World travel can be challenging at the best of times. Travelling and managing Type 1 diabetes can make the challenge even trickier, as recent graduate Josh Alton, 21, from Stanmore in Middlesex, has been documenting in his blog on the Diabetes UK 'My life' website over recent months.
From Eastern Europe across Asia
Kicking off the trip with a train journey across Eastern Europe last summer, Josh has since travelled on the Trans Siberian Express across Russia, Mongolia and China; taught English in a school in northern Thailand; and explored Laos, the Cameron Highlands of Central Malaysia and the jungles of Borneo. Currently in Burma (Myanmar), Josh plans to come home for a short break before taking on South America.
Managing diabetes in ever-changing environments
In his blog he describes how he manages his condition in ever-changing environments, temperatures and climates. Keeping his insulin cool, eating at regular intervals, figuring out the sugar content of unknown foods, explaining his condition to fellow travellers and ensuring his blood glucose levels are kept as normal as possible has been vital to ensure he controls his condition effectively on the road.
Surprisingly, he says: “My self-management has been better than it would’ve been at home.”
Celebrating a fellow traveller’s birthday in Russia with local quantities of vodka, Josh explains how preparation is everything: “Most times in life you live first and you are a diabetic second.
"This is one of the few times where you have to be a diabetic first and a person boozing second.”
On another occasion in Bangkok he writes: “There are three main issues: 1. The heat, 2. lots of small meals rather than one main one, and 3. what was I just eating? my sugars are thoroughly confused.”
Just go for it and enjoy yourself
Josh, however, is keen to stress throughout that diabetes should in no way be an obstacle: “As one guy told me during a trek in Northern Thailand: ‘Fail to prepare? Prepare to fail!’
"This pearl of wisdom definitely extends to travelling with diabetes my condition has not held me back from doing anything I wanted - just go for it and enjoy yourself, you will probably never have as much freedom as when you are on the open road.”
He adds: “My key tips to any person with diabetes travelling are: make sure you have enough insulin and FRIO packs to keep it cool, take a doctor’s letter explaining your condition, always carry some emergency rations with you and try to split your supplies between your bags.”