DiabetesPortrait

Portrait – Sara : “To travel or not isn’t the question”

Sara standing in front of a building in winter

The testimonies published on our blog are original stories. They are intended to inspire people living with chronic disease, to show them that it is possible to live their dreams beyond the borders and their illness, and to overcome any existing difficulties or fears. These stories are also intended to raise awareness among their loved ones, and more broadly among people, about the reality experienced by these strong women and men who overcome many challenges related to their illness or treatment in their daily life. If you would like to share your experience, feel free to reach us at !

It’s been sixteen years since I’ve been diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. Fifteen years since I found out that I also have celiac disease. My name is Sara, I’m 25 years old and sometimes I still lose count of all the years I lived with those chronic illnesses. I prefer not to think of them as such, though: diabetes is something to regulate, celiac disease is something to be careful about. At the end of the day, it seems simple enough. And yet it’s something I had to consider whenever I wanted to travel.

 

I live in Slovenia and there is plenty to see here, but I have always wanted to travel more, see the world, discover new things. I have a list of places I want to visit and a list of those I already did. 

 

It doesn’t really matter whether it’s a one day trip or something longer – when you are a person living with diabetes, even the simplest plan can turn into something else. That is especially true for me during the holiday season: it’s the time to be jolly, and I love visiting places to see the decorations and enjoy the spirit of the holidays. I always pack extra everything and am calm for a few hours before the small voice in the back of my head starts worrying. Am I prepared for the worst case scenario? Do I have enough of everything? What happens if I pass out in some strange place? If my sugars gets low? Then there are the worries connected to the celiac disease: will I be able to find something to eat? Will it be safe? But will it really be safe? How much food do I actually bring with? I always make sure to triple check it all, but it’s hard to find information – and not even google translate can help when it comes to information that is only written in a language I’m not familiar with and the translator will only offer a weird variation of the information I’m trying to understand. 

 

My longest stay abroad was in the Netherlands, Amsterdam. It’s been five weeks of anxiety and sorting things out until I actually realized that Amsterdam is beautiful and worrying myself over my sugars isn’t worth it. After that, I relied on myself more – I feel my lows and highs and after a few trips to the store it was also easy to find food, so things were much better after that. I stayed in Croatia for a couple of weeks here and there, mostly during the summertime because it’s close enough to Slovenia and everyone goes there However, their health system is complicated and a lot of water activities messed with my sites a lot. I’ve also been to Austria, Hungary, Germany and Italy. I always worried. I don’t eat meat, can’t eat gluten and won’t eat dairy products. Add the stress of travelling to that and it’s easy to imagine why my sugars were all over the place. 

 

Coping with all that isn’t always easy. The most important thing is to stay calm (I tell myself that and fail, repeatedly – but then I try again, and again, mostly to try and figure it out). But people travel every day. It’s been a while since I decided I can’t let myself stop me: luckily, we live in a time where English language is pretty well known in most places and I learned that as long as I make a lot of hand gestures, people will figure out what I want. Sometimes it takes a little extra time. Sometimes it doesn’t. 

 

What would make me calmer while traveling? I often dream about people labelling things properly as far as food goes, or maybe places to have a better understanding of what it means that food is contaminated with gluten for someone that has celiac disease. It’s the little things, but food seems like such an important part of a person’s life that you simply cannot trust people without asking all the questions. Sure, you might seem annoying, but knowing what your food’s contact with gluten can do to you it seems only rational.


Besides, life isn’t always predictable. You can be at home and something will go wrong – or you can be on the other side of the world. It’s always smart to think ahead. Sure, you might end up carrying way too many things with you, but the other scenario is that you run out of something – and that might be worse in many cases.

Either way, you should not let anything stop you from doing what you want to do. Because at the end of the day, you will regret things you did not do more than those you did. Research the destination, connect with people and most importantly: enjoy.

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