Recently I took a trip to Fiji in the South Pacific on a Christian mission trip through my high school, Santa Fe Christian in San Diego, CA. While a trip to this part of the world is normally viewed as vacation paradise, there are more than 250,000 people in the Fijian Islands that live in poverty and many more live on or just above the poverty line. In order to make an impact, we had to fully immerse ourselves into the Fijian culture. Our goal was to help and enrich the Christian faith with the Fijian people. I've traveled many places, but this was going to be a very long trip. And of course, when traveling with type 1 diabetes you need to bring back-ups for everything and then even back-ups for your back-ups.
Making Adjustments while Traveling
However, being fully immersed in the Fijian culture made it more difficult to manage my type 1 diabetes. There was a constant battle between my low and high blood sugars. I did not encounter anyone with type 1 diabetes, but the older population is aware of type 2 diabetes. They were really surprised when I showed them how I administer my insulin intake by using my Omnipod insulin pump. They were all very curious and interested in how it works, and I was happy to explain it all. One of the more difficult parts of the trip was adjusting to all of the different foods that I was not used to eating and trying to count carbohydrates. Although at first it was a challenge, I was there long enough to fully adjust to the eating habits of the Fijian lifestyle.
Another challenge was that every day I would leave our house early in the morning and be extremely active all throughout the day. I would not return to the house until late in the afternoon. In a place where resources for food and juice are limited, I had to bring enough supplies and food to last me the whole day - and even some more back-up supplies. However, this process has made me more responsible now for wherever I travel. I learned on this trip that it’s important to always bring back-ups just in case something unexpected happens.
Embracing My Diabetes
It's hard to keep something like type 1 diabetes discreet, especially when it is such a big part of your life. Over the years I have learned to embrace type 1 diabetes, because it is a part of me and such a huge factor in my life. That is why I was so open to telling the people on my trip about it and sharing how my Omnipod makes my life so much easier!
Big trips like this used to scare me, because of the responsibilities that come with traveling and immersing yourself in a foreign culture. I am thankful for this experience and am more comfortable now traveling alone. In new environments that you are not used to, it can be difficult to maintain stable blood sugar levels, but this fear shouldn't hold you back from traveling with diabetes.
While type 1 diabetes will always be a part of my life, this trip engrained in me that I can still do everything I want to do in life. You just have to be responsible and ready to take on the challenge!
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