At some point on every extended journey, something is bound to go wrong. It might be a health complication. It might be a financial miscalculation. Whatever it is, every traveler hits a road bump at some point, a place where it’s easy to call it quits and call off the rest of the trip. I hit mine on Valentine’s Day.
I had to go to the bathroom. I’m not referring to some single occasion when I suddenly felt the need to relieve myself. I mean for 2 months, I always had to go to the bathroom. I was drinking more fluids than I had ever consumed before, and I was constantly running to the men’s room. I felt fine and it didn’t feel all that strange, but it should have.
With each day that passed, I was wasting away. At first, my wife and I didn’t notice the slight differences in weight. But then they weren’t so slight, and I was dropping weight fast. At the time, Cassie and I had been traveling for 3 months, having been through Europe, Kenya, and Israel. We were used to life on the road and all of its little hiccups.
But when I finally stepped on a scale in Nepal, about 7 weeks after I started to show symptoms of incredible thirst, I had dropped 45 pounds. I had gone from 225 to 180. A bit overweight to drastically underweight. I’ll spare you the details of the next few days since this is going to end up an inspiring post, but I was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes at the age of 31 in Pokhara, Nepal. The diagnosis came on Valentine’s Day. I ended up spending that night – and the next 3 nights – in a hospital in the middle of nowhere in Nepal. I was almost exactly halfway around the world from my family. I could not have been farther from home.
This was my road bump. This was where I could call it quits.
After 4 nights in one hospital and 2 more in another, I was finally cleared to fly home. I loved every moment of seeing my friends and family. I could’ve easily called off the rest of the trip – about 5 months including Southeast Asia, China, Japan, and South America. No one would’ve questioned my decision. I had just been diagnosed with a life-changing disease that I needed time to learn about. Yet that felt like the easy way out. I would’ve already let my disease define my life instead of the other way around.
It took 31 days. We visited doctors, got medicine, learned about diabetes, and then made the decision to get back on the road. I knew I had a lot more to learn (and I still do!), but I am vigilant about my insulin and my blood sugar, and we’re trying to turn a negative into a positive. Did it take a bit of courage? Yes. Did it take some proverbial cojones? Absolutely. It wasn’t a simple decision to get back on the road, but it’s one I’m thrilled I made.
I never once asked, “Why did this happen to me?” It happened. That’s all I need to know. Other people have far more serious diseases or conditions than I do. My disease is totally manageable. In a way, I should feel lucky that I have one of the most treatable diseases on earth.
It would be easy to say “I have Type 1 Diabetes, and I can’t do extended travel.” It really would be easy. But that’s not who I am, and that’s certainly not who my wife and I are. I made the decision early on that I would not let diabetes change my life. And that meant getting back on the road, just with less chocolate milk. My wife was with me every step of the way through my recovery, learning about diabetes as I learned. She has been my rock, and she keeps tabs on my blood sugar numbers just like I do.
Whatever reason it is that you’re not traveling, dismiss this reason. There’s too much to see out there to let anything stand in your way. Are there legitimate reasons not to travel? Yes, of course. But too often, the people staying at home don’t have any of those reasons. It’s convenient to stay at home, so they do.
I took my diagnosis and turned it into a new portion of our website, Traveling with Diabetes. If I can inspire one person with diabetes or another disease to get out there and explore the world, then I am thrilled (If you are this person, send me an email!). I’m certainly no hero or anything like that. My goal is simply to live the life I want to live, and I’ve done everything I can to make that happen (Studying harder when I was younger would certainly have helped, but there’s nothing I can do about that now).
I believe there are ways around nearly every challenge that stands in the way of traveling. Yes, there are even ways to travel if you don’t have a big budget. There are plenty of excuses not to travel. It’s very simple to say things like “Travel is too expensive” and “My career is too important” and “It’s too dangerous to travel.” Don’t make these excuses. The world is calling. Will you answer?