Living (and Travelling) With a Nut Allergy

When faced with the common dilemma of choosing between various options, humans tend to undergo the (mostly) subconscious process of weighing out their choices against numerous criteria that they consider to be important. These criteria – or values  – are different for different people at different times in their life.

For example, in regards to my decision to adopt a cat, the positives (kitty cuddles and play time) outweighed the negatives (being woken up early in the morning, having food stolen off my plate, etc.). This is due to my inherent value on feline companionship.  M, on the other hand, might not have reached the same conclusion.

A similar process is used when asking yourself: where should I go on holiday?

Distance. Affordability. Safety. Climate.

These are but to name a few common considerations when choosing your next travel destination. I, however, like many others, have an additional factor of importance. A factor outside of my control. A factor of life or death. A factor that influences my decision making on a daily basis. I have a nut allergy.

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Eating local: Scotland

For those fortunate enough to born with the ability to eat without hesitation, having an anaphylactic allergy is something of a mystery. When I was a kid, I deluded myself into thinking that it made me special. Now I know better. I’m not special – I’m vulnerable. As an adult, with my safety and wellbeing transferred from my parents shoulders to mine, the fear has only increased.

Sometimes, I’m afraid to mention my allergy. It sounds weird, I know, but I don’t like to cause attention to myself. I don’t want to feel like a burden. Besides, people treat you differently. I’ve seen the look of alarm on a parents face when I am pointed out at a birthday party…. the expression of relief from the waitress when I leave a restaurant. I was even sent home from primary school due to concerns that a grazed knee would ‘trigger an allergy attack’.

This feeling of self-consciousness is amplified if I’m somewhere unfamiliar, especially if language barriers are involved.

So this is my dilemma: I want to travel the world and try local delicacies,  but I also want to feel safe.

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Eating local: Iceland

Don’t get me wrong – I won’t let my allergy stop me from chasing my dreams. It just makes things that bit more difficult. It adds an extra layer of risk or tension that can never fully be resolved. Unfortunately, there are some places in the world that I know I should avoid altogether – and this makes me sad.

Yet after years of an unadventurous diet, I’ve recently began to expand my palate. This is largely due to the increase in societal awareness of allergens but also thanks to a little gentle persuasion from M.  It’s slow progress but I’m getting there. Asian fusion is particular new favourite of mine.

Reflecting on my situation, how many others are unable or hesitant to travel due to dietary restrictions or perhaps personal constraints far dire than my own? I suppose we should all be grateful. It could be worse. At least I otherwise have my health, wealth and an endless drive for travel. That’s something no allergy can take away from me.

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Eating local: Costa Rica

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