In February, Cazzy of Dream Big, Travel Far shared her experiences of travelling with type 1. Today, we have another guest, Luke from @t1traveller on Instagram. Like me, Luke was diagnosed in adulthood, after a significant amount of travel. His diagnosis has not stopped his travels!
Can you give us a little background about where you are from and how you got interested in travelling?
I'm from the UK England and currently in my 4th of what will be 18 months travel across Asia and Australasia with my girlfriend. So far on this trip we've been to India, Kuala Lumpar, Laos, Cambodia, Singapore, and the Philippines.
Heading to: Indonesia, Australia, New Zealand and Fiji.
When were you diagnosed with type 1? Was this before or after you started travelling?
Unfortunately I didn't travel much until my mid 20's. Around the time I turned 27 I started travelling every other month - mainly city breaks to different European cities.
I then ventured to Vietnam for a 2 week holiday and experienced Asia for the first time which was a real eye opener for me; The new foods & smells, the crazy motorbike traffic, the pace of life and above all the people who whilst poor were incredibly hospitable.
The 40 degree Celcius (104 degree Fahrenheit) heat and crazy humidity did take some adjustment.
After this I really had the bug to travel further again.
Once I had enough holiday allowance and money I made my way to Sri Lanka and travelled the country solo by motorbike for 18 days which was hard work at times, but amazing! I say hard because I got so badly sunburnt I had to wear a jumper for a week and I got soaking wet several days and had to ride through heavy rains for hours.
Riding through tea plantations, mountain villages and along the coast the views were absolutely stunning. I didn't see any other tourists for days, at times I was in the middle of nowhere.
I vividly remember stopping at a village shop for a drink. When I finished my drink and walked back to my bike I found 5 young men standing around it. They just stared at me completely speechless - I don't think they'd seen a Westerner before. That sort of thing happened often on that trip.
5 months later (September 2015) I became quite unwell. After checking a few symptons online I was pretty certain I was diabetic so I went to my GP. My fasting Blood glucose was 16.8mmol and my GP diagnosed me with Type 2, which seemed odd as I'd just turned 30, had a healthy BMI, an active job and zero family history.
I started taking metformin and going back to the doctors every other week with a cold/infection/virus, eye ache and everything else associated with sky high BS. I waited 2 months and lost 10kg/22 pounds (and my patience) before deciding to go private to see an Endocrinologist. Within 5 minutes of my appointment he was arranging insulin therapy for me and I haven't looked back. I think its safe to say I must have had some pancreatic function left otherwise I think I'd have gone into DKA within those 2 months.
Having got off to a bad start with my GP I was fortunate enough to meet a superb team of Dr's and Nurses at Barnet Hospital, North London who got me on track. Regular appointments with my Endo, Nurse and dietician and then a FEFI course which taught me how to carb count properly and how not to bolus for Pizza (which I still have problems with).
Once I mastered the art & science of Insulin therapy I booked to go back to Vietnam with my new found appetite.
How did your blood sugar cooperate on your first type 1 travels?
I found the heat and humidity really increased my insulin sensitivity. I'd eat a large meal with lots of carbs, test 1 hour after eating and be around 12, then 2 hours later be at 3.5 and sweating like crazy - but hard to tell I'm having a hypo because of the warm weather. Also Vietnamese food can be high GI so you do feel hungry before your next meal meaning I was ignoring hunger pains initially.
Fortunately in south east Asia, pressed sugar cane drinks are sold everywhere and are a perfect hypo remedy.
However, I always now carry glucose tablets or sweets with me everywhere I go. Though during my current travels I haven't experienced the same increased insulin sensitivity from the heat as before. Perhaps my honeymoon period has now finished.
What preparations do you make for your diabetes before a trip?
Before I travel I make sure I order double the supplies I'll need - I won't be able to take them all with me (especially on this trip) but its good practice to take extra and leave some at home for when you return. I've got enough to last until I get to Australia where i hope to be able to see a Doctor and get more.
Frio bags are a lifesaver for storing insulin, currently got 6 with me.
Have you met any other type 1s on your travels? Do you tend to tell people you meet that you are diabetic?
I haven't met any other Type 1s on my travels. I don't tend to advertise my diabetes either. I don't hide it, ill inject novorapid at the table or in the street if we're eating out. If I was travelling solo I guess I'd be eating with/around new people all the time so I'm sure questions would be asked. I got caught injecting Lantus in my Glute by a Tuk Tuk driver outside a train station in India (we had a 14 hour train to catch) who asked if it was drugs. When I explained he started telling me his fasting BG - as did any man who spotted me injecting in India. Type 2 is endemic there and testing is cheap and readily available. Trying to explain that Type 1 and Type 2 are different - impossible as everyone's a doctor...
Thanks for sharing your travels, Luke!
Do you or someone you know travel with type 1 diabetes? I am looking to expand this in to a monthly feature so please contact me if you'd be interested in sharing your story!
I received the labels of “fencer” and “type 1 diabetic” virtually simultaneously. One by choice, after becoming obsessed with fencing while watching the Olympics. While I was looking up Youtube videos about fencing parries and practicing in my kitchen with a wooden spoon, I had no idea that my body had turned against me and was starting to attack itself. The other label, type 1 diabetic, was thrust on me randomly and a huge shock. I think I only had three or four fencing lessons before my diagnosis.
Fencing and diabetes is a bit messy. White fencing gear and checking my blood sugar between bouts isn't the best combo. Plus, shaking an opponents hand after the bout with a finger still spewing blood isn't that great!
I thought lancets kind of looked like sabers. Sabers looked kind of like giant needles. Those three hours of fencing a week became the best part of my week. I can't thank my fencing group enough for not minding me stopping at random times to check my blood sugar or minding all the blood that didn't always stay on my meter or hand. Everyone was supportive but not overbearing and I still can't thank them enough.
One time, I felt really tired, shaky, and nauseous during a bout and my opponent kept asking me, “Are you okay?” I thought I was just tired from an hour and a half of fencing, but when I checked my blood sugar, it was 2.3 mmoL/ 41 mg. That's really low. I showed her my glucose tab stash after that.
At my first fencing competition, my blood sugar had the opposite problem, shooting up to 14 mmoL/ 252 mg. I had heard that adrenaline could change your blood sugar, but I was surprised to see it shoot up that much over nothing but the adrenaline of competing. I won my first bout, made it to the semi-finals, won my semi-final bout, and advanced on to the finals. The final bout came down to two Americans, the other was a type 2 diabetic! We got to 14-14 and I lost the final point, so I ended up second. My first fencing tournament was a lot of fun, but it was only when I was translating the back of my medal that I saw “Icelandic National Championships.” Wait, had I just competed in the (adult beginner category, but still) Icelandic National Championships? I asked my fencing instructor the next practice if it was really the Icelandic Nationals and learned that yes, it was. My fencing class remains one of the things I miss most about Iceland!
I've joined a fencing league back in Colorado and so far, my blood sugar has cooperated fairly well. As far as my white uniform goes...the tiny blood stains from testing my blood sugar in the middle of practice have not cooperated so well!
Hi, I’m Crystal! I love to travel and am currently a graduate student in Scotland. You’ll get all the best tips and insights from my experiences as a former ice-skating coach in Iceland and former study abroad student. Of the 27 countries I have visited, a type 1 diabetes diagnosis has been the strangest land yet. Type 1 has not slowed down my travels and you'll learn how to take type 1 with you on the road! You can connect with me further on Instagram @CrystalChilcott, or send me ideas of where I should travel next via email: firstname.lastname@example.orgHappy Travels, Crystal
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