Tuesday, May 21, 2013

How to survive jet lag, in a few easy steps

Whenever Hubby and I travel to Europe, we take the overnight flight. Usually it leaves around 10:00 pm (or so), getting us into our destination around 10:00 am (or so). 

Why put ourselves through the torture of an overnight flight, you ask? Well, the theory is that you grab a couple of hours of shuteye on the plane, and then stay awake all day once you arrive. This way, your body more easily falls into the new 5/6-hours-ahead-of-your-normal-schedule time zone, and you, as a result, will be as fresh as a freaking daisy by the time the first full day of your vacation rolls around.

So far, this "theory" has been greeted with what I would describe as no more than mediocre success. There is, of course, the small matter of me not being able to sleep so well on planes. I might have been able to get away with pulling an all-nighter when I was in my twenties. But let's face it - those days are looooooong gone. Anything less than six hours of sleep now and I can barely spell my name the next day. At the very least, I need a nap. Enter the problem of me not being able to stick to the strict rules of cat-napping. Nope - the minute my head hits the pillow in the middle of the day, I almost immediately go into full REM sleep, dreaming away for at least three hours. Which makes it a little difficult to have to go to sleep a mere few hours later. 

So yeah, overnight flights are a bitch. So is trying to stay up the next day. 

Luckily for me, this time around, I found a way to do it.  Move over, jet lag! You're not going to get the best of me!  Well, at least not until I get back to North America, anyway.

Step #1 - Don't leave the airport without getting a coffee: A real coffee. Not that watered down shit you get on the plane. Yes, I know you are tired, stinky, grouchy, stiff, and that you just want to get to your hotel. Fight the urge to run from the airport. Instead, find a coffee place and pay the ridiculously high mark up. You are going to need your energy. Plus, it will help you kill some time.

10:00ish am at Heathrow

Step #2 - Take the most difficult means of public transportation possible to get to your hotel: Seriously, you've got some major time to kill until bedtime, so do yourself a favour and use up as much as possible by taking public transportation. And I don't mean a nice, comfortable, fast taxi either. You might be too tempted to close your eyes while sprawled out in the back seat and that just won't do. No, you need to take the subway, the train, or the bus. Preferably a combination of all three. Not only will this eat up time, but it is impossible to fall asleep when running from one conveyance to another, dragging a heavy suitcase. Not to mention that you don't want to fall asleep in a bus with a bunch of strangers in a foreign country, do you?

Step #3 - Take a shower as soon as you get to your destination. A cold one: You heard me. The colder, the better. I know it's tempting to wash away all of those airplane germs with scalding water. But now is not the time for cleanliness. It's time to wake up. So use a high quality soap, scrub yourself down, and freeze your ass off. If this doesn't wake you up, I don't know what will. 

Now by this time, if you have followed my rules, you should have eaten up a good three hours, and it should be about 2:00 pm. And really, you only have to make it to about 8:00 pm. Only six hours left!

Step #4 - Go have a drink. Or five: I know what you are thinking. Alcohol makes you drowsy. The last thing you should do is have a drink. Fair enough. I used to think so too. Instead, I would try to keep myself busy by going for a walk, going shopping, or drinking more coffee. But here's the thing - those things are not fun when you are tired and all you want to do is go to sleep. Having a drink, however, is always fun. And once you have a couple, it gets even more fun! I find that a proper pub crawl, involving good friends to keep you from slouching in the pub bench and to keep you laughing, really helps with this step. Especially when they are locals and know all the good pubs to take you to:

2:15 - the Queen's Pub (it was board game day)

3:20 pm - the Maynard Arms

5:30 - the Harringay Arms

6:50 - the King's Head

8:10 - Villiers Pub

Sure, there were times I wanted to give up. Pub #3 almost did me in, I admit it. But soldiering on is good for you. Especially when there are so many great local beers to try!

Step #5 - Go home and have some peanut butter toast: I'm not actually sure that this helps with jet lag. But after crawling your way through five pubs, it will be the tastiest thing you've ever eaten!!

Step #6 - Sleep... For twelve hours: When was the last time you allowed yourself to indulge in more than six hours of sleep? You totally deserve this! So pop a couple of Advil, slam back a few glasses of water, and sleep in!

Step #7 - Start your day as soon as you wake up the next morning: Sure, you're on vacation and you want to lounge around. And sure you don't remember telling your host that you would like to go for a run in the morning and so you can't figure out why he is already waiting for you by the front door with your running shoes in his hand when you wake up. And sure your lungs are still swimming in five pints of beer. Too bad. The fuller your days, the more likely you are to fall into your bed at night. So suck it up and go for a run.

Step #8 - Stay busy for the rest of the day: Perhaps you could take a stroll through a cemetery, like Highgate Cemetery in North London:


Or stroll through an English garden in Hampstead Heath:


Or just go back to drinking more beer:


Either way, just find things to do so that you are exhausted by the time the sun goes down. Or drunk enough to pass out, anyway. 

And there you have it. Simple, really! Just remember, all you have to do is survive those first two days, and you are well on your way to kicking jet lag to the curb!

Here's a toast to overseas vacationing!