A vegan road trip to Charleston, SC
My mom just moved to Charleston South Carolina, and since my wife and I had some time off, we decided it was the perfect opportunity for a road trip. This was my third trip to Charleston, and I realized how much I’ve grown and how my priorities have changed drastically over time.
My first Charleston visit was while I was at the academy. I was determined to try as many flavors of chicken wing as I could at Wild Wing Cafe, drink as much alcohol as I possible, and see how many females I could shamelessly hit on. I remember being woken up in the back seat of my friends car to sign an autograph after he convinced a bunch of people in a bar that I was Jack Johnson. When I think back on all of that I am a little bit embarrassed.
My second trip to Charleston was a few years later, and I managed to do slightly better. It was my best friends bachelor party, so I still drank as much alcohol as I could, but I had just started my journey to veganism and remember searching for vegan options everywhere I went. I was also dating Natalie, who is now my wife, so the local female population remained unscathed.
Now on this third trip, I am married to Natalie, I no longer drink, I am completely vegan and my priorities shifted to spending time with my family. I look back now, and I am proud of how far I have come. I feel like I have grown much closer to becoming the man I want to be.
I arrived late the night before and woke up way earlier than I wanted to. I was so excited about recently launching AVeganMan.com that I could not sleep and ran immediately to my phone to see what kind of traffic I was getting. I felt terrible because I wanted to be spending the best quality time I could with my wife and mother, but I kept getting distracted with my blog. This is something I will surely need to work on.
After I finally focused, I ate an easy breakfast and cooked lunch to-go. Korin Sutton has been training me online, and I am taking my diet and training very seriously. I pack most of my food and keep it pretty simple while traveling. Korin is also responsible for programming a leg workout that had me so sore I looked like a 95-year-old man who needed a walker to move around Charleston (a slight exaggeration but they did hurt).
Once the food was all packed, we went to my cousin’s house, who lives in the area. I was lucky enough to meet her son for the first time and see her daughter for just the second time. My aunt was there too, and she proudly showed me all the gardening she had been doing. They had a beautiful landscape full of sunflowers and other gorgeous plants. My cousin also gave me a lemon tree as a wedding present that I am extremely excited about. I love the idea of growing things in nature, and I feel that it can be symbolic of the growth that can simultaneously occur in your life. I have seen several instances where a tree was planted to commemorate or memorialize an event, and they remain fitting tributes that are constantly evolving over time. After my cousin’s adorable children were ready, and the cars were packed we headed on our way to Folly Beach.
We ended up at the Southwest corner of Folly Beach in the Folly County Park, and it was stunning. It was a beautiful day to be at the beach, and I had the opportunity to be around family I hadn’t seen in a long time. That time spent with family was infinitely more gratifying and satisfying than anything that took place during my previous trips to Charleston. I believe that is my reward for better aligning my priorities with things that matter in life.
I also realized how exhilarating it is to be at the beach with young children. I have been fortunate enough to spend many days at the beach with my sister’s children and now with my cousin’s children. I realized how lucky I was to have shared that time with them and how I needed to make sure I cherished the present moment. Watching little ones experience all the sights and sounds of the waterfront brings me back to my childhood in Virginia Beach and I always find myself reliving some of my fondest memories.
Unfortunately, our day at the beach was cut short when the sky turned black, and the impending storm forced us to find shelter. We ducked into nearby Taco Boy and were excited to find that they had a few items on their menu that were clearly labeled vegetarian. We were able to remove a couple things and make them vegan. I had a cauliflower taco, portabello mushroom taco, and a side of black beans. I asked for both of them without any sauce or cheese, and it easily kept me on my diet. It also felt good to have the support of my family who made sure we went to a restaurant that had food for my wife and I to eat.
After spending some family time back at my cousins house, the night came to a close with my cousin’s two-year-old son deciding he wanted to spend some time cuddling before bed. I do not have children, and my wife and I are not quite ready, but I can only imagine how rewarding it must be to have them. When I was with him on the couch, or whenever I am with my nieces, it makes me happy to think about the amazing lives these children have in front of them. They have lives filled with beautiful moments like first kisses, championships, proms, and their fairytale weddings waiting for them in the future.
Monday I woke up pretty early, checked some social media, and cooked my breakfast and lunch. After that, Natalie and I went to the gym together while my mom went off to work. I love working out with my wife because she makes my workouts much more enjoyable. Working out together was a perfect way to start our day. For the next few hours Natty and I relaxed around the apartment complex waiting for my mom to get home so we could help move furniture up to her apartment. It was not the most fun way to spend my day, but I felt good helping my mom. A vegan man should also pride himself on feats of strength like jar opening, furniture moving and the like. Once my duties were complete, Natalie and I headed downtown to The Mills House Wyndham Grand Hotel where we would spend the night. The hotel was beautiful, and we quickly checked in and ran off because we were both excited about dinner!
When we decided we were going to Charleston, Natalie and I did our usual research on happy cow, Yelp and Google to see what kind of Vegan food we could get our hands on. At first there didn’t appear to be many options, but eventually we came across Dell’z Uptown, which serves meat, but has many vegan and vegetarian options. The first thing I noticed about the restaurant was all the beautifully painted murals on the walls and SOJA playing in the background. It seemed like the perfect place to eat. They had a lot on their menu, so I asked what was popular, and we went with their recommendation. My favorite part about going out to dinner with Natalie is that we always agree to get two different things and split them. In this case, it was the Hawaiian pizza, My Thai bowl, and hummus. We requested the Hawaiian pizza with no Daiya cheese as neither of us were in the mood for it. The chef then came out to clarify the cheese situation and offered to make us a special pizza that would be more like their Vegan Jazzy pizza, I trusted her judgment and we left it up to her. The black bean hummus came out very quickly, and to call this appetizer hummus would be a bit of an insult. Their magical dip was a heaping pile of black beans and garbanzo beans, covered in fresh vegetables and avocado, topped with an incredible mango salsa. It was served with soft, warm, delectable pieces of pita and a few tortilla chips. It also came with a sauce they call goddess dressing. I am not sure how to even describe it, but I would be happy if everything I ate from now on came with a side of it. If this was hummus, it was certainly the best hummus I’ve ever had. After the hummus, our pizza and My Thai bowl came out. The My Thai bowl included zucchini, squash, vegan sausage, coconut lime rice, cabbage, ginger, rice noodles, Thai sauce topped with mango salsa and avocado. It was also served with warm pita slices and was absolutely phenomenal. The flavor was incredible, and the texture was perfect. Everything about it was perfect. I did not want to share with Natalie, but the pizza looked so good that I had to. The pizza was on a thin pita crust that had the ideal amount of crispiness. On the pizza was rice and beans and just about every vegetable you could imagine with some pineapple and another type of magical sauce. Both meals were unbelievable, I would have a hard time picking which one I liked better. They also had some vegan chocolate chip cookies that we got for dessert (don’t tell Korin). I will come back to this place every time I am in Charleston.
After stuffing ourselves with vegan treats, we had to walk it off. My mom met us downtown at our hotel, and we wandered around King Street and Market Street exploring all of the different shops. It was a beautiful night, and it felt great just to walk around.
Tuesday we woke up and walked down to Smoothie King and we both got a vegan smoothie for breakfast. After that, we returned to the hotel and relaxed by the pool for a couple of hours. Soon it was too hot, so we got cleaned up, checked out of the hotel, and departed on another adventure. We wanted wander around town and take a look at all the different restaurants that had vegan options. After much deliberation, we decided on CO a Vietnamese restaurant on King Street for lunch. In Vietnamese CO means feast and it certainly was. We were excited because they had a separate vegan menu, and our waitress was extremely knowledgeable about all of the menu options. We split tofu summer rolls, and lemongrass tofu Banh Mi, and we both had an order of the Bun Xao. The tofu summer rolls were delicious, but I am biased because I love anything with peanut sauce. The Banh Mi was also fantastic and came on a delicious baguette. The Bun Xao was the perfect meal for a hot summer day. It came with bean sprouts, lettuce, pickled carrots, cilantro, all on a bed of cold vermicelli noodles. It was accompanied with ginger miso dressing that was flavorful and refreshing. I also enjoyed sitting next to the window where we could witness all of the happenings on King Street. Once lunch was over, we headed back to my mom’s house to say goodbye and got on our way.
It was a wonderful road trip. I am thankful that I have been able to grow and mature so much since my first trip to Charleston, and now I can enjoy the things that are really important in life. Becoming a vegan changed more than just my eating habits. As I began to take better care of myself and live compassionately, it led to deeper more meaningful experiences that are extremely satisfying. As we were driving home, we reflected on these experiences and how lucky we are that we were able to spend time with my loving, supportive family, enjoy nature, meet new people and of course eat some incredible vegan food!
Please share your favorite vegan road trip destination below.