Two young women — one living in West Virginia and the other in Portland, Oregon — will parlay a shared passion for veganism and travel into a six-month worldwide adventure, under the sponsorship of the new online resource vegantravel.com.

Self-described best friends Marissa Kai Miluk and Shae Mann actually met through YouTube, said Miluk, who grew up in Lewisburg, the daughter of Greenbrier East High School wrestling coach Brian Miluk.

“We commented on each other’s videos for a while before we ever met,” the 21-year-old Marshall University student said, explaining that she lived in California at the time she and Mann finally met face-to-face, becoming fast friends.

A few months ago, Mann discovered a contest being conducted by vegantravel.com to find a duo who could travel the world, promoting veganism and compassion and sharing their adventures with the online resource’s audience through blogs and videos. Naturally, Mann and Miluk tapped into their experience with YouTube and began to brainstorm ideas for what would turn out to be the winning video.

“We put together a video vegan tour of our towns,” Miluk said.

The video playfully emphasized the contrast between pro-vegan Portland and what Miluk called “probably the least vegan-friendly” city imaginable — Huntington — with a side trip to Lewisburg. Hardly a vegan hotbed, Lewisburg nonetheless is home to The Wild Bean and Edith’s Health and Specialty Store, both of which offer vegan options, Miluk pointed out in her half of the contest-winning video.

A vegan for the past year and a half, Miluk told The Register-Herald that her interest in nutrition drew her to veganism.

“A plant-based diet is the most healthy,” Miluk said. “I later learned about the ethical and environmental advantages and am now a supporter of veganism for all three reasons.”

Majoring in dietetics at Marshall, Miluk aspires to become a dietician with a plant-based practice.

For the uninitiated, the Vegetarian Resource Group (www.vrg.org) explains what sets vegans apart from vegetarians, noting, “Vegetarians do not eat meat, fish or poultry. Vegans, in addition to being vegetarian, do not use other animal products and by-products such as eggs, dairy products, honey, leather, fur, silk, wool (and) cosmetics and soaps derived from animal products.”

Miluk and Mann will begin their continent-hopping journey on behalf of vegantravel.com on July 6, with a first stop in Iceland. Also on the European itinerary — which is subject to change — are such cities as Stockholm, Copenhagen, Amsterdam and Budapest and countries including England, Switzerland, Italy, Greece and Croatia.

The journey will eventually take the two friends to Dubai, India, South Africa, Australia, Thailand and Cambodia. They will return to the U.S. in January, having posted videos and blogs detailing their adventures at https://www.vegantravel.com/vegan-travelers-shae-marissa/.

"I'm excited about sharing how to be vegan around the world," Miluk enthused. "People think it's hard to be a vegan, but it's not — it's easy."

— Email: talvey@register-herald.com

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