The Traveling Diabetic


I just returned from a trip to Tokyo for work and am finally over my jet-lag and settling back into my old routine.  It was a crazy week: not much sleep, constantly walking, and encountering carb-laden foods wherever I turned. Soba noodles for breakfast, tempura with rice for lunch, dough-covered sweetened chestnuts for a snack — it was a recipe for disaster. And indeed that’s what I thought I’d be writing about for my first post upon my return. (I ate more noodles last week than I have in years.)

But here’s the thing: despite the carbohydrates, the jet lag, and my massive consumption of a Japanese snack food called Takoyaki — octopus dumplings — my blood sugar last week was stellar. I was low one time and, far more impressively, barely went over 200. (Emboldened by my well-behaved glucose levels, I even started acting out — I ate a fish-shaped pastry filled with vanilla cream. Talk about rebellion!)

The conclusion I’ve drawn is that when you’re actively traveling — and by active, I mean walking around or biking for nearly the entire day, which is what I’m doing — you give yourself a hell of a lot of flexibility when it comes to food. It was a great feeling. Not only was I seeing tons of new things in a new city but I also had the ability to give up some of my food anxiety and eat on the fly. I mean, seriously — soba noodles for breakfast. Twice. Who does that?

I’m an active traveler to begin with, unable to sit still for more than 30 minutes at a time without delving into my guidebook to figure out what else I possibly could be doing, so I particularly like this new diabetic rationalization for my travel habits. Forget beach vacations. Head to a city, buy yourself a metro card, pack some glucose tablets, and GO.

Several post scripts:

First, when I travel, some part of my diabetes gear inevitably breaks. My glucometer shut down when I was on the top of a Chinese mountain. My pump failed in Costa Rica. My CGM screen exploded in Yosemite. So I was wondering what could possibly happen this time.  Turns out, it was my lancet: on my last day of the trip, its spring broke and it stopped pricking my finger — requiring me to manually stab myself every time I needed a drop of blood. Why does this happen, this Murphy’s Law of diabetes supplies?

Second, I should also note that this excellent blood sugar control was definitely a travel-related phenomenon. I’m back home and more sedentary now, and am suffering high blood sugars as a result.  I had carrots, peanut butter and strawberries for breakfast this morning and my blood sugar still hasn’t come back down.

Lastly, I just looked at a calendar and noticed that today’s February 17th . . . my 9-year anniversary of living with Type 1! Perhaps not as romantic an anniversary as, say, my wedding date. But I still think my pancreas should buy me flowers.

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Shannon Turner
Shannon Turner
13 years ago

U may have had great BGs because…….Soba noodles have 5.8g of protein per 1 cup, AND… some brands have a fair amount of fiber as well.  Just an FYI from your brethren.  I’m one of your girls, also trained as an RD, and got my MPH  for good meas.  (I’m a 35 yr old female who’s had The Plague since age 3)    THANX for ur blog!  
-‘non-normie’ residing in Seattle, WA, USA.

13 years ago

First, I enjoy and appreciate your blog on here. As a 28 year old, fellow Type 1, I find a lot of relief in the empathy. Speaking of–in Japan in 2008, 4 months after my diagnosis, I encountered the same irony of increasing my carb-intake but actually having quite a bit of lows due to all the walking around (and running to trains!). Great post!

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