As you will know if you are a reader of this blog, I write about my worldwide travels and the daily struggle that is life with an anxiety disorder and OCD. I write from this perspective as I think that it is vitally important to open up a dialogue about this and to challenge the stigma surrounding mental health. I want people who are struggling to know that they are not alone.
I therefore decided to expand my blog with a monthly guest post feature titled ‘Wanderlust Wednesday: Breaking the Mould’, written by inspiring people who struggle with their mental or physical health but challenge themselves to get out there and live their dreams anyway.
Together, we can show others that if we can, anyone can.
This month we meet Emily Butterfield, who does not let her Coeliac disease get in the way of her travel plans!
Four Tips for Travelling with Coeliac Disease
Travel preparation can be a daunting task for anyone. Where will you go, how will you get there, what should you pack, and of course, what will you eat? But, being able to eat on the fly isn’t an option for those of us living with coeliac disease. The autoimmune disorder damages the small intestine when gluten is ingested. The only treatment is to follow a strict gluten free diet. But I haven’t let the disease keep me from my insatiable love of travel. I’ve just learnt to incorporate meal planning into my trip planning.
I travelled frequently before I was diagnosed with coeliac disease in October 2015. Often times I was on a “Beercation” – checking out breweries and sipping delicious craft beer. Just weeks before my diagnosis, I was at the Great American Beer Festival in Denver, Colorado. And two days after my diagnosis, I was off on my next adventure to Greece. It was the land of baklava and gyros, which unfortunately contained my new nemesis – gluten. I had little time to educate myself about my new disease, let alone find gluten-free restaurants before hopping a plane to Greece. But I learnt some important tips to incorporate into my travels. Since then, I’ve enjoyed meals in Australia, New Zealand, Whistler, Canada, and even pizza and pasta in Italy.
Here’s how I do it:
1) Map out gluten-free restaurants
Prior to my departure, I read blogs and other coeliac disease resources to find gluten-free restaurants in the area I’m traveling. I make a list of restaurants, coffee shops, farmer’s markets and grocery stores that I want to try. Then I create a new Google map and save each location to it. You can then download this map for offline use when mobile data or WiFi service is spotty. I try and map out places in various neighborhoods of where I’m travelling; this cuts down on the anxiety of finding a place to eat on the fly.
2) Use the ‘Find Me Gluten Free’ app
I love this app – you can download it for Apple and Android phones. It allows you to search for gluten-free restaurants near you or by a specified location. You can also filter results for locations that are “Coeliac Friendly” and read reviews of past customers (and find dish recommendations). This app is how I found the most amazing gluten free restaurant in Rome, where I enjoyed coeliac-safe pizza, pasta and chocolate cake!
3) Learn the language, ask a local
Prior to my trip to Italy in June 2017, I researched the various ways to say “gluten,” “I can’t have gluten,” and “I have coeliac disease” in Italian. Note that Google Translate isn’t always accurate on translations, so look for resources that provide native words and phrases. I like to use these coeliac restaurant cards which explain the coeliac-safe diet in many languages. Print them and show to your restaurant or hotel staff to ensure a safe meal!
I find that fellow diners or gluten-free restaurant staff has great recommendations too. Don’t be afraid to ask them where they’ve enjoyed a coeliac-friendly meal.
4) Look for a local coeliac disease organization
Many countries have coeliac disease associations, like Coeliac New Zealand. These associations are helpful in understanding gluten-free food standards and testing, finding safe dining options and other travel tips. I find that knowledge of coeliac disease varies greatly by country so it’s important to know how to navigate it- wherever you travel.
Traveling with coeliac disease doesn’t have to be a daunting task. Researching restaurants ahead of time can be fun, and it cuts down on time you spend finding places once you arrive. One last tip – don’t forget to request a gluten-free meal on your international flight if you airline offers it.
Best of luck on your coeliac-safe travels!
To hear more from Emily you can find her in the following location:
If you want to be featured as part of the Wanderlust Wednesday: Breaking the Mould series, then get in touch below.