Stories from a life traveling with T1D.
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Today is Day 49!
An exhaustive, day-by-day account of a four-plus month backpacking odyssey through some of the more unknown parts of Europe. Read about every meal, insulin shot, and blood sugar check as well as the World Heritage Sites, historical areas, trains, guesthouses, and people I encountered on the road with my travel partner Masayo through Sweden, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Kosovo, Macedonia, Albania, Montenegro, and Norway.
I edited together this video of me with my OneTouch Ultra machine in some cool places across Europe.
The European trip over, Masayo and I flew from Bodø, Norway to Atlanta, Georgia on a series of three flights that took all day. My BG lingered in the 190s most of the day, but that's not bad for a day of no sleep and long flights and no exercise.
On the last full day of a 131-day trip, we sat in the freezing February cold of a long pier in northern Norway and were rewarded, finally, with a tantalizing display of the Northern Lights. They were faint, but they were there. Our trip can end now!
I woke up low and jumped around between low and high all day, but it was overall a very easy day. All we did was stay in the hotel and eat all day. Hey, everyone deserves a day off, even rambling travelers!
We spent today walking a little bit around Bodø, seeing the cathedral and the views over the water. I also managed to buy some Lantus pens without a doctor's visit from a sympathetic pharmacist.
We took a 10-hour train from Trondheim up to Bodø, above the Arctic Circle, today. My BGs were too high most of the day, but the trip itself was remarkable -- deep snow and frozen rivers and unbelievable scenery almost the entire way.
A trip on the world's most northern tram took us from Trondheim into the deep, snowy wilderness of Lian. A nap took my blood sugar to nearly 400 after dinner. Oops.
Today we walked around Trondheim, Norway a little, as Masayo shopped for yarn and we scoped out places to find a cheap (for Norway) dinner. In the evening a big snowstorm moved in before we attempted to catch the Northern Lights outside of town.
A day of airplanes led us from Croatia back to where the trip began — Scandinavia. This time it was Trondheim, Norway. My BGs were pretty good all day, considering the usual stress of flying.
You can walk around the top of the town walls in Dubrovnik and get views across Old Town and the Adriatic Sea. We did that, and my 5 BG checks weren't great but followed a weird pattern.
After yesterday we wanted to relax, and just walked around Old Town in Dubrovnik a little, but mostly relaxed and finalized our plans for Norway. My BG was too high all day, perhaps a result of my not doing anything.
What do you do when you're hiking in the middle of nowhere and are running out of low glucose food? You keep hiking, and cursing yourself for your poor preparation.
While planning our route out of Europe and back to the US, Masayo and I decided to first go back to Croatia to see Dubrovnik, which was close to where we were. It's a simple bus ride there, and my BG was pretty good most of the day.
After climbing the hill all afternoon yesterday, Masayo and I kept it quiet today. Kotor was quieter too; the wind was gone, and we walked around Old Town before having some more delicious fresh grilled fish (and wine).
Day 118 was a good one: despite all the wine I had last night, I managed my BG through a long, steep climb up the hill to see the UNESCO-inscribed fortifications of Kotor.
Today was a travel day again, from Podgorica up to the UNESCO World Heritage Bay of Kotor area. Our host was amazingly friendly and gracious, and my BGs were neither super high nor low enough.
In between some slightly high and very-high BGs, I got to see more of Podgorica on foot today. We saw more Transformers statues, a United Nations building, and some very nice parks.
A day of great BGs. We said goodbye to the Montenegrin coast, for now, and left Ulcinj for the capital, Podgorica. Our room in Podgorica was super nice, and we walked around the small city a little before relaxing.
Masayo felt good enough to go exploring today, and we strode down to the beach with its big violent waves, and walked around the stone wall-dominated Old Town in the rain.
Our first full day in Montenegro was quiet, as we stayed in our room in Ulcinj, trying to warm up and enjoying the views over the sea. Our food continued its casual junk food theme.
We left Albania from Shkodër by bus, riding about 90 minutes to the Montenegrin town of Ulcinj. It's a hilly town on the Adriatic coast, very scenic. My BG was ok at first but was high all midday.
My BGs were a little up and down today, but it was a fun day: Masayo and I used the free bicycles at our hotel in Shkodër, Albania to go visit Rozafa Castle on a hill near Lake Shkodër just outside town.
After four hours of sleep, I made it out of Tirana to the northern Albanian town of Shkodër. It was rainy the whole day, and we stayed in the room and had local burek.
Our last day in Tirana was spent on two unusual things: a portrait of Leonardo da Vinci made of nails, and statues of Communist leaders abandoned behind a museum. Then I stayed up all night to watch Super Bowl XLIX.
Tirana is an interesting place, still rebuilding after decades of closed, paranoid Communist rule. There is a ragged urgency in the streets, though things were dampened for us today by the rain.
We strode down to the bus station on the edge of Skopje and took a bus over the Albanian border to the capital, Tirana. It was raining there, but we walked to our hotel and checked in, taking it easy all evening and having pizza.
Today was a great day in Skopje, Macedonia -- sunny and warm for January. We walked around the ruins of Kale Fortress, and wound around the endless small pathways in the Old Bazaar.
Kosovo had seemed too volatile at the moment so we found a bus to take us quickly out of the country, to Macedonia, although that wasn't our original plan. Skopje was nicer, and packed with picturesque statues.
Masayo stayed in all day, still sick from the air of Kosovo yesterday. I went out by myself, and gave up when I saw large crowds and police. Luckily I was gone by the time the tear gas and rubber bullets flew.
The capital of Kosovo saw a demonstration, with tear gas, just a couple days before we arrived, and while walking around the city to see a Bill Clinton statue and George Bush Boulevard, Masayo collapsed. I had to carry her back to the hotel, where she made a slow half-recovery.
Our time in Serbia proper was done, and we took a series of two buses to Kosovo's capital city of Prishtina. The first bus went over some really scary mountain roads in a snowstorm, and we then had an unanticipated six-hour wait for the next bus. But we made it.
We took a taxi from our hotel in Zaječar today out to the Felix Romuliana ruins. It was drizzling the whole time, but we were the only tourists there the entire time. Then we came back to town and got a private tour of the museum there.
We left Kraljevo for a small town in the east part of Serbia called Zaječar, where hoped to take in another UNESCO site. First we went to Niš, then the snowy mountain road to Zaječar.
I spent today recovering from the high BG I had last night, and saw a little of Kraljevo. The main part of the day was seeing Žiča Monastery, which we took a taxi to but walked back from.
Today had its ups and downs: we figured out how to get to the wondrous UNESCO-inscribed Studenica Monastery by buses from Kraljevo, but I ended up with the highest BG of the trip so far after dinner.
We took a bus that had significant mechanical problems from Novi Sad all the way down to Kraljevo in southern Serbia. After breaking down though, the driver fixed it and we made it.
Today was rainy in Novi Sad, Serbia, but we walked around town and went to climb around the Petrovaradin Fortress across the Danube. Plus I got a good, cheap haircut!
If you want to get around Serbia, you take a bus. So naturally we chose a train to take us up to Novi Sad in the Vojvodina region of the country.
Masayo was feeling all right so we walked all around Belgrade today, seeing the Tesla Museum, some churches and nice streets, and the amazing Fortress out where the rivers connect.
Masayo wasn't feeling well and figured she needed a day off. So we spent all day in our room in Belgrade, with only me going outside twice: once for lunch and once for dinner.
We left Višegrad in far eastern Bosnia and crossed the Serbian border, winding our way by bus up to the capital, the grand old city of Belgrade. We arrived after dark, so had a great Lebanese dinner and kept to ourselves otherwise.
On the Orthodox New Year's Day (January 14) Masayo and I were invited to our apartment owners' for a delicious home-cooked meal and some interesting conversation about Bosnia.
We snuck in a hole in a fence to see the famous bridge in Višegrad, Bosnia, which was technically closed. Today was New Year's Eve in the Serbian Orthodox Church.
We left the "Bosnia and Herzegovina" part of Bosnia today and took a tense but beautiful bus ride into the "Republic of Srpska" part, and the small mountain town of Višegrad.
Today was basically a rest day in Sarajevo. I felt suddenly rather weak for most of the afternoon, and kept checking my BG, paranoid that I was low, but I was in fact high all day.
We spent our second day in Sarajevo at a museum and seeing some more sights on a long walk back and forth. We had a meat-heavy dinner, and my BG wavered from the lowest of the trip to over 300.
Our train left Mostar early, and the ride was through some spectacular scenery. In Sarajevo, we saw the spot where World War I began and some of the city's other sites.
The owners of our apartment in Mostar took us out in their car for a tour of the nearby towns of Počitelj and Blagaj to see some Muslim and other buildings.
We saw more of Mostar, Bosnia and Herzegovina today. My runny nose improved, and my BG was weirdly low much of the afternoon. Not after dinner, unfortunately.
Today was another international border crossing by bus for us: we went from Croatia to the town of Mostar in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
We managed to rent a car and I drove us a couple hours through Omiš and then to Imotski to see the blue and red lakes there. My first time driving a car outside of North America!
We walked around Split some more today, but a lot of stuff was closed. So we decided to take a bus over to Trogir, another UNESCO town with a nice old walled section.
We walked around some of the Old Town of Split, Croatia today, and bought figs and saw Diocletian's underground chambers and everything. It was a really nice look at part of ancient Rome.
The ten-hour bus from Pula, Croatia down to Split passes by an endless sunset over the Adriatic Sea. My blood sugar behaved today – until the hamburger.
The first day of the new year was spent inside before venturing out into the warmer and calmer air of sleepy Pula, Croatia. Diabetes even behaved today.
Pula, Croatia on New Year's Eve was cold and windy but sunny. We toured the amphitheater, joined the crowds at midnight and I endured terrible blood sugars.
After a final morning in snowy Varaždin we took a bus to Pula on the Adriatic coast of Croatia where it was cold but snowless. My BGs were great all day.
Trakošćan Castle on a sunny day after a big snow is one of the most amazing sights you can see in Croatia. Even high BGs didn't hurt my enjoyment today.
We woke up in Osijek to a large snowstorm, and took trams and trains through Croatia to the town of Varaždin. My diabetes behaved until I ate some gnocchi.
The buildings around the old fort at Tvrđa near Osijek still bear scars from the 1990 Yugoslavian war. A sobering day on which my BGs were up and down.
The small city of Osijek deep in the inland Slavonian section of Croatia welcomed us with some small-town cheeriness. My BGs were awful all day long though.
Christmas Day in Zagreb: Everything is closed but that suits the long-term traveler fine. We took it easy and had a picnic, and I achieved great bedtime BGs.
Lots of things were closed in Zagreb on Christmas Eve, but we did find food, an ice-skating rink, and a pharmacy that let me get by without a prescription.
We entered Croatia from Slovenia, checked into a real apartment in Zagreb, and inspired an argument at a local market. Plus my BGs were mostly ok.
Piran had amazed us back today it was back to Ljubljana to pick up a package. My blood sugar sucked at first but, amazingly, was fine after dinner. Success!
Perfect weather, perfect food, perfect views and a perfect sunset on Slovenia's Adriatic coast made a few high blood sugars meaningless today for me.
By bus from Ljubljana to the coast of Slovenia. My blood sugars were bad most of the day but Piran is a jaw-dropping place full of ancient stone buildings.
We hiked to Ljubljana Castle today and the weather was clear, sunny, and cold, which is to say perfect Just like my diabetes – until after dinner, that is.
A day off inside in Ljubljana, Slovenia included laundry and quiche. The evening was full of great food plus hot wine, and a final terrible BG before bed.
After killing a couple hours by the lake in Bled, we finally headed down to stay for a few days in Ljubljana, the small capital of Slovenia.
Walking around Slovenia's Lake Bled has been the only thing that fixed my high blood sugars in two days. And it's an amazingly beautiful experience besides.
We took a train ride across Slovenia today from Ptuj to Bled, and had several surprises on the way both good and bad. If only good blood sugar had been one.
Despite my second-highest blood sugar of the trip this morning, the only full day in Ptuj was relaxing and scenic, and even warm enough for a picnic.
A day of trains from Hungary to Ptuj, Slovenia. My blood sugars were excellent all day, even after pizza. But would they last until the next morning?
By bicycle to Szigliget and then a hike to the castle in central Hungary. Somehow my blood sugars were excellent all day today – must be this exercise.
Today the journey took us from Budapest to the town of Balatangyörök beside Central Europe's largest lake. My BGs were excellent all day... until bedtime.
A day of hiking around Pest, the hilltop sights of Buda, and the Danube River. Cold air, warm sunshine, nice people, and (almost) no high blood sugars.
When you're traveling long-term you need a day off sometimes. Today in Budapest we relaxed and did little. My blood sugars were pretty awful though. Feh.
After a private tour of caves around Vörös-tó and Jósvafő we took a rainy bus all the way to Budapest. The day ended with a super-high pizza blood sugar.
We took a Hungarian-language guided tour of the Baradla caves in Aggtelek, and I tried to navigate my blood sugar through tons of rice and liquor at dinner.
We killed several hours in Humenné, Slovakia in the afternoon, then caught some trains for the city of Miskolc in Hungary, our ninth country of the t
We hadn't seen any of the famous wooden churches of Poland and Slovakia so we finally took a trip to Kalná Roztoka to see theirs.
Cable cars took us to the top of the stunning High Tatras mountains of Slovakia. The car got stuck though and the unnerving stress made my blood sugar high.
Beautiful Spiš Castle in Slovakia was closed but we hiked to it anyway. I began the day with some perfect blood sugars and tried to make them last all day.
Snow fell all day in Levoča and we made some last-minute adjustments to our plans. My diabetes jumped around between lows and a big nighttime high.
The Bratislava to Levoča train passes between two great mountain ranges in Slovakia. The trip was gorgeous and even gave me a perfect blood sugar – at first.
Busy day in Bratislava: outdoor ice skating, a stroll by the Danube River, a visit to a women's bathroom, and high-but-not-awful blood sugars all day.
Goodbye Czech Republic, hello Bratislava, Slovakia. Actually we missed the stop but got there finally. My BGs spiked in the morning but were ok afterwards.
Having slept nearly 20 hours, I was getting over my illness and spent today exploring Český Krumlov, its castle and gardens, and the Egon Schiele Museum.
Leaving Prague was difficult because I was sick and the trams were confusing. Once in Český Krumlov I slept off my fever amid the UNESCO surroundings.
Despite a worsening sickness we hiked up Vyšehrad hill in Prague to see the views. Then we overpaid for a so-so dinner and my BGs were mostly high.
Local friends showed us some things in Prague that we never would have seen by ourselves. I still felt sick but blood sugars were somehow excellent all day.
We had big plans today but I wasn't feeling well, so we saw a few things but mostly hung around the room all day.
Several trains big and small took us to the city of Prague today, which was overcast but inviting. My blood sugars were too high but had some bright spots.
There's a Czech church made of bones from 30,000 plague victims and war casualties in Kutná Hora. My blood sugar behaved on this day of amazing sights.
Travel and diabetes didn't get along today – I was never between 70 and 130. But the series of Czech trains to Kutná Hora was fantastic, as is the town.
The UNESCO Gardens in Kroměříž are extensive and stupendous, and even have wild peacocks. But the day began and ended with high blood sugar.
We took a bus and two trains to get from Kraków, Poland to Kroměříž, Czech Republic, a UNESCO World Heritage Site town.
We kept our options open today, and let Kraków dictate our plans. We ended up walking around the Old Jewish Quarter. I destroyed my BG with pizza.
Spending all day visiting Auschwitz-Birkenau outside Kraków, Poland was a stark and draining experience. My blood sugars were great until bedtime.
Walking around Kraków was a fascinating peek at a city bursting with history and creativity, but I didn't eat enough and felt 'off' most of the day.
A ten-hour train ride from northern to southern Poland was a fun and relaxing way to get from Malbork to Kraków, Poland despite terrible blood sugars.
We took a train to Malbork, toured the castle, and then stayed in a small quiet hotel across the river with a castle view.
The newly-rebuilt Old Town in Gdańsk is really nice, and the Solidarity Monument area on the edge of town is really interesting too.
We decided to take a break and not do too much on our first full day in Gdańsk.
Our final hours in Warsaw proved disappointing as usual, but we left to go to Gdańsk and my BGs improved.
The second day in Warsaw was shaping up to be better than the day before, but still didn't turn out particularly well.
Some awful blood sugar management, unhelpful diabetes psychology, and Warsaw's maddeningly senseless public transportation made today a bad one.
Blood sugars began ok today but a meal on the Lithuania-to-Poland bus complicated things a little. Still, it's exciting to be in a new country.
Kaunas isn't all churches and portraits of the Virgin Mary -- out on the edge of town you can find the wickedly absorbing Devils Museum.
Sometimes an extra day hanging around the guesthouse is just what a long-term trip needs. We relaxed in Kaunas all day and my blood sugars were better.
Our first day in Kaunas, Lithuania was dominated by giant churches, an outstanding guesthouse, and really excellent blood sugars. Until dinner, that is.
We went to the Hill Of Crosses north of Šiauliai, Lithuania, and then walked around a cemetery and a nice lake at dusk.
We took the train from Vilnius, Lithuania, to cold and cozy Šiauliai. My BG was sort of OK until I ate pizza, then it all went to hell the rest of the day.
We spent the morning and afternoon seeing some more of Old Town Vilnius, then rode out by car with Masayo's friend to see the Trakai Island Castle.
Pink Floyd and Frank Zappa watched over us as we walked around Vilnius, Lithuania. My blood sugars were alternately great and very high.
Going from Latvia into Lithuania by bus proved that sometimes crossing a border leads not only to a new country, but to a new frame of mind.
Though my blood sugar was up and down, I enjoyed Daugavpils, a Russian town in Latvia. Especially cool were the strange sites and names like Cietoksnis.
On a bus ride from Rīga, Latvia, and despite a dinner full of rice and bread, my blood sugars were all under 200 today. And Daugavpils is a cool town.
A day walking around Rīga, Latvia's old town yielded some fantastically decorative buildings, but mishandling of my diabetes saw several high blood sugars.
Our bus trip from Valka to Rīga, Latvia was a nice trip, but my blood sugars were high all day and it made me grumpy. Still, Rīga seems nice.
Valga, Estonia and Valka, Latvia are one town divided by an international border. When I was there, you could just stroll back and forth between the two nations.
Tartu is a beautiful and pleasant town in southern Estonia with a strange, vibrant creative urge. If only my diabetes had behaved better there.
My blood sugar ranged from 50 to 338 today, but the bus ride from Tallinn to Tartu through central Estonia was exquisite. Dinner was from a supermarket.
My blood sugar on a day around the decommissioned prison at Patarei in Estonia was up and down, but it was worth it to see a place so jaw-droppingly weird.
As if Old Town Tallinn, Estonia isn't enough of a time trip by itself, we chanced upon a secret door that led up into the ancient stone town wall. Nice birthday for me.
The amazing and endless cobblestone alleyways of the Old Town section of Tallinn, Estonia must be explored on foot, without a map and with an open mind.
What happens when you rely on public transportation on a far-flung Åland island in winter? You almost get stranded overnight in a Russian fort.
Is there anything more serene than a Sunday afternoon in Mariehamn after the tourists have gone?
When traveling, there is a physical distance between you and your family. Sometimes it's a difficult psychological distance too.
Sometimes the easiest way to have your own unique experience while exploring a new place is to toss away your guidebooks and maps, and just wander.
If your blood sugar is high all day while flying around the globe, is it ok if you're back in range when you finally land? I flew from Japan to Sweden to figure it out.
How I packed light for a months-long trip to Europe in winter. Here's how to stay warm but carry a very light bag with you – including insulin.