J is for Jet Lag

Yes, I take my pillow when travelling.

Arguably the most painful part of travelling.

Living in Australia definitely has it perks, but unless your overseas holiday is in New Zealand or Antarctica, it can take anything from 7 to 30 hours to get anywhere. And no, that isn’t by boat; I’m talking jumbo freakin jets.

My first experience with jet lag was when I was 16. I had the mild sensation that something wasn’t right, but it wasn’t until about two weeks after arriving at my destination (when some sense of logic returned to my weary head) that I realised solid ground wasn’t supposed to move under my feet. It was something akin to standing on a rocking boat and every now and then I would suddenly feel as if I needed to catch my balance. By the time I realised what it was it was over, but it was unpleasant all the same.

Since then I have had the ‘rocking boat’ sensation only one other time, thankfully not on this trip.

The Sydney to Hamburg trip took just over 30 hours, not including the time spent waiting at the airport beforehand, which is probably the real killer. The waiting.

I hear some people get by on jet-lag pills and remedies, knocking themselves out with medication, or, brace yourselves for this one, just falling into a deep slumber allowing them to arrive refreshed and ready to take on the world.

Signs of jet lag: Wild, delirious look on face; Raised eyebrows that say "put the camera down or else"; Massive plate of food substituting inability to sleep; Unbrushed hair; Risk of using sharp three-pointed objects as weapons against humanity; Smiling against the odds.

Nuh uh. That aint me. I think it’s all about the sitting upright. I just can’t sleep in an upright position. I’ve heard about those strange people that can sleep standing up and don’t get jet lag and I’m convinced they must be part alien. Or something.

But I digress.

Of course on arrival the not sleeping at the appropriate hours is a bummer when you’re working with a short holiday. Staying awake all night and sleeping all day is hardly the best way to see the sights. But eventually your body adjusts and all is well and good for a time.

Until the return journey home.

And this journey home was probably the nightmare of all return travellers.  It began one chilly (-4) Sunday morning in Ferrara, Italy. Things were packed and suitcases were overweight, but I was ready to leave. We were at the local train station by 11am. The train left around midday for Bologna, which took just under an hour. We then had to get off and wait another hour before hopping on a two hour train to Milan. This was followed by another hour’s wait at Milan train station before the shuttle bus left for the airport, which took another hour. At the airport we then had to wait 3 hours before we could check in and another 4 hours after that before take off.

Then the flight was delayed an hour.

After a 7 hour trip we landed in Dubai, where we had to wait another 3 hours. This was where we also found out that our direct Dubai-Melbourne flight wasn’t quite so direct with a stopover in Singapore. That would take about 17 hours including the one hour stopover.

On arrival in Melbourne I had another 3 hours to wait for my plane to Launceston, which was fine because I knew I was nearly home. YES! I boarded the plane and buckled up with a sigh of relief. The plane rolled down the runway and started to speed up when suddenly the breaks went on and we were slowing down. Great.

We circled back to the starting point and sat on the plane for an hour while engineers came to fix the problem. By this time I should have been home.

Eventually we were ready for take two. We started picking up speed down the runway when, yep, you guessed it. The same thing happened again. At this point we were told to disembark and wait at the gate for further instructions.

This pretty much sums up how I was feeling. Probably how I was looking too...

After one hour and then two, I asked the lady at the desk if there was a possibility I wouldn’t get home tonight. When she responded with ‘yes’ I think a little (read:big) part of me died inside. I had been awake for almost 50 hours and I was starting to get emotional. I just wanted to get home. Like, now!

After another hour 5 names were called out. Mine was one of them. Some divine being saw my need and managed to shuffle me onto a seat on the next flight out. I sighed with relief as I heard the following announcement stating that there were no more seats left and all remaining passengers should head to check in to collect their bags and be sorted with accommodation for the night.

Of course I then had to wait another couple of hours for that flight, which was then delayed because not one, but two out of the two toilets on the plane were broken. They couldn’t fix them in the end but after some deliberation decided not to cancel the flight and send us on our merry toilet-less way. THANK YOU.

Needless to say, I held my breath in anticipation at take off, but thankfully we made it in the air and within the hour were safe in Tasmania.

I arrived home at 7pm that night. Tuesday. It had taken over 2 days to get home.

Of course, the jet lag that ensued was a different experience all together. The following week I found that I couldn’t sleep morning or night and I just wasn’t tired. I think I heard my body saying “Well hey, you kept me up for 2 days and now you wanna sleep every 12 hours? Make up your mind already”.

Two weeks on and while all is now well and good, I have decided that for my next trip I’m going to do some research. It will involve looking into becoming part alien so that I can sleep whilst sitting upright with fluorescent lights in my eyes and babies screaming behind me and old ladies coughing in front of me and old men snoring across the way.

Sayonara jet lag! I’ve got my eye on you…

Seeing my first Australian sunrise in a month

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10 comments on “J is for Jet Lag

  1. Oh, you poor thing. Jet lag does suck. Last time I traveled, I did the 5-hour energy shot to stay awake through my normal period of sleep so that I would be on schedule with the locals (going east). That worked for me.

    • See, I have no problem staying awake. It’s definitely the not being able to sleep that stuffs me around. I’m jealous you found something that works for you though! I think the only thing that will help me is a bed in first class!

  2. I remember the first time I went on my hols to Americaland. Our flight was at 6 in the morning, meaning we need to check in at about 3am, too early for trains and buses to be running. I ended up spending a night in Heathrow. By the time we’d traversed the Atlantic, had a 5 hour stop over in Detroit and made the subsequent 2 hour drive from Chicago to where we we staying I’d been awake for just shy of 42 hours. For reasons unbeknownst to anyone, not even myself, I kept my watch on GMT for 3 days.

    I’ve never had much trouble with jet-lag thankfully and can sleep more or less anywhere. However there is the slight drawback that if I don’t sleep for 24 hours I end up having some seriously trippy sleep-deprivation induced hallucinations. So being part alien does have its drawbacks.

    • 42 hours is equally unreasonable! I shudder just thinking about it.

      Hallucinations! On the plus side that sounds like more fun than almost chucking a toddler tantrum at the airport? No?

      • As fun as they sound they can be equal measures terrifying and unsettling. I have in my time thought I was being hunted by monkeys made entirely of blood, earnestly believed myself to be a cargo freighter. On one occasion I thought I was a screw, made entirely of eagles. I have since decided to attempt to get a full night’s sleep regardless of circumstance.

        But yeah, they totally beat screaming children any day!

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