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Inspiration: travelling around the world with celiac disease

In this blog I am going to talk to Lauren from @thenomadiclifers. She approached me on Instagram after I put out a call to connect with bloggers from all over the world who have celiac disease. Lauren and her family live a nomadic lifestyle, both Lauren and her two sons have celiac disease. They have lived in Laos, Madagascar, Australia and Mongolia, among others. I was of course very curious how they do that and how it works for them, you can read it in this blog!


Introduction

Lauren has been living in multiple places around the world since 1997. Together with her husband (Steven) and two children, they form a family of expats who live off the beaten track.

They don't let celiac disease get in the way of them exploring the world and are happy to help other travellers who are nervous about travelling to unfamiliar locations. Lauren and her family love nothing more than to share their experiences and help other expat families navigate life and travel abroad.


Where it all started

Lauren's husband is from Australia, herself from Zimbabwe. They were living in Australia when the children were born and Steven was offered an opportunity at a company in Laos.

He wanted a new challenge and Lauren found it difficult to raise the children in Australia, so far away from her family. Lauren: Australia really is the end of the earth and not a cheap or easy place to get in and out with a family. Living internationally met some of our requirements and allows us to travel to relatives more easily.


Pros and cons

Lauren: The benefits are that we can feed our wanderlust and explore the region we live in. Because we are more centrally located in the world, we have easier access to other destinations. Another advantage is that we can travel to Zimbabwe more often than if we had stayed in Australia.

Our children have been exposed to multiple cultures and have developed the ability to adapt quickly to change. Of course, the inconvenience of moving every 2-3 years is sometimes exhausting. Although we try to visit family regularly, this has been quite difficult over the past two years due to corona.

Another negative side of the nomadic life is that most of the relationships we develop are transient so there are times when I sometimes feel like I have to make an effort to make new friends again. Fortunately, we are social creatures by nature and we often reconnect quickly.

One advantage of these relationships is that they develop faster and become deep long-term relationships quite quickly. People I met 10 years ago I still keep in touch with. We still meet regularly while we are travelling.


Gluten free in Australia

Lauren: Living in Brisbane as a celiac was very easy, we do miss those options and the outdoor life. Especially the gluten free donuts! My favorite gluten free place in Brisbane is Marche du Macron, they make the best gluten free pastries.

I was less impressed with (gluten free) Melbourne. We did find a great fish and chip shop in Williamstown and a Vietnamese restaurant that really went above and beyond for us. Finding gluten-free food in stores is very easy in Australia. When you sign up with Celiac Australia, you can get a discount card for gluten-free products in Coles supermarkets.


Gluten free in Madagascar

Lauren: Eating gluten-free in Madagascar is generally doable. Sometimes I had to make or import my own flour from South Africa, which was quite a challenge. Since we left, the two largest supermarkets have been selling gluten-free flour and pasta. Leader Price was the supermarket with the largest selection of gluten-free products when we stayed.

Eating out was quite easy, the Malagasy diet is based on the Creole diet which is often gluten free by nature. Cassava flour is often used as a base, locally they also make rice bread.

However, there was a lot of French influence and so we had to check in some places whether they used maize and cassava over wheat. A French diet card can help you. We became loyal customers of Darafify restaurant because of the exceptional service and effort they put in for us. My favorite hotel to stay at was Anakao Ocean Lodge, the employees were very thoughtful. The food was tasty and fresh, especially try their seafood risotto!

Gluten free in Mongolia

Lauren: Mongolia was the most challenging country, make sure you always inform your guide and have a survival kit with you. Something to be aware of is that they often use barley and call it rice. So always double check to make sure it's rice as we know it.

I had found a local gluten-free Facebook group where they could give great advice on where to buy imported gluten-free products. We toured the country with a guide who made sure we always had gluten free bread and pasta with us. In the Good Price supermarket you have the best chance of (imported) gluten-free products.

You can find good food in most international restaurants. Take a diet card with you. We found a restaurant, Terrazza, owned by a celiac, they were incredibly good to us. They sat down with me and we went through the menu together, they were thoughtful and eager to make their dishes gluten free whenever possible. This was the first restaurant to offer gluten free options in Mongolia. They even made chocolate cakes and pizzas on request.


Gluten free in Laos

Lauren: Living in Laos with celiac disease was pretty easy as the food is often naturally gluten-free. The basis of almost all food is (sticky) rice. We had a housekeeper who was able to teach me a lot in the kitchen. Conversely, I was able to teach her how to cook gluten-free.

Frankly, I don't find it difficult to have to eat gluten-free when I live abroad. We actually eat the same at home as most families, we can make gluten-free what we want. In most of the places we've lived, the supermarkets import gluten-free goods and are becoming more aware of the demand for these products. I must also admit that I have a very useful tool! I have a Thermomix and so I can make everything gluten-free myself quite easily.

When you enter a restaurant, the owners/staff usually want you to have a good experience and come back. We avoid the bigger chains and go for the smaller restaurants. We have noticed that these people go out of their way to ensure that we have a safe and enjoyable meal. Take a diet card with you and when in doubt: don't!


Do you want to follow the adventures of Lauren and her family? They keep up with everything on their Instagram @thenomadiclifers!

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