I was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes in 2011. Few people know how much effort it takes to maintain a normal blood sugar level; tight control of my blood sugar requires constant attention and I check it religiously, and ever since that fateful hospital visit in 2011 I have not slept through the night without waking up at least once to check my blood sugar.
How does all of this relate to budget backpacking? Or traveling at all? Can’t I just take an extra vial of insulin with me and call it good?
Here’s the story: my partner and I are currently on an open-ended backpacking trip and we left the United States with one way tickets to London. Before leaving I found it difficult to track down any solid advice for long-term T1D traveling without access to refrigeration for medicine, availability of test strips and needles, or any reliable health services at all. Why would I take that risk and travel somewhere new that may not be diabetic-compatible? Why not just stay home and keep my insulin in the fridge where I know it’s safe? I was put on the spot to explain my travel intentions quite a bit before leaving, and whenever someone would ask me, “is a diabetic free to travel like that?” the Last Chance to Reason lyric “we could be free…” simply began playing in my head. I have traveled extensively in very meager circumstances and diabetes has always affected my experiences and forced me to find creative solutions (touring the southwest crammed into a 10 passenger van with 11 people, touring through Texas and New Mexico during an arctic cold-snap and sleeping in a frozen-over van for a week) and on this trip I have already spent several days and nights camping in a tent and a few more days sleeping at a hostel made of shipping containers, so I certainly am not about to let diabetes keep me from traveling, no matter how tricky the circumstances or tough the conditions.
I will be updating as I go so make sure to look through the Travel with Diabetes section for some valuable tips that have helped me manage diabetes while traveling internationally. (I am particularly excited to share what I’ve learned for keeping insulin cold long-term without electricity and how to plan to manage lows).