Diabetes on the Road

I’ve spent a good portion of my adult life on the road as a musician. Music performance is not my only occupation (I also have a regular teaching gig and freelance recording work here and there), but it’s rare that any month will go by without at least some time spent on the road. And while the road can be fun — seeing new places, meeting new people, and getting the opportunity to perform along the way — it can also present some challenges for someone with diabetes.

Of course, most of you probably don’t travel this often — and when you do, you’re probably flying (not driving) to a single destination. And you’re probably not playing shows every evening causing you to get to sleep at an average time of 3 or 4 AM! So if I can keep myself balanced traveling by van along the interstates of America (and sometimes Canada), it’s a safe bet that you can do it when you travel, too.


1. Have a list
I have a packing list on my phone so that each time I travel I’m not “reinventing the wheel.” It’s the basics that I know I’ll need for any travel situation. And I’ve divided my list into two categories: 1) what I literally can’t live without, and 2) what I CAN live without. List number one is all diabetes supplies — insulin, extra insulin, tester, test strips, extra test strips, glucagon, needles (or in my case, pen needle caps), glucose tablets for my pockets, and extra bottle(s) of glucose tablets for my backpack. List number two is still fairly essential stuff — clothes, for instance. But list number one is the stuff that I require to sustain my life and treat potentially life-threatening emergencies. I can buy an extra shirt if I forgot to pack it; if I’m low on the road and we’re not near any restaurant or gas station, no sugar might mean a coma!

2. Make sure your traveling companions are informed
I wrote another blog entry not too long ago about what your inner circle of friends should know about diabetes — in particular, what they need to know about hypoglycemia (low blood glucose) and what do to about it. This same information should apply to ANYONE you will be traveling with. They need to understand what a low blood sugar looks like, what is likely to cause it, and what to do about it. My bandmates know what my glucagon pen looks like. They know where I keep it. They’ve been instructed in how to use it. And they understand what to do if they notice I’m loopy and not making sense — get me 30–40 grams of sugar and tell me to test!!

3. Carry some snacks
This one might not necessarily apply if the travel in question is a short afternoon flight from home to your single destination. But if you’re traveling on the road the way I do, particularly for long stretches of time, you should have some snacks. For me, it’s all about breakfast. You see, if I wake up and then proceed to not eat for the next three hours, my blood sugar has a tendency to trend high. So skipping breakfast doesn’t work for me. The guys in the band, however, usually don’t eat until lunch, sometime around 2 PM. That means I’ve either got to have everyone stop so I can eat, or I need something I can munch on in the van. I have found that I don’t need a lot of food. A granola bar is all I need, but I do need something.

As someone with diabetes, you probably have similar needs. They might not be the same as mine, of course. But the point is, you should have a bit of food with you so that you can eat when and if your body needs it. The schedule on the road is seldom stable, and even with fast-acting insulin and pumps, maintaining a relatively stable routine is still a good idea for us Diabetians.

Enjoy your trip
This blog entry was dedicated to the absolute essentials for road survival. We didn’t talk about exercise, mindfulness practices, or healthy eating. All of these things are important, but we can survive a week without jogging or meditating. And while we might find ourselves eating out far more on the road than we do at home, as people with diabetes, we KNOW how to find the healthy options on just about any menu.

Diabetes presents a set of unique demands and challenges for us on the road, but as you can see, it doesn’t have to stop us. We can navigate this life just fine, as long as we come prepared. And nobody knows how to come prepared like a Diabetian. Happy trails!

Getting the flu vaccine may reduce the risk of death and hospitalization for certain cardiovascular conditions in people with Type 2 diabetes, according to new research. Bookmark DiabetesSelfManagement.com and tune in tomorrow to learn more.