One of the biggest things people tend to overlook when referring to Diabetes is the amount of planning that goes into everything we do. It’s not so much that we can’t do any particular thing; in fact, we can do anything a non-Diabetic person can do (and in some cases, more).
But depending on the activity, we sometimes have to take a few added steps and pre-plan how things will go down. When you have Type 1 Diabetes, you often need to expect the unexpected. Im reminded of a trip I took with a friend in my early 20’s. We spent three days travelling down the Restigouche river by canoe. It was loads of fun. We started at the crack of dawn with a warm campfire and makeshift breakfast before hitting the river and spending all day paddling down the river. It was fantastic exercise, mixed with the excitement of being in the great outdoors. I had brought some glucose tablets, but on my second day down the river I hit a low that pretty had me eat through them all. I was fine, but had I suffered another low I would have been up s$%t creek, pun fully intended.
This is a perfect example of why proper planning can go a long way towards ensuring one’s safety while travelling. Long trips are one of the activities where this aspect is SO important. My family and I have driven across the country with our family vehicle twice in recent years. During those trips, I learned a great deal and I’m going to be sharing them with you. Here are my top ten things to consider when travelling long distance:
- Plan your route before you depart. You would think that this one is common sense, but you’d be surprised at how many people just hit the open road without considering the actual trip; they only look at the destination. you may know where you want to end up, but it’s important to plan a route that will bring you through populated centres and give you an opportunity to stop for the night and have access to rest stops and food;
- Tell someone your plan. Even if you’re not travelling alone, you can never predict what may happen on the open road. Be sure to let someone know where you’re going and by what route. Whether it’s family, friends, neighbours… whatever. This ensures that in the event of an emergency, someone knows where you’re going and how you’re getting there. This is similar to some sports like spelunking or sailing that require you to log a travel plan;
- Don’t travel alone. The previous point brings up my next one. Whenever possible, try not to travel by yourself. I know that speaking for myself, I always believe I can take care of myself and control my blood sugar levels. But it honestly only takes one incident to be deadly on the road;
- Take frequent breaks. Whether it’s to use the washroom or grab coffee, getting out to stretch your legs and crack your back will help to prevent unnecessary fatigue. This is a good recommendation for anyone;
- Test your blood often. When you’re taking those breaks, test your blood glucose levels. As I’ve written before, EVERYTHING affects your blood sugar levels. This means that fatigue, exhaustion, stress on the road, excitement on the road… All of it can adversely affect one’s blood glucose levels, making it important to test often;
- Eat properly and regularly. We tend to eat like trash pails when we travel. With fast food restaurants and truck stops readily available on most popular travel routes, burgers and chips can end up being a staple of long road trips. I probably shouldn’t have to explain why high-fat, high-carb foot is a bad idea when you’re sitting in a vehicle for hours on end;
- Bring supplies. This sounds redundant, but brings plenty of snacks with fast-acting carbs in case you get a low while on the road. Extra insulin and supplies are a must as well. Bring whatever supplies and sugared goods that you may require if you were to be stranded for an overnight. Better to have it than not need it. Where have I heard that before…?
- Get a good night’s rest. Look, I get it… We all get excited at the prospect of travelling and being on vacation (or whatever your reason for travelling may be). But your body requires all the same things it needs when you aren’t travelling. Make sure you have somewhere safe to stop and get your 8 hours. Your body and blood sugar levels will thank you;
- Pack an emergency kit. There are lots of sites online that can provide you with a simple list of emergency items you should be keeping in your vehicle. The Government of Canada’s “Get prepared” webpage has a decent list of basic items that should be in your vehicle on long-distance trips. That list can be found here: https://www.getprepared.gc.ca/cnt/kts/cr-kt-en.aspx
- Perform a pre-drive checklist. Do a walk around of your vehicle before hitting the road and that you have everything required while travelling. Know the laws of the Provinces you’ll be travelling through. Remember, you’re responsible for the proper condition of your vehicle and obeying all laws in every jurisdiction you travel through. Bring phone chargers and battery packs.
Some of these seem rather obvious, but even the most organized person occasionally needs a reminder. Road trips can be fun and you shouldn’t let Diabetes stand in your way of travelling. You simply need to ensure you’re properly prepared. ☯