As a nomad, you’d think I’m used to the phenomenon of jetlag. I had’t really experienced one so far though, apart from the usual tiredness.
Only this time, it hit me like a brick wall.
After travelling through South East Asia for 10 weeks, I was so tired I felt as if I could sleep for a month. Backpacking can be exhausting. Especially when you are continuously exposed to such different cultures and lots of poverty. And don’t even get me started on the sweltering heat and humidity.
I love to travel, and had an amazing time. However, 10 weeks was quite enough. I was knackered and it took me a good two weeks before I felt like I was even on this earth again. Having experienced this, I’ve come up with some tips to deal with a jetlag and get over it.
1. Don’t plan anything for the first week.
Take things as they come, and give yourself a bit of a break. You need to rest, and maybe you don’t have as much energy as you initially thought. We had a big family birthday party on the third day, which was lovely, but I still felt as if I was up in space. Even speaking Dutch was a bit difficult for me.
2. Treat your body well.
It has to adapt to a different time zone and climate. This is a lot to take in. Drink lots of water, and eat healthy. Be careful with caffeine and alcohol – I felt that coffee made me even more tired on the long run.
3. Don’t sleep during the day.
Go to bed around 10pm, or a bedtime you’re used to, and get up at a normal time in the morning. The first day you might have to fight to stay up, – my fight lasted about 3 days – but your future self will thank you. If you go to bed at any time you feel sleepy, you won’t adapt to the current time zone and the tiredness will linger.
For us this was a bit tricky, as it’s now summer’s daylight saving. Which, in Holland, means that the sun rises at 5:30 and doesn’t set until about 10pm.
4. Slowly adapt to the (new) culture.
Especially when you come back from a big trip, it’s so important to close your adventure at your own pace. You can go through your photos, write or read your journal, listen to music that you’ve heard on the trip. All sorts of things, to make you smoothly transition into your ‘new life’.
The first time I came back to The Netherlands from a year Australia, I started working five days later. I wasn’t feeling tired, but I didn’t let myself adapt properly. The feeling of the trip was gone in a flash. Now I have allowed myself time and space to settle in. The exhaustion has worn off a little, and I feel a lot better.