I'm Jeremy, a Type 1 diabetic who loves to backpack around the world — and inspire others to do the same. What are you waiting for?
Going to the places that most trekkers avoid can yield fascinating treasures and experiences that make you want to scream to the world, "HEY! Everyone look at this! Does anyone else know about this?!" That was our aim as Masayo and I decided to spend our next extended backpacking trip in the "other" Europe. To save money and see something unusual, we decided to avoid Western Europe (Germany, France, Italy, etc) and check out Eastern Europe. We gave ourselves three months, worked out the budget, and began saving every penny. In the end, we actually spent over four months in the area, and still didn't get to all the places we'd planned. In the final analysis, our trip took us to: Sweden, Åland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Kosovo, Macedonia, Albania, Montenegro, Croatia (again) and Norway. I blogged every single day here, with photos and descriptions of our experiences. I also included a lot of...
Today Masayo and I left the coastal town of Ulcinj, Montenegro, bound for the capital city, Podgorica. My BGs were pretty excellent all day long. When I got up in the morning, I was 84. Masayo made hard boiled eggs, and we had cereal with some juice. (The juice was actually part of my low BG snack, but I thought it would be nice to split it for breakfast. Maybe the vitamins in it will help perk Masayo up.) We checked out, and the guy who owned the place not only gave us a bottle of chilled white wine, but offered us a ride to the bus station. Great! I don't know anything about wine, and have rarely drunk it, but maybe this is my chance. Masayo said even she would like to try a glass of it. The guy dropped us off at the station and we thanked him and went in to buy our tickets. The bus wasn't leaving for about 45 minutes, and as we sat down to wait, a friendly cat jumped into Masayo's lap and rested there while she wrote in her diary. The bus came on time, and we got on. The ride was nice, through the town of Bar and then through the low-lying areas north of Lake Shkodra, part of which lies in Albania to the south. After a while I realized I was probably low, and checked to verify (always verify!). I was right: 57. I ate some Twix, and watched the water and the train tracks pass by us. In Podgorica, we had a 1.5-km walk to the room we'd booked. The walk was nice; the weather was not too chilly, and sunny, and it was the middle of the afternoon. Plus, Podgorica is very small for a capital city. There seem to be no skyscrapers or large buildings, at least in the part we were in, and there is a decided small-town vibe. It reminded me of Vientiane, Laos, a similarly small capital city. We checked into the room, and I was very impressed. It was on the cheap side, as are all of our rooms, but it was really nice: a brand-new apartment, with all the furniture in top shape and all the facilities in perfect working order. It was really comfortable. Arguably
Today was a long day, and had moments of fright and moments of sheer boredom. It started in Zaječar, Serbia, where Masayo and I spent our final night in Serbia. My BG when I woke up was 181 — a little high, but better than the nonsense it was all day yesterday. We had breakfast in the hotel again, same as yesterday: three eggs, bread, and coffee. Then we walked the very short distance to the bus station and got tickets to the large transport hub of Niš, which we had passed through on our way from Kraljevo a couple days ago. It was raining again today, and the bus pushed through with its wipers working hard. We started to climb up into the mountain roads though, and I could actually see the rain turn to snow — it was at first gradual, and then it was full snow. I became concerned about the road surface: not only for ice, but for the slippery, powdery snow. It was falling fast and hard, and the vehicles were all going pretty slow. It was a tense sensation, but our driver, for what it was worth, was going pretty slow and seemed careful. I had an unending series of awful images and thoughts in my head, all of them involving a bus tumbling down a powdery white mountain. After a stressful hour or so, we finally emerged from the higher elevations; it was still snowing but the road seemed much better. We pulled into Niš; we had missed our 12:30 bus to Kosovo, but the apparently well-done website Balkanviator had said there was another one at 1:30 pm. We asked at a window about tickets, and the lady wrote down that the next bus to Kosovo was 5 pm. Well we knew that wasn't right, because the next one was 1:30. Maybe it was a different bus company? Do companies operate their own windows at this station? We found another lady, who spoke some English, and asked her. She said the next one was actually 6:00 pm! I took out my computer and showed her the page with the schedule, but she didn't recognize those bus times (nor the website). She assured us
Today was a day of movement — from Gdańsk to Malbork in northern Poland. We were leaving the Baltic coast for the last time on this trip, though only about an hour away by train. My BG at 8:00 am was 137. Very excellent after my large confusing dinner last night. We had cereal and some bread and cheese and meat from the hostel breakfast buffet (I think we were the first to eat this morning) and checked out. At the train station, Gdańsk Główny, we bought our tickets for the local train to Malbork, which was about 10 minutes late. Arriving in Malbork on time, somehow, we set out to walk to our hotel. It it about 1.5 km from the station to our place, and goes over the Nogat River. There is, however, a nice view of Malbork Castle right from our room. I usually try to find a place closer to the station to avoid walking so much, but I thought the view would be worth it. Although it was only 11:30 am, the guy at the hotel let us check in. Our room did indeed have a view over the river to the castle; it was nice. At noon we set out to go see the castle — it's a UNESCO World Heritage Site and we were excited. A wooden pedestrian bridge led over the river; on it I checked and was 208. Oops, a little high. We first found a restaurant on the edge of the castle grounds. We peeked inside, but I couldn't tell if it was open. We walked up some steps inside into a large, low-lit, dining room, then through a big door to another. There were no people, but then I noticed a waitress standing waiting. They were open! We chose a small table with a window and interesting decorations. I ordered scrambled eggs with tomotoes, and a coffee. It came with several slices of bread. I thought it would be a good complement to breakfast, and good fuel for the afternoon. I took my Humalog at the table as usual, right through my pants. (Not recommended by the way, but truly easier.) Then we went to the ticket office; the tickets were 19 zł (about $6) and came
It was time for Masayo and I to do something else after working for four years in Osaka. Time to see new things and break out of our routine. The answer of where to go was obvious: Southeast Asia! Southeast Asia is cheap, fun, and safe, and there is just enough infrastructure to make it a reasonable place to go. It is also close to Japan, which helped the decision. Masayo agreed, and she wanted to quit her job at an international center and try online English to Japanese translating anyway. Why not do it while traveling? Beginning with a three-day layover in Taiwan in January 2008, several weeks were spent each in Malaysia, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam — basically, as long as each place would let one stay on a tourist visa. The trip ended up lasting 338 days, and only ended so we could return to Osaka, spend New Year's with Masayo's family, and plan a long trip through China. Style of travelSince this was a "wide open" trip — it had no ending date or itinerary...
When you lose your way or really need help badly, you'll often encounter a kind of real magic when traveling: the kindness of strangers who are eager to help. After almost a month in the capital Kuala Lumpur, Masayo and I decided it was time to see more of Malaysia and had got bus tickets to the nearby town of Kuala Selangor. But we missed the stop — you're supposed to tell the driver when you want to get off, but we didn't know that, and as far as we could tell just shot by the town. The friendly driverAfter a few miles, during which Masayo and I tried to figure out if we had indeed done so, I asked the driver "Kuala Selangor?" and he pulled over to the side of the road, stepping off the bus with us. We tried to communicate with him, though he spoke no English: from what we could understand, we had missed the town; he couldn't turn around; but there was a bus station up ahead we could try. Then he actually started walking down the road with us — his other passengers still sitting in the idling bus! Eventually he passed us off to an older woman with a headscarf who had also gotten off the bus; she said she'd show us the way. We thanked the driver and he returned to his vehicle and pulled away. The friendly ladyThe woman spoke a little English, enough to invite us to stay at her place if necessary. But as we neared a busier-looking area, a middle-aged guy in a white car pulled up. He and the woman spoke a couple minutes, and then it was decided that he would drive us back to Kuala Selangor. Masayo and I and our bags got in. We smiled and thanked the older lady, who walked off down the sidewalk. The friendly boxer (well, sorta)His name was Muhammad Ali — he was a government worker and had just finished work, showing us the ID badge he was still wearing. (I wondered if he was showing it to us to assuage fears we might have, or if he was confirming he really did share the name of a famous boxer.) He said he had seen us gesticulating with the bus
It's the very first day of a long trip. After weeks of planning and increasingly delirious excitement, I've finally reached the first destination of my great Southeast Asia backpacking trip: Taipei, Taiwan. I'm all alone in this big, new city, I don't speak or read the language, and it's dark on a Saturday evening. Although I've traveled many times before, I am still struck by the mild shock of actually doing this — it feels like I'm on a tightrope, without a net. Actually, I have a small net: I've already reserved a room for tonight online, at the Taiwan Hostel Happy Family. Besides the train from the airport into town, this would be my real first dive into the trip. A room in a hostel, how much more backpack-y can you get! I checked in and was shown to my room — it was a private room, but with a community toilet and shower. Tonight was the first night I've been outside of my own apartment in Osaka in a long, long time. And I wasn't going back any time soon. My room here in the hostel was small but cozy enough — functional, at least — with bright red walls and a jumble of wooden furniture. There were bunk beds; I opted for the top. There were no other people in this part of the hostel and I seemed to have the entire building to myself. The shower stall incidentThat evening, something happened. There was a moment as I took my first Taiwanese shower that I was truly hit with the reality of what I was doing with my life for the next several months: a little realization of what I'd begun. And it may seem like a small thing, but it wasn't. The shower facilities at this hostel were a row of four stalls in the hallway, made of cheap white plastic. I got in the last one; I had with me a Ziploc bag with toothbrush, toothpaste, and soap, plus a towel. After taking my clothes off I saw that there were no shelves or handy surfaces — nowhere to put my supplies or my towel and clothes while I bathed. And that was it: the moment I was struck with
There was a tense and grave atmosphere at Backpackers Travellers Inn, my hostel in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, when my new traveler friends and I returned from dinner. A new traveler had checked in, and she was acting highly agitated. Since my friends were Japanese, and I'd been living in Japan, and the woman only spoke Japanese, the guy working the hostel desk asked us to go up to her room and check on her. It turns out that the woman, traveling alone until her husband joined her in a few days, had been scammed out of some money by a guy she met on the sidewalk, on the very day she arrived in Kuala Lumpur. One Japanese woman and I went up to her room. Shame-faced, she told us the story from earlier that afternoon. How the scam went downWalking along the street between Chinatown and Little India, the woman was approached by a local guy who spoke Japanese. He said his friend was visiting Japan and would love to meet her; she agreed to get in the guy's car and go to his house. Already I was dumbfounded: who gets into a stranger's car in a strange new city?! I know Japan is very safe and people there can have an overdeveloped sense of trust, but getting into a stranger's car would be bizarre even in Japan; things do happen. It gets worse though. At the guy's house was another guy and a woman; the supposed Japan-visiting friend would be coming later. After some small talk someone suggested they play a card game. Betting money on the games, the Japanese tourist was winning at first, but soon started losing. She had handed over quite a lot of cash, but still owed them hundreds of dollars. She and the gang all went to an ATM together so she could get the rest of "their" money, and finally (finally!) at this point she started to get suspicious. Feigning trouble with her card, she told them where she was staying and said they could come by later for the remainder of their winnings. They left and she came to the hostel. By now it was 11:00 pm and the people hadn't come
As a Type 1 diabetic, I think having good blood sugar is very important and makes one feel much better day to day, not to mention the importance of avoiding unnecessary complications. And I like the place I'm living in: Osaka, Japan. So I made a list of places within Osaka Prefecture from A to Z — one place for each letter. I will go to each location and take a picture of myself, holding my BG machine with a reading on it. Rules of "Osaka A to Z"- The BG reading has to be between 70 and 130 mg/dL. - The BG reading should be current, taken at the spot. What's the point?- To have fun and go to places I wouldn't have gone otherwise. - To remind and inspire other Type 1 diabetics — maintaining good blood glucose is important and makes you feel much better. The photos will all be taken with my iPhone 4. I'm not a camera person, and the quality seems to be good enough, and the phone is very convenient. I have a tripod that I can mount the iPhone on for (hopefully) better photos. The...
Location: Q's Mall BG: 117 mg/dL (6.5 mmol/L) "Q" is a hard-to-come-by letter in Japan; when transliterating Japanese into English, there is no Q (it would be ku with a K). But there is a place with the English name "Q's Mall", so I think that's as good a place as any. It's one of Osaka's many huge, soulless centers of crassly overpriced clothing stores and curiously unusable trinkets — but there is a big "Q" on the side of the building. Fits in well with the 70-130 photo project. So on this day, after my work finished around 5:00 pm, I checked and was 111, so I decided to ride the train to Tennoji and get a BG photo at Q's Mall. '111' was a new number that I don't yet have in my project; I was trying to save strips so I decided I would use that reading, even though it would be a half hour old or so. I had brought my iPhone tripod, and once at Q's Mall I set up the shot in a thankfully not-too-busy place outside. I decided to check again — it was 117, so I used that number because it's also new. The shot was good; the lighting was perfect and by chance I framed it and balanced it all well. Project's coming along nicely! Just nine more to go
Location: Ikune Shrine (生根神社) BG: 79 mg/dL (4.4 mmol/L) Ikune Shrine is a little-known place just a couple hundred feet from the far more well-known Sumiyoshi Taisha Shrine in south Osaka. It's quiet, it's out-of-the-way, and it starts with "I". Perfect for 70-130 Osaka. I woke up unaccountably high today, and went to Starbucks to have a coffee. No food. Around noon I decided to go to Ikune Shrine by bike, though it's a long way. I checked the route on Google Maps, checked some landmarks with street view so I'd know where to turn, and headed out. I enjoyed the bike ride and found the shrine without too much trouble. I felt low on the way, and stopped halfway to check. I was 80, and had a single bar of Calorie Mate as a booster. In about 10 minutes I felt better. The shrine was very quiet. I took some general pictures and video of the place, then set up a blood sugar shot with the tripod in front of a torii and some steps on the west side of the shrine. The BG was good, 79, though it took a couple tries to get a good shot where the machine was readable in the sunshine. Then I took another just inside the main entrance, with the actual shrine behind me. I actually checked again, and my BG was 94 this time. The shot was ok, but as soon as I started the video, an old man came to the front entrance and began bowing his head and praying, about 10 feet from me. The old man stayed for several minutes. I figured he had a more traditional reason to be there than I did — he was either praying for something to go well or honoring the memory of someone who had died, or something — so each of my takes had me speaking in a very low, quiet, unobtrusive voice. Just as I was finishing, a large tour group made up mostly of older people arrived; I'd finished just in time. They'd marched down the road from Sumiyoshi Taisha, their leader in front holding a triangular banner, and encircled the shrine as one. I left. Reviewing the video later, I chose the torii and
Location: Senbonmatsu Bridge (千本松大橋) BG: 125 mg/dL (6.9 mmol/L) One of my favorite things in Osaka is a large bridge in the south port area that has a triple loop on either side, and actually has a pedestrian/bike path on it. I found it by accident when I used to live nearby years ago and was biking around at random one day. I enjoy the challenge of biking up the entire loop — it's pretty steep. And the view from the top, of the ugly but oddly appealing warehouses and cranes district, is thrilling. But I never knew the name, and when I wanted to start this 70-130 Osaka diabetes project it was the first thing I looked up. It turns out it's called Senbonmatsu Ohashi — the "Great Senbonmatsu Bridge". So, it is my "S". I decided I would bike there, though I don't live anywhere close to it anymore. But hey, exercise is good. I woke up and was 132, and went to Starbucks for coffee and a piece of "latte" cake. Afterwards, unaccountably, I was 246. Whoops. I took what I thought was a reasonable dose of Humalog for it. I came home and planned my route to bike to Senbonmatsu Bridge on Google Maps. But the Humalog apparently hadn't been so reasonable, and I felt low; it was 83. Not bad but I ate a piece of Calorie Mate. I still felt low, so I ate another, in anticipation of my long bike ride. I still felt a bit low but set out anyway. At a Lawson convenience store I bought a Pocari Sweat, a sports drink which has about 30g of carbohydrates in a bottle, and ate a Calorie Mate stick. I felt quite low and was having small pangs of weakness, but rode slowly to the bridge, drinking the whole bottle. Senbonmatsu Bridge is kind of big and it's hard to get it all in a single shot — I need some kind of professional photography crew to help with framing and logistics or something. So I tried various points — halfway up a loop, on top, with and without a fence behind me, etc. At each place I re-checked my finger. That's dedication. The first was 94;