For many people travelling is such an enjoyable experience...from the excitement of getting to the airport on time, wandering through duty free, waiting impatiently at the gate to board to the plane, enjoying inflight entertainment and finally arriving to your destination. All seems simple and in many cases stress free.
However, this is simply not the case for everyone.
As a child, I used to love travelling. I always viewed travelling on a plane as a magical ride that would take me to so many fascinating places. I would always look forward to getting lost in duty free, having some breakfast at the terminal before we took off, colouring on the plane, eating the deserts on the plane. But with time, that love and excitement quickly turned into fear and anxiety.
Today, flying leaves me with a horrible knot in my stomach.
Last year, I was diagnosed with asthma and anaphylaxis to nuts and fruits. This was simply life changing as it quickly became apparent that I was restricted to eating so many things - Ferrero Roches are now a thing of the past! Not only are my dietary habits restrained, those around me also must be cautious over what they eat too. Receiving a diagnosis of anaphylaxis was a learning curve for me and those around me. We quickly learnt to be cautious over the places we eat at, over the ingredients in the food and the oils the food is cooked in. It really can be a nightmare at the best of times. However, going to a restaurant is relatively simple, in comparison to flying. Flying, is a whole new nightmare!
In December 2016, I travelled with an airline to the United Arab Emirates and I was left absolutely appalled at their customer services and their response to nut allergies. Usually, nut allergy sufferers can board the aircraft early and wipe down the seats to prevent cross-contamination and announcements will also be made on board to inform other passengers to encourage them to avoid eating nuts in the cabin. However, this was not the case. I was rudely asked why I was travelling if I had such allergies and they will not be making any such announcements. Upon returning to the UK, I had contacted the airline to inform them about this poor customer service. To which, I was simply offered some free air miles, I contacted them again informing them this was not suffice as they had not addresses the issue at hand - that it was unsafe for nut allergy suffers to fly with their airline - I was offered even more points. The incompetence of the airline was astonishing.
My previous experience caused my anxiety around flying to increase even more. Last week, I joined my partner in San Francisco and I must say, I was pleasantly surprised. This was also the first time I had travelled on my own since learning about my anaphylaxis, so I really was nervous!
I flew out to the Bay Area with United Airlines - who by the way were fantastic with regards to the nut allergy. I informed cabin crew that I was anaphylactic and they ensured they wouldn't serve nuts around me. This really and truly reduced the knot that had been building in my stomach. Upon arriving in San Francisco, I was spoilt for choice with regards to where to eat! However, I was apprehensive over how nut allergies would be handled. Once again, I was shocked. But in a good way...
On my first night, we visited The Cheesecake Factory, in Palo Alto. I had told the waiter about my allergies and he made me feel incredibly comfortable - not only did he check my food for nuts, he also ensured my partners food didn't have any nuts. My partner and I then stopped off at Denny's Diner in Daly City for some breakfast on the way to visit some of the sites of San Francisco. Once I had informed the waiter of my allergies, he very quickly presented me with a handout of all the foods they offered and the allergens that may be present. I felt a wave of relief.
This sense of relief was experienced in all the places we had eaten in including;
California Pizza Kitchen, Stanford
Sol, Palo Alto
Louie Linguini's, Monterrey Bay
Yucca de Lac, Stanford
Each one of these places understood my allergy and did their best to ensure I was safe whilst eating at their restaurant. Without a shadow of doubt this contributed to an excellent holiday as I wasn't so worried about what I can and can't eat or whether the waiter understood my concerns or not.
Would I visit San Francisco again? Yes!
Would I feel safe eating there? Yes!
As a nut allergy sufferer, I would highly recommend visiting this beautiful city by the bay and cannot wait to return!