When Danielle Barry was 12, she knew of only one life goal: to one day live in Finland.
But to get to the part where she actually made the move at age 19, we need to go back in time.
At 2 years-old, she was diagnosed with eczema and an inconclusive dairy allergy. Pretty standard and not surprising for some of you reading this. When she was 6 she went for allergy testing and was told to stay away from peanuts because her blood work tested positive, and that she’d be retested in 2 years.
Fast-forward: Labor Day, 2 years later. Danielle’s mom gets a call. On a national holiday. From Danielle’s allergist.
The blood work showed that she was more severely allergic to peanuts than any other patient he had ever seen or heard about.
Stay away from peanuts? I’d say that’s a good idea.
And stay away from peanuts she did. And does. But the odd thing is that between the ages of 16 and 18 Danielle had 4 allergic reactions – none of them to peanuts.
The culprit? Soy. But only sometimes.
“I don’t eat out very often. Mostly because when I do go out and these places have allergy charts, soy is really in everything,” she said. “And sometimes when I ask for more info, they either just don’t have it or think I’m joking. And my soy allergy is just to the protein… which is weird to explain. It’s tough to say: yes – I can have an anaphylactic reaction to a cross contamination with tofu, but also yes – I can have those french fries fried in soybean oil. And sometimes I’ll have something I think is fine and realize after a reaction that it isn’t. So ya, I just kind of stopped eating out because places I was totally fine eating at all of a sudden started to give me reactions. Like Pizza Hut.”
But with those reactions and uncertainty being the case, Danielle’s fire to live abroad never went out. In fact, at 19 years-old Danielle packed her bags, got her 5 EpiPens, and hit the tarmac.
She made it to Finland. Where she lived – reaction free, I might add – for nearly a year.
“They’re actually really good with food allergies over there,” she said. I mean… she said while inspiring confidence in all of us allergic travelers to go visit. “I was officially diagnosed with my soy allergy about a year ago. Which has been a lot harder to manage than my peanut allergy. But in Finland I feel ok. And in a pinch I can always have McDonalds. Plus there’s this chocolate company that I am head over heels in love with. They know me, I know them. Their products are free from my allergens. It’s amazing.”
And now, about 2 years later, the 12 year-old with one single goal has turned into a 22 year-old beautiful young woman called the Allergic Traveller.
And now that we as readers and listeners are done time traveling, we’ve caught up with the Allergic Traveller as she heads off onto her next adventure.
This time for 2 months. First back to Finland, then on to Sweden, Norway, Estonia, and Denmark.
“In Sweden I’ll be staying with a friend and can use her kitchen,” she said. “I don’t really know what food will be available because we’ll be on an island, but I’m confident I’ll figure it out.”
“I’m trying not to plan too much ahead. And it’s often easier just to pack and eat my own food. So I’ll probably do that a lot.”
And that’s the thing about traveling as someone with food allergies. You can go anywhere and do anything. You might just need to make adjustments for food along the way. Just like our Allergic Traveller is doing.