When I was first diagnosed with a food allergy, it was the most immediate problems that came to mind.
What was I eating that had soy in it?
How could I find foods without soy in them?
Would I need to make everything from scratch? How would there be time to do that? All the time?
How much money would I have to spend on specialty groceries?
And, eventually, the answers came.
Almost everything I ate had soy in it.
Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s.
If I wanted certain things, like frozen waffles for instance (listen up frozen waffle companies make a waffle without soy in it. Please. I’m not asking much here. Not at all.) I’d make time. And, when I could not make time, I’d buy foods that were ready to eat and soy-free (yay for foods that are ready to eat and soy free).
A lot of money on specialty groceries, but definitely worth every penny to enjoy the foods everyone else gets to.
So, then came the more difficult questions.
Like, for example, how would I ever be able to go on vacation? To a whole new place? Could I call restaurants ahead of time? What about a quick trip for the day or weekend?
And, the answers came then, too.
I could plan ahead, which mostly meant packing food for day trips and buying a gigantic cooler and having an unbelievably understanding and wonderful family who pack their food, too, so it’s all of us sitting on the National Mall, or at the Georgetown waterfront, or in the middle of the Botanical Gardens, eating packed sandwiches.
But, the going out of town was a little harder, and one part made it the hardest.
I was used to going on vacations as a little girl with my mom and dad. We traveled a lot. A lot. Road trips. Plane trips. Overseas. My parents took me everywhere and I am grateful everyday for those experiences. But, back then, stops at Taco Bell and Pizza Hut came so easy and with so much happy happy fun fun. Eating in different restaurants in different cities, in different countries was so interesting, so different. I looked forward to that part of vacation every time (not to mention the standard Dairy Queen Blizzard any time I saw a Dairy Queen). You see, vacation food developed as a concept in my life. Because Mom Eat was so diligent (and I still have no clue how she managed all this) about making us farm to table from scratch meals at home every day, we did not eat out much, unless we were on vacation. Now, even on vacation, sometimes, we scrambled together some fresh foods for a healthy home-like meal just because we missed Mom Eat’s food so much. But, most of the time, because there was no choice and we all loved a little Mexican food sometimes, we just ate out-and enjoyed it.
And, then all of a sudden I had a food allergy. And, I still loved vacation. And, I still wanted to travel. But, what now? Pack food on trips? Carry my gigantic cooler? Stop at any Whole Foods along the way?
Yes. And yes. And yes again.
That’s precisely what I do. I pack food, for me and Boy Eat or Mom and Dad Eat depending on who’s going. I load up the car, and I’ve got packing food for a day or a weekend down to a fine art. Add that to a quick stop at a grocery store along the way and we’re vacationing.
And, in the beginning this bummed me out a lot. I missed the thought of all those fun vacation restaurants. The diners. The Mexican restaurants. The pizza places.
But, then, I actually went on vacation- on my first soy-free vacation. And, once I got there, and we got our groceries and crashed in our room at night after a satisfying dinner (made quickly if possible, because I use all of my fastest meals ever and frozen meals I love on vacations) I realized what was really important. And I realized what I really love about vacation. And it has nothing to do with junk food.
What I love about vacation is just that. Vacation.
Rest. Relaxation. A break from routine.
Seeing new places. Meeting new people. Trying new things.
And, all of that just happens to be soy-free. Many of us live with some kind of dietary restrictions but don’t ever let the idea of a dietary restriction make you think you cannot see the world, and enjoy life just like everyone else does.
And, something else happened, too. I enjoyed everything else on vacation that much more. Because all of a sudden food became the afterthought, the not exciting thing about my day and it pushed me to try everything else. To let go of the inhibitions.
The rides I would not go on before.
The places I would wait to see.
The way I wanted to look before I went to certain places.
Because, suddenly, I realized how much I could still do like everyone else. I realized how little food really mattered to my vacation. And, I realized how good my food could be anyways on vacation.
Next, I’m headed to Hawaii, and something tells me that lunch and dinner won’t need to be the highlight of my day.