Top Tips for Traveling Unafraid while Living Anaphylactic
Written by Grace Gibson, Alan Ambassador
I have been anaphylactic to dairy, peanuts, and tree nuts my entire life. I currently live in London, but grew up in Asia (Hong Kong), San Francisco, and have lived in Los Angeles and Arizona. I have been incredibly fortunate in my life to travel all over the world, from remote jungles in Costa Rica, the Philippines, Indonesia, and Thailand, to bustling foreign cities such as Moscow, Munich, Tokyo, and Paris.
I hear quite often within the allergy space that people are afraid to travel with severe allergies. While it is understandable to feel nervous, our allergies should never hold us back. Our allergies are a part of us. They are a friend who has done everything with you and they should be able to travel and experience the world too. I know that sometimes they might be a friend you wish you could leave behind, but living anaphylactic doesn’t have to stop you from experiencing the world. Sometimes it just requires more preparation in order to live unafraid.
Here I have listed some of my top tips for traveling with allergies: Top tips for traveling unafraid. (And grace-friendly?)
4 or more!
We are all familiar with the phrase ‘always carry two,’ but when traveling, the phrase should be ‘4 or more!’ We can never be too careful. Depending on where you are traveling, the weather might be different and can have different effects on your epi-pens so it is important to come prepared and will also soothe your nerves knowing you have back-ups.
Travel with a translation card.
Anywhere I have been in which English isn’t the native tongue, I bring translation cards. These will usually follow the script of ‘ I am severely allergic to Peanuts, Peanut oil, Tree nuts, and Dairy (butter, cheese, milk). Please avoid any cross-contamination. All surfaces, pans, and grills must be clean.’ I will bring a physical copy so the waiter can take it into the kitchen, and also have spare copies on my phone in case the physical copies get lost in the kitchen.
Make sure to travel with favorite snacks that you know can help tie you over in case you don’t feel comfortable at a meal. I always bring instant oatmeal packets (you can find boiling water in any cafe), and an array of allergy-friendly bars I know I can have that also are satisfying. If I run out, or am not able to bring my own food, I will have bananas, boiled eggs, canned tuna etc. These are all simple staples that you can find in grocery stores all around the world.
Simple is safe.
Stick to what you know is safe! If I am out to eat, I will go for the safe bet even if it isn't’ the most desirable option. Living with anaphylactic allergies - it is unrealistic to believe we will be able to taste all the magical street food of the world, but that doesn’t mean we can’t experience the culture around it. Even if it means ordering plain white rice or steamed vegetables, you get to experience the hustle and bustle of the new place you are and the people you are with.
Talk to the locals
Before you go, know where you’re staying. If you are at a hotel or hostel, ask the managers about local hospitals, how best to get there, and explain your allergies to see if they have any advice. If you are staying at an Airbnb, don’t be afraid to talk to your host about local hospitals and access to health care. This isn’t to anticipate something going wrong, but feeling calmer and knowing what to do in case.
I truly believe that our allergies open up our world, not close it. They allow us to view the world through a different lens and what better way to explore that world than traveling. Living with allergies does add risk, but the right preparation will allow us to feel confident and unafraid and seize the world is at our fingertips.
If anyone has any questions or concerns about traveling, please feel free to message me on my Instagram page @gracefriendly :)