I began traveling "officially" when I was eighteen years old. Before that, I had been on family holidays, but my first real trip with diabetes on my own was a city break to Paris and despite constant worries from my mum and dad about letting me go and how I would manage my diabetes whilst away, I went and I had a successful trip, so successful that I've been travelling ever since. So far I've ticked lots of countries off my list including, Brazil, Bangladesh, Argentina, Chile, Bolivia, Thailand, Germany, Italy, Cambodia and much more. I often get asked how do I manage all my diabetic supplies and my diabetes when I am traveling long-term? The answer is simple, preparation! Here are my top tips on how to prepare for a trip of a lifetime.
1. Get as much advice as you possibly can
The advice comes in the form of doctors, nurses, the internet and fellow diabetics. Ask all the questions you can possibly think of, even the ones you think may sound stupid. You should also inform your diabetic team if you are heading away for insurance purposes, but sometimes they can offer you or suggest helpful products to make life a little easier. For instance, my doctor was able to give me a great kit for looking after my feet, for free!
2. Secure a doctors letter
Some local doctors may charge you for a doctors letter, but often if you ask your diabetic specialist they will provide you with one for free. Have it state that you will be carrying diabetic supplies and they won't count towards your "liquid allowance", so there's no need to decide between insulin and your favorite perfume! Doctors letters are useful for airport security, border crossings around the world and are used for security concerns at various venues around the world. If you are traveling to a country where English isn't widely spoken, then it's always a good idea to translate your letter into the language of the country, just to make things a little easier.
3. Research diabetes care in your final destination
Health systems vary across the world and if something goes wrong or you need supplies, you need to make sure you know what hospitals or pharmacies can provide you with what you need. A quick Google search can help with this, or ask on diabetic forums for locals who live there. If you are using a specific type of insulin, you can ring up the manufacturer and find out whether they stock your insulin in a specific country and ask for the best alternative if they don't.
4. Ensure you've had the necessary check-ups
Unfortunately one of the by-products with having diabetes is all the other little things it can do to our eyes, feet etc. It's therefore important to ensure you have check-ups before you leave the country, to spot any problems that could escalate.
5. Double your supplies
Even if you are heading away for a city break, you should always double all your diabetic supplies in case of natural disaster, theft, loss or products failing you in general! You can often request "double" supplies from your doctor or insurance provider and anything that isn't used you can return to them. You should also always split your diabetic supplies between yourself and another traveling partner, or if you are traveling solo, then split them between two bags.
These are just a few tips to get you started on the traveling road! Travelling with diabetes isn't smooth sailing all the time, but if you prepare well and know how to handle specific situations, then you can handle yourself. It's worth it for getting to explore and meet people from around the world- the best thing it when you meet a fellow diabetic!