Diabetes has never really gotten in the way of my day to day life, except for a few low blood sugars here and there, so I decided to stretch the boundaries and spend some time abroad this summer. In fact, when I was making plans to travel abroad, I did not think of diabetes as the determining factor. I couldn’t let the disease take away the travel opportunities that I had been given. I knew that going abroad for a total of six weeks would really test my ability to take care of myself, so it was important that everything ran smoothly.
I spent three weeks in Uganda on a credit-based trip for school, studying sustainable development. Five days after returning from that trip, I spent three weeks between France and England for family vacation. Let me say this: if diabetes has ever stopped you from traveling, its time to take a trip! Traveling with diabetes is possible, just remember to take care of yourself.
Packing for these trips was stressful. I had to pack extras of everything! For three weeks of traveling, I brought two bottles of insulin, 200 test strips, extra batteries for my pump and meter, and 17 insertion sites for my pump. I also had the number of every doctor with me, just in case! If you plan on going abroad for a long period of time, over pack with your supplies just in case something goes wrong! It’s also a good idea to bring two of three insertion sets and an extra bottle of strips with you in your carry-on bag.
The hardest part about traveling for anyone, whether they have diabetes or not, is adjusting to the food. The level of activity was also a determining factor in how much control I had over my blood sugar levels. Food and activity, as we all know, go hand in hand. In Uganda, it was hard to judge how much of a correction to make for food when the level of activity changed form day to day. But in France and England, there was no controlling it, my family is constantly on the move!
If you don’t know what level of activity you will be participating in or you have no idea what to expect in terms of food, I suggest talking to your doctor. I know I should have talked to my doctor before leaving! My problem was basal rates. I had many high blood sugars because of the food – almost all complex carbs in Uganda - and many low blood sugars because of the activities in all three countries, and I didn’t feel comfortable changing the levels set by my doctor. To avoid this from happening, talk to your doctor before you leave!
Although diabetes interfered with a few events in my time abroad, I never let it completely get in the way of these amazing trips that I had the opportunity to take. Yes, diabetes is of the up most importance, but remember to take some pictures and have some laughs! Try new things and bring back some stories, but keep your sense and remember to take care of yourself abroad. Keep your activity levels and food consumption in mind, but don’t let it overtake the amazing experiences that are abroad.
If you have any more questions about traveling with diabetes, feel free to email me at email@example.com.
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