Traveling the world can be an incredible experience. While you may want to throw caution to the wind and risk everything for a great story it pays to think ahead. While some adventures can leave you with an incredible story of risk and reward, others can just leave you on the toilet seat for a few days or worse, in the hospital. If you have any allergies it is important to know exactly what you are getting into when you travel to a foreign country. We are here to help.
You won’t be taken seriously
If you are from the West and are traveling East, prepare to be looked at with a slightly patronizing view. The reality is that the cuisine of places like South East Asia is something that the people are incredibly proud of. They are also used to Western (usually American) tourists being picky eaters and refusing some of their finest meals. When someone turns up and says they have an allergy or a particular diet they are often ignored. With this in mind, it is important not to downplay your allergy and hope they are in a good mood. You should have a doctor’s note in the language of the country you are visiting to ensure they will listen. It might even help if the note exaggerates your possible reactions a little bit.
I once traveled to Asia with my partner who is a vegetarian. Whenever she asked if there was meat in a dish they would tell her of course not. The dish would arrive full of chicken. When she asked about the chicken she was simply told that is not meat, that is chicken! Ensure you are being very clear about what you can and can’t eat as translations will often not help.
Take a friend
While traveling alone sounds great, in most cases it is better with a friend. If you have an allergy it is even more of a reason to go with a friend. If a friend knows what your allergies are they can look out for you. When a local is not willing to hear your requests, strength in numbers can help. If for no other reason, if the dish you order turns out to have something you are allergic to, you can always swap meals with your friend and ensure you are well fed.
The reality is that you will encounter many places that are not equipped to serve you. Peanuts are a very popular ingredient in most Asian countries and if you have a severe allergy that means you can’t eat food prepared on the same chopping board or pan where peanuts were, you may be out of luck.
It is a good idea to have some fruit or cereal bars in your bag at all times, this will ensure you can get through it.
Don’t cancel your plans
Whatever you do, don’t cancel your plans. Traveling to new places is supposed to be a challenge and yes your allergy will make it slightly more challenging. It doesn’t matter. Embrace that challenge and overcome it.
If anyone you are traveling with is annoyed by your allergies and the precautions you have to take, then they are not someone you want to be traveling with. Always bring extra supplies, medication and more to ensure you are ready no matter what happens.
Life is all about adventure and nothing should stop you from having that adventure. As long as you prepare correctly and are not naive about where you are going you will be totally fine. Trust in your own ability to navigate this tricky situation.