For anyone that's been following our blogs the past couple of months, you'll know that I've been learning about traveling the world with a food allergy for about nine months. My experiences, good and bad, helped inspire our team to design the AssureTech Mobile App to make It safer to travel with allergies.
My stay in Taiwan is coming to an end this week, and if there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that communication is key. So I wanted to compile a list of messages that I believe are essential to use when traveling.
"No Cross Contamination"
When I was first preparing to leave, I asked some contacts I knew to create a translation card for me. I explained to them that I couldn't have peanuts or tree nuts, and they wrote this down.
Not long into my travels however, I realized that while saying "no peanuts" in some countries comes with the implication that this includes avoiding cross contamination, shared preparation spaces, etc., this isn't the case across all cultures--especially those where allergies aren't as common.
You need a thorough translation that spells out the importance of creating an allergy-free environment when your food is prepared.
"Please Help Me Find Medical Attention"
One of the unfortunate realities of having an allergy is remembering that mistakes can always happen. Even when you take every precaution you can, it's still possible to encounter your allergens.
It sounds obvious, but I was so concerned with getting the proper preemptive translations, that I didn't think about how to communicate during an allergy until I was going to the hospital in after there was an issue with cross-contamination.
No matter where you're going, you should hope for the best, but plan for the worst, and make sure to have a translation prepared if you need help getting to a hospital--just in case!
"How was this food prepared?"
One of the most frustrating things I encountered with finding translations was that most times there's only one message available. Asking someone to prepare food safely is great, but there's often times when food is already made--such as when going to a night market or grocery store. I think having an alternative message asking about the way food was prepared is as important as asking for food to be cooked safely.
"This is Joey, and he has a food allergy."
Depending on the length of your stay, one of the single biggest advantages while traveling is surrounding yourself with great people that can help you navigate your new home.
I was fortunate to have people like this in spades! I've been lucky enough to make incredible new friends that speak the language, and worked in an office where my coworkers not only translated my allergy to the entire company, but also took the day off work to translate for me at the hospital when I had a severe reaction.
Simple but effective, a translated medical alert bracelet is one of the top recommendations I can make before start your trip. It can be a great way to communicate your allergy when all else fails!
We Want to Help Everyone with Allergies Travel
Traveling to and living in Asia will probably be one of the most impactful experiences of my life. It's opened me up to new cultures, given me the ultimate crash course in international business, and introduced me to friends that I consider my second family. I plan to travel as much as possible, and hope everyone reading this will have a chance to see the world someday too.