Anita Isalska of Lonely Planet recently wrote a great article about traveling while following a gluten-free diet. I love traveling. And I love eating. When I first found out I could no longer eat gluten, I thought the two would not mix. Luckily, I got brave, and I have had some very rewarding (and, admittedly, some frustrating) travel experiences. Here are a few things I have learned so far:
I think the most important thing when traveling as a gluten-free person (or really with any allergy) is to be prepared. I cannot stress this enough. Knowing ahead of time what foods may contain gluten can be extremely helpful in navigating an unfamiliar menu. Learning a few pertinent words in the native language is usually wise as well.
Gluten-free cards in the native language of the serving and kitchen staff can also be very helpful. Tip: Bring extra! These can be hilariously novel to some restaurant owners and they may ask to keep one as a souvenir. The Gluten Free Bible has a lot of gluten-free cards in the back that you can photocopy. You can also download this app for gluten-free explanation cards in over 40 languages. Fair warning- Some of the translations you have may be hilariously ill-translated and cause a lot of laughing by native speakers. But at least they get the idea across, and often they serve as a bonding point!
Bring “safe” snacks along. Sometimes you just can’t find anything to eat. Don’t let experiencing a new culture, taking in amazing architecture, or people watching be ruined by low blood sugar and an aching, empty stomach. It sounds trite, but try to focus on what you can have and do rather than what you can’t.
Gluten-free traveling does, admittedly, take more effort than traveling without any food restrictions. But with some preparation, willingness to communicate, and a good attitude, the world is your gluten-free oyster!