Monday, June 15, 2015

Vida Vegan Con Takes Texas

I returned home over a week ago, but it seems like a whirlwind. Like it was only a few days ago. I returned home from an epic journey that included bonding, eating a ton of amazing vegan food, the Texas Two-Step, eating a ton of amazing vegan food, learning, eating a ton of amazing vegan food, community, eating a ton of amazing vegan food, inspiration, and, did I mention, eating a ton of amazing vegan food?

I am talking, of course, about the phenomenon that is known as the Vida Vegan Con. Back in 2011 three amazing women (Jess, Michelle, and Janessa) created the first ever conference specifically for vegan bloggers. It was almost an experiment in social behavior. What would happen when we pull hundreds of vegan bloggers out from behind the safety of their monitors and put them in one place IN REAL LIFE? Magic. That's what happened. Classes, and workshops, community building and, of course, awesome vegan eats. Ask anyone that attended that first year. It was absolutely life changing!

Two years later Vida Vegan Con II happened.  Bigger and better than before. It was an emotional VVC, as those who missed the first one were damn sure not going to miss the second one. Plant-based eating was now a "thing" and there seemed to be a schism in the world of veganism. Are we doing it for the animals or for our health? Emotions ran high. We had hard conversations. We learned the power of our words. But again, ask anyone who attended either for the first time, or second. Absolutely life changing.

And this year, the third and final Vida. Pulled up from its roots in Portland and headed south to Austin, Texas. How awesome! A new place, a new group of folks, and new awesome vegan eats! In my brain, Austin is not very far from Long Beach (in all actuality it as about as far from SoCal as it is from Miami, and it took over 20 hours to drive there) so I thought it would be fun to drive down. My reasons were selfish...If I drove, I would have a car, I could pack as much crap as I wanted, and I wouldn't have to worry about the airlines confiscating my Swag Bag of Wonder! So, I packed up a cooler full of snacks and hit the road with the company of Jackie and Sayward. (#veganladyroadtrip) Once in Austin we would join our other roomies, Nicole and Caroline, for an epic slumber party in the Trendy Trailer.

Day 1: Monday. Leave LA, stop in Phoenix for dinner at Green, dessert at Nami, and continue through New Mexico and into El Paso before calling it a night and checking in to a Super 8 for some shut eye.

Day 2: Tuesday. Made it to Austin! Drove pretty much straight through the day. Only stopping for gas and potty breaks. We did make one quick stop to take a selfie in front of an old stage coach station. We arrived in Austin, checked into the Trendy Trailer, met our ex-pat traveling vegan extraordinaire, Nicole, and wasted no time heading downtown to Arlo's for our first Texas tacos, tots, maybe a drink or two, and to just be super excited that we had arrived. Made it back to Trendy Trailer and met our new friend for the week, an adorably sweet and friendly cat we named Taquito. We brought her a can of Vegan Toona. She was not impressed.

Day 3: Wednesday. Really, our only day to do whatever we wanted, because the rest of the week would be packed full of preplanned activities. So...we ATE! We met up with our fifth roomie, Caroline, and her awesome friend Jess, and went to breakfast at Bouldin Creek Cafe (where I got the tamale breakfast) then we went to Rabbit Food Grocery to do some shopping, then headed home for a refresh, then back out for more foods! We tried to hit up BBQ revolution, however they were sold out and closed for the day. No biggie, Bistro Vonish was right next door, and I think it was a blessing in disguise, because his food was f'ing amazeballs. Elevated and delicious, and we had the bonus of meeting up with Joanna while we were there! After dinner, Chef Craig took us behind the trailers to meet two rescue pigs that live there. They have thick black hair and rough skin. Skin so thick and rough it feels good if we pet them with forks! That's right, a bunch of vegans petting piggies with forks. Lol. That night we also hooked up with Kelly and hit the town for some Austin entertainment. We went to the Continental Club where we watched some live local bands, had some drinks, then called it a night.

Day 4: Thursday. We did have a minute to venture out for lunch, so we hit up Mother's, the oldest vegetarian restaurant in Austin, and ordered up the veggie burger voted "Best in the World" before heading over to the Unofficial-but-Totally-Official-Meet-and-Greet at Buzzmill Coffee where we finally got to meet up with VVCers from year's passed and new friends all while snacking on Ice Cream from Sweet Ritual (more on that later), egg rolls, and tacos from the Golden Spike Rail Cart. Afterwards the five of us hit up the Wheatsville Coop and got foods for dinner/snacking back at the trailer.

Day 5: Friday. The Bazaar and first day of panels. This was pretty spectacular. Set up like an all vegan EXPO inside a giant room, with movie theatres transformed into classrooms for panels, and a whole table full of Miyoko's cheeses in the snack bar lobby...just awesome. Spent all day there. Eating, talking, learning, and shopping for awesome vegan stuff. My publisher, Fairwinds Press, was a major sponsor of the entire event, so Katie and Amanda had a big table at the bazaar with over 26 different vegan titles! I attended most of the panels. Gene Baur's intro talk, Bianca's Kombucha demo, Terry Hope Romero's inspirational talk, The Vegan Family and Parenting panel, and the How We Made Austin Awesome panel. Friday night we went to dinner with Brian (aka the Sexy Vegan) at Counter Culture.

Day 6: Saturday. The official first day of the conference. Check in, breakfast, welcome in the big ball room and then time to hit the books...I mean classes. So many great classes. On Saturday, I attended Jackie's social media class, then the veganism and feminism panel, then taught my own class on cookbook writing, then lunch! A vegans-love-bowls-buffet. Perfect! After lunch was a marketing panel and a class on touring your book or project by Nicole Georges that I enjoyed very much. After the conference we all wanted to go to Capital City Bakery for the party, but it was way too crowded and it was raining. So we did the next best thing...we decided to go out for dinner at Bouldin Creek with our whole crew, plus Brian, plus Caroline's friend Carrie who lives in Austin. We ate delicious foods, then went out to Sweet Ritual for dessert. They sell Capital City Brownies at Sweet Ritual, so I got a bowl of peanut butter ice cream on top of the brownie with salted caramel on top. Whaaa??? After ice cream, a few of us wanted to do karaoke, but that was an epic flop, so we headed to a little bar for some drinks. We had a good time. Lots of laughs, and then home to get ready for the final day of Vida.

Day 7: Sunday. Started off a little rocky (too much fun the night before) but we arrived with enough time to grab a little breakfast off the artisan toast buffet (so much avocado!) and snuck into the Stop breaking the law, Ass#$%! workshop, led by Randi Milgram, a few minutes late. After that, it was off to the blog to entrepreneur class taught by Jill Pyle of Vegan Cuts. After that, it was all about learning how I'm doing social media all wrong by Brian Patton, then lunch! It was an epic taco buffet. I had mac and cheese on my tacos.

After lunch was the New Vegan Economy Panel, which was AMAZING. Totally motivated me to really take my vegan message to the next level. I am not sure how quite yet, but it's coming. I feel it in my bones. Next up was a class led by the EcoVegan Gal, Whitney, about how to make kick ass YouTube videos, which is something I have yet to try that might be a new adventure for me...And the final class was a Kickstart your vegan dreams discussion and panel led by Terry Hope Romero. We all met up one last time in the ballroom for a final farewell. Not gonna lie. Lots of tears were shed. But then this happened:

After the conference ended, everyone headed over to the after party at Cheer up Charlie's. They had the most amazing cocktail menu!

More food! This time I went with the Bacon Cheeseburger from Arlo's. Drinks, tears, and community as we said our final goodbyes...well mostly final.

Day 8: Monday. Sayward left for home early Monday morning. Jackie went on her own morning adventure which led her to chicken and waffles with gravy at Unity Vegan Kitchen, which definitely made Nicole and I want summadat, so we headed over to get some of that. Lucky us! There were some other leftover VVCers there as well. Yay for lots of vegans wherever you go! After that we did some shopping and miss Caroline left us to stay with an Austin friend before hitting the airport. We had enough time to squeeze in one more trip to Sweet Ritual, before heading back to the trailer to get ready for our last night in Texas. We grabbed a quick dinner at Thai Fresh and then we hit up a honky tonk for some real live Texas Two Steppin' at the Rattle Inn. Thanks to Wes for teaching me how it's done.

Day 9: Tuesday. Time to say goodbye to Taquito (our trailer cat friend) and Texas. Jackie and I headed north into New Mexico where we stopped in Albuquerque for Thai Vegan, then continued into Arizona and made it into Flagstaff before calling it a night. It was on this leg of the trip that we discovered hick-hop. It cannot be unheard. I admit, though, that it was perfect road trippin' music as we trekked through farm land and countryside. (And we might be a little guilty of doing a little carseat dancing.')

Day 10: Wednesday. The last leg of the journey. It started with breakfast at the cutest hippie coffee shop and vegetarian restaurant in Flagstaff, Macy's, and then we ventured to the Grand Canyon because neither of us had really seen it before (I may have gone when I was quite young, but have no memory of it.) and then home. Pfew.


(You can read my full recap of Vida Vegan Con 2011 here. And here. And here. You can read my full recap of Vida Vegan Con 2013 here. If you'd rather hear my recap of VVC, you can listen to Episode 6 of Vegan Road Rants. For the best ever recaps of all 3 VVCs you should really check out Erika's blog Sews Before Bros where she has the most in depth recaps of workshops and the conference. Bonus, Erika is awesome. Another awesome place to check out VVC recaps is over at Amey's blog Vegan Eats and Treats. She took tons of photos that really capture the energy of the event, and includes her own drawings of what was happening as well. If you are a visual learner, check out Ted Lai's YouTube channel where he is posting his sketch note sessions from each of the workshops he attended.)


Veganopoulous said...

I love the recaps I've been reading and wish I could have gone. Now I have to go and look up hick-hop...

Nicole @ Vegan Nom Noms said...

Oh my gosh those chickun and waffles, so happy we went! I'm still dreaming about them enough to consider buying a waffle maker.

Joni Marie Newman said...

DO IT! Also, you can probably find vegan frozen waffles. Lol. said...

Oh Vida, you were a total blast! Also, those waffles! Daaaaym.

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