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TRAVEL TIPS: Top 10 tips for “Kosher” Backpackers

Contributed by Mirie Wiesenberg

You can be kosher and travel anywhere… it just takes a little planning and a lot of creativity.

Packing light can be a challenge with all the extra Jewish things you are going to need: tfillin, Shabbat clothes, spare food, but no worries you can do it, but one Shabbat outfit may be all you can squeeze in for all those weeks. I hope these tips are helpful.

  • 1. Bring kosher cooking utensils: Bring a small travel saucepan, a set of basic camping cutlery, a decent knife and a Tupperware will suffice. Do not get carried away. There is not a lot of room in a backpack, so think pareve. If you are in a far off place with no or sparse kosher products, you are going to have to do lots of cooking.
  • 2. Expect to eat a lot of foods that can be bought raw: Raw fruits, vegetables and grains are kosher anywhere and can be bought anywhere. Yes, you will have to do the normal preparation stuff (checking for bugs, etc.), but you can eat very well and healthfully on these items… since you can buy them locally – less weight on your back!
  • 3. Stay in hostels with cooking facilities: Many hostels have cooking facilities. Call in advance and ask if they do… that way you don’t have to worry and can prepare your own food.
  • 4. Bring some quick food: There will be days where you can’t or do not feel like cooking. Bring foods like Peanut butter, flat packs of tuna fish, Cliff bars and instant food such as couscous, these are a few examples of food that pack in a lot of energy in small amounts of space. If there are Jewish communities around or kashrut authorities where you are traveling, you can replenish your stash when you run out.
  • 5. Plan your trip around Shabbat: After figuring out the approximate route of your trip figure out where would be the best/nicest place to stay for Shabbat along route. If possible a place with a Jewish community, or just a nice place. Try to get set up with local families for Shabbat and feel ahavat yisroel in action. Chabad.org is a great resource for finding a place for Shabbat. If there is no Jewish presence Shabbat can still be an extremely holy experience, think Shabbat in the rain forest.
  • 6. Travel with someone who understands: At the very least travel with someone who understands and can tolerate your situation, ideally travel with someone who loves or is dedicated to Shabbat and kashrut. This will make everything easier and with two you can really create a strong Shabbat atmosphere.
  • 7. Bring a Shabbat kit: Put all essential Shabbat items in a large zip lock bag, include, matches, tea lights, a box of matzah crackers, and a small grape juice.
  • 8. Little things make Shabbat feel like Shabbat: Bring some instant food that will add to the Shabbat feel such as matzah ball mix, soup cubes and instant rice pilaf and think about buying a disposable table cloth to cover that sticky youth hostel table as you make Shabbat. If you pass through a city with kosher bread, pick up some challah for Shabbat. Seal Shabbat clothes in a zip lock bag so that they take up the smallest amount of space and retain their freshness. (Agricultural regulations prevent you from bringing meat products into many countries so lugging a salami roll around is not such a good idea unless you can buy it locally)
  • 9. Learn the halachot of kashrut: Knowing your kashrut halachot can make your eating options wider (or sometimes slimmer). Ask your local rabbi what you need to do to buy fish anywhere. Being able to have fish on Shabbat can definitely make it nicer.
  • 10. Make a Kiddush Hashem: In your travels you are sure to meet people who have never met a Jew before and most definitely not a frum (religious) Jew. All eyes are on you. Show the world how beautiful and wonderful it is to be a Jew serving Hashem.

About the author

Mirie Wiesenberg

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