The more I explore the world, the less I feel held back by the whole gluten thing. At first, even the thought of picnics, big dinners, camping trips etc would fill me with unease as I went into slight panic mode before every said occasion: What am I going to eat?! I’m going to be the odd one out. There’ll be bread everywhere… WHAT IF SOMEONE ACCIDENTALLY SPRINKLES CRUMBS IN MY FOOD?! But I am so used to it now, it’s really not a big deal, it’s become completely normal. In fact I’m pretty sure coeliacs should get to put all this practice of various skills on their CVs because every single day we have to be self-sufficient, organised, independant, assertive and positive.
Before coming travelling, I flipped between feeling completely fine about the challenges that I’d face being a lone female, vegetarian, coeliac abroad, to feeling way out of my depth wondering why on earth I would even try. But hey, guess what? I just spent 3 months living with different families and communities in France, having an amazing time, eating delicious food and learning some fantastic new gluten free recipes. Now I am in La Réunion, a tropical island in the Indian Ocean with all the lychees, mangos, passionfruits and pineapples that my little gluten-free heart desires. Basically, I’m in paradise.
So, last weekend, I went hiking with a lovely bunch of new friends. We climbed the Roche Écrit in St Denis, La Réunion, finding a beautiful untouched spot in the mountains to set up camp for the evening. We told stories around the fire, watched the stars and turned in early ready to rise with the sun and get started on the next part of the hike. There are no words to describe the spectacular landscape, but trust me, it was enough to fill the body with that delicious awe-inspiring ecstacy that only a natural high can deliver.
And did I go hungry? Well of course not! It’s true that it would be a lot more simple to just pack a stick of bread, some cheese and biscuits in the old backpack. But in fact, it’s not actually that difficult adapting the normal picnic for gluten free alternatives. In my back pack I had peanuts, a rice and lentil packed dinner, fruit, GF snackbars, raisins, tinned sweetcorn, GF flapjack and compot. The day before when stocking up on camping gear, I even found a pharmacy selling gluten free chocolate chip cookies. What’s more, on the way down from the top of the mountain, a man threw us some sugar cane from his garden and we nibbled on it, sucking out the sweet juice and spitting the fibre out.
During the night on our hike, I had a dream where I was in the UK, feeling very static and miserable. It was raining, cold and dark and I wished I was somewhere else, but in the dream I hadn’t had the courage to get myself out into the world. I had felt held back by fear and remained stuck. Then in reality, I woke up from the light of the sun shining brightly and the noise of birdsong. I unzipped the tent and saw the most magnificent view from the mountain top. Drinking in a deep breath of fresh air I could not stop smiling, as I realised, this is real. I could not be more happy that I took the risk of just showing up here with my backpack and the hope that I’d get by being gluten free. It’s even better than I ever imagined it could be and I’m having to pinch myself everyday to be sure I’m living in reality.