On both tours Penn and I had pretty strict diets. I was a vegetarian for a whole host of reasons (some personal and some health) and Penn is Gluten free due to allergies. While these dietary restrictions might be manageable at home they’re more difficult to adhere to while on the road.
One of our biggest concerns was staying healthy. While it’s a well-known fact that fast food always, inexplicably, tastes better on road trips, French fires, milkshakes, and the like are pretty meager in both nutrition and satisfaction. Even now that I’m back eating meat, the patties and burgers offered at fast food chains aren’t anything I’d recommend living on for weeks or months at a time. Along with fast food, it’s easy to consume calories through junk food and gas station goodies, especially while sitting in a car without much more to do than eat, but with shows booked we had commitments to listeners, venues, and ourselves to stay healthy and not eating right only increases the chances of getting sick.
Another issue with such specific diets is budget and since neither of our diets were particularly cheap this was a big concern. I distinctly remember the first night of the Green Sundress Tour after playing our set at Turntable we were sitting on a bench outside a Harris Teeter grocery center, eating gluten free chips Penn’s mom had graciously packed us with a dish of hummus and some sushi we bought at a marked down price because the store was about to close.
Supermarkets are friends for DIY acts on tour. The most affordable option for touring is to do some grocery shopping and purchase things in bulk that won’t go bad. While we only budgeted for gas and lodging, leaving the remaining money to be used freely for food, if I were to tour again I’d definitely create a more specific and rigid spending plan that included groceries and food. Some chain restaurants will also offer whatever perishable food they have left over, so try going to places like Dunkin’ Donuts or Panera that have to throw out whatever isn’t eaten. If you can get some free bagels, or some nice Panera bread, from a friendly manager that’s a great score and will open up some extra spending money.
Penn and I often joked about trying to get support from PETA and other health or animal rights organizations like some late 90’s and early 00’s bands did, but, in all seriousness, that might not be a bad route. While not necessarily PETA, or organizations as devise and far-reaching, there are a lot of local and state based organizations that deal with issues such as personal health, sustainability, environmentalism, and other topics that inform or promote certain diets. Bands that align with their missions should reach out, because even though the places probably can’t or won’t provide funding they might be able to give some free publicity or at the very least offer suggestions about the local cuisine and what’s available at what prices.
The number one, albeit clichéd, lesson I learned on tour is that nothing beats a home cooked meal. When we stayed with friends and family and they offered us one, there was nothing better. Simply being able to sit down and have an extended conversation with other humans besides the two people I had been in a car with for weeks was a huge mental relief. Plus, the people preparing them were already aware of our diets so there were no concerns or questions about the ingredients.
Keeping healthy and full while on the road isn’t too hard, it just requires some planning and preparation. Take the time to budget and communicate, both with other people and your tour mates, and it should be a savory and sweet venture.
Eat well and travel easy.