article from December 9, 2010
By Jamie Douglas
Wow, I finally got it off my chest! (Pancreas more likely.) I have been a nomadic traveler for most of my life, always healthy as can be. (Almost said “as a horse,” there, but I had horses, and they are not always that healthy.) From my childhood in a family of avid travelers, to my epic adventure across North Africa in my trusty Land Rover, to photographic explorations in South America, to my time sailing the South Pacific, to my various driving adventures that stretched from Canada to Panama – this is what I am talking about when I say, “Been there, done that.”
By the middle of 2010s, long after I ever planned on being around, I was still going strong, living on the road with my wife, Julie, moving from place to place, making and selling jewelry at festivals all over the United States. We were maniacs, driving long distances to bigger and bigger events, dealing with all kinds of situations, sometimes making loads of money, other times losing our rear ends.
It was during this time when I started noticing that, while driving at night, I was seeing Newtonian rings around streetlights and the oncoming headlights. When I related this to a fellow vendor in Florida, she immediately suggested I see an internist, as that, along with several other conditions I described, was symptomatic of diabetes. I promptly made an appointment, and sure enough, I was diagnosed with type 2 adult-onset diabetes. I was put on a couple of medications, made some lifestyle changes, and was able to lower my blood sugar levels.
I continued to travel and vend, then at the end of 2006, we took a great leap across the Pacific Ocean, flying non-stop from JFK in New York to Faaa, on the French Polynesian Island of Tahiti, then to Moorea, and further out to Huahine, where we spent a blissful few weeks swimming, photographing, exploring the islands, eating exotic dishes and drinking that fabulous Hinano beer and those surprisingly affordable French wines. Then it was off to Sydney, where I fell to debauching on Aussie beers and chicken schnitzel. We took a four-day train ride across the continent, continuing to debauch, followed by two months in Western Australia, where, yup, you guessed it, we debauched some more. Then it was off to Adelaide, Tasmania and the Gold Coast, and, you know...
It was as if I was on a culinary suicide mission, and I almost succeeded. We returned to the States at the end of January, and by early spring, I had gone from an overweight 195 pounds down to 120 and I needed four pairs of those cheap Wal-Mart glasses just to see my hands. But I was happy that I had gone on the trip of a lifetime, as I was obviously going to croak soon. So I did the unthinkable: I went to see a specialist, who told me I came just in time – my long-term outlook was very short, indeed. He put me on a radical regimen of medication, and within a short while, my eyesight returned to normal and I gained weight again. I don’t wear glasses now, and except for a couple of lapses, I have been in very good health.
Then we moved to South America. Before I left the USA, I went to the hated Wal-Mart, where, for about $100, I got a one-year supply of all the drugs I needed. When Julie went to the USA five months later for her father’s funeral, she brought back another six-month supply. The truth is that Wal-Mart’s decision to sell certain generic drugs at low, low prices to get people in their doors was a strike of pure genius, as the lines at the pharmacy attest to, so tell your doctor you will be traveling and see if you can take advantage of these prices.
Being well stocked and living a healthy lifestyle of walking a lot, eating plenty of fresh produce and wholesome foods, and enjoying that lovely Uruguayan Tannat, I was doing great, until about three months ago. At that point, we had relocated to a very different situation in the countryside in the Andean foothills of Patagonia, where we need our car to get anywhere. The Patagonian winter set in, our selection of good, fresh produce became severely reduced, and then I ran out of my medications. But being the stupid cheapskate that I am, I did not go to a doctor until long after I should have.
When I finally went to an internist here, he tested me thoroughly and prescribed me the same medications I had been on before, informing me that I could now just go to a pharmacy and get them without a prescription. My A1C went from 17 to 5.5, and my blood glucose levels dropped from 600 to below 100. The drugs are reasonably priced, and not needing the doctor’s visit for a prescription makes a big difference.
So what I am really trying to say is that, even if you relocate to the end of the world, say, Patagonia, your medications are readily available, at affordable prices. The test strips are about the same price everywhere, as they are made in the USA, Germany, Switzerland and Canada. So don’t be afraid of a little type 2 diabetes abroad.
I must stress, however that I do not recommend my wanton lifestyle to others, and the advice here is NOT for people with juvenile diabetes, about which I wish I understand much more, as my lovely daughter Heather passed on at the age 30 from that dreaded disease.
Live now! ...and read our blog. You never know what you might learn.
Jamie Douglas in Patagonia
I encourage you to write me at cruzansailor [at] gmail [dot] com with any questions or suggestions you may have. Disclaimer: I am not in any travel-related business. My advice is based on my own experiences and is free of charge (Donations welcome). It is always my pleasure to act as a beneficial counselor to those who are seekers of the next adventure.