Travelling as a coeliac

I’ve been off gluten for a few years, but it’s only in the last couple of years that I’ve taken my ‘condition’ a bit more seriously. After spending 2016 perpetually ill because I was living it up and eating whatever I wanted (in other words a lot of gluten) I decided that from the time I landed in Scotland I’d make sure to make my health a priority.

poh boy
Poh Boy in New Orleans (pre-coeliac) – it’s bigger than my head!

Cue a whole lot of travel and a whole new level of pain! As someone who until maybe six years ago was able to eat anything she wanted, having my diet suddenly restricted has taken a lot getting used to. Until last year, I’d take a break from eating gluten free when I travelled, because for me, one of the best parts about visiting new places is indulging in the local cuisine. A croissant on the go in Paris, a make-it-as-you-go baguette from produce bought at the farmer’s market in Draguinan, a hot dog at the Red Sox game…life was simple and I didn’t have to consider where I’d be getting my next meal.

Fast forward six years later and not only am I discovering that life as a coeliac traveller is more expensive, but it’s also more demanding. Gone are the days of spontaneously dropping into restaurants, of grabbing local fare from off-the-beaten track cafes, of wandering freely and never having to think ahead. Now before I head somewhere I have to research safe places to eat and map it out (thank goodness for Google maps ‘Places I want to Go’ pins). If I have to grab lunch on the go, it means having to sit in at a restaurant instead of grabbing a pretzel from the local food van. Before I leave, I also need to make sure that I find a ‘coeliac travel card’ that explain my condition and what I can or can’t eat in the local language.

hotdog
Red Sox won in Boston – what would baseball be without hot dogs (pre-coeliac)?

After a few bad experiences, I’ve also taken to packing some gluten-free things to bring with me in case I end up somewhere that’s never heard of coeliac disease – the alternative being to starve or subsist on salad (you DON’T make friends with salad!). So now I’m always braced to get sick if I do eat out somewhere, just in case, because it seems that the older I’m getting the more severe my reactions to ‘being glutened’. On the up side there are thankfully more places that are aware of coeliacs and, if you do your research you can find some incredible places to visit. I do miss the days of being free to eat as I please, but until they find a miraculous cure for coeliacs, at least there are plenty of great resources out there to guide coeliac travellers!

Are you travelling with a condition? How do you find travelling with coeliac disease? What have been your experiences in other countries? Share your stories in the comments!

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