Travel during COVID, what to know

David Kindness, a fellow type 1, reached out to me wanting to share his joy of travel and tips about traveling during COVID with you. Here is his guest post for which I am greatly appreciative. I, a once veteran world traveler, have not left town since COVID began in my building way back in March.

Note: Since we are currently experiencing an off the charts rise in COVID infections, please take all the requisite steps to be safe, and pick your travel window wisely. As much as we want to see friends and family for the holidays, you are advised by the experts that holiday travel may increase your risk of contracting COVID.

David Kindness above

From David:

“Do what you’ll wish you’d done.” Whether you’re a person with diabetes (PWD) or not, you only have one life, and living it in fear is never a good answer. I’m a 27 year old medical lifestyle, product and adventure photographer with 18 countries and more than 30 US states under my travel belt.

I’ve cultivated hobbies like photography, rock climbing, trail running, hiking/backpacking, graphic design, travelling, and longboarding, among others. I’ve also had type 1 diabetes and celiac disease for more than 12 years now.

When I think about living a life free from fear, I imagine sitting down with my future self and asking him what he wishes he’d done. Then I do my best to figure out how to make that happen. While the prevalence of COVID-19 has heavily impacted both people’s ability and desire to travel, I’ve found that it’s still possible to see the world safely – albeit with a few more hurdles than in the past.

From day one, getting diagnosed with diabetes felt like a ball and chain had been attached to my ankle. How could I have time for hobbies when I constantly needed to focus on managing blood sugars? How can one leave the stability of one’s home and experience the uncertainty of travel and adventure with diabetes? How can you integrate blood sugar management into the activities you love?

With 2020 being racked with COVID and socio-political uncertainties, answering those questions has become even more difficult. But travel is not only possible with diabetes in the year of COVID, it can also be filled with joy and fun.

While pursuing the life you dream of may involve leaving the comfort of the life you already know, I can say first hand that it’s worth it and that it’s possible to manage blood sugars and stay healthy on the move… even with COVID. For me, travelling at any time with diabetes means checking blood sugars a little more often and finding creative ways to keep carbs on hand and insulin at the right temperature. It means micromanaging my blood sugars more than usual and being thoughtful about what I’m eating and when. It means planning for time zone changes, different languages, and different food types. It takes a little research and some critical thinking. But that’s about it, and in return, it’s possible to travel and experience the world freely with diabetes.

In the year of COVID, one of the most important aspects of travelling is taking a PCR test (the one where they tickle your brain with a giant Q-Tip) to make sure you’re negative for COVID before flying. Testing sites are popping up all over the country to provide rapid PCR tests to those looking to get on planes destined for locations either domestic or abroad – just google “PCR COVID testing sites near me” to find the locations closest to you. The results will be delivered through either an online portal or through the mail, and they should arrive anywhere from one to three days after you are tested. Once you get a negative result – meaning you don’t have COVID – bring a digital or printed copy (or both) to the airport to prove you’re safe to travel.

In addition to testing negative, travelling with COVID also means wearing masks in airports, on planes, and in taxis – improving safety and reducing the chances of airborne transmission of the virus. I recently traveled to Aruba, a tiny island country located nine miles off the coast of Venezuela. While people were required to social distance in the airport, all the seats on the both Delta and American Airlines flights were full, but everyone was required to wear a mask during the entire duration of the flight. Both airlines attested to having very low or no infections caused by close proximity on planes, and knowing that everyone on the flights tested negative and were required to wear masks was comforting.

When I and my travelling companion arrived in Aruba and deplaned, we happily presented our negative test results to Aruba’s airport authorities. They checked our temperatures and we were on our way. All in all, the process was quick and smooth. Including going through customs, we were out of the airport 30 minutes after deplaning. We were also happy to see that people in Aruba typically wore masks during any kind of gathering –restaurants, shopping, and tours included. In terms of COVID the island felt safe and low-risk.

With all the fear about COVID, I actually found a unique comfort in travel. When you walk into an airport or get on a plane, everyone around you has had to test negative for COVID to be there, including you. When travelling to Aruba during COVID, the planes felt safer than my local grocery store because I knew everyone around me had tested negative and was wearing a face mask for the entire flight. The result was a strange sort of comfort in a very weird pandemic-riddled year 2020.

So what’s the point of all this? Well, the point is that for all the cautionary tales newly-diagnosed PWDs hear from loved ones, all the fears and worries we subconsciously cultivate for ourselves, and the wrench that COVID has thrown into the gears of our lives, our most incredible lives are still out there waiting for us.

If you plan on travelling soon, plan a little more, take an extra COVID PCR test or two, and stay smart and safe. The lives and adventures we dream of are still out there. So do your dreaming, do your research, prepare well, enjoy – and don’t forget your facemask. Do what you’ll wish you’d done.”

David’s website:

David’s Instagram:

From David’s medical photography portfolio, taken in Aruba September 2020

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