Tag Archives: adventure

Defeat via Gender?

I just finished reading an amazing book, The Places in Between, about an adventure taken by a young man through Afghanistan in 2002, right after the Taliban fell. He decides to follow the famous Emperor Babur’s footsteps, walking across Afghani terrain to Kabul. Weaving the tale with threads of personal anecdote, history and observations of another culture, Rory Stewart’s adventure held my attention captive. He tells of evenings sitting with men discussing local politics and religion; moments of possible danger, trying to understand the motives of individuals, what the best answer to a question would be given the region and religion; he tells of moments of loneliness, uncertainty, and ultimately triumph when he accomplishes his goal. I looked forward to sitting down to read a chapter during a quiet period, holding a cup of tea close, taking in each scene he portrayed, the emotions he felt, the physical difficulties he endured.

 

What made him successful? Firstly, Rory’s knowledge of the language, culture and religion was of great importance in his journey, enabling him to get out of several very dangerous situations. Secondly, he is generally in good health, although experiencing some sickness on the trip. Finally, he is a man. In an Islamic society, I highly doubt a single woman, no matter her nationality, would be able to take such a journey alone. At one village, Rory describes that the women had never left that village, not to even visit a neighboring one. A woman traveler therefore might be at constant danger from local men who believe it is wrong for a woman to walk alone. As Rory often slept in mosques or village leader’s houses, there might not be a place for her to sleep, as she might not be welcomed.

 

While reading his memoir, I felt a certain sadness, due to the fact that I don’t think it would be possible for me to complete a similar trip. I’ve had almost a year of travel and living in new cultures, but my travels have stayed within certain limits. I was never in a place where I couldn’t get food or water, or where my safety was continuously threatened, or where my gender put me at a larger disadvantage.

But there are two strikes against me completing a similar journey to Rory’s: the first, having T1 diabetes. This is a huge logistical challenge, requiring a lot of attention and dedication, but can be overcome. But the second challenge, that of being female, is much more difficult to more beyond. As a woman, I am unsure I would be able to walk alone for hundreds of miles across an Asian, Middle Eastern or African state without putting myself in extreme danger, simply due to my gender.

 

Working so hard to pursue the dreams that motivate me, I have been able to overcome the challenges of Type 1 Diabetes in moving to Kenya, traveling solo in different countries and cultures, and learning about my body and limits. So how can something as basic as gender be the Achilles heel of adventures?

 

 

Weighing T1

Backpacking around Europe, Asia, New Zealand, Latin America, Australia, or the US is an amazing adventure, rocked with incredible experiences, questionable moments, and of course, the excitement of seeing new things, meeting new and different people, and the ability to grow and learn from these experiences. I have read a lot of blogs that talk about what and how to pack into your pack, in order to have enough stuff (i.e. underwear), the right items (like the REI fast dry towel), and not too many items weighing you down (do you really need to pack a second pair of tennis shoes?)! These girls (and a few boys) have the perfect-pack down; their bag is beautifully packed, perfectly minimizing clothing, shoes, toiletries, cameras, journals, and a yoga pad into a 40-liter backpack.

 

I would love to tell you that I too carry a 40-liter pack only weighing 15kg… but I don’t. I carry a 60-liter pack, weighing closer to 22kg. Why? Because months worth of pump and testing supplies takes up a lot of room, and weight. When having to carry them on your back for miles through airports, train stations, and twisting streets in search of a hostel, I’ve learned that things like test strips are surprisingly heavy! But, of course, a little extra struggling is worth the opportunity, and even gives me a bit of extra cardio exercise each day (there is always a silver lining). But here is how I pack my T1 supplies, in order to minimize the space it takes up, so I too can pack minimize my clothing, shoes, toiletries, cameras, journals, and my diabetes supplies into my 60-liter pack.

 

1. Take all pump sets, reservoirs, test strips out of boxes, and tightly repackage into 1-liter Ziploc bags. I get about 16 sets per bag, and can get up to 50 reservoirs into a bag. (The edges of pump site packages can rip through thin plastic, so try to find thicker plastic re-sealable bags).

2. When initially flying out of the US to Kenya in fall 2013, I left the insulin vials in the prepackaged box, with a sticker of the prescription on each box. Once I had arrived, I unpacked the insulin vials into my Frio-packs to keep them cool (as I have not had a fridge to store the insulin in). I have since traveled with all my insulin/diabetes supplies, and have not had a problem with the vials in the frio-pack. I simply carry a letter from my doctor in case any TSA official stops me and asks me about this.

3. In my big pack, at the very top, I stick the same letter from my doctor, saying I’m allowed to be traveling with needles, insulin, test strips etc. I put it in face up, so the very first thing a TSA official searching the pack will see is this letter, explaining why I am carrying 200 needles and other drug paraphernalia.

4. I prefer to carry all insulin and test strips in my carry on while traveling… in case my pack gets lost in transit, I can usually find a way to get needles in the country I am in, either in a pharmacy, or a hospital. Insulin and test strips are different, as some countries only have some brands, and usually, they are very expensive to buy in the places I’ve been and asked (Kenya, Italy, France). I feel more comfortable knowing I have the insulin and strips on me, as I have more ability to keep track of a carry on.

5. If you are nervous about supplies getting stolen while staying in a hostel, book hostels that specifically have lockers, and carry your own padlock. This way, you can lock up your supplies, and feel comfortable while you are traveling around a city, enjoying the traveling more. And bringing your own padlock means you don’t have to rent one, saving yourself 2 euro!

6. Buy local, cheaper, snacks for lows. I keep a small baggie of glucose tabs in my day pack in case I ever get into a jam (which is also my carry on), but I save these for emergencies, such as having a low while trying to go through a very long airport security line, and not having any juice or ability to buy anything without getting out of line and starting the 2 hour wait all over again.

 

 

Happy T1 Travels!