I went on a trip to Belize mid-December. I don’t remember any specific instance when I was young that made me feel like I couldn’t travel to less developed countries or go backpacking, but somehow I had the impression that as a person with Type 1, I should not consider these things an option.
I think that the culture on FUD of finding safe ways to pursue your passions helped me a lot. I’ve read so many experiences on here where all of you figure out how to make things work. Sometimes I’ve adopted your practices, and sometimes I come up with alternative solutions that work better for me. I think that problem-solving culture is what I value most about this site.
I really love traveling. I love learning about people who come from entirely different backgrounds. I love seeing wildlife and beautiful natural landscapes that are completely different from anything I’ve ever seen. This trip to Belize was a big first step for me.
I thought I’d share some of my experiences and how I worked around my diabetes so that I could see and do everything we wanted on this trip. Also, @Sam requested photos
We stayed at an eco-lodge on the western side of Belize. The lodge did not have AC, but it did have a freezer, so per Chris’s and Michel’s suggestion, I brought these plastic cylinders (though Michel used little balls) filled with water that could be frozen. I had two plastic bags of these water cylinders. The lodge put one bag in the freezer for me each morning and gave me the bag they’d put in the freezer the prior morning. I placed these in a thermos and kept my back-up insulin in the thermos throughout the trip (aside from taking one Humalog pen to Guatemala). This seemed to keep the insulin at a decent temperature (aiming for close to room temperature) because the cylinders were unfrozen but still cold each morning. I didn’t do any kind of scientific measurement on this, but it seems to have worked alright for me as far as I can tell.I just wanted to be able to rely on my back-up insulin in case my insulin went bad, and this gave me that peace of mind.
The guides we met while in the rainforest described the melting pot culture of Belize, and they showed a lot of pride for their country. We also spoke with some of the servers at the lodge about their villages nearby. Our snorkeling guides on the coast came from a very different area. They spoke Belizean Kriol to eachother. I loved hearing about their experiences.
The ATM Cave:
I don’t have any photos of this adventure because you can’t bring a camera! An idiot tourist dropped his on a skull a few years back
Below is a picture of the welcome sign. The ATM Cave was just out-of-this world amazing.
We followed our guide a long a path, wading through a river a few times before swimming into a cave. Once inside the cave, we scrambled over rocks in the water for around an hour before coming to a big rock we scaled up to a platform. That platform led to a chamber with Maya remains and artifacts. The guide’s stories and descriptions were quite gruesome! The Mayas believed that caves were the entrance to the underworld, and the skeletons were likely captives from war that they sacrificed to their gods! The guide brought the whole cave to life. It was amazing! We took a different path back to the entrance of the cave which was quite adventurous
Since you’re not allowed to bring anything into the cave, I had to ask the guide to carry my diabetic supplies for me. While generally this activity goes without incident, a guide and tourists were trapped inside the cave last year for a night when water levels unexpectedly rose. So I made sure to have all the supplies I’d need for 24 hours.
I used this dry bag, and brought glucose gels, my meter, insulin pens with needles, and my phone. The guide placed my bag along with some snacks in his dry bag, but he said I could access it at any time in the cave. I didn’t need it while in the cave. I can feel my bg levels pretty well- especially while walking or exercising. I was a bit worried about the adrenaline and excitement obscuring those feelings, but everything turned out fine. I could’ve stopped the guide if I’d felt odd in any way.
I’d used Afrezza for breakfast, so it was out of my system by the time we arrived at the cave. My bg levels had been flat during the night, so I felt good about my basal. I’d dropped it by a unit in the morning anyway because I expected we’d be active. I was lucky enough to level off around 120 mg/dl, and I was happy with that level. Somehow I stayed flat during our time in the cave. We did use our muscles a bit while in the cave, but we moved at a slow pace so I never felt like I was exerting myself too much. I tested my bg once we were out, and I’d only risen up to the 130s. As far as I was concerned, everything went perfectly
Hiking in the rainforest:
These are the views from one of our hikes. We hiked up to the summit on the other side of the river the next day.
It was so beautiful
Can you spot the owl butterfly?
Fer-de-lance thankfully resting quietly off to the side of the trail
My favorite part of the hikes:
We were also lucky enough to see a howler monkey in the tree tops and a couple of agoutis while on the trails. I couldn’t get decent photos of those though.
Overall, my diabetes was cooperative on the hikes. On the guided hike, I had to load up on glucose before we started because I was unexpectedly running low and we were about to scale a mountainside. But our pace was pretty slow with many stops, so I should’ve backed off the glucose a bit. I ran a little high for the first half of the hike around 140s-150s, but since we were scaling a mountainside and I didn’t know if we might pick up the pace, I decided to ride it out.
The hike on our own to the summit (across the river in the photo) went smoothly. It really helps when I can control the pace. My boyfriend is incredibly accommodating
After our hikes, we enjoyed some cocktails and swam in the river. You can’t see him/her in the photo, but there was a big spiky orange iguana up on the rocks across the river.
Blueberry Mojito My favorite!
The parts of Belize we visited were relatively safe compared to Guatemala. The road between Tikal and the Belize border is known for robberies, and it is absolutely critical to not be on the road after nightfall. Our guide told us that over 70% of the country is impoverished and that the government is very corrupt - which hurts my heart. He said that police will sometimes set up checkpoints and ask for money - which they appeared to be doing at least once as we drove past. While lots of people travel through Guatemala perfectly safely, this was a little outside of my comfort zone. Thankfully, we didn’t have any bad experiences while in Guatemala and absolutely loved Tikal.
I brought an extra Humalog pen across the border, but I left all my other back-up supplies (including a Humalog pen and extra meter/test strips/poker) at the lodge. So I had my meter and plenty of test strips, Afrezza, Lantus pen, 2 Humalog pens, glucose, and my phone. I left all my sensors and spare transmitter at the lodge. Diabetes-wise, the day was uneventful.
The temples rising above the treetops. The whole site is embedded in the rainforest
Maya stelae with their unique glyphs
There were Coatimundi all over
Fruit bat inside one of the structures
I have a cool video of a spider monkey iumping in the tree tops, but I don’t know how to upload it.
This was a pretty easy activity. Aside from jumping in the beautiful blue water at the beginning, we hardly got wet. I just had my little dry bag on my lap and my phone out to take photos every so often. The current wasn’t strong at all. Very little risk of anything getting wet. My bg levels were great.
Caye Caulker and Snorkeling:
The snorkeling was unbelievable. I don’t have a fancy Go-Pro, so my photos are just from the boat. You can see some nurse sharks swimming around in the third photo - supposedly the worst they’d do to you is give you a bad hickey! We saw a manatee, a sea turtle, eagle spotted sting rays, beautiful fish & coral and more!
The snorkeling ending up being the hardest day for me diabetes-wise. I didn’t really know what to expect because I’d never been. I dialed my basal dose back because I didn’t want to drop low in the water, but it turns out that snorkeling required almost no effort… just floating on the water and some half-hearted kicks to move in the right direction. We were only in the water for 20-30 minute intervals before heading to the next spot, and once I figured that out I could dose a bit more aggressively with Afrezza to bring myself down. Sooooo I ran a bit high that day, but I think it was worth it! I’ll know better next time how to handle it.
My bg was overall really good for most of the trip. Things were a bit more challenging on the island. The food at the eco-lodge in the rainforest was pretty healthy and fresh, but the food on the island less so. Aside from the ceviche or lobster, everything seemed to be full of carbs. When I would sit still for a meal, my bg would go high, and then when I would move around, it would plummet. I ended up replacing my Lantus when we got back home because it still seemed like everything was topsy turvy. Everything straightened out then, but that might’ve been just because I’d gotten home. DC summers are actually more hot than what we experienced while in Belize (similar humidity), but of course I have air conditioning in DC. I don’t know if my Lantus went bad from being in hot and humid temperatures, but I suspect that it was just that my basal dose was a little too low for our activities on the island, and the bolus insulin wouldn’t really start working properly until I got moving. I also wonder if my body was just reacting a bit to all the unknown food and bacteria of a new place.
Anyway, this was a trip of a lifetime! Several years ago, I thought I wasn’t capable of doing something like this - going to the rainforest in a developing/emerging country and staying in a lodge without AC. I mean, when I was growing up, we were supposed to keep the insulin in the refrigerator all the time! A trip like this seemed incomprehensible to 10-year-old me.
So please keep posting your experiences so I can learn from you, okay?