This is What it's Like to Travel with Celiac Disease

This is What it's Like to Travel with Celiac Disease. 

It's frustrating and disheartening to be misunderstood - no, I'm not on a gluten-free diet!! Arghhh. I feel anxious the entire time, I worry about when and what I'll be able to eat next. And it can be shitty, actually shitty.

Having been an avid traveler for many years, I've never been concerned over food. While I admit I don't have an iron stomach and am fairly picky, I've still never had any issues - until I was diagnosed with Celiac Disease. About 1 in 100 people have it. It's an auto-immune disorder people, not a food allergy! I hate being Celiac-challenged. Now even running an errand at home makes me anxious to know that I can't just stop at a McDonald's if I'm suddenly hungry, (even if it's not the best of nutritional choices). But I did eat at Mc'Ds once (eek!!), see below

"People who are on gluten-free diets are not doing me an favors. When I order a Celiac-friendly or gluten-free item on a menu, I'm always met with "that look", of really??! Of course you are. And then I'm handed the one-page typed out menu with 4 items to choose from. Seriously? Restaurants really do need to step up their game as it's truly not that difficult to do some extra cleaning on a grill before frying a burger and/or offering a gluten-free bun." 

It's funny (well, not really) how many waiters and waitresses at restaurants nod their heads when I'm asking questions in regards to gluten free food options, as if they understand, which apparently they don't. I can explain what I want, what I can't have and invariably I'm served something with an unknown sauce they can't identify all the ingredients of, or a gluten free dish topped with a garnish of regular, wheat-containing noodles. I've even received garlic toast on the side. Really??

And no one in the restaurant business seems to understands the Celiac Disease issue with potential cross-contamination. I'm in no way saying it's their fault, it's just unfortunate, for all of us. My restaurant/ingredient quest led me to start a section on my other blog, My Favorite Things, entitled Is This Gluten Free? It's a great resource to pass along to anyone who suffers with Celiac.

What I would give when traveling to be able to just grab a burger and a beer! I used to enjoy drinking Black Butte Porter out of Oregon, love that stuff! But now I can't have that stuff :( I've recently discovered a really nice gluten-free beer called Mongozo Premium Pilsner, based out of Belgium. It's definitely the best gluten-free beer I've found so far, and I've tried everything that's available in our area. So, while most people can enter a bar and order a beer right off the get-go,

I'm left staring at the menu thinking, don't panic, don't'll find something you can safely eat. Just. Keep. Looking. Arghhh!

When I vacationed in the Caribbean with Norwegian Cruise Line, I was nervous. Until I got on board and met the restaurant maitre d's. From that moment on, it was smooth sailing, pardon the pun. The staff was so attentive in regards to my dietary needs, I thought I had died and gone to heaven. One of the executive chefs even looked up a recipe online and then happily presented me with a gluten-free loaf of bread every night at our table, amazing. 

Oh, that's right, you've got Ceee-liac, like it's a death sentence. I'm only asking for a little understanding and consideration, like the amazing treatment I received with Norwegian Cruise Line. My next gluten-free experience abroad was India - check out my review of  Lemon Tree Premier Leisure Valley 2, Gurugram, India. Part of this trip involved an early morning flight where I couldn't find any GF options as many restaurants were still closed, so, I hate to admit this, but I bought an Egg McMuffin and quickly peeled the muffin off the egg and the sausage patty! In hindsight, I could have easily ordered it without the English muffin itself, but in my hungriness and desire not to explain why I wouldn't want the muffin to begin with, I simply ordered as-is. And yes, I know, I could have glutened myself by taking this extreme chance.

If I was diabetic, would you serve me cake? 

It's the same thing, only it's Celiac. 

Traveling abroad still makes me nervous as it's hard to communicate what I require, or can't eat as a gluten-free traveler. Thankfully there are translation apps for that! I have to specify Celiac-friendly, gluten-free, meaning no: wheat, oats, rye or barley, nor anything that many contain these ingredients including sauces, frozen vegetables (yes, some frozen veggies!!), I have an auto-immune disorder, people, sometimes I want to scream!

And it's still so weird to think I can't just eat that scrumptious looking pastry in the bakery window, or to enjoy a stir-fry as the soya sauce will more than likely contain wheat (unless it's GF, of course).

BUT, and this is a big but, I just attended the Gluten Free Expo in Vancouver, BC - it's Canada's largest gluten free event! It was absolutely a-mazing to know I could eat anything and everything in the entire room. Wow. Just WOW. I discovered a few new gluten-free brands, plus 2 gluten-free Vancouver restaurants that I'll be trying asap, so excited! And GF bakeries, too, even more excited!!

Thank you for listening to my rant ;) And yes, I know, it could be much, much worse. I could have cancer. Oh, but wait, I did. And I'm 7-year survivor. So traveling with Celiac maybe isn't so bad after all... 

Watch for my upcoming advice/travel tips on traveling with Celiac. In the mean fellow Celiacs, here's my interim advice: 

Life is Short. Live a Great Story. 

And travel on, my Celiac friends, travel on!!


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