An Interview With Laura Zappula (a.k.a Stomalicious)

This week I had the pleasure of talking to Laura, who writes a blog called Stomalicious.  She appeared on The IBD and Ostomy Support Show at the end of August, talking about travelling with a stoma.  As we are discussing food this month I wanted to ask her about what she eats on her travels, how this affects her stoma and what weird and wonderful delicacies she has tried!


1) Roughly how many countries have you visited and what would you say are your top three (I know you struggled with this the other night but I won’t hold you to your answers ha ha)

I am blessed to have travelled to around 46 countries in total in my life (so far!). Around 18 of those were with an ostomy! I love going back to places I’ve been before so several countries I’ve been to multiple times. I used to be a travel consultant and worked in the industry for over 10 years, so I have been lucky to have had some amazing trips tied in with that. It’s really hard to pick my favourites as I honestly love everywhere and each place is unique and has different things that draw me to it!

My last big trip before being diagnosed with Crohn’s disease was in 2009, and that will always be memorable for me for a number of reasons. I spent a month travelling through the Middle East before all the trouble really started in that region. Syria in particular will always stand out. It saddens me greatly to see the horror that has happened there. It is such a beautiful place and the people are so gentle and lovely. I remember an old Syrian man showing us around the market in Aleppo which is now nothing more than ruins. The fact that it was the last overseas trip I could take for a long time due to my health will always mean a lot to me too.

In the 10 months I spent travelling the world after my ostomy surgery, Turkey is another place I will never forget. Hot Air Ballooning above the fairy chimney landscape of Cappadocia at sunrise was a once in a lifetime experience. Incredible!

If I had to pick a third, it would either be somewhere in South East Asia, Southern Africa or Italy! I absolutely loved Vietnam especially trekking through the muddy hill tribes in Sapa with an ostomy, but I am equally enamored with Thailand where I have been multiple times both pre and post ostomy, including getting married on the beach in Koh Lanta! South Africa is another place I have been to both pre and post ostomy because my husband Michael has relatives there. There is nowhere else quite like Southern Africa especially when you’re out in the bush on a safari with wild elephants, lions, rhino, and hippo to spot. It becomes quite an addiction. On our last trip there we went to Namibia where we had quite an adventure at a watering hole when our cat battery went flat just after some lion had made a kill! I also can’t help but hold a soft spot for Italy! Again, I have been there both before and after my surgery, but travelling to Sicily with my dad earlier this year to the home town where he was born and grew up before moving to Australia, means that Italy will always hold a special place in my heart!

Carnival in Rio, an orangutan sanctuary in Kota Kinabalu, paragliding and ziplining in Cape Town, seeing my favourite band play live in Amsterdam, game drives in the African dessert, Macchu Pichu, the Taj Mahal, the Pyramids of Giza, seeing the Eiffel Tower, Central Park, the Colosseum, and Big Ben for the first time, all those iconic sights – I am truly blessed to have been to so many amazing places!

2) What were your top three worries about travelling with a stoma? Are any of these still worries now?

My biggest concern when I took my first overseas trip after ostomy surgery (a 10 month world trip – I don’t do things in halves!!!) was being away from my support network of family and doctors. I was relatively new to my ostomy, so leaks were also a bit of a concern. I am also a huge foodie so was a bit worried about being able to try all the amazing delicacies on offer around the world. I can honestly say that I needn’t have been concerned about any of these things, and none are worries for me now.

3) What were the top three foods you have tried from other countries that you wouldn’t get in the UK?

Living in London we are lucky to have SO many different cuisines at our doorstep. I think we’re pretty fortunate here in that most cuisines are fairly readily available. I’m yet to find really good/authentic Thai food in London though. Sushi is another fave of mine, but compared to the quality and price of a nice tuna or salmon and avocado sushi roll back in Sydney, I’m sorry but London doesn’t quite cut it! I’ve also tried some of the game meats (don’t judge me!!) in Southern Africa like warthog, kudu, ostrich, and biltong, all of which were surprisingly really good, and I don’t think you’d get them in the UK!!

4) What have been the worst dishes you have tried abroad?

I tried guinea pig in South America. It kind of tasted like chicken, but I couldn’t get the image of my friend’s pet guinea pig out of my head!!!

5) What is the strangest thing you have eaten on your travels?

I ate deep fried crickets in Thailand once. Thais eat fried bugs like a snack (like we would eat chips/crisps)!! It’s more just knowing what you’re eating that puts you off. If you didn’t know and had a blindfold on …. Okay well I reckon it would still be a bit strange, but I’m willing to try anything once!!!

6) We get warned about things like sweetcorn and popcorn causing stoma blockages. Have you had any issues with any foreign foods doing this that you weren’t prepared for?

Nope. I am very lucky with blockages and all those foods that we are warned about. I haven’t had a proper blockage in my 4+ years with a stoma. I just make sure I chew extra carefully when eating any problem foods, but I’ve eaten corn, popcorn, nuts, dried fruits and all sorts of foreign foods and have not had any problems. I did get a bout of food poisoning in Thailand once (I think it was from eating some bad chicken). I didn’t get a blockage, but had liquid output and couldn’t keep anything down for 48 hours. It’s quite strange having diarrhea when you have an ostomy bag!!!

7) If you had to pick the food from one country to eat for the rest of your life where would you choose and why?

It would have to be Italian. Italian food is always so fresh and tasty. You get delicious salads (I love a good Caprese with fresh tomato and mozzarella), plus pizza and pasta of course!!! Italians also know how to cook a good piece of meat with a side of delicious green vegetables, and of course Italian desserts like cannoli, pannacotta and gelato. TDF!!!!! Whenever we travel to Italy we have a policy of 1 x gelato every day (even if it’s for breakfast)!!! The secret is simple, fresh and uncomplicated. The fewer ingredients the better!

8) What is your favourite Australian vs your favourite English dish

We are very lucky in Australia that it’s incredibly multicultural so you get a lot of first class cuisine from around the world. Apart from the typical meat pie or pavlova, there really aren’t that many typical “Aussie” dishes. We have been trying to find the perfect chicken parmy in London (to no avail) but to be honest I never really ate them back in Sydney anyway. We did bring a jar of vegemite with us (but you can buy it here at Asda nowadays)!! I would have to say my favourite Aussie dish is vegemite toast, and you can’t go past a good old Sunday roast in the UK!

9) What is your favourite thing to cook at home?

Whilst I love to eat, I am not the world’s greatest chef, and I am happy to admit that my husband does the majority of the cooking in our household!!! I make a pretty good salad, and if I had to cook something hot it would probably be a vegetable quiche.

10) What is your go to comfort food?

I’m a bit of a sucker for pizza, or anything with white chocolate, coconut and/or salted caramel!!!

11) What is your favourite breakfast food?

Museli and yoghurt. I didn’t eat muesli for several years when my Crohn’s was really bad (for obvious reasons) but I am now back to my regular week day morning ritual of natural muesli (including dried fruit, coconut etc) with a nice dollop of full fat Greek yoghurt. Delish!!! Once again, as long as I chew extra carefully, my stoma has no problems processing all that fibre and dried fruit goodness!!!

12) If you were taking part in The Ostomy & IBD Support Show #maSTOMAchef challenge what is the one ingredient you would pick for us to try/cook with that you haven’t eaten or cooked with before?

There aren’t many ingredients that I want to try/cook with that I haven’t already, but for the purpose of this challenge, I will say fennel. I love raw fennel, fresh, cut up through a salad with some nice orange wedges or just as a snack on its own. I’ve also tried a few different variations of cooked fennel, but I am yet to find a recipe with cooked fennel that I enjoy as much as raw fennel. Challenge on!!!

This lady has given me a serious case of wanderlust!  My mouth is watering too!  I am taking up Laura’s challenge and will post the results in an extra #maSTOMAchef post.  Thankyou for taking the time to talk to me Laura, it was such a pleasure to hear about your adventures.

You can visit the Stoma-licious Facebook page here

Watch Laura on The IBD & Ostomy Support Show here

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