For professional traveler Jodi Ettenberg, the simple act of going on a year-long sabbatical to appease her obsession with Siberia was the life-changing move that turned her from a corporate lawyer based in New York to a travel and food writer who’s forever on-the-go. Instead of returning to law after that year as she originally planned, she decided to go farther, adding more countries to her list and prolonging her trip. The stories she wrote on Legal Nomads, originally intended for friends and family, reached new audiences, eventually becoming the seed that blossomed into a fulfilling travel-centric career.
While it sounds like the ideal career, professional traveling involves a lot of behind-the-scenes hard work. In an article posted on redbookmag.com, she writes that quitting her law career for travel is, “…not all sunshine and rainbows.” She adds, “I built a business around what I realized that I loved: to learn about places through their food. With rare exceptions, I pay my own way. But the upside is the ability to go where I want to eat, and write about what I want. And I absolutely love what I do.”
To support her travels, she gets involved in social media consultancy, brand ambassadorship, speaking engagements, and writing. One of the fruits of her travels is her first book, The Food Travelers’ Handbook, a guide for finding cheap, safe, and delicious eats while traveling. Here are some tips she shares for eating abroad.
Check the Lines When Choosing Where to Eat
Everyone knows that long queues at a food stall means that the food is good and locals love it. But it’s just as important to check for stalls where women and children are in line, too. A wider customer base means that the stall is safe for everyone. It is also advisable to pick a stall where the person who receives and touches the money is a different person from the one handling the food.
Bring a Pair of Travel Cutlery or Chopsticks
Even if the food you’re served is safe and fresh, there’s still a chance that the provided cutlery is contaminated. This issue is especially dangerous in developing countries where the dishes are washed in rivers. To play it safe, bring your own pair. If you forgot to bring some, at the very least, wipe down your cutlery with baby wipes.
Be Prepared with a Translation App or Picture Cards
When traveling in a country with a language barrier, be prepared with a picture dictionary app or with actual flash cards. This way, you can point to what you want to eat or what ingredients are in the dish you’re interested in.
If you have food allergies and sensitivities, you can use a similar approach by printing out translation cards explaining your allergies or food restrictions.
Do Your Research
Street food is oftentimes maligned for fear of picking up food poisoning. Unfortunately, it is also one of the best parts of travel. Before you skip street food, do your research on the country and whether it’s safe to partake. Some cities have subsidized water schemes like Bangkok and Saigon, making filtered water common and ice safe.
If you’re not sure about a city’s cleanliness, stick to fruits that can be peeled, like oranges, lychees, mangoes, and bananas. Skip fruits eaten with skin on, even if they can be washed, to avoid issues arising from contaminated water.
Pay Attention to Mealtimes and Eat Around Those Times
To avoid being served old food, stick to the mealtimes locals observe to ensure high food turnover and the food is freshly cooked.
Unless you’re in a fancy restaurant where food safety is assured, stick to food that’s fully cooked through. If it’s cold in the center and still raw, ask that it be cooked longer or eat something else.