Waking up in a sleeping bag reminds me of camping trips, and sleeper trains in Asia. I love it.
14. Showers are good. Bathtubs rule.
I honestly don’t remember the last time I lived in a place with a bathtub. I miss taking a hot bath once in a while. So it was so great that the apartment we had in Frankfurt had one. Whenever I travel and there is a bathtub, I get happy. We were lucky on this tour actually. We pretty much always found time to shower and bathe and freshen up before or after a long day on the road and/on our feet.
15. Shut up & cook!
I won’t lie, I can be a pain in the arse in the kitchen. Crowded kitchens are tough. In Mainz, there were up to six of us in the kitchen cooking 5 courses for 50 people. And two reporters following us around with notepads and video cameras. It’s best to focus on your tasks and let others focus on theirs. I have to learn to let go more, and speak less. The dinner parties were the most enjoyable and rewarding aspect of the tour, but they were also high stress and fast paced. We worked much better when we just did our work and left our egos and emotions out of things. Also, it’s awesome to work with professionals. Christoph at Fast Rabbit is a godsend. That guy can work so fast, and so smooth. Without him, the Berlin Dinner Party would’ve been hell. He’s got so much experience, and killer kitchen skills. It’s a gift to work with him. All of us work and cook differently, and Chris, Jon and I were managing so many things to make these events happen. Sometimes I got frustrated or overwhelmed by the amount of work and lack of time. But every time I watched the videos Chris made from the tour and events, I realized how crucial his tasks were, and I realized getting antsy or anxious didn’t really help anything. Jon is also great in the kitchen, and was brilliant with the cleanup. When you’re staring at 20 butternut squash that need to be cut up, or 100 dirty dishes, or realize 22 plates of dessert have to go out in 5 minutes, it’s easy to freak out. Breathe. Divide and Conquer. Realize it will all get done. And it did.
16. Reporters can make me crazy.
I love TV folks, magazine journalists, newspaper reporters, and bloggers. We love promotion and exposure. What I don’t like is having a camera in my face for 4 hours when I’m trying to prep, cook and serve a giant dinner party. I need to learn how to set clear rules and time limits for press people. Or else I’ll tell them exactly what I’m thinking and how much they’re in the way at crucial times. And they’ll make video interviews of me looking exhausted, frustrated and foolish. At least twice, I look like total crap on video because I was way too tired and focused on other stuff. I need to be better prepared for it. Or just be faster at answering questions and getting it out of the way early and efficiently.
Want to see me exhausted after 6 hours of driving, 4 hours of cooking 50 meals… doing a video interview in German? Yes, I actually said “Cheesecake” when I meant “Cheesesteak”. WTF!
17. Kitchens are quirky.
Don’t expect every kitchen you work in to have fancy blenders, good knives, predictable ovens, the right pots and pans, or all the spices you need. I know this, as I’ve done dinner parties, cooking demos and classes in dozens of kitchens. Still, I get bent out of shape most of the time I have to get things done in a kitchen I don’t know. We did pretty well, all things considered. For future tours I need to get more informed in advance about kitchen equipment and think about traveling with more of my own gear. Looking back, it’s pretty amazing we pulled off as much as we did with what we had. In Mainz, Jon made 2 giant pots of blended soup with a single immersion blender, and I made frozen banana sorbet for almost 50 people using a basic blender. All because I’d assumed we’d have a Vitamix or other high-performance blender, since I’m used to always having one. Or more. Chris also managed to bake incredible brownies working in small kitchens all across Germany, and with ovens of all sizes, shapes and (irregular) temperatures.
18. Learn how to draw unicorns.
When I sign cookbooks, I always offer to draw some fun pictures and write a cute dedication. In Mainz I learned the hard way that I don’t know how to draw unicorns off the top of my head. My deepest apologies to the dinner party guest who got some kind of lopsided horse bear with a horn drawn on the title page of her copy The Lotus and the Artichoke.
19. Find time alone.
3 guys driving, cooking, and hanging out almost 24 hours a day for 9 days is a LOT. We did okay at finding personal time and personal space. A few times we had our own rooms and place to stay. This helped a lot. The next time around, I’ll try to find more opportunities for everyone to tend to themselves and keep a bit of their private, personal routines. We didn’t get much time for exercise, music, computer geek time, phone/skype calls, emails and such. I also wish I’d had more time to read and mediate on the tour. Thankfully, cooking is a great meditation. The stereo in the car was great for rocking out a few times. I enjoyed time with family in Berlin, and would’ve gone nuts without seeing my son any longer than I did. And getting on a bike in Hamburg was also a blessing. Next time we’ll have more time.
20. Oktoberfest is hilarious.
We only spent an hour and a half at Oktoberfest after the book signing event at Veganz in Munich. But it was great. I’ve been to Oktoberfest twice before and enjoyed it, even though there are a lot of sloppy drunks around. It’s just fun to walk around, eat a pretzel as big as your head, have a drink, watch the amusement park rides, and get into the spirit of an intense gathering. I’m really glad Chris and Jon got to see it, too. Our friend Claudi (Claudi goes vegan) was a terrific host, and it was great to have her with us. Next time we’ll arrive earlier so we can get to the vegan food booth!
21. Relax & enjoy.
Sure, we had some time on the tour to just chill, chat and enjoy ourselves. Even aside from a lack of sightseeing and sleep, I wish we’d been more chilled out and really appreciated how amazing and incredible the tour was. We did well. We had a super successful tour, made all of our events, sold hundreds of books, cooked for hundreds of people, and learned an insane amount about ourselves, each other, the scene, the kitchen, cooking, and other people. It’s super important to take moments, no matter how short, to just breathe and smile.
22. Give thanks!
Thank you to everyone who made this tour possible and excellent. Above all, I thank Jon & Chris from The Vegan Zombie for their trust, patience and power on this wild ride. I had an unforgettable time! Big thanks to all our partners & sponsors, and all the kitchens & couches along the way. A special thanks to everyone who came out to see us at our book signing events, cooking shows, dinner parties, and other events. Here are just some of the people we love:
- Jan, Thomas, Oli, Alexandra, Susanne, Robert, Helen, Peter, Felix – Veganz (Frankfurt, Essen, Munich, Berlin, Hamburg)
- Phyllis (Cologne)
- Sebastian Copien & Jürgen – Kochen nach deiner Natur / Küss die Hand (Munich)
- Claudi & Max (Munich)
- Joachim & Uschi – Kochen ohne Knochen (Solingen)
- Jule – Chaostheorie (Berlin)
- Christoph – Fast Rabbit (Berlin)
- Franzi (Berlin)
- Thomas R – Avesu (Berlin/Hamburg)
- Thomas G – Aiya Matcha (Hamburg)
- Mareike & Sarah (Hamburg)
- Jens, Sandy & Ingo – Ventil Verlag (Mainz)
- Christoph – Hafeneck (Mainz)
Get our cookbooks here:
Watch tour videos on YouTube here.