Cazzy Magennis wants to become the first female with type 1 diabetes to visit all 195 countries on the planet, while inspiring people with diabetes to reach for their own dreams! That may seem like an unrealistic goal, but this Irish 20-something is certainly on her way.
Diagnosed a decade ago at age 16, Cazzy is the T1D half of the boyfriend-girlfriend pair behind the Dream Big, Travel Far site, sharing global travel adventures with a diabetes twist. You might say she's our Diabetes Community version of "Where in the World is Carmen San Diego?" (flashback to 80s and 90s), as Cazzy and her partner Bradley are almost always on the go.
Please welcome Cazzy to the 'Mine, sharing her diabetes story and travel adventures around the globe...
Big Dreams, Far Travels -- with Diabetes
Hi everyone! My name is Cazzy Magennis, a type 1 diabetic since I was 16 (now 26) and I’m on a mission to be the first female type 1 diabetic to explore every single country in the world. It’s a challenge, but one I welcome!
Firstly, a little bit about me: I’m from Ireland and when I’m not off on my travels, I live between Ireland and England with my boyfriend Bradley. I currently travel around 9-10 months of the year on average. I tend to go away for around three months, head back to stock up on diabetes supplies, then hit the road again, depending on where our projects take us.
My diagnosis as a teenager came as quite a surprise (as it does for most). There was no family history, and I was sick for a couple of months before I was officially diagnosed. This was because I was misdiagnosed with a lot of conditions, before I almost went into cardiac arrest and finally someone tested me for type 1 diabetes. It’s certainly not a pretty diagnosis story, but then I don’t think anyone has one.
Before life with type 1 diabetes, I only had one real ambition, and that was to travel. I loved watching travel TV shows and researching different countries I wanted to visit. I still remember that after my diagnosis, I was told that I might find traveling extremely difficult, and may only be able to manage short distances and short flights, etc.
I thought to myself, this can’t possibly be true, and thankfully, it wasn’t!
Since I turned 18 I’ve been traveling the world, and since graduating in 2016 that has been full-time with my partner Bradley. We graduated with degrees in Politics and Human Rights (Cazzy) and Economics (Bradley), but neither of us wanted desk jobs; we're just both too creative and our dreams are too big for us to be told how we should live our lives. Rather, we want to live by our own terms and by our own schedules. So we started traveling.
It all started with a four-month South America backpacking adventure in September 2016 and since then, we haven't looked back! What started off as fun actually turned into my full-time job, and I’m pretty lucky to say I travel the world full-time and earn a full-time income with it. So far, we’ve crosses the rainforests and glaciers of South America; stormed the castles and beaches of Europe; sampled the cultures and cuisines of countries all across Asia.
And we won’t stop until we’ve been to EVERY country in the world.
We started out with a simple dream: to share to share our travel experiences with the world, in the hope of helping of other couples to travel, as well as to inspire and motivate fellow type 1s that they can still live their dreams and overcome the challenges that this illness presents.
Managing Diabetes During Adventure Travel
I often get asked, how do I travel for long periods of time with type 1 diabetes, how do I manage all my supplies, how do I keep my insulin cool etc, and since people asked the questions, I thought I’d start my travel blog, Dream Big, Travel Far, to help answer the questions people were asking and to be a real life example of what traveling with diabetes looks like.
Since I’ve been diagnosed I’ve been to almost 50 countries so far and with every trip, I learn more and more about traveling with diabetes. Most of my traveling is done via backpacking, road tripping and sometimes normal relaxing holidays.
When possible we love to rent our own vehicles as I find it easier to organize my time, insulin and supplies. But it all depends on what projects we are working on which decides the type of travel we do. Some countries are easier to manage than others due to things like heat management, time zones and even just having access to fridges to keep my insulin cool.
My type 1 diabetes has faced lots of challenges when I’ve traveled, and the most prominent one is keeping my insulin cool. Since I’m from Ireland, almost every other country I visit is a lot warmer than mine! This means I’m faced with the challenge of keeping my insulin cool when I’m on a plane, train, bus or boat. Not only has the heat presented challenges for my insulin, but the heat tends to bring my blood sugar down quicker, which results in more hypos. This has taken lots of practice to understand what to do with my insulin when sightseeing in the heat, or even just sunbathing on the beach.
I’ve had many other mishaps during my travels with type 1 diabetes which has resulted in new learnings. When I was in Thailand, I was at the famous “Full Moon Party” and I had my diabetes monitor with me to check my blood sugar. I headed to the bar to order a drink for my sister and I and I set my monitor on the bar for a brief second whilst I asked her what she would like and within that few seconds, someone had stolen my monitor!
I think they thought it was a mobile phone (a pretty bad one, so the joke's on them), but nonetheless, I panicked a little, then realized I had a backup monitor with me at the hotel. I knew my rule of “always take double supplies” was a good one.
I prefer to learn by doing when it comes to traveling with diabetes. Before I traveled full-time, I could find information online about what to do when traveling with diabetes, but I couldn’t find someone who was actually doing it. So, I figured, I’d just do it and then learn from what happens. Then, I put it in my blog so other people can learn too.
Actually, one of the upsides of traveling with diabetes is bringing awareness about the condition to people around the world. I wear an insulin pump and wear a CGM, which prompts a lot of questions from strangers about my robotic devices. I like being part-robot!
You often find someone knows someone who also has type 1 diabetes. It’s also fun to connect with other type 1 diabetic travelers, because I am certainly not the only one. I love seeing other travelers in action.
People often ask me what my favorite country is, and it’s one of the hardest questions to answer because I love so many countries for so many different reasons. But if I had to pick one, I would go with Vietnam. The people are amazing, the food is delicious, the views are stunning and it’s quite a cheap country to visit. A close second is Sri Lanka...
I really love traveling with another person -- especially Bradley! He’s up-to-date and educated on my diabetes and he is super supportive. I give him half my supplies so I don’t have to give up clothes, he goes at my pace, so if I’m having a bad blood sugar day, we will take it slower and he’s always on hand with hypo supplies and support when things get tough.
We actually met at university about 5 years ago, and before we met he admits to being misinformed about type 1 diabetes and not knowing the difference between T1D and T2D. However, now he is up to speed and he is happy to help and educate others about type 1 diabetes, both at home and when we travel -- which is awesome. He even wants to run a marathon in aid of a diabetes charity (better him than me!)
We even try our best to support diabetics around the world in nations who don’t have access to insulin or limited supplies. As such, we worked with a diabetes charity for children in Bolivia and hope to help children in India and other countries as we travel.
Having type 1 diabetes has changed me, but I think for the better. I learnt not to give up on my dreams and I aspire to inspire as many fellow type 1 diabetics, or anyone suffering with a chronic illness in general, to not let their dreams be put on hold.
I couldn’t do what I do without the support of the Diabetes Community, which I think is probably one of the best communities of people around. I'm excited about meeting people with diabetes as much as possible along the way in this travel adventure.
There are a variety of different websites and groups that count the number of people who've been to every country in the world -- you have to prove it via airplane tickets or visa stamps, and there's a specific set of rules (like you can't count countries you have transitioned through via flights). Currently there are no female diabetic women on the lists, as far as we could find. There are around 96 people, depending on what's counted as official countries. But I'm keeping track with all my stamps etc. and I'll apply to join various lists with proof once I'm finished (whenever that may be!)
Fingers crossed that in 5 or 10 years time I can achieve my dream of traveling to every single country in the world with type 1 diabetes! Challenge accepted :)
Wow, you are quite the adventurer, Cazzy. We love hearing these stories about living with diabetes without any borders whatsoever.