By Bridgette Dobinson
So the first year of my adventure is over. Success! I’ve been backpacking around South East Asia. Something I never thought I would achieve after being diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. What’s next? I’m now packing my bag for a rail tour of China, and then spending a year working in New Zealand. Woop!
Anything is possible if we don’t neglect our diabetes and take care. When traveling with type 1 diabetes all that is needed is a bit of preparation.
So here are some things I have learnt from backpacking:
- Cardboard boxes DON’T survive a year in a backpack! You’ll find you will forever be finding an odd needle in the hood of a jacket or inside your socks. Instead I would recommend emptying your equipment into secure toiletry style bags, and then flat pack the boxes alongside them with a prescription receipt to prove they are what they are. This also saves a lot of space!
- Make sure to put some spare insulin and test strips in your hand luggage – otherwise you may find yourself short when you find your medical kit has frozen in the hold!
- When people tell you to look after your valuables, they are often referring to cameras and phones. But with type 1 diabetes, your most valuable equipment is the stuff that keeps you alive. If you are travelling with a friend or a boyfriend make sure you have spares of your diabetes kit in each backpack just in case one goes missing
- I personally find that Frio insulin bags are the easiest solution for keeping your insulin cool. An added bonus is that using these can often spark odd conversations arriving at a hostel with those (still many) unbeknown to the life of a diabetic.
- I buy food in the airport when I go on long haul flights. This allows me the freedom to eat when it suits me. And I am way clearer on the sugar and carbs in these than within those mysterious pre packed airline meals!
In my time with type 1 diabetes I have visited and taught English in Thailand and traveled around Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos and Indonesia. I’ve taken part in marine research in Malaysia. I’ve volunteered on a small island for five months with no transport. I’ve had fun in the Philippines. I’ve visited orang-utans in Borneo. I’ve trekked Mount Kinabalu. I’ve travelled to Singapore and I’ve spent time in Dubai.
So the moral here is that anything you want to do can be done with just a little extra thought and care. On that note, I need to go pack my bag and count my needles before I fly to Hong Kong tomorrow!
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