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Shared experience

You deserve to go on holiday, to have fun, to feel understood

Julie Kiefer has lived with type 1 diabetes since 1997. She has since travelled to 28 countries and lived in France, Australia, and the UK. She founded the Diabetic Travellers’ Network® (DTN®) to provide education, community, organised group trips and support to help people with type 1 travel with confidence.

Type 1 diabetic Julie smiling at the camera whilst walking through sand dunes with the sun setting behind her

Traveling is an incredible experience that takes us out of our comfort zone and gives us the opportunity to create memories that stay with us forever.

But when it comes to type 1 diabetes, traveling can become a source of anxiety. There are so many things to think about and managing blood sugar away from home (especially when changing time zone) requires knowledge and discipline.

I myself have travelled to 28 countries and navigated through 3 different health care systems, with type 1. It is through planning, and some trial and error, that I discovered what works and what doesn’t and gained the knowledge and experience to travel freely with type 1.

Getting started

When I started thinking about traveling some people close to me started to worry – and they passed that fear onto me. I started to freak out and play out all the worst-case scenarios in my head. I thought things like:

  • What if my insulin doesn’t work and I have to pay for it while I’m away?
  • How am I going to get enough supplies to cover this 6 month long trip?
  • What if I have a severe low and no one understands that I have type 1?
  • What if things go very wrong? Could I handle it?

There were long sleepless nights, believe me. But, to me, fear is something that is learned. It is an indication that you need to prepare yourself for something. So, I wrote down all the things that could happen when I travelled. Then I made a plan for each scenario and made sure I had a backup plan if things were to go wrong.

Up, up and away

Fast forward to now and I’ve travelled to 28 countries, learned two foreign languages and become an expat in a foreign country.

Travel opened my eyes to the world. To humanity and its kindness. It taught me that you can make real friends in five years or in five minutes.

I became really confident in my ability not only to manage my type 1 but to keep myself safe and to manage unexpected situations with a smile. It taught me to not believe what people say but to go and see it myself. I felt safe and at home in Colombia while it was supposed to be unsafe and scary. I did a road trip around Scotland for a week and it barely rained.

I knew, deep down, that I didn’t have to just watch other people travel the world. If they could do it, I could too.

Five reasons you can travel with type 1 diabetes

Here are my top five reasons why type 1 diabetes doesn’t have to stop you travelling:

  1. You are managing your type 1 diabetes already – you can do it away from home
  2. You can take the supplies that you need with you
  3. Time zone changes are manageable
  4. Healthcare services, like hospitals and pharmacies, are available almost everywhere
  5. You don’t have to go far and for too long. Start small, then go further

Get support with the Diabetic Travelers Network

I started DTN to help every person living with type 1 diabetes, no matter where they are in the world, to get the information, level of care, support and connections they need to travel and do brave things. No more keeping children from school trips. No more stress at the airport, no more having to say no. DTN is a place where we empower each other to go further, better, together.

Join one of our type 1 diabetes group trips for a unique travel experience with people that truly understand what you are going through!

The DTN’s community has grown and now includes people from the United Kingdom, United States, Canada, France, Italy, Spain, Portugal, South Africa, Ghana, Nigeria, Brazil, Colombia, Peru, Puerto Rico, Mexico, India and Israel.

It might be hard to believe but you deserve to go on holiday, to have fun, to feel understood and to be loved and respected for the beautiful being that you are.

Through DTN I give people with type 1 the confidence and know-how to take your power back.

Find out more on DTN’s website, Instagram, Facebook and YouTube.

Download the Diabetic Travelers Networks®’ Guide to Travelling With Diabetes for information and tips on travelling with type 1.

Disclaimer: The information in this article is not intended to be a substitute for medical advice from a physician or other healthcare professional and is not a substitute for the advice of a legally qualified healthcare professional. If you have specific medical questions, please consult your doctor or healthcare professional promptly. Nothing in this article should be construed as an attempt to offer or render medical advice.

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