Say hello to #GUNASGIRL, Valerie Libutti! At the age of 16, after taking a trip to Israel and seeing farm animals up close and personal, Valerie made the choice to become vegetarian. But then two years later, she went to school at the College of Charleston in South Carolina and completely fell in love with food, abandoning her vegetarian diet. Food became a big part of her identity and she would use any excuse to go out to eat with friends, trying new foods and sharing food experiences. It wasn’t until moving back to Miami a few years later that Valerie shocked friends and family by going vegan after binge watching documentaries on Netflix spotlighting animal cruelty and the truth behind what we eat.
Valerie seen here with her GUNAS Cougar Backpack.
She started traveling frequently to attend weddings, doing research for restaurants from Philadelphia to Jackson Hole. She realized just how diverse and extraordinary the vegan food scene was all over the country, which then inspired her to create @VeganTravelEats on Instagram. VTE allows her to share an exciting life and incredible food with people from around the world. We took this opportunity to discuss life, fashion and food with this lovely #GUNASGIRL who is consumed by wanderlust!
- You were on the Vegan Travel panel at the SEED Summit in Miami earlier this month. (Congratulations!) How would you define “Conscious Travel” and why is it important for you?
Thanks so much! Conscious Travel encompasses so many aspects of traveling, for me, I wanted to show people that they could still travel and taste delicious food from all over while still being kind to animals, the planet, and your body.
- As a traveler, what has been your most enjoyable discovery about the vegan way of life? Which country/city you find most conducive to your lifestyle and why?
Well, its been pretty amazing being able to have “veganized” versions of a city’s specialty! I had the most delicious vegan Philly in Philly, a vegan Cuban sandwich in Miami, a Bagel loaded with tofu cream cheese in New York, and so much more! I don’t know if there’s a certain city that is most conducive, there’s great things about all the different places I visit. New York is definitely, in my opinion, the best food scene, but I love Seattle and Vancouver for their beautiful scenery and hiking.
- How would you define your style?
I love a great pair of jeans and a t-shirt, earth-tones have always looked best on me and I’m also really loving gold accents especially rose.
4. What are some of the essentials one will always find in your bag?
My samsung galaxy s7 with its awesome camera, my phone charging case, a go raw pumpkin seed bar, and my notebook which I would be completely lost without. Sometimes I will even print out a map of the city I am going to and mark the restaurants and activities I don’t want to miss!
5. What does your travel calendar look like for 2017?
I am working on a lot of fun stuff, definitely going to Aspen, Colorado in January and my wish list for next year keeps growing but I really have my eye on Las Vegas/Utah, Lake Tahoe, Italy, and Berlin with some fun favorites thrown in like Austin, Portland, New York, and LA!
6. Do you like to cook? What’s your favorite ingredient and your go-to cook book?
I actually cook almost every night when I’m home! I absolutely LOVE Isa Chandra’s cookbooks, and my favorite ingredient to use is probably ginger it adds so much flavor.
7. Are there any animal welfare charities you’ve been involved with?
I haven’t gotten involved with any quite yet, I do donate to animal sanctuaries and visit them on my travels! When I was in Washington I visited Pigs Peace Sanctuary and it was such a great experience, I loved to see what they were up to.
8. You own a few GUNAS bags. How does the brand fit in with your lifestyle?
I own the Cougar backpack in three different colors! I bought one a little over a year ago and I literally used it every day, I used it for work, for my travels, or even just meeting friends for a drink around the corner. It held up so well and I got so many compliments on it, I ended up buying it in 2 more colors.
9. Your Instagram has such a vibrant positive vibe? Who or what inspires you?
So many people inspire me! My very good friend Jackie does The Minnie Chef and her pictures are always so beautiful and lit so well. I have learned a lot from seeing her page evolve. But mostly, when I went vegan 2 years ago, my family and most of my friends were confused and shocked. They thought my life was pretty much over and that there would be no more fun dinners out. My goal was to show everyone that we could still have fun trying new things and eating delicious food together but in a different, kinder way. Still to this day that’s what inspires me and I hope that I can help people change their minds about vegan food just like Gunas is helping people change their minds about fabulous vegan bags!
10. 3 words that describe you! passionate, caring, and always hungry!
Photo credis @the_minnie_chef