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Travelling with diabetes — Personal story

travellerMark is 31 years old, works as a physiotherapist and is a seasoned traveller. Mark has had diabetes "live with him" for 19 years and currently administers insulin via an insulin pump.

About Mark

When Mark was 22 he set off on a 2 year European adventure on a work visa. He certainly made the most of this time and his new found freedom by exploring many countries including England, Scotland, France, Spain, Germany, Norway, Sweden, Portugal, Italy, Malta, Croatia, Hungary, Belgium, Netherlands, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Switzerland, Austria, Monaco, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Poland and Turkey!

Getting off the beaten track

Since his first adventure at a very young age he has had the opportunity to back pack through South America, North America, Asia and Northern Africa on a couple of different big trips from 2009 until 2012. His favourite part of travelling is ‘getting off the beaten track’ especially in continents like South America and Asia. He describes these countries as offering wonderful countryside and undiscovered little villages that home incredibly genuine, friendly and welcoming people. These people are usually very poor. Mark believes that these experiences make you realise that you can live a very simple life but also be very happy.

Enjoying active adventures

During his travels Mark has trekked the Everest base camp in Nepal, Machu Picchu in Peru and an amazing 6000m in the Andes in Bolivia. He has surfed in Norway and the Philippines, snowboarded in Canada, USA, Norway and Switzerland and sailed in Croatia. He has also been deep sea diving in Columbia and mountain scrambling on Volcano’s in Peru and Columbia!

His favourite travel destination

This is a hard one for Mark to answer, as you can imagine. He loves Columbia for its incredible variety (stunning Caribbean coast, amazon jungle/basin, Andes mountains, huge volcanos, coffee fiends and amazing people), and Nepal for its sheer vastness and beauty of the Himalayas and simple living. On the whole for continents he loves South America for the pure variety of landscapes, amazing cultures and people... plus the food!

Mark's advice for those keen travellers

“Just do it!! As long as you are prepared when you go, even with major unexpected circumstances you should be fine with your diabetes control and supplies.“

How Mark prepares for his travels

When preparing for a trip Mark believes that the most important thing without doubt is thorough preparation before you head off. Before he heads off overseas he always follows this simple checklist.

Mark's checklist for traveling

  1. Very simply, take at least double everything you think you may need (2 finger prickers, double pump consumables, batteries, double the insulin etc.)
  2. Have back up for your insulin delivery: I take a couple of insulin pens and supplies in case something unforeseen happens with my pump...which has happened before. I had one pickpocketed (somehow!?) at a party in Brazil.
  3. When travelling on planes take all of your insulin on board with you to avoid the insulin freezing or getting too cold in the cargo section.
  4. When travelling I always keep my diabetes gear separated between my main travel pack/locker and day-pack so that if one bag gets stolen or lost you always have a full supply elsewhere.
  5. Use your insulin / diabetes consumables evenly between your two supplies incase you lose one lot and the other is very low.
  6. I am aware it is recommended to keep your insulin refrigerated whenever possible and I agree with this, but I want to share that on two trips over 12 months I've kept my insulin unrefrigerated (due mainly to no regular availability) in insulated lunch boxes from the supermarket and insulin efficiency has not changed at all. You still need to be aware of avoiding extreme temperatures at both ends of the spectrum of course.
  7. Also be aware that if you are going to be in England for an extended amount of time, you can register with a doctor there and through the NHS get free insulin and diabetes consumables.
  8. Because my pump is Medtronic, I also have a couple of cards with contact offices around the world and their phone numbers, and also carry the email of my Australian contact person.

Additional information