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Travel: A Burnout RX
Last week, I was onboard a cruise ship sailing around the Caribbean Sea enjoying some much needed time relaxing, sight-seeing, and just hanging out. If you’ve been with me in this blog for very long, you’ll know that I absolutely love to travel. It’s my favorite hobby of all time and I like to brag that I’ve been to 3 continents, now 10 countries, and 17 states plus Washington D.C. There are hundreds more places that I dream of going.
Some people think diabetes complicates travel, which I guess it does on some level, but diabetes has never stopped me from taking a trip and exploring new boundaries. I’ve toured DC in 9 degree weather. I’ve walked beaches in places like South Carolina, Mexico, and Grenada. I’ve flown thousands of miles and handled the new TSA rules dozens of times. I’ve rock climbed on the sea and climbed Mayan ruins. Diabetes does not stop me.
It does create a special environment when I travel though. I always have to pack extra supplies and double-check my list for insulin, strips, glucagon, and more. I adjust my insulin based on my level of activity (for instance, I cut my Lantus by several units on this trip because of a marked increase in activity). I keep snacks and Cokes nearby. And I’m always on edge for diabetic emergencies.
Thankfully, I’ve never experienced major emergencies while traveling and I hope that I never will. I know that I have to take special precautions to avoid these types of events though and that’s exactly why I’m hyper-vigilant when traveling. I watch my insulin closely, check my blood sugar constantly, wear my Dexcom if I can, and practice the “better safe than sorry” rule. Sometimes that means that I run higher than I’d prefer in order to avoid major lows. Or sometimes it means that I consume a lot more calories than usual to keep things in check.
On this wonderful cruise, I did a little bit of both. I worked out as often as I could, but kept my insulin low. When I ate half a hot dog on a Honduras beach, I didn’t bolus as much as I would at home. In Belize, I watched the Dexcom closely after climbing to the top of Altun Ha’s Sun temple. I sipped Coke while shopping in Cozumel to keep my blood sugar at a steady 100 to 150 range. And every night, I ate more at dinner than I usually do between breakfast and lunch. I watched my blood sugars spike then drop quietly overnight in the 90s.
Only once did diabetes really create a kink in my vacation. A very random and unexpected high blood sugar of 440 (after a 53 and 54 that afternoon) came up right before our mystery dinner on the ship. A four-course meal, champagne and wine, and finding the “murderer” was only slightly derailed by the high. I bolused a little extra before consuming anything then drank as much water and tea as I could stand. I also started my meal with a salad of only lettuce, olive oil, and balsamic vinegar and avoided all things carbs until I saw a steady decline in my blood sugars. By the end of dinner, I was in range and enjoying dessert and a few sips of wine.
I’m not a perfect diabetic and my vacation numbers probably reflect this most of all. I eat what I want and find it difficult to carb count fancy foods like lamb chops and low-fat cheesecake. I believe that diabetes is a “to each his own” disease. On vacations, my diabetes doesn’t get to rule every moment of the day because I need that time to decompress from the 24/7 demands of this disease. Vacationing allows me to destress not only with work, family, etc. but also with my diabetes. By allowing myself some flexibility, I can avoid burnout after almost 20 years of type 1 diabetes.
To that, I say “Happy Traveling!”
Michelle Kowalski, a writer, editor and photography hobbiest living in Phoenix, was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes in February 2005. In January 2008, as part of her quest to start on an insulin pump, Michelle learned that she actually has type 1 diabetes. (Read More)
Nicole Purcell lists having type 1 diabetes last when she's asked to provide information about herself - because that's where it belongs. (Read More)