My Diabetes Kit Miss Jen Grieves




continued over


Earlier this year I was

lucky enough to head to

South Africa for work for

a month (I know, tough

gig…) I couldn't resist

the opportunity to add a few weeks

onto the end to explore this fascinating

country. But in 22 years of living with

Type 1 diabetes, this would mark my

first proper stint as a backpacker. Which

gave me a lot to think about, not least

because I didn't even own a backpack

when I booked my flights…

Say yes, figure it all out later. This

is generally my mantra for life, and it's

served me well for the most part. But

WOW there's a lot of figuring out to do to

set off safely on a backpacking trip with

a chronic condition. I've been fortunate

to have had many mad, incredible and

bizarre experiences in my life, but I've also

made enough mistakes along the way to

know that Type 1 diabetes is fine until it's

not fine, and I didn't want 'not fine' to be

hundreds of feet above sea level with only

my echoing cries for company. Dramatic,


I will happily declare that I was

incredibly nervous as I approached this

trip. Travelling with Type 1 can seem

daunting, and possibly even risky, but

I'm here with my feet and my busted

pancreas back in the UK, to say that it's

absolutely worth it.

In the moment

I hiked, canoed, swam and even

paraglided my way across South Africa's

stunning Garden Route, and made

memories that will stay with me for life.

I met people from all over the world,

sharing bedrooms with them as well as

buses, bathrooms and oceans. I climbed

mountains, witnessed breathtaking

scenery and got close to elephants, lions

and even a whale. Did I have hypos? Yes.

Did I have to think about my diabetes? Of

course, a lot of the time. But did it dictate

my experience? Not in the slightest.

What I learnt from this adventure

was that it's all in the planning. Allowing

yourself adequate time to figure out what

you need to take with you (and how

you're going to carry it) will make for a

much smoother, less scary experience

once you're miles away from home and

out of your comfort zone. I was adamant

that I wanted to be fully immersed in

all the incredible experiences as they

happened, not feeling frantic about using

up all my glucose strips. Thanks to a bit

of diligent planning, my trip was about the

adventure, not about my Type 1.

I started making a list of everything I

would need a couple of months ahead

of my departure date, adding random

things as and when I thought of them. I

soon clocked that this was not a packing

job I could leave until the last minute, as

is my usual approach. I had to make an

appointment with my GP, for instance, to

ask for surplus supplies of test strips and

insulin outside of my normal prescription.

I ordered some Libre sensors, which took

four weeks to arrive. The sheer quantity

of Omnipods I had to carry with me was

quite something. There were insulin vials,

insulin cartridges, backup injections just

in case, spare glucose meters, hypo

fixes… all taking up precious room in my

backpack that ideally would have allowed

for extra dresses. But by removing a

lot of the packaging, and stuffing test

strips in shoes and socks, I saved a fair

amount of space - and weight. Supplies

and equipment are getting smaller and

smaller, so lugging all my kit around was

not as laboured as it would have been just

a couple of decades ago.

Feeling secure

Airport security I know makes a lot of

people feel nervous. I thankfully have

never had an issue here - airport staff

see all sorts of medical devices every

single day. I always carry a doctor's note

outlining my condition and the supplies

I need to carry, and if the scanner does

go off when I walk through, I always flag

that I have an insulin pump on before I

get a closer inspection. Oh, I NEVER put

my diabetes supplies in the hold - just in

case my luggage goes walkies! Once I've

landed however, I do split my supplies

into different bags to make sure it can't all

get lost at once.

Along the route, I kept my insulin

in a Frio cooling wallet (a god-send in

hot countries) and made sure that any

supplies I didn't take out on day trips

were stored in a padlocked locker (most

hostels offered these, but don't forget


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