When you think of Conde Nast and jet-setters traveling the world, you rarely think of diabetes. But Karyn Wofford, a fellow T1 D peep in Georgia, has managed to conquer that lifestyle despite the challenges of life on insulin.

She's also a trained Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) and has become active on big advocacy issues, and is now working as a professional travel writer for Luxury Travel Blog and Mother Earth Living. She's a got a pretty fascinating story and some great travel tips to share with us today. 


A Guest Post by Karyn Wofford 

I was diagnosed unexpectedly at 12 years old. While at summer cheerleading camp, I became very ill, but brushed it off as being homesick. Within a few days I had lost a lot of weight, and my coach began sitting with me at meals to ensure I was eating. When my parents picked me up, they knew something wasn’t  right, but also thought it was just being in unfamiliar surroundings. We went down to Florida the day after, and I was so thirsty and just wanted to float in the pool all day. On the way home, my mom definitely knew something was wrong—the next day I was at the Children’s hospital with blood sugar in the 500s. It was surreal.

My teenage-hood was a nightmare, I tried to hide my misunderstood illness after some cruel girls said some mean things, and even uninvited me from a birthday party. Ultimately, I was in and out of the hospital until I reached my 20s. Then I learned that I really didn’t care what people thought, and was angry at myself for putting my health at risk because of bullies. Though turbulent, those years shaped who I am, and have helped me have different perspective and approach to all those “bad” diabetics out there. It’s tough dealing with all of this, and sometimes someone just need compassion.

Deciding to become an EMT was partially decided by my diabetes.

Compassion was the main basis of my short lived EMT career—EMTs made a big difference for me when I was always in and out of the ER as a kid, and I wanted to do the same thing. Some traumatic encounters while working the job made me realize I needed to find another way to help.

 eventually becoming a wellness writer.

For a few years now, I’ve been traveling professionally, while writing about my experiences. My job sounds luxurious, and I can’t deny that it is awesome, but it takes hard work, dedication, sacrifice and intense planning, especially when diabetes is tossed in the mix.

From EMT to Health Writer

So I began writing by fluke. I was an EMT, then decided it wasn’t for me, and began using what I knew about health to fight my way into the writing industry. One thing led to another, and I starting focusing on healthy and eco-friendly travel, often incorporating my diabetic experiences while on the road.

Being a former EMT gives me a little extra comfort while traveling -- whether diabetes-related or not, I know the basics of handling an emergency. Twice so far (and let’s hope to keep it to that) I’ve had a person fall over in front of me, while not working in a hospital.

The bit I knew came in handy.

Traveling with type 1 diabetes can be challenging, or it can be a harmonious way to learn how to let go, in a healthy way. 

I travel with my husband, and could not imagine doing it without him. Sometimes I don’t hear my meter alarms, and he does. If you can, always travel with someone you trust, and who knows your condition. We go on crazy excursions, from hiking mountains, kayaking, skiing, and snorkeling to exploring wildlife in Grand Teton National Park. My husband keeps me in check, always making sure I’m okay. 


Food Challenges and Trade-Offs

To date, the most difficult trip has been to Japan. Making sure I’d have no issues entering the country with all my meds, while wondering what I’d do if I had a medical emergency while abroad loomed in my brain the days before. I bought a travel insurance plan, got a note from my doctor for my supplies, and all went smoothly.

Besides driving on the other side of the road and destroying my rental car’s tire rim, my main struggle was having to guess what was in my food—reading Japanese nutrition labels is not my strength. A tip: if you go to Japan, stick to what you know. Most type 1s can generally calculate what is in typical items like rice and veggies.

Maine was one of my more recent adventures. Fall was a gorgeous time to go, but during the summer there’s a bit more to do.

Deciding who had the best blueberry pie proved to be my biggest predicament, being that I must choose indulgences wisely. Come to find, most humble lobster shacks have the very best pie... and lobster. Whoopie pies are also a Maine classic, as are blueberry pancakes and ice cream—in my opinion, skip the Whoopie pie, they are overly sweet, average snack cakes. Do try Rococo’s Artisan Ice Cream in a pretzel cone though, and Boynton McKay in Camden has the best blueberry pancakes.

Otherwise, my sugar levels did really well with all of the shellfish and chowder.

Creating 'Meaningful Travel' with Diabetes

Diabetes always comes up when I’m on the road; it’s with me everywhere and I can’t ignore it. I can, however, come up with ways to make life easier, and our days on the road pretty much worry-free. Glucagon is my peace of mind on outlandish trips, healthy meals that don’t spike my sugar is a must, and I make sure to hydrate at every opportunity.

Oh, and I do strategically plan where the nearest bathrooms are. 

Most importantly, I’ve learned to take travel in stride -- I cannot predict what will happen, I just have to be prepared. Other than obvious supplies, I always travel with the following: Antibiotics, backup meter, extra CGM sensors, glucagon (since most airlines don’t have it on board).

No longer do I over pack insulin, especially when staying in the States, because I don’t want to risk ruining my whole supply. I pack what I know I’ll need, plus one emergency vial.

My personal blog, ParamourExplore, centers around what I like to call meaningful travel, or any trip that focuses on greater good. Last September, I flew to Indianapolis to speak on behalf of T1International about the insulin pricing crisis. We congregated outside of Eli Lilly, alongside members of PFAM, the group People of Faith for Access to Medicines. My hope is to integrate more #Insulin4All trips into what I do.

Recently, we ventured to Jackson Hole, Wyoming, to learn about the sustainability efforts and conservation of the area. I’d highly recommend Jackson Hole as a great destination for diabetic travel, due to the hyper-healthy and delicious year-round food offerings, and outdoor activity opportunities. Stay at the Alpine House -- it’s run by former Olympians, has the most charming lodge feel, and locally-sourced, made-to-order breakfasts are included every morning.

If there were a key message I’d want others in our Diabetes Community to know, it would be: Don’t let diabetes hold you back.

Seeing the world broadens the mind, and has personally helped me grow and become stronger, more educated and generally healthier. It’s been shown that traveling improves health by reducing stress and the risk of heart attack – and since that clearly can influence day-to-day diabetes management, that’s reason enough to save and book that trip you’ve been dreaming of!


Thanks for sharing, Karyn. We may not have the chance to travel as often as you do, but we're inspired and appreciative of your tips!


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