If I Knew Then: Traveling with Diabetes.
I wish I had known, years ago, that blaming diabetes for my lack of travel experiences was a stupid excuse. Sure, I didn’t backpack around Europe after college for a dozen different reasons, with the need to work a structured job immediately after school was done so that I could have medical insurance to cover all my diabetes shit, but I could have figured it out. I let the fear win on that one, allowing fear of flying and fear of debt and fear of trying something new keep me grounded.
I wish I had known that fear is good. It’s good to be scared. It’s good to step outside of my teeny little bubble of Rhode Island and explore the world. It’s good to be scared of flying and still do it in pursuit of adventure and experience. It’s good to see something outside of my own zip code, which is why I find myself on the move as often as possible.
I wish I had known that I had options when it came to traveling with diabetes. It’s perfectly acceptable for me to put my insulin pump in my purse when I go through security. It’s okay for me to wear it as I pass through the metal detector. I can opt out of conventional screening and ask for a pat down. I can also decide to buck the whole system and go back to injections while I travel. The choice is MINE. And it took me along time to realize my rights as a traveling PWD.
Same with decisions made while traveling! I wish I had known that diabetes doesn’t always have to dictate. Traveling for a formal event and the diabetes hardware simply doesn’t fit the way you want? Ditch it. And I also need to recognize that wearing my devices while traveling might afford some excellent advocacy opportunities. It’s not all bad.
I wish I had known the importance of packing smart. I will bring enough socks and underwear to last me the duration of my travels, but I’ll pack enough diabetes supplies to cover any circumstance. It seems like too much, but I bring pump supplies and insulin pens in case I want to go back to injections (or if my pump fails). I always have glucose tabs and snacks. My shoulder might ache from the weight of my carry-on, but I’m prepared for just about anything, diabetes-wise.
I wish I had known that my blood sugar would respond to my flight anxiety, and I needed to find ways to manage that anxiety in a healthy way. I should have brought yarn on the plane with me years ago. It does wonders for my mindset and now I have better blood sugars and a collection of wonky scarves to give away to flight attendants at the close of my flight.
I wish I had known to stick a slip or two of medical tape into my wallet when on the road. You never know when you, or a loved PWD friend, might need a little sticky assistance.
I wish I had known how powerful sharing my CGM data would be when it came to traveling. I am on the road quite a bit for work and flying solo, quite literally, with my support team at home. Allowing Chris (and other loved ones) to see my data while I’m sleeping alone in hotel rooms can make all the difference in a night that’s good or tremendously bad. (Sometimes you just have to have the sharing conversation to get that ball rolling.)
And I wish I had known that all the planning and careful thought can still result in bullshit moments, like the time my bag was accidentally run over while in Paris. But again, going back to that fear thing, traveling is not about waiting for the bullshit moments to happen. It’s about best planning practices to avoid them, but being able to roll on gracefully when aforementioned shit happens.
Because there’s a whole world to be seen. And diabetes is not going to be what keeps me from seeing it.