April 8, 2010

Bon Voyage

Traveling on a special diet is certainly a tricky task.  Food at gas stations, train stations, and airports tend to be sodium heavy.  And while gummy peaches and lemonade are delicious, they are not enough to sustain you over a week long trip.

At this point, after traveling to the east coast and back and to a few beautiful places in between, I feel confident in my ability to find low sodium snacks wherever I go.  I have also mastered the art of packing my bag full of lightweight treats, for times when rice bowls and baked potatoes are nowhere to be found.

But there is one travel challenge that still gives me a bit of concern – going abroad.  Not only are you faced with finding low sodium food in unexpected places, but suddenly, you have a language barrier to deal with as well.  As if getting your passport wasn’t trouble enough.

In the past six years, I have only travelled to two places beyond the U S of A: Brazil and Belize.  In both situations, I was with friends who spoke the local language, which made navigating restaurants and menus a breeze.  But what do you do if you are traveling without your own personal interpreter?  How do you prepare?

Turns out, the answer is quite simple.  Translate (literally) the tools you use here at home so that they are applicable for the country you plan to visit. When dining out in San Francisco, I now bring pieces of paper with me that list all of my dietary restrictions as well as the food and flavors that are safe for me to eat.  This little note eliminates any room for error that can occur between the server and the kitchen.  It also gives the chef major comfort and confidence in cooking a delicious, low sodium meal and more often than not, I end up with something magnificent on my plate.

So why should my actions be any different when I am abroad?  The answer is, they shouldn’t.  To prepare, let’s say, for a trip to France (ooh la la!), I decided to give my favorite hospital a call.  I simply asked to be connected to their patient services office and said I needed a French translator.  As easy as un, deux, trois, I had a fully translated transcript of my dietary needs.  They also translated all of my medical information into French as well.

With this tool in hand, I know finding low sodium meals will be easier than finding my metro stop.  And while it may take some extra preparation and some creativity, no low sodium border is too difficult to cross.  Travel on.

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