When my wife and I decided that we would go to China, the main focus soon turned to making a plan to eat safely there for three weeks. We knew it would not be easy for either of us.
She has celiac disease and was primarily concerned with soy sauce as we heard it was used in so many dishes. I am allergic to peanuts, tree nuts, eggs, fish, shellfish and mustard – not an easy list to manage at home, let alone in China.
Along with purchasing some health insurance, our pre-trip planning included buying a full suitcase full of safe food, and printing Allergy Translation Cards that featured all of our allergies in Simplified Chinese. We had low expectations of finding many safe options at restaurants, so were prepared to eat out of our suitcase for three weeks as a worst case scenario.
We packed 5 sandwiches each for our flights. We travelled through Helsinki and Hong Kong before reaching our final destination of Xiamen, China. As a rule, I never ever eat airline food. They typically do not label ingredients on their food, and I am not looking for any excitement at 20,000 feet! My wife ordered gluten-free meals and enjoyed the special sandwiches and treats on-board. I enjoyed a free glass of wine or two
Arriving in China was surreal. We have never felt so foreign, which was a intimidating, yet exciting feeling! On our very first day we discovered a Wal-Mart in our city and had our first Chinese shopping experience. We did not know what many of the items were as they did not have English on their labels. Even the pictures were of things we’ve never seen before. We went through the grocery section and bought milk, a bag of rice and some imported pasta sauce for the gluten/egg free pasta we brought from home. We then bought a hot plate for about $20 which was worth every penny…or yuan.
As we walked around the city, we peered into restaurants and their picture based menu boards out front. In most cases I could not identify one thing that I could eat, except a plain bowl of rice or grilled meat (however I was too worried about cross contamination to order this). I should note that we were on an island, thus there was an abundance of seafood which is one of my allergens. The rest of China may be different culinary experience. However, we learned early on that we would not be doing much dining out.
Great news! The registration deadline for this year’s Camp TAG has been extended to this Wednesday at 9pm EST. This camp is an incredible experience for kids with food allergies between the ages of 4-12. It’s a 5-day, full-day camp, July 29 – August 2, 2013. The camp will be held at Tall Pines Day Camp in Williamstown, NJ. It provides a safe place for children with food allergies (including eosinophilic disorders and asthma) and their siblings to have fun with no worries about having an allergic reaction, as well as give them an opportunity to meet other children who share the same conditions and know they are not alone! Camp TAG will also have 1-2 educational sessions throughout the week for parents who want to learn more about food allergy management in the school setting while the campers are in session. Education sessions will be led by Eleanor Garrow-Holding.
You can register today at:
Apparently spots are limited so you should reserve your space soon!
I attended Camp TAG two years ago and had an incredible time! It was great to see the campers having an amazing time, meeting new friends, and not worrying about their allergies. This was a camp that they could call their own, and you could tell that they were completely empowered by the experience.
I performed a concert that year for the campers and also wrote a camp cheer song! One of the highlights of my day though was just hanging out with kids. I’m usually up on a stage interacting with large groups of kids, so for me this was such an awesome chance just to talk with kids one on one and ask them what they thought about their allergies. The thing was for certain, they all were having a blast at camp TAG!
I want to thank Eleanor and Camp TAG for being a sponsor of my “Road to No Reaction” tour!
The Road to No Reaction Tour was filled with so many memories that I’m still trying to digest everything one month after the tour has finished. I’m proud to say that I reached more students with my allergy awareness assemblies than ever before in what was an overall successful tour! I’d like to thank everyone who help organize my shows and attended them, the tour sponsors, and the countless number of families that were so incredibly sweet to me – making life on the road that much easier.
Here are the numbers:
Start date: April 24, 2013
End date: June 10, 2013
Number of schools: 27
Number of school performances: 46
Number of support group or camp performances: 9
Total performances: 55
Approx. Number of students reached: 13,500
And a few more stats
Number of miles: 3,500
Trips to Chipotle: 5
Satellite radio station channels I fell in love with: 4 (Coffee House being my fav)
Coffee spills- 1 (and one was enough!!)
Offered a hamburger sample by a girl dressed up as “Wendy” while pumping gas: 1 (see picture below…)
Now the pictures! I have selected the ones that I felt best represented my trip. Can you tell that I had a blast?
Only two more days until I leave for China. I am beyond excited at this point!
A few last minute preparations that we’re on our to-do list this week:
1) Grocery shopping – we stocked up on a lot of food. I think we will will fill a full suitcase. Between my wife’s gluten-free products and my go-to foods, we grabbed a lot of dry goods like pasta, cereals, cookies, crackers, chips and a few candies too! We also got many safe spice mixes so we can whip up easy meals in our hotel room using a grill (which we hope to purchase right away).
2) Insurance – I’ll admit that I got this a few weeks ago as it was needed to apply for a travel visa. However, we made sure to get a folder with all of our essential travel documents so they are easy to access. I have never needed to use my travel insurance before, and I hope it will stay that way!
4) Medicine – I’ve got all of my auto-injectors ready to be packed in my carry-on. I always keep my essentials with me at all times. I will also have some food in my carry on in the case our luggage doesn’t make it right away.
Now that I’ve got the important stuff taken care of, I can focus on the last minute craziness of trying to find matching pairs of socks and that sort of thing!
I got my travel bug when I was 20 years old. I went out of my comfort zone and applied to go on international exchange through my university. I chose all English speaking countries as options except one. Guess which one I got – Sweden. Looking back I feel it was fate. It was an incredible experience and changed my life in so many ways- not to mention the place where I met my wife.
Since then, I have been fortunate to travel to many countries in Europe. I’ve been able to manage my allergies on all my trips and have never let them slow me down. However, there is one area of the world that has always made me nervous to travel to – Asia.
From everything I’ve heard, and pictures I’ve seen, I know it’s a beautiful area of the world. However, I’ve also heard that it can be a difficult place for someone with food allergies to eat safely. I’ve been to a Chinese restaurant on only a handful of occasions in my life and know that my options are limited – especially with peanut, tree nut, egg and seafood allergies.
But yes….I’m going to China. For 3 weeks too.
My wife called me with “exciting news” this spring. Never would I guess that she would get a work opportunity in China. I will admit that I agreed to go with her – but with many hesitations about food. The question kept popping up – “What are you going to eat for 3 weeks!?”
Over the past month I have been doing a lot of research for the trip and have slowly become very excited! Now that we are a week away from departure, I can’t believe how much I’m looking forward to the whole experience. I feel comfortable knowing that we will be bringing a lot of our own food and plan on buying a grill and slow cooker for our hotel room to avoid dining out.
The adventure ahead has mostly made me excited to prove that such a trip is doable for people with multiple food allergies. It might not be easy, it might not be conventional, and it might not be convenient – but I am going to China and am determined to find ways to have a fun and safe vacation!
I will keep you posted with my preparations for the trip. I hope this blog can be useful for others with allergies planning a trip to China. I’m not sure how much I can post once I’m there due to the possibility of Internet censorship (I believe no Facebook), but will post a full recap afterwards.
Wish me luck!
From Surf Sweets - http://surfsweets.com/blog/2013/06/20/sweet-jingle-contest/
Our good friend Kyle Dine made us an amazingly sweet little jingle, watch him sing along below. Now, we want to hear your version!
We are giving away a $50 Amazon gift card and loads of free Surf Sweets gummy candy to one lucky Surf Sweets fan! We will also have a Runner-Up prize!
Contest closes July 4, 2013 at midnight. Winner announced on July 5th.
Entering your video is super easy, just follow the steps below! Contest closes July 4th, so get your entry in to be entered to win the Grand Prize which will be given to a random winner. Please review all Official Contest Rules below.
How to enter your video:
(1) Watch the original Kyle Dine video, link here.
(2) Get the lyrics below. You can sing just one verse, the chorus, or everything!
When I’m looking for some candy that is full of flavor and free of my allergies.
Jelly bean or gummy, something sweet, something yummy, something made all naturally.
Surf Sweets (Surf Sweets!)
Fruit flavor that can’t be beat
Surf Sweets (Surf Sweets!)
And they’re made all naturally
There’s no corn syrup, artificial food dye
No need to wonder what’s in it and why
It’s just pure flavor when it hits your mouth
Makes you wonder why you’d snack on anything else
(Except) Surf Sweets (Surf Sweets!)
Fruit flavor that can’t be beat
Surf Sweets (Surf Sweets!)
And they’re made all naturally
(3) Record your video on your smartphone or camcorder and upload to YouTube. Put “Sweet Jingle” in the title for us to better find you!
(4) Share the video and tag Surf Sweets in it by the following ways:
- Post the video to our Facebook page
- Upload video to Facebook and tag us in post
- Tweet at us with the link
- Tweet with #sweetjingle and #surfsweets
- Email us the link at firstname.lastname@example.org
(5) That’s it! Winner will be announced July 5th! GOOD LUCK!
OFFICIAL CONTEST RULES: Surf Sweets’ Sweet Jingle Contest is open to US Residents only and must be at least 18 years of age to enter. All submissions must be uploaded by 12 AM EST on July 4. The Grand Prize winner will be announced July 5 and the award of one (1) Amazon gift card and ten (10) bags of Surf Sweets will be awarded. A Runner-Up prize of ten (10) bags of Surf Sweets will also be awarded.
Special thanks to Kyle Dine for his video, please check out his Facebook page to learn more about his “Road to No Reaction” tour which educates children about food allergies.
After living on the road since May 8th, it felt great to head home yesterday and see my family in Canada.
It was a crazy packing job as we transferred everything from my U.S. rental car into my dad’s car. I don’t know if I could have squeezed a golf ball in there. We definitely bought many souvenirs and came back with more than we started with.
I am going to enjoy some restful days at my parent’s house and start preparing for my last two shows of the tour which are at food allergy camps in Minnesota and Arizona.
And thankfully – no more driving! Total miles of the road trip: 3,463 (5,750 km)
After working at a summer camp for five summers, I realized how much I wish I went to camp when I was a kid. Thankfully there are now allergy-friendly options like the wonderful Camp Emerson. I was fortunate to meet Sue who is the Camp Director when performing on tour and was really impressed to hear about the amazing fun and safe camping experience they provide to children. I am happy to host the following guest blog post about the fantastic camp.
Camp Emerson is proud to be a sponsor of Kyle Dine’s Road to No Reaction Tour! Like Kyle we are all about empowering kids and helping them to see that they have friends and support everywhere they go.
Camp Emerson is family owned and has been around for 46 years. Children age 7-15 design their own schedules from over 50 activities including: heated pool, 2 lakes, art, theater, sports, wilderness and our Step Beyond activities – science, rocketry, cooking, CO2 race cars, crime scene investigation and more! We have 2, 4 and 6 week sessions and are located in western Massachusetts. 100 passionate staff supervise our kind, bright and talented kids. This is a place where children feel respected and are comfortable to be themselves.
Now, we know that trusting your child with food allergies to the care of someone else can cause a fair amount of anxiety. Our goal is to make going to sleepaway camp possible AND worry free for you and your child. We’ve seen it happen every summer. The key to a successful experience is our attention to detail. That’s our philosophy for everything we do here at Camp Emerson.
Sue Lein, Director and Owner, understands because she is allergic to eggs. Sue will want to speak with you personally about your child’s allergies and dietary needs. Together you’ll make an individual plan. You’ll meet our Registered Dietician, Chefs and Health Staff. Camp Emerson is Nut and Shellfish free. GF, vegetarian and complex food allergy menus are all available. See our Food Allergy Specialist webpage for the many steps we take to help your child eat safely.
Tomorrow marks the very last school show of my “Road to No Reaction” Tour. It has been a long haul to say the least. I have been on the road since April 23rd and am looking forward to some time with my folks before heading off for a few camp performances in MN and AZ.
After 50 shows I feel so comfortable delivering my performances and have so much fun trying out new elements, connecting with new audiences and spreading allergy awareness in as many places as possible. I look back at how I felt mid-April, one week before the tour started and smile. I have to admit that I was a bit nervous and found it hard to believe I would be back performing in schools after a six month layoff. I am lucky that it all comes back to me like riding a bike.
I am happy to report that after 1.5 months of shows:
- Children genuinely want to learn more about allergies and how they can help keep their friends safe.
- Children already have a great base of allergy knowledge. I give credit to schools everywhere for making this a bigger issue for their students.
- Teachers are so appreciative of the shows as their students learn more about a very important topic in a fun way. I can only imagine the number of questions they received after my assemblies as there was never enough time to answer all of the students’ questions. I thank them for continuing the lesson well after the show.
- Principals are implementing positive steps and policies that ensure allergy safety in their schools in an achievable way.
- Lastly, the best feedback I could ever receive happened many times on the tour with the question: “Can we book you again next year?”
See you in September!