The Best Part of Traveling With Diabetes?

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I’ll give you a hint — it’s not constantly freaking out about whether your insulin is cool enough (or, for that matter, whether a fellow hosteller is going to snag it from the communal fridge and hold it for ransom).

It’s all the extra movement. Seriously — I think of myself as a pretty active person, but compared to what I’m like when traveling, my normal life is that of a couch potato. Sure, I exercise regularly — but most of the day I’m just sitting in front of my computer. When I’m traveling, though, I’m walking and moving for much of the day. The result? I can actually have a soft serve ice cream cone. (And as you all know, that is a really pleasant exception to the norm.)

Other interesting diabetes-related observations on the trip so far:

-Frios do not keep very cold if they are not exposed to circulating air. Interestingly, it is difficult to provide a source of circulating air in your backpack. Has anyone figured out a solution to this? I’m worried that in a week from now, my insulin will have denatured and I’ll be screwed.

-it is really, really nice to be untethered once in a while. This morning my pump was due for a change and I was supposed to go swimming. So I decided to do something bold: take off the pump and not change the insertion set until after I got back. I know, crazy, right? Unfortunately, the experiment didn’t go too well — my blood sugar was low when I got in and high when I got out (a combo of a couple of glucose tablets, a delayed rush from breakfast and a lack of a basal for an hour). But wow, was it nice to take a shower afterwards and not have anything attached to my body. I was surprised by how pleasant it was.

-continuous glucometers need to be better designed for hot tubs. I don’t think of myself as someone who often has the chance to go into hot tubs, but Iceland is an exception — there are geothermal pools everywhere you look. As a result, there’s no way I can wear my CGM for this week — the poor sensor would freak out! This has happened to me before — I know it’s supposed to be waterproof, but I just don’t trust it, especially when high temperatures are involved.

Diabetes is definitely an annoying travel companion — I’m already tired of carrying around that damn backpack — but it is inspiring me to try to establish a routine when I get back of taking morning walks. I think it would be very helpful for the rest of the day.

Lastly, I’m enjoying taking pictures of my diabetes equipment in bizarre locations. Here’s me testing my blood sugar next to a naturally warm stream, and another at Gullfoss, one of Iceland’s most beautiful waterfalls, where I discovered a pump at the end of the rainbow.

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Comments (5)

  1. S. García at

    Great pictures. In my life as a diabetic, I have never taked a picture with my diabetes equipment…
    I will do it, great idea!!!

  2. D. Parker at

    I’ve been traveling with insulin for 47 years and I’ve never bothered refrigerating my currently opened vial or my spares for that matter. Never had a problem. I just keep it all away from extreme heat and cold. A back back should be fine under most conditions I would encounter.

  3. Melisa at

    Catherine – I recently discovered asweetlife as well as your blog. You sound like I would sound if I had diabetes. Unfortunately, it is my 2 1/2 year old daughter who was diagnosed 3 months ago. As a parent of someone too young to do any of the carb counting or insulin injections, it really feels like my husband and I are the ones who HAVE diabetes, minus the shots (she is still on her honeymoon period and using diluted insulin so not a candidate for the pump yet). It is inspiring to see you traveling the world, and also makes me feel like less of a bad parent when we do not calculate her insulin dose correctly based on her (supposed) carb instake. I think I also might lose this hope I have of keeping her below 200 every second of every day. Our goal is 80-150, and her weekly, 14 and 30 day averages are all currently over 200. Great. While I would love to follow the “Dr. Bernstein way” of low to no carbs, unless we locked my daughter in a bubble and never attended another dinner party, birthday party, or restaurant, it seems a spartan way to live. As a side about the highs you have after breakfast, my daughter has those every day, too. It is her most unpredictable time and luckily she has mid-morning playtime at daycare and that works off the high morning blood sugar. Thank you for the reality check, and I mean that in the best way!

  4. erika at

    Hi Catherine,

    I was reading an article in the NY Times about Diabetics and heat, and came across your article “Thinking About Diabetes With Every Bite” from last November.  You took the words right out of my mouth. I even teared up a bit, knowing that I am not alone is my feelings about how obnoxious and time consuming it is to be diabetic. 

    I was diagnosed 16 years ago with Type 1 (now 47).  I was always in such denial and hatred of this disease that I didn’t manage it as I should have, until now (age does mature a person).  I’m now a vegetarian and I exercise even more than ever.  I just recently started on the pump (late bloomer) and really love the extra control it provides.  However, it still hasn’t kept me from hating this disease every waking moment.:) But so it goes.

    You mentioned being free of the pump during swimming (sorry it didn’t go so well).  I’m very senstive to insulin, so when I work out (mountain biking, fast-paced walking, hiking, kayaking), I don’t wear the pump.  But I have to make sure that I’m working out hard, and for at least an hour.  The huge motivation is not having to wear the pump:)

    My husband and I are heading off to another adventure travel, and as you know, all I can think about is how my sugars will handle the extra activities, and if I even remembered to pack everything I need for my pump. (note to self, bring extra batteries).

    Thanks for letting me share.  Have to go count carbs and take my blood now.

  5. Andrea at

    Regarding keeping your insulin cold, I didn’t have a Frio, I just used an insulated lunch bag basically, and I kept my insulin from denaturing by using ice cream. When I was traveling  Southeast Asia in June, I would buy ice cream bar and place it in my insulated bag. Because it’s not as cold as a traditional ice pack, I didn’t have to worry about it freezing the insulin, but it did make the air inside the bag cooler than it otherwise would have been. When it melted, I just took it out and grabbed another one when I got the chance. I don’t know if this helps, but wanted to share in case it did!

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