Hello my name is Caitlyn and I am allergic to wheat, eggs and nuts. A little over a month ago I wrote a blog about my preparations to make sure I stayed safe with my allergies while travelling to Tanzania for three weeks and then touring Germany and Amsterdam for a week afterwards. Now that I have returned to good old Canada, I’m happy to report that I stayed free of any allergy reactions over my 4 weeks of travelling! That’s not to say that there weren’t risks and precautions that I needed to be diligent about, but by doing so I was able to stay safe for the entirety of my journey.
In terms of travelling on the plane, I was able to pre-order gluten free meals and could be assured they also would contain no nuts. Even though I was given assurance that I would have food that I could eat, I still brought extra food to be safe. This paid off on two of the total four flights I had. One of the flights I was on, one of my meals was accidently given to another women who had ordered a vegetarian meal. This mistake was not realized until it was too late leaving me without a meal. Another flight there was an error made and the airplane ended up not having any gluten free meals on board at all. Both times the staff on the airplane tried to accommodate for the mistakes and created make shift meals for me out of extra salads, fruit and cheeses, even sneaking food from first class for me! On top of this, having extra food in my bag allowed me to last the flight without having to feel hungry.
Staying safe while eating in Tanzania proved not to be too difficult since I was living at a house with 25 other students and we had a cook who worked for us providing our meals. I met our cook Witness on the first day I arrived and was instantly put at ease as she explained to me how everything would be ‘Hakuna Matata’ (no worries!) about food and she would always make sure there would be lots for me to eat…and there always was! There were times when I would eat out in restaurants but found the wait staff would always be able to speak English. To further make sure they fully understand what I meant when I said I had food allergies, I used my little food allergy pocket cards that were printed in Swahili and said I would have reactions to eating wheat, eggs and nuts. I would even get the staff to bring one of the cards with them to show the cook to make sure communication was accurately passed down. One of the biggest events when I needed to really ensure I stayed safe with my allergies was when I went on a four-day safari. This was because for four days I would be in the middle of a safari park, hours away from any remote medical centre. Again, I was fortunate because the safari company I planned my trip with provided our safari group with a personal cook for our journey and I was able to inform them when booking our trip what I was allergic to and the severity of my allergies. All in all I was so thankful for the wonderful experience I was able to have in Tanzania, and on top of this to stay safe with my allergies.
After leaving Tanzania I travelled for a week in Europe visiting western Germany for a few days and then departing for Amsterdam to finish off the week. Staying safe here while eating involved mainly just being smart eating out at restaurants. I personally found that since I travelled to popular tourist area, any of the wait staff I encountered were able to speak English. That being said, I still had my allergy pocket travel cards also printed in German and Dutch to aid in communication to make sure nothing was lost in translation. The biggest challenge I always found was initially picking a restaurant that looked safe to eat. It was common practice for restaurants to post their menus in their windows, however most times this would just be in their native language and I would have no idea what food was actually offered. Restaurants who posted menus featuring an additional English translation definitely had the upper hand in getting my business, but I found often you could ask the restaurant staff and they would have an extra copy of their menu in English to make things easier.
Overall, I found by staying smart and using common sense along with practicing open communication to compensate for a communication barrier, there was no reason not to stay safe with allergies while travelling abroad. Most importantly there was never a reason to let allergies stop you from enjoying all the incredible experiences travelling allows for!