As I stand in the airport store, not one package is recognizable to me. My flight has been delayed ten hours, and I am stranded at the Rome airport ill prepared with nothing to eat. I scour the few shelves of packaged food and find nothing. They have no fresh food, and I end up with a Coke, water, and a sad looking apple with bruises and bumps included for a hefty price of almost 10 euros. This is not a good beginning to a trip I quickly learn.
I have always been a traveler. I’ve had many opportunities to strategize and perfect the art of traveling with anaphylactic food allergies. I’ve lived and traveled in both English speaking and non-English speaking countries. I have learned how to accommodate for what I may or may not find to eat, wherever I go.
Since living in Italy this past year, I’ve become even better at deciding what I must do before leaving my apartment for a trip. I know exactly what to pack and how to pack it. I know what food will last and for how long. It is a matter of being prepared I have found.
Checklist for Travel:
- Pack extra of all medicines (especially antihistamines and epinephrine)
- If overseas, make sure to carry a doctors note stating that I need all medications, giving permission to carry them, in case I am stopped at the airport
- If flying, call ahead to ask for a nut free flight (especially U.S. flights, since it is uncommon to have bags of peanuts on most international flights)
- Pack hand wipes to clean hands before eating and to wash off the seat on the plane
- Pack snacks to get through the travel period
- Pack multiple copies of my Chef Card
Part of the fun of traveling is never knowing exactly what will happen. For Allergic Reactors like myself, this can pose as a very tricky situation. No matter how prepared, there have been many times where I have not been as prepared as I believed that I was. Sometimes I feel like I can be overcautious with what I pack and the amounts to which I pack (mostly medicine and food), but more often than not it is better to be over prepared than under (as I re-learned at the airport in Rome).
I also don’t like to limit my travel experiences. I try to go where interests me and figure out how to go about getting there and staying there safely. When I was living on the east coast of Australia, I decided to do some traveling to the Whitsunday Islands over a holiday. My friend and I booked a three night, four day excursion sailing around magnificent islands. It was an incredible experience sailing and visiting mostly uninhabited beaches for those days. It was also a bit nerve-racking for me with my allergies. I brought some food, but it was a fairly small boat and only about ten of us on board. The cook on the boat was happy to keep my food for me and to tell me every ingredient without fail. He was very careful with cross contact and seemed to understand any concerns I had. It was not an easy experience for me though. Every time it came to eating I was a bit more tense, but it was an outstanding trip which I can’t imagine having missed because of my allergies.
Whenever I go hiking, I feel that same tenseness. Sometimes it is easy to let your mind wander to “What if…” scenarios. “What if I have an allergic reaction on top of this mountain and no one can help me and my epinephrine runs out and I die.” In reality, I am just as safe, if not safer than the average person going hiking. You could fall and break your leg or get a snakebite and be in danger, too. If someone has an allergic reaction and doesn’t know they are allergic, they won’t have epinephrine. I carry multiple epinephrine injectors. I bring my own water and food and hand wipes. I am careful, but I can enjoy myself.
No matter where you go or what you do, there is always some risk attached. As an Allergic Reactor, the best way to avoid as much risk as possible when traveling is to come prepared.