The vegan journey is always a unique one. It takes time, patience, and persistence, but when all of these things come together in a perfect mixture, a little vegan baby, shy and new to the world, emerges.
My rebirth happened while backpacking through South America; more specifically, while backpacking through Bolivia, which might be the worst place on this planet to have a vegan revelation.
I watched a beautiful mother cow (the most precious of animals) being slaughtered alive in an open street market. I’ll never forget the cries. Or the blood. Or the feeling that I was helpless to offer any form of help. That was it for me. But really, the process of waking my stubborn self up, started long before that.
I spent a year backpacking through South America and got really good at pinching pennies and stretching my budget as thinly as humanly possible.
The trick that I came up with was to use my skills as a photographer to trade for basically everything. From food to dorm beds to motorcycle rentals, bus tickets, the list goes on.
Every day became its own little adventure of finding new ways not to spend money. Hey, it kept me busy.
I'll never forget the first vegan restaurant that I traded with. It was a little buffet-style vegan restaurant in the town of Mendoza in Argentina, a region known for prime rib and prime wine.
However, this restaurant was full of energy and run by an adorable Argentinian woman who I remember being teeming with life. I liked her style. I wanted to learn from her.
However, she didn’t speak any English, and with my limited Spanish, we mainly talked about the weather. I'd occasionally throw out a 'delicioso!' whenever my taste buds were particularly pleased.
Alas, after a week in Mendoza, it was time to move Northward. It took another three weeks before I found myself in Bolivia and in turn found my life changed forever.
After watching that animal fight for her life, I realized that not only did I want to stop contributing to the madness of animal exploitation, but I wanted to help bring an end to it in any way that I could.
I went vegan on the spot and from that moment forward, vowed to trade exclusively with vegan restaurants. And so I did. Up through Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, the US, UK, and Spain, I found every vegan restaurant along my route and offered them fresh photos, free of charge.
The trailer for the series
A bigger movement
I quickly realized that I was not alone in this venture, but instead found myself within a movement; something so much larger than me.
I could feel myself getting caught up in it, urged forward by the passionate vegans around me. I knew that this was going to sweep me away and I was absolutely ready for it.
What this experience really gave me, however, was a fascinating and unique look at the progress that veganism was making in the most unlikely of places.
I remember while in Sucre, a bustling central town in Bolivia, I stumbled upon the town’s first and only vegan restaurant: Prem. It had recently opened and was always packed to the brim with locals at lunchtime.
The daily lunch special included four courses for $2, which was on par or pricier than all of the other restaurants in town - welcome to South American prices. Why was it doing so well, you might ask?
Well, an old Bolivian auntie in bad health gave this new restaurant that claimed to have 'healthy food' (not a common phrase in Bolivia), a try. After a few weeks of eating there primarily, she felt amazing and told her friends, who told their friends, and that’s how a movement starts.
All throughout South America, I was in constant awe when meeting the owners of these restaurants. They all were happy to share stories from their lives, plans for the future, and inspirations from the past.
The same thing happened in Europe. These were the most appreciative, humble, and generous people that I'd ever met.
They were making a sacrifice for the greater good. They weren’t rich. They weren't famous. But they didn’t want to be. They wanted a better world.
I ended up in the Canary Islands over the winter when a random fist of inspiration clocked me in the head one morning and told me I needed to film a documentary on the global rise of veganism.
"Nonsense," I thought. "You've never filmed anything. You don't know what you’re doing. Don't be ridiculous," said my internal narrative.
But then, another voice inside me said: "Wait…that's actually a really good idea. Maybe you should look into this."
That morning I sent out what felt like a thousand emails. I couldn't stop typing. My fingers turned to dust and grew back again, or something like that.
I sent emails out to my favorite vegan people; Chocolate Covered Katie, Cam F Awesome, Simple Happy Kitchen, Mercy for Animals, Dr. Michael Greger, Chef Charity Morgan, Dr. Neal Barnard, and the lot of them.
Within a few days I had an entire list of excited vegans wanting to get in on the action. And so my new life was born and I got to work.
The vegan image
Let's face it; the vegan movement needs a new PR campaign. We all want to think that we're perceived as animal saviors and environmental benefactors, but that's often not the case.
So many people just don't like vegans or the perceived ideals behind veganism. They still think we're weird. We're on a mission to change that.
Vegan Round the World: The Series is the first time a documentary series has highlighted the human side of the vegan movement.
We want to offer exciting and inspirational stories to the public as opposed to sterilized facts and we want to show the world that this movement is the next step towards a happier, healthier experience for all life on planet earth.
We've all gone through some sort of minor struggle to become vegan. We've been made fun of, we've fought with our parents, and we've eaten far too many salads at restaurants that claim to have 'vegan options'.
But we're in this together and we're all fighting towards similar goals. So let's show the public what we’re made of. Let's show them how we're rising up, together, Round the World.
In order to help fund the remaining filming for 2018, James Hoot has launched an international crowdfunding campaign.
Rewards on offer include 100 percent organic and sustainable t-shirts, virtual high-fives, early episode release access, and vegan cruise line tickets.
The organization has teamed up with Trees for the Future, a non-profit organization that plants trees in rural communities in Africa, to offset 100 percent of the carbon emissions created by the project.