Claudio is a 32 year old dreamer who ensures his dreams turn into reality. With resolve as strong as a diamond, Claudio overcame his fears and concerns and left a cushy job at a bank to do what he loves – travel the globe. And he is not just traveling the globe, he is breaking the myth that Type 1 diabetics cannot do most things that others can. Well, if anything, Claudio is presently doing what many can’t even dream of. Gautam Chopra, Co-founder BeatO had a quick chat with Claudio to understand what motivated him to undertake his journey and what challenges especially in India he faced when he travelled the length and breadth of this beautiful country.
Claudio was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes when he was only 9 years old. He remembers his life only as a diabetic. The discovery of being a diabetic at that young age didn’t bother him since in his little universe at the time, he didn’t enjoy sweets, however, this certainly left his parents extremely stressed. The way he and his family dealt with the situation at the time is remarkable following the motto that a normal life is very much possible for a diabetic. That helped them ease their stress and allowed Claudio an environment that treated him equally and with a sense of normalcy. Claudio grew up to have what most consider an envious life – he was a rich banker with a fantastic apartment, a swanky car and a gorgeous loving girlfriend. But his diabetes had taught Claudio to think differently about life. One day whilst looking into the mirror, Claudio realized what really mattered to him and his health. He had learnt to challenge status quo and get out of his comfort zone. This is when Claudio decided to travel the globe. The journey that started in March 2014 and has already clocked in several thousands of kilometres has been carried out without planes, because Claudio believes he needs to regain possession of the distances and observe closely how cultures and the populations change.
Being a diabetic, his journey has actually allowed him to discover his body better – what works and what doesn’t to keep his sugar levels in control is now on his finger-tips. This has allowed him to adapt quickly and effortlessly among different countries, cultures and food. Claudio believes that he had in fact more risk with diabetes in his old life as a banker, than he now has as a true globe trotter. Traveling allows him to understand how his body reacts to different environments, foods and physical activity allowing him to better plan his journeys to ensure he doesn’t miss out on anything.
Claudio visited India for three months. Here he saw a love and hate relationship between diabetes and India. On one hand he was overwhelmed to see such a large number of diabetics, on the other he was aghast at the lack of awareness that existed to prevent diabetes from becoming a monster. In India, initially he found it hard to manage diabetes with the diet that comprised predominantly of rice. He started controlling this by eating simple chapatti. The second challenge he had was that the curries had a lot of ghee/butter. He started looking out for alternatives and was fortunate to find delicious fruits and vegetables that were farmed organically.
His third challenge was “chai” (Indian Tea with spices) that mostly had a lot of sugar. As tea is part of is custom, he found it impolite to refuse chai when kind Indians invited him to their homes. However, he soon learnt to politely turn down offers and when he couldn’t he tried to neutralize the effect quickly with insulin. However, chai was also the time when he could do “chai pe diabetic charcha” to spread awareness about the ailment and precautions to take. Most Indians confided in him about being diabetic and the social stigma it carried, whether at the workplace, school and even when getting married. This even resulted in people staring at him when he said he is a diabetic and he is only 32. Moreover, when he went to restaurants, people were surprised why he was not taking sugar or asking for food without oil. He confronted a lot of ignorance towards a disease that will soon turn into an epidemic engulfing more than a 100 Million Indians.
At the same time India’s cultural proximity to yoga and meditation allowed him to use that to balance his indulgence in the tasty Indian cuisine. If walking several kilometres a day gave him his daily dose of activity and exercise, yoga and meditation allowed him to relieve the general stresses of the day and focus on achieving a balanced state of mind, body and soul.
When he travels, Claudio’s bag pack becomes an inseparable part of his body. At all times, his travel kit comprises a swiss knife, a rope, toilet paper (especially in India), Insulin wrapped in a newspaper to prevent sudden change of temperature and an ice brick in a thermal insulated bag to keep the insulin secure. This allows him to get through his day without much fuss. He has worked out these simple things that remove roadblocks to help him fulfil his dream.
India was by no means easy, however he found a solution to most of the nagging issues. However, surprisingly he had a tougher problem traveling across the U.S. He saw that whilst there is emphasis on sugar less drinks, there was sugar added to other normal and natural eating products such as bread which made it extremely hard for him to manage as a lot of food products are artificially modified and he was unsure what nutritional value that contained.
Claudio wakes up each day to paint a new adventure and in the process inspires diabetics and non-diabetics alike to live your life to the fullest. Claudio’s journey is not only the journey of a diabetic, but of all those who want to deal with and overcome their “limits”.