Brett is committed to inspiring people with celiac disease to travel the world and explore the infinite opportunities to live gluten-free anywhere. Whether it is a short weekend visit, or a long trip to Vietnam or Hawaii, she shows that traveling gluten-free can be done. You deserve the best gluten-free trip!
What inspired you to create your blog about gluten-free travel?
Before I was diagnosed with celiac disease, I had a passion for traveling. I was hooked on traveling when I vacationed to Italy and Greece when I was 17. I was diagnosed with celiac disease when I was 25, and I had to choose whether I wanted to continue to travel or let my disease hold me back. I chose to live the life I wanted by exploring new cultures and seeing exciting things.
My husband and I traveled during our work vacation time, and we loved it. Then, we made a crazy decision to take our travel plans to the next level. We quit our jobs, sold our cars, downsized, and rented out our home. We left Canada and traveled for 18 months straight.
I know that people have a difficult time eating gluten-free while traveling, and I had been able to avoid gluten in foreign countries, so I want to share my tips with others. I want to show people that you can live a gluten-free life anywhere. I successfully traveled to almost 20 countries in those 18 months, and now I feel like a veteran when it comes to planning my trips.
Why is gluten-free travel important to you?
It is important to me because I want to take control of my health and be as healthy as possible. My health is impacted by happiness, sleep, diet, exercise, connections, and enjoyment, so I didn’t want to just focus on diet. Travel fills me with enjoyment, meeting others, and building connections, and it impacts my overall health in a positive way.
What precautions do you take to safely avoid gluten in unfamiliar countries?
Some countries are great and have many safe, knowledgeable restaurants to eat at, bakeries to grab sweet snacks, and lots of products in the grocery stores. In these cases, I always take these three precautions:
- I have a celiac restaurant card in that language.
- I contact the restaurants beforehand to make sure they are informed and will take the proper precautions in regards to cross-contact.
- Upon arrival, I confirm everything I’d been told.
There are also countries that aren’t aware about gluten because there is a low prevalence of celiac disease in their population. This can work in our favor if their cuisine does not contain gluten. A great example of this is South America, Spain, or Portugal. I take the same precautions as above and focus on eating naturally gluten-free meals at local restaurants.
In countries that use soy sauce, I suggest making sure your housing accommodations have a kitchen. Then, you can explore the local farmers markets, find gluten-free soy sauce, and immerse yourself in the cuisine.
I love finding one-on-one cooking classes where I can learn about the food. I inform the chef of my dietary restriction, and I use the class to learn about the local dishes that can be made gluten-free. More and more restaurants are focusing on different niches, like gluten-free and farm-to-table meals, which makes eating out significantly easier.
What has been a challenging part of traveling with celiac disease? How have you overcome these challenges?
The most challenging part of traveling with celiac disease is not being able to spontaneously eat street food or convenience food. While it’s been a challenge in the past, I’ve been able to overcome it by learning to make myself delicious meals. I always make sure that I have meals and snacks with me, so I don’t go hungry. Being prepared is the key to not letting food tempt you or feeling left out.
What have you learned about yourself from your travels?
Traveling for 18 months has provided so many ah-ha moments, and I have truly learned about myself in a whole new way that I never knew was possible. After connecting with so many different people and cultures, I am much more empathetic and understanding of other’s opinions and perspectives.
New experiences have always been more important to me than material possessions. Since we had to downsize to prepare ourselves for this journey, it reinforced the idea that material things do not matter. We chose to do something very unconventional that made us get outside of our comfort zone and grow as partners through this journey. Our marriage has strengthened, and we know each other even better than we did before.
What are your goals as a gluten-free blogger?
I want to connect with people like me and inspire people to get outside of their comfort zone. Having anxiety about traveling with a food restriction is completely normal. I am proof that, with practice, you can not only reduce that travel anxiety, but you can relax, explore, and enjoy yourself.
Despite the anxiety that celiac disease can cause, I have gained experience over the years with how to navigate the gluten-free lifestyle. Personally, I learn to adapt by getting out of my comfort zone. I have a new level of confidence that helps me request what I need to stay safe and healthy at restaurants and in social settings.
At the beginning of my gluten-free journey, I made lots of mistakes and didn’t ask all the necessary questions when I dined out. I quickly learned that I need to take my health seriously, and I don’t need to apologize for it.
Do you have future travel plans that you’d like to share?
I still have many countries on my bucket list that I will see in my lifetime. This is truly a passion, and my husband and I love to explore new places. But our plan currently is to focus a little more on North America. We have so many amazing places to visit here, so we are staying local.
There are still many new countries to see as well: Australia, New Zealand, Croatia, and Romania are likely the next countries that I will see.
Curator of GlutenFreeTraveller