How to Travel More, Worry Less, and Eat Right
By: Sofia Caputo
From ‘weirdos’ to ‘fake vegans’ to ‘ponchos and Mumus lovers,’ Alanna Giuliani and Kellen Linehan, co-founders of vegan travel company, The Electric Soul, have experienced all the backlash that comes along with living and promoting a vegan lifestyle.
“There is a lot of micro-aggression, bullying, and shaming that occurs in the vegan community,” Giuliani said. “We’ve been at the receiving end of that. It was alarming, but made us dive deeper into our purpose — to educate, inspire, and eliminate the 'us vs. them' mentality within our community.”
The Electric Soul thus mobilizes this purpose as a social media platform that meets people wherever they are on their vegan journey, no questions asked. The site combines the ethos of a healthy living blog and the encyclopedic essence of a travel guide to make vegan travel more plausible for those in need of compatible food spots around the country. By sharing their experiences through social media, educating others on the benefits of a "cruelty-free lifestyle," and curating an informational goldmine for fellow vegan travelers, Giuliana and Linehan have fostered an Instagram community that is 100,000+ strong.
The origins of The Electric Soul, however, had nothing to do with a follower count and everything to do with a budding admiration and love built between Giuliani and Linehan centered around a vegan lifestyle.
"We went to the University of Miami and met at Ultra Music Festival," Linehan said. "Alanna graduated with a degree in Broadcast Journalism and Theatre, and I studied Business Law. We traveled a lot when we started dating, and Alanna always enjoyed planning out our trips. I remember getting Google Docs like Naughty New Orleans and Mucho Miami, most of which were lists of vegan restaurants she wanted to check out."
Giuliani’s vegan journey in particular began when she was only eight years old, stemming from her love for animals. However, her serious transformation to veganism began when both her father and brother were diagnosed with cancer. Giuliani learned how a plant-based diet improved their qualities of life, and her journey gained a new perspective.
"By 2004, my dad was diagnosed with cancer, and my parents and I switched to a plant-based diet. My dad passed in 2006, but I know the dietary intervention significantly improved his quality of life. My brother passed in 2015 from cancer. When he diagnosed, he was advised to adopt a whole foods, plant-based diet. This made me realize that this lifestyle change isn’t only crucial for animal rights, but necessary for our health and the planet."
As a wrestler in high school, nutrition became an important factor in Linehan's performance, which was why he decided to go vegan in the first place. However, meeting Giuliani solidified his new lifestyle.
"Back then, I adopted a plant-based diet that relied heavily on all things leafy, green, and low cal. For our first date, Alanna took me to a vegan café in Montreal. I ordered a raw Pad Thai dish that was more delicious than anything I’d had in Thailand the summer prior, and I was hooked."
After that, the two started traveling more and more, looking forward to trying new vegan restaurants everywhere they went. They began to make lists of all the places they wanted to go to, and everywhere they had been, which is how The Electric Soul was born.
People travel because they crave new and exciting experiences, and, of course, delicious food. But when the only “vegan” option at a restaurant is an iceberg salad, that spot in the historic branch of a city that you've been dying to visit becomes almost inaccessible. Giuliani and Linehan, thus, began to do the dirty work for their followers — to discover the food joints where history, culture and veganism could intertwine to create an authentic experience, and to create an online database of these spots for others.
“Vegan travel is mindful travel,” Giuliani said. “When we say ‘vegan travel,’ we aren’t necessarily talking about Birkenstocks and yoga retreats. We’re really talking about voting with your dollar by making a conscious effort to visit the places that adhere to cruelty free practices and capture the spirit of the city.”
From California to Pennsylvania and everything in between, The Electric Soul shares fan-favorite restaurants you can’t pass up, travel essentials and tips every vegan should know, as well as a history and FAQ’s for those who are interested in adopting veganism themselves.
“Community and storytelling are two of our biggest values,”said Giuliani. “We’re passionate about not only sharing our travel experiences, but also creating a community where others can share their experiences too.”
With more than 15 years of experience in branding, marketing, and production, starting The Electric Soul is just one of many artistic ventures for both Giuliani and Linehan, but it’s the power of social media that’s helped the two find so much success with expanding the vegan movement.
“Social media truly has changed the way we relate with one another and the world,” said Giuliani. “Instagram just seemed like a natural way to share our discoveries while traveling.”
But, where there’s positive feedback and engagement, there’s criticism to follow. Giuliani shares stories on the accusations they’ve received, such as posting pictures of meat on Instagram from people who are either unfamiliar with The Electric Soul mission, or otherwise spiteful that they don’t share the same approach to veganism. Some fans are newly vegan but still have a leather jacket they aren’t ready to part with. Those people receive a lot of criticism, too, because it seems hypocritical on the surface.
“There are many levels to the practice of veganism,” said Giuliani. “You don’t have to be 100% by-the-book in order to be a part of the movement. We are all works in progress, and as a community, we need to applaud those who make an effort, even if it’s just becoming a weekday vegetarian.”
Whether your vegan efforts are to advocate against animal cruelty, to improve your health, or to make a positive impact on our planet, you don’t need to let traveling or criticism hold you back from living your best life wherever your journey takes you. Some of the world's most notable public figures practice veganism: Moby, Fiona Apple, Samuel L. Jackson, and even "tough guy Mike Tyson," to name a few.
The goal, then, is to live a healthier life in any facet one can. And to do so unapologetically.
"To be electric is to be alive," said Giuliani. "We think of it as the energy you bring to a situation. Inherent in that is inspiration. If we focus on being electric, on being positive, then we can inspire others to travel, try new things, and connect with their passion—whatever that might be!"