Although it frequently grosses me out, I like watching Man vs. Wild on the Discovery Channel. It never ceases to amaze me how Bear Grylls is so incredibly resourceful, and more importantly, opportunistic. He’s always taking advantage of something he runs across at the moment, whether he needs it right then or not. Like water in the desert, food from just about anywhere, and shelter even in the most inconvenient of places. Bear is an opportunistic kind of guy.
I’ve learned similar skills, although mine are far less disgusting, about surviving with a strict gluten free diet while traveling. The key to survival is what I refer to as being opportunistic. When you spot food items that are known to be safe, scarf them up. It doesn’t matter if you’re hungry or not. It doesn’t matter whether the food is ‘time appropriate’ or not. If you pass a grocery store that has steamed rice in the deli, and it’s only 7am, grab it! Carpe diem and all that stuff.
Maybe if I share a typical day of being opportunistic from a recent road trip it will help illustrate my point…
- 6:45am – There’s a soda machine 20 feet down the hall from my hotel room. I know because I’ve heard it making noise all night long. Grab a Mountain Dew for now and a Doctor Pepper for later. Stuff the Doctor in my briefcase.
- 7:50am – Bananas on sale at the hotel coffee bar. Grab 2. Store in briefcase. They will age and rot in some sort of briefcase induced accelerated time warp. Later today, I will eat at least one of them regardless. Pick up a 4 shot Latte in case I am not able to find food for a week or so. The caffeine will keep me alive in almost any emergency scenario.
- 7:51am – Pass hotel gift shop and grab a Hershey bar. My briefcase is full of bananas so I have to eat it now. Really, I’m only eating it now because of the banana storage issue. And I need my vitamins.
- 8:05am – The hotel has a breakfast buffet with an omelet station. Made-to-order omelets are one of the safer gluten free restaurant options. I eat 2 bacon and cheese omelets with 19 slices of bacon. I don’t pig out like this because I like it – it’s just an obligation I have to eat opportunistically where and when I have the chance. It could be hours before I find other safe, gluten free food options, so I am filling up now.
- 12:15pm – Out to lunch with clients and co-workers. They choose a restaurant I’m not familiar with – Atlanta Bread Company. Apparently this place is in the business of poisoning Celiac’s or something. Being opportunistic, I order a Coke and get 7 refills. Oh, and I hurl insults at the kitchen. I feel much better after that.
- 1:15pm – Time to retrieve one of the bananas and the Doctor Pepper from my briefcase. The banana is already completely brown. I eat it anyway and am happy about it.
- 3:45pm – I pass out at the conference table. I have not had bacon in hours. My forehead has a semi-permanent imprint of my laptop keyboard.
- 5:55pm – Meetings for the day are over. I’m hungry. And anti-social. I stop at a grocery store on the way to the hotel and get food. By this time, it’s been almost 10 hours since I have had bacon. I am weak and barely able to walk. I stock up on medium sharp cheddar cheese, a package of Hormel Pepperoni, and a large bag of Kettle Fully Loaded Baked Potato chips. This is dinner.
- 10:20pm – I’m hungry. My briefcase still has a banana, but it appears to be growing a new form of penicillin. I pass on that. The hotel gift shop is closed, so no more Hershey bars. I suffer until I pass out from malnutrition.
See? Eating gluten free on the road is all about taking advantage of the opportunities that present themselves. And spare bananas. And bacon.
Go be opportunistic!