The past few months have been full of grad school applications, job applications, and scholarship applications, but today I submitted the most awesome application of them all. Today I applied to be on the 2018 Connected In Motion Adventure Team. This team will be hiking 56 km over 9 days in Kootenay National Park. The trip is funded through fundraising, and I see very very few reasons why anyone living with T1D should not apply. In my experience, going on outdoor adventures with other people living with T1D is hugely rewarding in ways that exceed how rewarding outdoor adventuring already is. Below I have listed some of the many pros of doing an outdoor activity with other people living with T1D. If you are at all interested in this trip or any other opportunities that CIM provides, check out their website! There are events for people of all levels of outdoor stoke!
Often in my regular life, I feel as though my T1D is burdensome to the people around me. I imagine that my friends may have greater concern for me since unpredictable and scary things can happen. I know that my parents are worried when I express that I’m going through a period of worse blood-glucose control. I know that I’m not alone in this because there is an emotional burden subscale to the Diabetes Distress Scale. In outdoor-adventure settings, this feeling can be exacerbated. I know that I get concerned when I’m out with non-T1D friends that they’ll feel like they have to slow down for me. Honestly, when my BGs are going low I often contemplate if I bring it up or treat in secret because I don’t want my diabetes to be their problem.
The great thing about adventuring with other people living with T1D is that everyone’s challenges living with T1D are shared amongst the entire group’s shoulders. That burdensome feeling is elevated so much, and it becomes just a part of the journey!
- Troubleshoot together
Living with T1D is challenging when you’re working 9 to 5, and eating the same thing every day. Living with T1D while outdoor adventuring is challenging because all of that routine can get thrown out the window. Even if you’re covering the same ground and doing the same activity every day, some days are adrenaline filled and some aren’t. Often these trips are not long enough, either, to get a real groove going for how to manage your T1D in the new situation.
Enter a group of other people living with T1D. You can learn so much from a group of people who are all experiencing the variety of results to your blood-glucose levels that outdoor adventure can unleash. Even greater than this, however, I recently learned that living with T1D makes you learn the hard way. There are very few things that I have learned about T1D the easy way and that means that when I encounter a new challenge, I often have to do some troubleshooting/exercise trial and error. Being surrounded by other people living with T1D means that if/when you encounter a new challenge, there are an equivalent number of encyclopedias surrounding you. One of these people has bound to have experienced something similar to you, learned the hard way, and can help you troubleshoot.
- Learn tricks from your peers
This next one is pretty similar to the last but does have some nuances. Living with T1D is a lifestyle. I think that is why I often take it so personally. It also is a life-long game which means that you learn how to master certain parts to it. Some examples you can find in my post about the 20 things I’ve learned after 20 years with T1D. Participating in outdoor adventures, there are many tips and tricks that you can learn from more experienced adventurers. Living with T1D, there are many tips and tricks that you can learn from people who have more experience living with T1D. Now put the two together and you’ve hit a jackpot. There are so many interesting products and concerns that you may not anticipate, having peers is extremely helpful.
- Meet new people living with T1
Support within the T1DC is my favourite part of living with T1D. I sometimes wonder what my life would look like without the role models and peers living with T1D. I don’t think I’d be the woman that I am today, I think I’d be way less convicted, and I definitely would not be as inspired to constantly pursue better T1D management. Outdoor adventures are a great excuse to meet new people at all, but especially within a niche like T1D. The bond that you build with other people that you adventure with and with whom you share an intense and often isolating life experience is pretty powerful stuff.
- Challenge yourself
Finally, as I have mentioned way more times than I intended, living with T1D comes with many many many challenges. I know that every day is a new beast, every meal is a new obstacle course, and that this all challenges me every single day. Don’t get me wrong, I still very much challenge myself in other ways too, but I also do so while hyper-aware of the risks. I stop myself from adventuring because one day I’ll find myself on a cornice at a ski resort and I’m 1.7 mmol/L and the next I’ll be 9.7 mmol/L without changing anything (see image). I don’t like how that 1.7 mmol/L looks when the cornice is in the backcountry instead of a mountain with ski patrol. Maybe I’m a wimp but at least I’m a honest one?
While adventuring with other people living with T1D doesn’t eliminate these risks, it definitely makes it more feasible because of the other 4 reasons I’ve listed. Knowing that everyone else on the trip experiences similar risks, that there are others who can support you while you support them, and that you’ll gain a second (maybe third or fourth) family from the experience all make this risk a little less scary.
So what do you say? See you in beautiful BC with your hiking boots?