I was diagnosed with life-threatening food allergies in the mid-80's. It was a time where allergy awareness was very low, and my parent's biggest challenge was convincing others that food allergies were real.
Like many others, I dealt with a constant feeling that I was different. I was left off birthday invitation lists, sat alone at lunchtime, and was conditioned to feel like I was a burden to others.
The result was that I suffered many allergic reactions from taking unncessary risks - all while trying to fit in.
As I grew older, I never thought I would travel because it seemed too difficult with food allergies. But after seeing all of my friends going on trips, I wanted to try.
I went on exchange to Sweden and it truly changed my life. It opened my eyes to the wonders of travel, amazing cultures, and a newfound sense of adventure. I met my future wife there, and countless lifelong friends.
It was also the time where I became empowered over my food allergies. I was forced to truly advocate for myself and take responsibility for my health in a new environment. I made mistakes, but this trip sparked something inside of me. Never again would I let my food allergies limit me, or my opportunities in life.