Since I was diagnosed as anaphylactically allergic to shellfish and crustacea, I have not travelled overseas except to visit family in Chile. Like I mentioned in a previous post, this was a relatively safe trip because I knew that I would have access to the same kitchen nearly everyday. I could get in and bleach all the utensils (something that my parents-in-law were very kind to do for me) and know that while I was there the family would not eat any seafood in the house.
What I fear most about starting to backpack again, this time with the food allergy, was… well… eating! Everything about it scares me. Will the kitchen in the hostel be clean and not contaminated? Will I be able to find ingredients in countries where allergy info is not listed on the label, and when I do not speak the language and cannot read the labels? I am obviously sad about not being able to eat most of the local delicacies, but that takes a back seat to my more primal fear of not being able to feed myself.
When Anai was sent tickets to visit her family in Chile for a few weeks I decided to go on a holiday of my own. The original plan was to the Whitsundays Islands until I discovered that my holiday fell in the NSW/ QLD school holiday period and my idea of a holiday is not an island crawling with kids. My holiday would be spent with adults. Where is a place that adults go, that is exciting and the backpacker scene is not reliant upon full-moon parties and alcohol? JAPAN!
I know, why the hell would anyone with all these fears about food (specifically of the aquatic kind) freely choose to travel Japan, or any Asian country for that matter? The same reason that I chose to quit my job and travel Australia Anai. You gotta get on with your life! I can’t let fear dictate how I spend the rest of my days. So, on Sunday I depart to Japan for two weeks of sightseeing, sweating (July, humidity!) and facing my fears. I am looking forward to showing myself that I can still do all the things I wanted to do before the allergy diagnosis, I just need to be a LOT more prepared and do things a little differently.
The last time I was in Japan I LOVED eating! I ate Ramen (a lot), Sushi (a lot) and Okonomiyaki whenever possible. Hibachi grills rocked my world, as did grape soda. This time round it will be fresh fruit, preferably mandarins and oranges that I can peel and eat, self-cooked rice, veg and pasta. I challenge anyone to have ever had a more bland food adventure in Japan than I am about to embark on.
I’m carrying my own pots, plates, cutlery and cups. I have a backpacked stocked with dry goods, nuts and muesli bars for lunches on the road. This is the MOST adult I have ever felt and I love it and hate it in equal amounts. I love that I’m taking this trip. That I have worked up the guts to go back to Asia with my food allergy, something that I would not have foreseen happening 8 years ago when I was diagnosed. Whilst I wish Anai was coming with me, I’m also proud of myself for having the bravery to conquer this new food world alone. I also hate that I have to do all this preparation. I hate that my bag is mostly food and cooking equipment. I hate that I’m going to have to forward think everyday when I will be able to access a kitchen again and carry enough food to last me until then. I hate that I cannot take advantage of the local delicacies on offer, that I will not be able to bond with other travellers as easily over meals out. That I’m going to look like a fucking wierdo when I pull out all the cooking utensils in the hostel each night.
That is the price of travel for me now though, and it’s one I’m willing to pay.
So… wish me luck, tune in here and on facebook/instagram to track me through Japan (and Anai through Chile!) and if you happen to have a great one pot/one pan vegetarian or vegan travel meal, I’d love some kitchen inspiration.