Jet lag will bring you down. It’s a weird, disorienting feeling that you are too tired to lie down, to jazzed to stay in one place, too foggy to think – and in no way, shape, or form are you ready or able to enjoy a vacation, business trip, or family bug-out.
In a word or two – jet lag is the pits.
I have conquered jet lag – and I do not say that lightly. I really have decided to beat it at its own game and in order to do that, I have set up some protocols that seem to work every time. It’s been over more than a few trips, and it does reflect my own body chemistry, but it works.
Allow me to fill you in on my protocols. They are a little floopy, but I think if you have issues with jet lag, you got nothin’ to lose by trying them out on your next trip over time zones.
One note: these tips are based on trips to Europe from the US.
- Step out of time. This means taking off your watch, shutting off your phone, and letting the day tell you what time it is. Certainly you want to make your flight, but let all those airport clocks remind you of the current time. Then, once you are on the plane, don’t sit and mentally remind yourself of the six hours or so ahead you will be when you land, or the time it is now at your destination, or the number of hours in your flight. Step out of time altogether and let life present itself to you. Like medieval farmers.
- Bring a watch already set to the time where you are going. But set it the day before you leave so it doesn’t bring you back into time. Put it in your bag and don’t look at it until AFTER you land. Look out the window at your new day and put on the pre-set watch.
- Ignore folks who say, don’t drink caffeinated drinks on the plane, or don’t eat anything. I’m a coffee lover – going without it gave me a headache. I do pack food these days because I tend to land and then keep going, either to a train or another flight, so I need food to tide me over breakfast or lunch when I land.
- Sleep. If you are on an overnight flight to Europe or beyond, don’t beat yourself up if you think you are not sleeping enough on the flight. Rest is paramount, sleep is a bonus. If you put the book away, turn off the screen in front of you, wrap a nice fleecy blanket around your shoulders, and rest, you will likely fall asleep regardless. Trying to make yourself fall asleep won’t work and it is stress-inducing!
- When you arrive at your destination, get as much daylight as possible. Do not be tempted to just sack out when you get there. Stay on your feet, find something neat to do, get lunch at lunchtime, dinner at dinnertime, best as you can. While I would not book Wagner opera tickets to sit through five hours of singing in German on the day I arrive, there’s nothing wrong in booking a nice twilight tour of Paris on the Seine or a night walking tour of spooky spots in York.
- If you are too tired, seriously tired, take an hour nap not later than early to mid afternoon.
What I have found is the constant mental math of what time is it here, what time is it there, or how many hours have I been traveling is what makes for world class jet lag. Best is to convince yourself you are a world class traveler, but one who is not tied to clocks and watches. Sun up, you’re up. Sun down, you’re down. Then little by little, the new place will come into brilliant focus and you will have a fabulous trip. And besides, everyone wants to know what you bought, what you saw, where you went, not how many hours it took you to get there.
Get up and go! Life’s too short to stay in one place.
If you’d like to read more travel tips, try “Buen Camino!” Paperback and Kindle.