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Travel Tips

Traveling with Food Allergies Internationally


Some places are easier than others , but nearly everything in Asia for instance is pre prepared with any number of coatings and/or sauces – all of which contain anonymous ingredients. Although this is part of the wondrous experience for most, those of you with any sort of allergy or sensitivity may feel a sense of paralysis.

Not to worry – you can maintain a very selective diet everywhere in the world that works for gluten free, celiac, vegetarians, vegans, and those avoiding candida.

At the start of our trip I experienced an allergic reaction severe enough that I had to cut all of the unknowns out of my diet to reset my system. I am going to give you a step by step on how to maintain the exact diet you need while in any foreign land. It helps if you are traveling with someone that understands and supports your needs, but it’s not overly debilitating either way…

Make yourself some form of an allergy card in the local language.  You can make it on your phone translator (or even on paper – have a local write it for you). This way you can easily communicate the things you are allergic to, and hopefully stay clear of harmful ingredients.  You can also get allergy cards laminated online before your trip if you plan ahead….

If you do not trust restaurants, you can also prepare your own food – this is how I did it:

  1. Buy whole fruits and vegetables from the local farmers – this can be done easily in most locations.  If you don’t pass stands on the street, ask.  Nearly every country in Asia has them lining the streets, where you can buy entire bags of fruits/veggies for a few US dollars.
  2. Shop in the expat style grocery stores.  There are many different names across around the world, but a quick google search will give you a useful list with proximity to your lodging.
  3. Delivery is king in many major cities.  You can have any number of expat grocery stores deliver to you – view a few options here.  In big cities like Shanghai, you can also have any food within the city delivered to you via Food Sherpas.  My personal favorite for eating out in Shanghai quickly became Pure and Whole – you can read their menu here.
  4. When you arrive at your hotel/hostel/guesthouse assess the situation. Do you have a fridge in your room?  Is there a shared kitchen?  I have dealt with the best situation (having a condo with your own kitchen) to the worst situation (washing vegetables with bottled water in the bathroom sink, having a single cutting knife that the front desk gave me, plastic silverware I bought at the store, and two plates that the hotel lent me).
  5. If you want to eat things in Asia that don’t work well with chopsticks, you probably want to buy your own silverware somewhere along the way.  There are some hotels that are not westernized and will not carry anything besides chopsticks – their diets just don’t require it.
  6. Buy things at the store you can snack on, nuts, dried fruit, rice cakes – whatever it may be, have it in your bag at all times in case you cannot get somewhere and are starving.  I can almost guarantee you will not be able to find suitable food on the street in some places throughout Africa or Asia without conducting serious research first.
  7. Carry your staples in your bag, so that you can turn any chopped up vegetables off the street into a meal.  Salt, pepper, olive oil, apple cider vinegar, balsamic, whatever it is that you are used to seasoning your meals with – throw it in a backpack and consider it part of your walking pantry 🙂

And lastly, when you feel adventurous – find the little street vendors that chop up meat and veggies to throw it on the grill.  These most commonly exist in places with middle eastern influence, but I’ve seen them all over the world.  You can literally watch them cook and will know exactly what is going into your meal.

Hope these short tips help you stay well on your journey!  Eating in certain places of the world can be a little rough on the body and there are many ingredients in the food that you never know about…so if you have any food allergies, these steps should keep you happy and healthy!


Jewish Community in China

While I imagine there are communities for every race and religion in Shanghai, David and I are Jewish, so we sought out the tribe for Shabbat dinner Friday night in the city. I was beyond impressed. Not only is the community alive and growing, but it is so open and inviting, we couldn’t have felt more at home. Shabbat dinner was well organized, hosted at a beautiful hotel, the Renaissance, and boasted an impressive dinner/speaker. The food was fantastic, the company was diverse and interesting, and the speaker was a highly intelligent oncologist who presented excellent findings on genetic linkage for specific types of cancer within the Jewish population. I was all and all so happy with the night that it made me sad to think I’d soon leave the city 🙁

The Jewish organization, Kehilat Shanghai is growing by the day.  Hadas Haham is a main coordinator and one I would recommend connecting with, she is very nice and accommodating! They host Shabbat dinner, high holiday gatherings, and a variety of activities/tours in and around Shanghai. In fact we may meet up with them again on our tour of the Silk Road, they will be visiting one of the towns most frequented by the Jewish community historically. Should be a very cool experience!

If you too are Jewish, you should hook up with Kehilat while in Shanghai – and if not, take a minute to look into whatever organization it is you may be interested in, odds are, it exists. Odds also are that they’ll be open and inviting – and that you’ll meet some cool people and have a great time 🙂

Art, Culture

Shanghai – the NYC of Asia

Shanghai – the NEW YORK CITY of Asia, equipped with the best fake market in the WORLD.

Never did I expect to love this city so much. I’ve actually never considered residing in NYC, but after being in shanghai just a few days, I was ready to declare it as my new home. Anything and everything you could ever want/need is in Shanghai. And in the off chance that they don’t already make what you’re looking for, you can have it created exactly to your specifications for almost pennies on the dollar.

Does this mean you’re sacrificing quality? Not always. If you know what you want and can spend a little time in shanghai, you can find the best place to make it for you.

There is of course a fake market, where quality is more commonly questionable. This is still a must see on your visit as you will not experience something like this anywhere else in the world. The market is actually presented in the form of a 4-5 story shopping mall with many small “shops” on each floor. This is somewhat of an overwhelming experience if you step into it not knowing what to expect, but if you go in ready to haggle and with some items in mind, you’ll likely have a great time.

Just remember there are many floors, you will see the same item several times and therefore have the upper hand in all negotiations. My general rule of thumb is that I will never pay more than 1/4 of their initial asking price. That may seem a little harsh, but with the right approach you can make this happen almost every time.

For those of you that are new to the haggling world – I’ll give a bit more guidance…

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