If I am going to write about my travel adventures with food allergies, it is probably important for all of you to know just what you’re going to be reading about so here is my ‘as-condensed-and-as-PG-as-I-can-keep-it’ food allergy story! Yippee!
When I was a senior in college and freshly 21, I started experiencing monstrously vicious digestive problems (I’ll spare you the gory details….for now). Two months later and countless phone calls to doctors, hours of crying, and being poked and prodded in every sense of the word, I was finally diagnosed with celiac disease (an intolerance to gluten, which can be found in wheat, barley and rye). I thought I had to say goodbye to beer, pizza, mac & cheese, sandwiches, and the biggest of them all, PASTA!
It was a huge adjustment and I do have to confess I was a brat about it for months.
Thank you friends, and innocent bystanders for putting up with my whining and tears.
It was a huge life-style change for me. I had learned how to survive on $20 worth of groceries for 2 weeks. That isn’t possible when $.69 pasta and pb&j is no more. Today, I am so thankful I was born in the decade I was, there are so many resources out there for Celiac and plenty of SAFE beer, pizza, mac & cheese, sandwiches, and PASTA.
Then, once I was finally getting the hang of the gluten free lifestyle I started having digestive issues once again. I wound up seeing an allergist and adding a couple fish, eggs, nuts and a huge array of environmental allergies to the mix.
This would have crippled me had I not been diagnosed with Celiac disease 2 years prior. I had learned how to change my lifestyle and eating habits once before, I just had to take it in stride and do it again.
MY biggest struggle has been in feeling comfortable eating out and actually asking about ingredients. I have always been a low maintenance person, and it’s hard for me to be needy to a waitress. I still pay severely for days after a ‘bad’ meal all because I wouldn’t ask if a sauce had a rue base, or if there were eggs in something. It sounds silly, but every time I’d tell myself it wouldn’t be that bad of a reaction and every time it would be even worse than the last.
What really kick started my drive to stick up for myself in restaurants was my will to travel and a specific trip to Boston. One St. Patrick’s Day, a friend and I traveled to Boston to celebrate accordingly and met up with friends from college the night before. We went out to dinner and the restaurant actually had gluten free pasta options, I WAS SO EXCITED! I assumed that the rest of the dish couldn’t contain eggs, and man, was I wrong. I spent the rest of the evening in agonizing pain, in and out of the bathroom every 5 minutes, and was basically a buzz kill in general. My friends are always supportive, and kept offering to go home, I just hated being the reason.
This was my changing point. How was I ever going to travel to a different country with a language barrier if I couldn’t even bring myself to communicate my needs with people in the US?
I needed to teach myself to be my own self advocate. In a way this blog has made that a possibility. I may not be a health fiend or doing cleanses every other minute but I do have to pay extra attention to every single thing that I put into my mouth. If you want to get really specific, everything I come in contact with because lucky me, there’s hidden gluten, eggs, nuts and even fish in makeup, shampoos and even hair dyes. And in one particular case nuts even existed in a shine serum a poor hairdresser opted to put on me (looked great! but caused major hives!).
Here’s my goal: To provide a TRUE, HONEST and REAL approach and account of dealing with food allergies while traveling. I’m excited to share my experiences and hopefully help someone else struggling with the idea of seeing the world and not knowing if there will be anything for them to eat!
So now that you know a little about me, what are your thoughts or stories on food allergies or traveling with a restricted diet?