Erich: Today, we are fortunate to have Chloe Vance for the show. Chloe is the Founder and Executive Director of Connected in Motion. Connected in Motion is a non-profit organization located in Canada, and works with people with Type 1 Diabetes to support them and teach them how to self manage their diabetes. However, Connected in Motion is not from a stodgy doctor’s office. It basically uses outdoor adventures and inspiration to challenge people to live the fullest life possible with diabetes. Chloe has a background in Outdoor Education, and has been all over the world doing expeditions, including the Arctic, North America, and Europe. But that is just touching upon the tip of the iceberg for her. Chloe is one of the most positive and high energy people you would meet, so she is going to help you learn about how to take charge of your diabetes and be inspired to listen. Chloe, thank you for joining us today…
Chloe: Thank you for having me, Erich. Happy weekend…
Erich: Thank you. Chloe, you have such a wealth of outdoor experience. Can you tell us how your love for the outdoors has developed?
Chloe: Sure. It’s kind of funny. Actually, my family still jokes that they don’t quite know where this outdoor adventure sparks came from. I grew up in downtown Toronto and Ontario, Canada. So, I’m a city girl, very much so. It wasn’t until… I have had a couple of encounters with, I guess, camping in the wilderness growing up through various school trips and things like that, and a little bit car camping, as we call it, with my family, and exploring in that way. But… So, the real adventure multi day tripping stuff didn’t happen until I got to university and had the opportunity to take an outdoor education course through my program at Queens University. All of a sudden, I was on a multi day canoe trip, and I just loved it. I loved every single thing about it, and just did not sort of five days, thought, “This was what I wanted to do with my life.”
I wanted to be outside. I wanted to be traveling in these waves by a canoe, and sleeping under the stars, and that. So, that was what really led the start. Then, it all started to snowball on from there.
Erich: That’s great. You were diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes when you were 18 years old. Can you talk about how that impacted your life initially?
Chloe: Sure. I mean, it came as a huge shock. I was actually traveling on a month long course in Ecuador in the Galapagos Islands. It was a school trip to get a Grade 13 Biology credit, actually.
So, I was traveling with a group of students and teachers. Then, I started to get sick on that trip. By the end of the month, I was extremely ill. I dropped over 30 lbs of weight. I was extremely dehydrated and sick to my stomach. I had all this, sort of, blurred vision, and classic symptoms of what I now know as diabetes. I then thought that it was some sort of tropical disease or parasite.
So, I returned home from that trip and was rushed home to the hospital, and was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes. It came, obviously as a huge shock completely out of the blue. I have no family history. So, that just really slammed the breaks on life pretty immediately.
At the same time, as part of the shocking diagnosis, all of it came with a safe sense of relief. This is because I’ve heard the word diabetes before, and I knew that it wasn’t then some wild, unknown tropical parasite that I was perishing from. So, it came with a sense of relief. So, I guess initially, I would say that it slammed the breaks on. I was in the hospital for a week. I’ve never been in a hospital before. Obviously, this tremendous mental learning that takes place there when you, sort of, start to understand how different [inaudible 00:03:45] it’s going to be moving forward. But when I sort of left, I really clearly remember just leaving the hospital after that week and, sort of, pushing through those glass rotating doors, and coming into the other side, back into the world, I’m thinking, “This isn’t going to hold me back.” From that moment, I really… I’ve tried my best to just embrace it and to just see it as a challenge but not as a barrier in life.
Creating Connected In Motion
Erich: Uh-huh. You know, one facet of your work is running out to adventures for all the Type 1 Diabetics in Connected in Motion. When did you first realize that this type of activity could be of help with others? How did that lead to starting Connected in Motion?
Chloe: Again, I have to sort of credit my university, and the experience that I’ve had with the outdoor courses that I took there. That was, as I said, where my interest was sparked in outdoor adventure. I went on to take an Outward Bound course. It was a week long trip through Outward Bound. If anyone is familiar with Outward Bound, it’s a… They really do focus on the soft side, and that experience and reflection, realizing your inner strength and using that outdoor experience as an empowering one to take those lessons learned and apply them back into your life. This applies way outside the realm of diabetes. This is for everybody.
So, I had this Outward Bound experience. Again, I loved that, and i loved being outside. I started to think, “What can I do with this?” So, I ended up getting my education degree, and specializing in Outdoor Experiential Education, again, with the general population. My background at that point started to be built up at working at camps, in working at outdoor centers, and working with all kinds of different populations in an outdoor capacity. I mean, I just saw the impact that an outdoor experience could have on the “regular” person, or the “average” person.
So, when I was diagnosed with diabetes, this all, kind of, started to be integrated together. I thought, “Wow! What if we could take Type 1 and get them outside in working through challenges and realizing their inner strength, and being empowered, and being excited of what was possible?” I mean, that would [inaudible 00:06:14] diabetes well. So all the code of aspects of my life collided into one, and that is, sort of, how Connected in Motion came to be as an organization that helped to provide those opportunities for people.
Erich: That’s great. Now, what type of program does your group offer? You have a mix of expedition-like activities, and also local ongoing activities. Could you just, kind of, talk about the different types of things that you folks offer?
Chloe: We offer, as you mentioned… We run a series of multi day trips. We run canoe trips and hiking trips throughout the year, mostly in the summertime. Our… The course event that we hosted, and what has really become the keystone of Connected In Motion is our Slipstream Weekend. Those are, sort of, weekend long retreat style events that incorporate outdoor activity, adventure, and then peer-based/peer-led workshops; all related to diabetes and different topics, often to do with travel and outdoor adventures as well as activity and nutrition. So, that is a sort of incredible weekend where we come together. We’re hosting those now across Canada.
Then, we also are hosting things locally. Those events served to connect people and to get people excited. Throughout the year, we bring people back together again, for things like beach volleyball tournaments, trampoline dodge ball, commandeer the teams to run in different running races, adventure races, to do cycling races together. We even hold some pub nights that is really informal, just to get people connected and to hang out.
Again, these types of events are just… They’re always changing. It just depends on who is getting involved and who’s excited about what. Then, that just sparks an idea for a new adventure that we could host somewhere. So, we’ve got a surf camp coming up in the West Coast in a couple of weeks here. So, it’s always growing and changing, but it’s a whole mix of activities, as you said.
Erich: Okay. So, it’s not like you just do one trip and then that’s it. You can participate in a whole bunch of different activities.
Chloe: Yes, we actually have 15 events happening across Canada this year in three different provinces. That’s in addition to our online communities. So, we’ve found that even with 15 events across the country that is still not enough people need to be connected. There is still a part of the community in between those in-person events. We’ve got a really strong online social community at Facebook and Twitter, and our website. People are really active on there on a daily basis on sharing information and successes, and celebrating, and sharing all the interesting fun things that they’re up to.
Education Through Experience
Erich: Uh-huh. On your longer trips, you’ve mentioned just a little bit… What types of diabetes education do you offer? Obviously, there is the fun in the education in the outdoors. But the trips are more than that. How do you…? What kind of things do you go over that you need to for people with diabetes?
Chloe: Well, Connected in Motion is all built around this process of experiential learning that, in the very simplest of terms, just means learning through doing. But on our trips, events, and programs, we’re able to create this opportunity for people to flow through this cycle of learning which basically means they’ll have an experience, have the ability to reflect on that experience, come up with some sort of nuggets or distil some piece of knowledge or learning from that, and then apply that right back into trying that activity or that experience again. That sort of cycle is what we create, the reflection piece being the big one, in order to distil that learning from what you’ve been out and doing.
So, it’s really peer-based and peer-led. We’re out there doing it. Things pop up, right. We headed on a hike of a group of people that is Type 1. Sure enough, somebody needs to stop to test. That is such a teachable, incredible learning moment.
- “What’s your blood sugar? Why do you think it’s that?”
- “What did you do with your insulin? Did you adjust the basal rate?”
- “How many times are you going to test earlier at hiking?”
- “What is in your backpack? What sort of food did you pack?”
All these sort of questions just start coming out of the woodwork quite literally, and we sort of jump on those opportunities to make that whole learning from the group. It is very organic in nature. But we learn tremendous amounts when we just hang out with other people living with diabetes. We’re all just talking, and sharing, and learning from each others past and current experiences. So, that is sort of how the education piece happens. We also, at some of our weekend events, will host slightly more formalized workshops or sessions. We’ll get out the big brown paper, and have ideas pulling all across the pages. People who had a really interesting or unique experience will present and share with the group. But when we’re in a hike or out on a canoe trip, this stuff just happens over sitting around the camp fire, while we’re paddling, or while we’re hiking.
Erich: That is great. How do you decide on where to go on your longer trips?
Chloe: A lot of the places that we’ve been, and the activities that we’ve done, all this stems from somebody who got involved with Connected in Motion, and was really excited. They might come from a cycling background. All of a sudden, they would rally us to run a cycling event, or they really want to put a stake in a certain triathlon or adventure race. All of a sudden, they would put it out to the crew, and we’ve got a team in that race. Sometimes, it’s somewhere that I’ve traveled before or a place that I’ve worked. We’re able to use that experience and turn that into a Connected in Motion event. But it has really just come to life through the people who are involved in Connected in Motion, their excitement, enthusiasm, and desire to get out there and do something new.
Chloe: The slipstream… This all goes back to how Connected in Motion really came to be. It is sort of that moment where it clicked. That was something that I needed to do. I was diagnosed with diabetes in 2000, and I’ve never met anybody else living with Type 1. I was sort of hoping that I did it on my own solo mission. I actually never really thought of it. I just thought that, that was the way that it was. My then boyfriend now husband and I were going down the cycle tour in New Zealand. I was trying to Google search any sort of information about cycling and diabetes. All of a sudden, out pops this group called HypoActive. They are a group down in Melbourne, Australia. They are young adults with Type 1 Diabetes that get together every once in a while to do something adventurous in the outdoors and be active. My jaw dropped.
It was the first time that I really considered that there are other people who are, like me, living with this. I would sounds, kind of, ridiculous, but that was the way it was. So, because being in New Zealand and on the road ahead to Australia, I connected with that group. They invited me to join them for an event that they are hosting. It was a 520 kilometers, 48 hour cycling race down in Southern Australia. I said yes, having not cycled at all. [Chuckles]
I never raced on a bicycle, but this opportunity to hang out with this group of other Type 1 was just so tempting that I just said yes without thinking about it. So, I showed up in a parking lot on Melbourne, Australia. God, I’m just blessed and was given a bike to ride for the weekend, and I literally started to roll with this whole new community.
They’re trying to teach me how to ride a road bike. [Chuckles] If you’ve seen the Tour De France, or any sort of cycling, you’ll know that cyclists ride in a pack. They ride in these pelotons and they do that to draft in behind each other and to really play off that reduced resistance that happens when they travel as a group. So they told me, basically… I was worried about keeping up, and they said, “Chloe, if you can just keep the front tire of your bike as close to the back tire of our bike as possible, you’re going to just cruise in our slipstream.” I did that, and they were right. We were cruising at 30 kilometers an hour for more than an hour, and I really wasn’t doing all that much work. I struck me on that moment on that bike as part of that group that was actually what was happening to me in relation to that weekend. Being surrounded, being in that community of people who got it, who understood, who spoke my language, who are also testing their blood sugars, and playing with insulin delivery rates and shoving handfuls of gummy bears into their medicines. They got on to do another shift on the bike so they wouldn’t drop low. Being surrounded by that made living with diabetes easier that weekend for me.
So I just had that… I had that all in the moment. I said, “Oh my gosh! I’m in a diabetes slipstream.” If I continue to surround myself by people who live with this, I’m going to be able to face my challenges in life a lot easier with a lot less resistance if I do this with a group, instead of on my own. I learned that lesson on a bike and from that literal physics of drafting on a slipstream. So, that is sort of where Connected in Motion, the slipstream weekend, and the slipstream experience, and the diabetes slipstream… It is all sort of a play on that really visible, tangible thought of when we travel as a group we can do so much more with so much less resistance.
Erich: That is nice. That is a pretty amazing observation you made while you’re sitting on a bike cruising through Australia.
Chloe: Yes, it was. I feel really fortunate to have that, and to have connected with those folks. That was one of the catalysts, for sure, to bring all of this to life.
Chloe: People with diabetes, of course… [Chuckles]
Erich: Yes. Well, is it just to…
Chloe: No, it is…
Erich: …through Connected In Motion, or do you do other types of speaking?
Chloe: Really, really neat. It’s growing. It started right within Connected in Motion. Then, it started to grow beyond. I was… I started this meeting by these other diabetes conferences to present through the JDRS, or through the Canadian Diabetes Association, or through some of the different camps and things that are running out for people living with Type 1 Diabetes. Then it started growing beyond, into the some of the more corporate and business world. That is sort of where I am at right now.
The speaking thing has been really interesting and a huge learning for me, but… Yes, it’s growing. I just actually spoke at my first school, presenting to about 200 elementary school kids, about living your dreams and stepping outside of your comfort zone. It’s something new for me, but it’s growing.
Erich: That’s great. What other aspects of Connected in Motion do you want people to know about? How can they learn more about it?
Chloe: We have all kinds of events. Like I said, we’ve got 15 events happening across the country this year. Everything is always posted on our website, ConnectedInMotion.ca. Our Facebook group is always updated with the latest, greatest, and upcoming events. That is just facebook.com/connectedinmotion. We also have a Twitter account which is Twitter.com/connectinmotion. So, all of those links are down in our website as well.
We just had… We are heading off into the summer here. We’ve got our canoe trips coming out. We’ve got our surf camps on the West Coast. We’ve got some outdoor rock climbing events, and some cycling events. It’s an action packed summer. But the best way to find out what’s happening inside is definitely at connectedinmotion.ca.
Erich: Okay. Is there any… We’re about to close now. If you have any advice to people listening with Type 1 Diabetes, what would it be?
Chloe: Well…I think, for me, it’s been all about living my life and figuring out ways for diabetes to slip into that. I’ve been able to do that by sort of finding that spark and… For me, it’s outdoor adventure. But you have to find what it is that motivates you, to be able to face every single thing you need to do, every minute of every hour of every day, potentially for the rest of our lives. So, having that source of motivation and inspiration has really helped me and see things, from the day to day challenges. Again, having that within yourself is one, but also being connected with that community of people who are doing the same thing and being surrounded by that positive, “can do, anything is possible” attitude… That’s just been, literally, a life saver and a game changer for me.
So I would definitely encourage people to connect with the community, whether that be online, or whether that’s in person locally, or even getting into an event even if it’s a little bit far from where you’re at, it’s just such an incredible experience to be surrounded, to be in that slipstream, and to really have that sense that anything is possible when you live with Type 1, and when you’re constantly learning and sharing and growing from the people around you and their experiences. That would be it.
Erich: Okay. Chloe, thank you very much for joining us. It has been great. Good luck with Connected in Motion.
Chloe: Thank you so much. Thank you for the interview. Thank you for having me on. I really appreciate it.
Erich: It’s our pleasure.