Self-proclaimed font of Celiac knowledge, Libby tries to educate everyone she comes across on the differences between allergies, gluten sensitivity, and Celiac Disease.See all posts »
Traveling with Celiac
For the past couple of years now, I have felt a growing desire to travel. Sure, I have taken trips here and there; recently to the UK, Central America, and other states in the U.S., but traveling in a group or for a mere two weeks has not satisfied my itch.
I began to plan an elaborate route through South East Asia within the past few months. There are many countries that I would love to visit. China, for example, fascinates me. However, when you are a Celiac, you have to think first about food and how you will feed yourself abroad, and then the attractions of the location, and China is extremely unsafe due to soy sauce and wheat bread/noodle usage. It seems a little backwards for most people, but if you are stuck somewhere and either getting sick from every meal or going hungry, it is going to be a pretty miserable holiday. Before, European countries would have been off limits as well for food and thus travel (with some exceptions, of course), but now that the disease is so prevalent, most Europeans are well versed in living gluten free. I would have considered Europe a viable option for my excursion, but being English, I have traveled to many EU countries, and also did the classic backpacking "Eurotrip" with my best friend when I was 18.
If there are countries that a Celiac would like to visit but is worried about the food situation, bringing prepackaged items like packet soups, power bars, and snacks is a great idea. While practical, this also has its downside, since so much of a culture's essence is held within its cuisine. The tradition of food has been passed down for many generations and to miss out on that part of daily life is like having a blindfold on while walking around a city. It is essentially cutting off one whole sensory experience from the country you are visiting.
With these thoughts in mind, I listed types of cuisines that are safe to eat. Indian was at the top of my list. Apart from the naan, most all dishes are gluten free, not to mention the fact that Indian is my favorite type of food! So at first, my idea was to head to India for three months. I've been to India once before as a teenager, but only in the southern part for two-and-a-half weeks. It was a tiny sample of a huge and fascinating land. By myself, I would trek around the country and have wonderful experiences.
But then I realized I was missing a huge section of the world where the food would be safe and the culture and sights would be amazing: South East Asia. Thai food is one cuisine that a Celiac can never go wrong with. Vietnamese also is very much rice and rice noodle based. This was just the tip of the iceberg. I researched and discovered incredible dishes to try and places to visit, quickly drawn to the copious amount of information available and the backpacker friendly travel trails.
And so it was decided upon. This January, I will be going to Thailand, Cambodia, Burma, and Indonesia with some possible other countries in between. My trip will only last 6 weeks because of work commitments, but I could not be more excited. I cannot wait to experience sights and smells unlike what I have known before, but mainly, I am looking forward to food -- and lots of it.