Travel Shock

12.14.08 | 3 Comments

Jet Lag, or travel shock can level you

Forget “jet lag” – I think travel shock is more accurate. Aside from the sleep deprivation component to international travel, there are also mental and emotional side effects that aren’t often discussed. For example, it hit me yesterday when walking the dog around the block in the cold (for here) air. Merely 18 hours before I had been walking in the cold, in Tiananmen Square and through the Forbidden City in Beijing.

Somehow my brain and body hadn’t caught up to the vast repositioning that had occurred and I felt extremely grouchy and uneasy as a result. Just a couple of days before that, I was having a dinner engagement in Bangalore at the Leela Palace, temperature, around 70 F (21 C) before getting on an airplane that took me to Singapore where the temperature was around 81 F (27 C) for a few hours. Then off to Beijing where the temperature was hovering around 32 F (0 C.) Throw in the different languages, food, prevailing culture, the need to be able to think clearly and make decisions and you get some sort of debt built up across the physical, emotional, and mental components of the body.

I’ve always been somewhat effected, but perhaps as I age it’s becoming more pronounced. It’s certainly a disconcerting side-effect of fast travel times. The best advice I have for managing it is to drink more water than you think you need, the moment the door to the aircraft closes, start thinking and living in the time of the location where you will arrive, if it’s an “overnight” flight, then prepare to sleep as best you can on the airplane. Keep mood altering substances (caffiene, alcohol) to a minimum. And synchronize your food intake to the local time at your destination. In this way I’ve found I can manage the changes reasonably well.

The best travel accessories you can have are noise cancelation headphones (like Bose Quiet Comfort,) a neck pillow (I like the inflatable models, easier to pack in a brief case,) high-quality eye shades (soft, thick natural fiber works best as it breathes but still blocks the light,) and some sort of sound device like an iPod with relaxing sounds/music pre-loaded. Even in a coach seat, it’s possible to find a way to relax reasonably well. At your destination, get as much sunlight as possible, this seems to have an effect on your adjustment. The drugs (melatonin et al) have never done a thing for me, though your mileage may vary.

In any case, it’s nice to be home again.