I’ve just returned from a short trip to Moscow and I was going to tell you all about my experience of travelling to Russia in the winter as someone with type 1 diabetes. However, it occurred to me that regardless of where you plan to go on holiday, and what the temperature’s like, when you’ve got type 1 diabetes it’s the quality of your kit that makes the difference.
So here’s what I took with me:
- Hand and feet warmers (essential!)
- Merino wool thermal base layer (expensive!)
- Insulin (obviously) and a money belt to carry it close to my body so that my body temperature could stop it from freezing – better up the jumper than in the back pack!
- Needles, lancets, glucose meter, lots of spare tests and handy alcohol wipes (for testing on the go)
- Packaging for all of the above (flat packed for convenience) and a letter from my GP
- My Dexcom G4 Platinum Continuous Glucose Monitor (CGM) and spare sensors
- Travel insurance recognising type 1 diabetes
- A letter from my CGM manufacturer in English and a copy translated into Russian (explaining that these devices can’t be x-rayed)
At this point the suitcase is about 40 per cent full – and I haven’t even packed any make up yet! My husband stands little to no chance of adding much of his own luggage to this great pharmaceutical stockpile that I’ve created.
Organisation is key. It’s a formidable list to assemble and it took me about two weeks to pull everything together in time for the flight. And when thinking about quantities I have two words for you – ash cloud. Ever since this random volcanic eruption in Iceland that grounded half the world’s air traffic for weeks, I have travelled with enough insulin to knock out a horse. When I travel abroad I take hundreds of test strips and spare needles etc. just in case I get stuck overseas. Honestly, I don’t think I could be bothered to try to negotiate more diabetes supplies out of an alien health care system. I prefer to have my own and so I easily pack enough for a month’s journey.
So what is Moscow like in the winter? Well, it’s vast, COLD, and little bit scary. The metro is amazing, palatial, crammed full of commuters, and HOT. The domed roofs of the churches are even more beautiful in real life than in any photograph you might see.
But the best thing is, like many other places I’ve been in the world, it was an enjoyable and worry-free experience. Because quite frankly, with the help of a CGM, I feel like I have the right kit. Since I fired up this tiny beeping, buzzing machine I haven’t wanted to spend a single moment without it. We’ll part ways when I’m cured, and not before.
Thanks to the CGM I can travel anywhere in the world with confidence, try new and exotic foods, and hop onto a packed foreign metro free from the dread of a humiliating hypo in a busy public place. Thanks to the CGM I can work as a professional (I’m a teacher) without fear of sudden collapse, frightening the students, my colleagues, and myself. I can go to sleep at night without fear that I might not wake up in the morning – the CGM will simply wake me up with a little beep, I have a drink of juice and it’s straight back to catching those zzz’s.
So travelling to Moscow in December was as you’d expect – pretty parky! It was also genuinely very enjoyable. And the food was – to be diplomatic – interesting. But most importantly, with the right planning and kit, it was hypo-free. You can go anywhere in the world with that.
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