You don’t need another 20-something white girl on the Internet to tell you how life-changing and formative traveling is. As annoying as that can get, it still remains very true.
For something that helps you grow and evolve into a well-rounded global citizen, it has also got to mess with you in many ways. Between navigating a new city with nothing but a phone that only works with Wifi and making sure you get back to the airport on time for under $20, perhaps one of the trickiest feats is conquering jet lag.
In case you’re not familiar, jet lag is a condition that occurs when you travel to a destination in a different time zone, but your body is still accustomed to the time zone where you came from. For example, if you fly from Chicago and land in London at 8:00 in the morning, your circadian rhythm is still tuned to 2 A.M. So rather than go straight to a restaurant for a genuine full English breakfast, you’ll want to get the good night’s rest your body is used to having right around this time.
Therefore, I’ve gone ahead and written down a few vital things that I, personally, try keep in mind when I travel across time zones.
Sometimes the bigger the time difference ≠ the worse the jet lag. Logically speaking, the largest possible jet lag between two places is 12 hours. If there is a time difference greater than 12 hours, you simply have to subtract the number of time zones crossed from 24 (the total number of time zones in the world) to get a more accurate idea of your jet lag. The only thing that really changes when you cross the International Date Line is, well, the date.
I flew from Seoul to Honolulu recently, meaning I went back 19 hours. Although I landed in Hawaii at 10:00 A.M. on Tuesday, to me it was 5:00 A.M. Wednesday morning. While reliving October 11th, 2016 made me feel like a time traveler, in reality, I was only getting over a five hour difference. (However, telling someone that you’re getting over a 19-hour time difference is a lot more effective when you have to justify sleeping in until 2:00 P.M. on your first full day on Oahu.)
Thus, while the date is different, my jet lag wouldn’t be much more severe as, say, someone flying from Minneapolis, which is five hours ahead of Honolulu.
Stay hydrated. I learned this the hard way a few years ago after flying back to Ohio from Madrid. On one of my first nights back in town, I had a takeaway dinner and some wine with my brother and sister-in-law. But the morning after drinking enough wine to make me tipsy (but definitely not drunk,) I noticed I was feeling a lot more hungover than I normally would. It was so bad that I was bed-ridden nearly all day long, sleeping, puking, and drinking water until I recovered.
As it turns out, 10 hours on an airplane that’s drier than the driest desert has a drying effect on you. (!) So ordering a red wine to help you fall asleep or a coffee to keep you awake aren’t very good ideas unless you have a water bottle to keep you hydrated.
When flying east -> west (without crossing the International Date Line,) try to stay up till your normal bedtime. It will be tough, especially when 8:00 P.M. is 2:00 in the morning to you. But when you finally do get to crash, you’ll sleep more soundly than this animated gif of Drake tucked away in a cozy bowl of noodles.