Some lessons I learned over the 4 days I was trapped in a conference center buried deep in terrifyingly paved big box store land 45 minutes outside Chicago:
1. Calling ahead to confirm the presence of vegan food means nothing. NOTHING. So you better come prepared. This means packing your own snacks - I brought a disgusting amount of curried cashews, a bag of trail mix, fruit leather, and two bars of chocolate. Note that I didn't include any fresh vegetables. This proved to be a mistake.
2. Befriend the waitstaff. They can - and will - hook you up with secret dishes from the kitchen. After a ten minute chat, I managed to score a plate of roasted vegetables and a cup of amazing lentil soup being served in the restaurant. I received more than a few dirty looks from my miserable veggie comrades as they forced down yet another bowl of mushy pasta from the buffet, but it was worth it.
3. When you're forced to have meals with 260 new people every single day, you better believe that someone is going to notice you're not eating the pork chops, and launch into the dreaded "are you a vegetarian? why??" song and dance. Practice your elevator speech - I've got mine down to a 30 second vegetarian manifesto. Try not to groan when they reply, "that's awesome, but I could NEVER give up cheese!!"
You will face unbelievable odds, but persevere anyway. Every time you step out of your comfort zone - in this case it was my comfy local and veggie food bubble - you learn something new. A good attitude goes a long way. Orange juice on your cereal is actually kind of good.