Subtitle: Traveling When You are Allergic to the World
When you say something like, “I really hope I survive this trip I’m taking,” people assume it is hyperbole. I mean sure, we could all be hit by a car or struck by falling airplane shrapnel at any second, but in general, for *most* people, the actual possibility of death due to circumstances completely beyond our control is not a reality.
But when you have an anaphylactic and highly sensitive allergy to something that is found in body and personal care products, laundry products, water treatment chemicals, sanitizers, cleaners, fuels, and antimicrobial agents, it’s actually *not* hyperbole. I haven’t yet had an anaphylactic reaction to airborne–versus ingested–corn, but I’ve definitely had severe enough reactions (tongue and lip swelling) to demonstrate that it’s a possibility. So yes, I could literally die due to what someone else is releasing into the air via machinery or aerosol. That could realistically happen.
It’s pretty heavy when you really think about it, and I have no advice for coping with the weight of that. I just mostly do what I have to do and try not to think about it. I have my precautions in place as far as taking preventative medications and carrying emergency medications and gear on my person at all times and hope for the best. Once the precautions are in place, I mostly cope by just pretending it’s not happening.
I do well enough most days. There are a lot of things I’m not able to do anymore that I used to be able to, such as eating in restaurants or drinking in bars, and while I’m not happy about that, there really isn’t much to be done so I don’t see much of a point in complaining about it. I just do what I have to do.
As much as this allergy has shaped my life, I still don’t have to be entirely defined by it. I still have my hobbies and my career, at least mostly. Researching my health issues to figure out the next step to take takes up more of my time than I’d like, and I honestly can’t focus on work 24/7 the way I used to, and I can’t go out to lunch or happy hour with my coworkers or potential employers, so networking gets a little awkward. But I’m doing okay so far, for the most part.
One of my hobbies in the past has involved world travel for specific events related to my music fandom. In particular, I have gone to the same music festival in downtown Baltimore, Maryland every Memorial Day weekend since 2010. I started making plans for the 2013 festival almost as soon as I returned from the last one in 2012 . This year the possibility of being able to make the trip safely was looking pretty slim, though. I started getting more sensitive to traces of corn in food right after I returned from the festival last summer, and by midwinter I was reacting to more foods than I didn’t, and even reacting to *water*. I was unsure as to how I could possibly navigate a cross-country trip safely.
But you know, I’m pretty stubborn and pretty resourceful, and this was really important to me. So I made it happen. Here’s a breakdown of the challenges involved for me.