It had been almost nine years since I’d flown anywhere.
We’d arrived in WA when we migrated nearly ten years ago, and for the first two years, or so were happy discovering our new country.
Then my Crohn’s Disease really took hold, and the constant urgent diarrhoea meant it was impossible for me to travel. There was no way I’d ever be able to wait for the seatbelt light to go off, I simply didn’t have that luxury.
Even car journeys were a nightmare, and I’d often have to turn around or quickly bail into a service station somewhere, often only just making it.
So fast forward through all the hardship of being diagnosed, taking all the medication which just about allowed me to function and to carry on working, through me finding my health again and losing 35 kilos via a Paleo diet and a positive mindset.
I was free again. Once I got to the stage whereby I hadn’t even taken a single paracetamol for nearly three years, I decided it was the time I hopped on a plane and visited mum and dad in England.
But it suddenly hit me. I was now living a completely different lifestyle. I no longer ate foods I ate before and was very strict with my diet – how was I going to cope in a different country, staying with someone else and with the travelling?
I realised, after living a Paleo lifestyle for three years, that preparation is the key and travelling would be no different.
So I made sure I had a night flight. That way I could eat my evening meal as per normal and fill up on veggies and good fats. I figured I could try and sleep during my normal ‘night time’ and could avoid plane food.
I have been fat adapted for some time now and rarely eat more than once or twice a day. My body works well like this, and I rarely get hungry. I think that is the key to real freedom and not being tied to hunger.
So my flight left Perth bound for Dubai late that night. I slept quite well and ensured I had plenty of water. I asked the stewardess to fill my own bottle, so I wasn’t reliant upon small plastic cups every so often. I was aware that this wasn’t filtered water that I normally drink but reckon you’ve just got to do the best you can under the circumstances.
As an emergency, I took with me some jerky and some macadamias and a supply of peppermint and herbal teabags.
I had ordered a gluten free meal for each flight as I thought I’d rifle through each one in case there was something I could salvage. I read the labels of each product in horror. They were full of chemicals. There was nothing I could or would eat except the small portion of fruit and the plastic cup of spring water. I binned the rest.
However, if you’re not as fat adapted as I am, and fasting isn’t an option, I would recommend packing some food. Make some salads in recycled containers, make Paleo sausage rolls you’ve pre- made, nuts, tins of tuna with ring pulls, nut butters, whole fruits and homemade crackers. Get some Blue Dinosaur Paleo bars, although these can be very high in concentrated sugar in the form of dates and other dried fruits.
Luckily I wasn’t particularly hungry, and I dozed most of the trip until I landed in Dubai.
If you do find yourself needing to eat try and do the best you can under the circumstances.
Try a steakhouse and lose the chips and get an extra salad. Don’t forget to look at the entrees as they may be better suited with little modification. You don’t have to have a main. Ask for dressings to be left off the salad and ask for a pot of olive oil. Even if you have no Paleo options on a menu, you can usually simply order a cut of meat with a side of vegetables.
I perused the shops at Dubai airport as I had a couple of hours to wait until my connecting flight. I got myself a decent decaf black coffee and splashed my face to freshen up before boarding the next flight.
More of the same on the next flight, although I managed to watch a couple of movies.
I made sure I moved around lots and found a space at the back of the plane to do some yoga stretches.
I filled up on water again and this time just took the water from the tray meal and asked them to provide me with a cup of boiling water so I could use my own organic peppermint teabags.
Before I knew it, we were circling London Gatwick.
I got my bags and got the courier bus to pick up my hire car and half an hour later was phoning my dad, pretending to be in Perth, when in fact, I was stood on his doorstep. His face was a picture when I rang the doorbell, still on the phone.
It’s always hard, fitting in with others and I knew it wasn’t going to be easy.
I decided to go to a local supermarket and get a few provisions. Then I could make a bowl of salad and have that over a few days and just add some protein.
I went to the local Asda. I was very pleasantly surprised at the availability and price of organic produce; six large vine tomatoes at 1 pound 50 ($2.48), two large capsicums the same price, cucumbers at 1 pound ($1.60) and spring onions at 75 pence ($1.25).
It was all really good produce and incredibly cheap in comparison to Perth organic prices.
I also managed to get a great bottle of Organic preservative free red wine for 8 pounds which are considerably cheaper than the $25 I have to pay for a similar product in Perth.
I got some pole caught tinned tuna, organic chicken and eggs which were similarly priced to home and that was me done.
I had brought my mum some Nature’s Harvest Turmeric Latte mix with me and tried to find some coconut milk so I could introduce her to the drink. Sadly all the tinned milk in England had preservatives or other ingredients in.
More about this later….
So I made myself a salad and just added tuna, and olive oil and that was me done for the first night. Easy and cheap.
I had eggs, bacon, greens and found some organic decaf coffee to drink black for breakfast, not knowing if I would wake hungry due to my body clock being all over the place.
All I had to do now is not let my lifestyle slip and continue to live more or less as I did at home. And by that, I mean exercising.
Mel and I do yoga every single day at home. We follow the ‘Yoga With Adriene’ YouTube channel and stick to her 30-day routines rigidly. We love it.
I managed to do this using my iPhone every morning at mum and dads. Then I’d go out with dad on his morning walk with the dog to get his paper. Before bed, I slipped in fifty push-ups. Maybe not as much as I’d normally do at home but at least I moved every day. At home, I don’t spend hours working out, but housework, shopping, walking, mowing the lawns, gardening, cleaning the cars, windows, you get the picture, all help me move naturally every day.
Obviously, as I had sprung myself on mum and dad, we decided we’d go out to eat the second day….next hurdle…
It wasn’t as bad as I thought. One thing I did notice was how expensive it was – basically, the same in pounds as we’d pay in Perth in dollars, but when you bear in mind Aussie wages are about twice what our English counterparts would earn it was noticeably different.
Again, pre-planning is everything. Thanks to the Internet I was able to research places nearby to where I’d be from Australia and then could easily make suggestions about places to go. That way I knew I could eat and have fun and so could everyone else. This takes time before you go on your travels, but it saves so much time and stresses later, especially if you’re sat in a restaurant while everyone feeds their faces, and there’s nothing for you to eat. Or worse, you fall to temptation.
We ate in a local pub I’d researched before online, and I managed to find a steak that was grass fed and swapped out the chips for more veggies with no problems.
We also ate in one of the chain pubs that do carvery meals, here’s the menu….
I was able to choose meats, (avoid the Yorkshire pudding) and a huge plateful of vegetables. I spoke to the waitress who assured me the vegetarian gravy was gluten free so I just had that. Avoid the others as they have flour in them.
Later on, during my trip, I met an old friend and had dinner together. We decided to go for an Indian meal. I stuck to dry cooked tandoori lamb and vegetables, avoiding all the rice, naan bread and poppadoms. I asked if the vegetables could be cooked in ghee instead of a generic vegetable oil and this was no problem.
I was beginning to realise it was possible to eat within my guidelines if I was careful, asked lots of questions and didn’t mind asking for alternatives, but it wasn’t easy. Most places had very few choices; if any, on their menus and everywhere I went, I had to be ‘that customer’.
I met a good friend another day, and we went for brunch to a place called Bill’s in Maidstone, Kent – this is a chain that has several branches and caters for gluten free. You might have to swap a few things over, but it was good (see picture). They also already have things on the menu like their naked burger with salad.
Here’s the GF menu….
Luckily, I was staying with my parents who understood my weird ways and behaviours. If you’re staying with someone else, and your hosts don’t understand Paleo, some people can feel rejected or insulted if you refuse their cooking.
You say, “I’m sure it’s delicious, but I don’t/can’t eat __________;” your host hears, “Your food isn’t good enough for me”.
This can be worse when staying with relatives. And you’ll get an endless stream of questions.
Things like this can ruin a trip and put you on the edge of your seat before every meal time. So it’s far better to have these discussions WAY before you ever arrive. Get everything sorted BEFORE you get there, so most of these discussions have already been aired. Never force your ways on someone else or suggest they eat what you eat.
If you do get into conversations about things like saturated fat, changing the subject is often the path of least resistance.
Don’t think about winning Paleo victories. Life’s too short. Hopefully this way you’ll be able to enjoy your food without petty battles and point scoring getting in the way.
Just be the best version of you, and you’ll be surprised about just how many you influence.
When you’re on the road in the UK, here’s a few places you can get by in. Some of these places are international throughout Europe, or there are similar places all over the world…
Wagamama had a few options on the menu, like Lobster Super Salad and warmed Chilli Chicken Salad. The menu does change so keep an eye on it and research before you travel. Make sure you hold the soy.
Pret A Manger has a few items that would suit, especially their soups and salads and sushi all freshly prepared in-store. They do a crayfish and avocado no bread salad and sell nuts and fresh fruit. There are branches everywhere and in places like the Channel Tunnel terminal.
Tortilla sells quality Mexican food. Ok, you need to avoid the actual tortillas, but they do a great naked burrito that you can order as Paleo as you like. All over London and in Brighton, Leeds and Southampton.
Nandos. Ok so it’s not organic chicken, but you’re doing the best you can under the circumstances, aren’t you? Simple grilled chicken with salads, ratatouille, sweet potato mash and olives. Avoid the chips!
As well as these places, every town has independent cafes and restaurants that will fit the bill. A lot of gourmet burger joints have popped up, and you can just avoid the sauces, chips and buns and eat well.
A lot of markets will have food stalls that are a great value. Camden Market in London has ‘Feed Me Primal’ that sells Paleo, Primal and grain free fodder. No preservatives or nasties makes for great street food.
If you are self-catering on your holiday, make sure you research the area in which you’ll be staying before you go. Many places will have farmers markets where you get provisions and have local eateries that will be fine.
Look out for local butchers and independent shops, and with some, you can even pre-order a delivery before you leave.
Some of the things I found hard to find in England were things like coconut flour, apple cider vinegar and things like activated seeds and nuts. Things we take for granted in the health aisle in most Aussie supermarkets aren’t there.
I mentioned coconut milk earlier.
I went to a large store in London and the South East, in big cities like Brighton and visited Tesco, Asda, Marks and Spencer and Waitrose branches. None of them had coconut milk without preservatives.
I went to the health food chain Holland and Barrett in one of the world’s largest shopping centres, Bluewater, and theirs had e-numbers too.
So poor old mum never did taste turmeric latte as I didn’t have enough time to make my own on this trip.
I have since found out that you can apparently get it delivered by some companies and that Waitrose does stock it (they must have been out of stock in the Brighton branch). However, a thing you can buy in every Woollies here for a buck fifty is hard to find over there.
We also have a lot more boutique butchers and independent stores selling organics. We are spoilt, but you can get these items in England – they’re just harder to hunt and gather.
On days out make your snacks, nuts, smoothies, crackers just as you normally would. Suggest a picnic or eat in occasionally, so you know where your food has come from and how it is prepared. Kick back and remember what your trip was for. For me it was all about catching up with rellies, so the odd night in was a great and stress-free eating option. My mum didn’t mind either as I offered to cook! Ha ha
So, go and be free. Travel and prepare before you go so you don’t slip down the slippery slope.
It can be done.