Wheelchair Accessible Machu Picchu this summer in a wheelchair – No Problem

machu picchuPat wants to visit Peru this summer and she’s traveling with a wheelchair, No Problem!!!  She’s been traveling for her lifetime, she has the money, time, the ambition and the desire to still adventure at her age – what she doesn’t have is a group of travelers who’d like to go with her this summer to Peru and share the costs that she can’t afford as a wheelchair traveler, traveling alone.

Pat’s no stranger to traveling with her manual wheelchair and her special needs. She’s fully self sufficient and she’s been all over the world with us, and she’s been all around the west with Clint Grosse at Access Tours. Now Pat wants to stand at the top of Machu Picchu and take it all in.

Our wheelchair accessible adventures in Peru this summer center on the attractions in Lima, the Sacred Valley, Machu Picchu and Cusco. We like the progression we’ve created in our accessible itinerary because it takes into account the gradually changing altitude and that route helps our travelers adjust better to the changes to avoid altitude sickness. Lima 5085 ft /1550 m, Machu Picchu 8200 ft 2500 m, Sacred Valley 8700 ft/2650 m Cuzco 10,913 ft/3326 m.

Altitude sickness is the most common malady our travelers experience who visits Cuzco, Machu Picchu, and Peru’s Sacred Valley. It affects every person differently with symptoms like headaches, nausea, and loss of appetite, breathlessness, sleep problems and palpitations.  While our guides and support teams carry portable oxygen containers, good hydration, a slowed pace and acclimatization at each elevation are cornerstones to abate the symptoms.

During our trip there are visits to the Cusco and Pisac Indian Markets, a picnic lunch at the Moray Inca terrace, a flight over the Nazca lines, and an unforgettable accessible day of outdoor adventures at Machu Picchu.

Despite the scarcity of wheelchair accessible Peruvian resources and the tremendous challenges related to their infrastructure, a good deal of travelers with disabilities have participated in our wheelchair accessible Peru vacations.  Nonetheless, this is a rigorous trip and a can-do attitude, good respiratory health, and flexibility are necessary. The passengers going Pat would be paying their own way, like her. They would also be flexible and willing to accept situations where access in Peru is still limited.  For this reason, scooters, carts and electric wheelchairs can’t be accommodated outside of Lima, and slow walkers and travelers with manual wheelchairs are invited.

Our accessible groups can only visit Machu Picchu in the summer months June, July and August, when it’s the the dry season in the Andean highlands. From December to March, it’s the wet season when it’s muddy, slippery, and too dangerous for the physically carrying that must go on for our clients to visit the terraced levels at Machu Picchu.

The entire summer is open and this summer, Pat wants to stand on Machu Picchu with a group of travelers and take it all in – Prospective adventures should write to Accessible Journeys.


Wheelchair travel in the streets of Italy

Kathy and Joe Pagliei at Trevi Fountain in Rome

I am Italian, I sell travel, and I have been through the streets of Italy with my wheelchair. I love everything about Italy! I love the culture, the food, the language and the people. The streets can present a challenge with a wheelchair, however, I still love visiting Italy.

In the inner cities of Italy, the charm of the “old City” is its architecture and cobble stone streets. The first rule of thumb when traveling with a wheelchair is to be sure the person pushing the chair is physically able to push that person on any surface. If the handler is not strong enough to push the wheelchair up small inclines or ramps, then it’s not likely they would be successful on the cobblestone streets of Italy.

Typical uneven Rome street conditions

Another thing to consider is the chair itself. Travelers like to travel with “travel chairs” or “companion chairs” which are light weight and more portable, however, the small wheels of those chairs will cause more unwanted problems as the wheels will get stuck in the terrain of the uneven surfaces. Use a standard wheelchair for your vacations and you will be much more comfortable getting your traveler around the city.

Not all streets in Italy are cobbled

Having said that, not all streets are cobbled. There are smaller streets to access places of interest you can use until you get to the areas where the rolling may be a bit more difficult. Having a guide around the city is helpful as they know which streets are more wheelchair friendly and will help to get you to your walking destination on an easier path. Be prepared for hills and inclines. The city streets are not level and you will find hills and inclines no matter which city you travel to in Italy.

Italy travel by scooter

Getting around the city is sometimes challenging. The sidewalks are often broken and do not have curb cuts, which forces the traveler into the busy streets. Stay as close to the parked cars or sidewalk as possible. Italians that drive through the city streets are used to obstacles in their way, so they are a bit more cautious and usually give the pedestrian the right of way.

Wheelchairs on Rome roadway

If you are staying at an inner city hotel, which is where we all want to be when we travel, be aware that the small streets may not be able to accommodate a large vehicle with a lift. If that’s the case, getting to your transportation can also be a challenge. I have walked as far as 2 or 3 blocks to get to our coach with my wheelchair group. Because coaches are only permitted in certain areas, and cannot fit down the small streets of the old city, we were forced to walk the chairs to where the coach was parked. It’s not always easy, but in the end, you will be delighted you took on the challenge.

As long as you are prepared both physically and mentally for your trip, I have no doubt that you will return saying that you love Italy too.

If you look for them you can run into cobblestones in Rome

The most common surface in Italy

Snow doesn’t stop Accessible Journeys

Outside Accessible Journeys’ Office at 5PM on Jan 21, 2014

Mother Nature brought 12+ inches of powdery snow to our office on Tuesday, January 21, 2014 closing our offices and shutting down Eastern Pennsylvania.

The flakes started around :15AM and by 10AM snow stayed on the streets and sidewalks immediately as it fell from the sky. By 12PM noon the storm was gathering energy with the snow flakes size increasing from sand-size tiny flakes to dime and nickle coin sized hunks of swirling frozen precipitation. The increase in the size of the snow flakes had a noticeable effect on visibility.

As soon as the snow started there was a steady stream of cars leaving the I-95 area (see photo on left).  By 5PM the steady procession of cars heading north past our office on Sellers Avenue had  slowing but the snow showed no signs of slowing down, and neither did the wind. Winds speeds were around 20 mph for most of the day befoer they increased to 25-30mph.  The temperature at 5PM is a chilly 19ºF.

The snow was not a problem at all for us. Kathy and I worked remotely on Tuesday and Wednesday from our home offices. Kathy answers our client’s calls on the 1.800.TINGLES Line (1.800.846.4537) while I answered the local calls from vendors and suppliers.  Working remotely kept our phone lines open during the most difficult of time = when our client’s want to vacation and it’s snowing outside.    The temperature remains well below freezing but we are back to work and in the office on Thursday.

AJ’s wheelchair ramp cleared of snow

Despite the weather the wheelchair ramp is clean, dry and maneuverable and the world moves forward as we thaw out – stay warm.

When to visit Kenya on a Wheelchair Accessible Safari

Wheelchair accessible wildlife safari

When I’m asked by a client when is the best time to go to go on a Kenya wildlife safari, I can’t help but remember the punchline of an old Kenyan joke; “Sir, there are no bad safaris in Kenya; we only have wet ones and dry ones.”  It’s true that Kenya hosts the world’s best wildlife safaris and it’s also true that Kenya can also host some of the wettest.

Kenya’s main tourist season is in January and February because it’s hot and dry and the game parks burst with big crowds and bigger rates.  For one reason, the animals are easier to spot as they congregate around water holes and river banks, and for another, the northern Masai Mara is packed and overflowing with big beasts and big predator cats. It’s calving season for the wildebeests in the beginning of February and there’s no better season to see wild pursuits, high speed chases, and narrow escapes.

The reasons for us sponsoring our accessible safari every year in the middle of the summer are of course the naturally perfect weather, and July coincides with the greatest animal spectacle on Earth – the great migration.  Every year in June and July, millions of wildebeest, zebras and antelopes migrate north from their winter home in Tanzania’s Serengeti Plains up to the grassy plains of the Masai Mara in Kenya.  Incredibly, the migration leads millions of animals directly through the world’s two most crocodile infested rivers; the Grumeti, in Tanzania, and the Mara River in Kenya. Here, during the crossings legions of hungry crocodiles wait in the murky waters as stampedes of wild beasts fights the currents of the raging rivers and the carcasses of the stampeded float dead downstream.

Accessible Journey’s Pres/CEO with his Kenyan Friend

By September all the migrated wildlife from Tanzania are overflowing on the plains of Kenya’s Masai Mara and every animal’s taking advantage of the abundant food; including the predators.  In November/December the Short Rains begin and the moisture plagues the wildebeests with hoofs fungus as the mud develops.  Rain, mud, and the hoof fungus start the herds back to their winter home in the Serengeti plains in Tanzania.

Temperature throughout Kenya can range dramatically and is mainly a factor of altitude.  In July, our accessible Kenya safari visits the Masai Mara, the Rift Valley and the Central Highlands when the temperature is the most agreeable and the rainfall is the lowest.  The cool nights in the Central Highlands are wonderfully unexpected and the warm wood campfires around your encampment, or the wood burning fireplace in your room make the lower temperatures more agreeable.

Our wheelchair accessible safari in Kenya avoids the “Long Rains” (March to the beginning of June) and the “Short Rains” (October to the end of November) when the going is wet.  It’s during the “long rains” that the pace of life is slowed by too much water and mud. Roads are closed, soggy wet landscape becomes off limits to vehicles, wildlife are difficult to spot, and the mosquitoes grow so thick they can carry a grown man away…so we’ve been told.   The conditions during the “Short Rains” can be equally bad, except the rain doesn’t last as long. Like the punchline says, there are no bad safaris in Kenya.

Feeding the wild giraffe’s at Giraffe Manor, Nairobi, Keny

Let us make your wheelchair wildlife safaris in Kenya memorable, accessible, and dry – call us about the accessible, dry, possibilities at 800.846.4537.

Nautilus Tours and Cruises closes

I was saddened yesterday after I read the email that told of Nautilus Tours and Cruises closing their travel agency for wheelchair travelers. After I started Accessible Journeys in 1985, Nautilus came along as another go-to agency for travelers with wheelchairs.

Back then, like it is today, it was a small accessible world.  There were only a few agencies in America and a handful of travel agents who were responsible for mapping out the adventures of wheelchair travelers in America.

Nautilus was started in 1988 by Lou and Yvonne Nau. Their agency created wheelchair accessible adventures and cruises almost everywhere and they are fondly remembered by many of their clients. In 1995 they decided to retire and asked Joan Diamond and Jill Bellows to continue the company.

Joan had specialized in travel for persons with disabilities for over 20 years and she served as the Western Regional President of SATH (Society for Accessible Travel and Hospitality. Jill had been in the travel business for over 30 years, was a Master Cruise Counselor and was also a teacher in the tourism department of Los Angeles City College.

During Joan and Jill’s time, Nautilus they specialized in travel arrangements for persons with physical disabilities, their families and friends and they developed and escort tours and cruises of Scandinavia, France, Italy, Holland, Alaska, Belgium and Ireland.

When I received a return email from Joan, she told me the decision to close Nautilus was due to her health and Jill’s health, and that has made it impossible for them to maintain a business.  As for Nautilus continuing as a business venture, Joan told me there are no forward clients, no refunds necessary and no consumers adversely effected.

As for Joan, she’s not retiring.  She plans to continue to specialize in travel arrangements for persons with physical disabilities and she will also be attending the SATH cruise.

Nautilus joins two other pioneering travel agencies for travelers with wheelchairs that are no longer in business; Evergreen Travel run by Betty and Jack Hoffman and Whole Person Tours  run by Bob Zywicki.

Brazil with access by 2014

The old traveler’s tale that access is best if you “follow the Olympics” is true.  The same is coming true for soccer, or as some call it “football.”  Talking about Brazil’s success in obtaining the 2014 FIFA World Cup™, Joseph S. Blatter, President of world football’s governing body said the vital issue for the competition’s Organizational Committee (OC) is to tackle accessibility.

According to FIFA “Never before has there been so much cooperation between a host nation’s Organising Committee and that country’s Paralympic Committee,” said Andrew Parsons, the President of the Brazilian Paralympic Committee.

“We feel flattered that they have come to us. It’s a crucial time, because we’re discussing the laying down of technical rules concerning accessibility for sporting events in Brazil. This affects a very large section of the population, which is made up of the physically handicapped, the elderly, the obese and those recovering from injuries. These people are consumers and their rights as citizens are being respected.”

The article went on to say “Over and above the discussions concerning accessibility during Brazil 2014, the CPB President also sees the next FIFA World Cup as an opportunity to set down a marker and leave a legacy of accessibility for future generations. It’s important that issues like this are covered at a World Cup, because a big event always leaves its mark.”

In closing, Parsons said “We can help educate the country and create, via the World Cup, a culture of accessibility and an architectural concept which takes this issue into consideration. We’re happy to take a solid step in that direction and move on from talk to action.”


About Cruise ship illness

Some luck, just when the price of a cruise vacation dropped to record levels, and you thought about taking your first cruise vacation, the news media started reporting that sick passengers were flooding ship infirmaries complaining of gastrointestinal illness with nausea, abdominal cramps, diarrhea and vomiting. Moreover, the flu-like symptoms were not effecting one cruise ship, or one particular cruise line, the reports were coming in from dozens of ships from just about every cruise line in the industry.

The culprit responsible for the passengers’ illness is not a terrorist attack, under cooked food, or the genesis of a new illness isolated to passenger cruise ships – it’s an old, well know perpetrator – a virus.

cruise line sickness

About Norwalk Virus

The particular virus that is currently plaguing the cruise lines is called Norwalk Virus. It bears the name of the place where is was first identified as the cause of a primary school outbreak of vomiting and diarrhea in Norwalk, Ohio.

Norwalk belongs to a family of distinct viruses that have been named after the places where the outbreaks occurred. In the United States we have the Norwalk, Montgomery County, Hawaii, and Snow Mountain viruses. Britain contends with the Taunton, Moorcroft, Barnett, and Amulree viruses. And in Japan, similar but distinct viruses are called Sapporo and the Otofuke viruses.

Before the discovery of diarrhea-causing viruses (in the early 1970’s), researchers were unable to identify an exact, causative, agent for gastroenteritis (a gastrointestinal illness) when it was not due to a bacterial source (like salmonella, shigella, staphylococcus, E. coli, etc). Prior to that time, physicians and researchers called any generalized gastrointestinal illness nonbacterial gastroenteritis, the stomach flu, winter vomiting disease, or it was just passed off as food poisoning, without a test to confirm whether bacteria was the culprit bug or not. With the identification of viruses and the development of sensitive and specific diagnostic tests, eventually researchers began to recognize viruses as causative agents of gastroenteritis.

Contracting Norwalk Virus

This virus is passed from one person to another very quickly, which is why it often occurs in outbreaks. Have you ever had one child in your home get sick and the next thing you know you are spending what seems to be 3 nights in a row in the bathroom with sick kids? Most likely your house was infected with Norwalk Virus or Norovirus (formerly called “Norwalk-like Virus”). These are the group of viruses that cause vomiting and diarrhea. Next to the common cold, this is the most prevalent illness in the United States and Canada.

Norwalk Virus is passed through personal to person contact, consuming food or water contaminated with the virus, or by contact with contaminated surfaces (door handles, elevator buttons, hand rails, and food utensils are the big offenders). Cooked foods may also be contaminated though handling by an infected crew member. The foods most often causing Norwalk Virus outbreaks are shellfish and salad ingredients. The sources of water contamination associated with outbreaks are swimming pools, drinking water (not bottled water) and ice cubes.

One larger outbreak or Norwalk Virus occurred in Pennsylvania and Delaware in September, 1987. The source of both outbreaks was traced to ice that was made from water from a contaminated well. In Pennsylvania, the ice was consumed by spectators at a football game, and in Delaware, it was the guests at a cocktail party who downed the virus with the drinks.

The Norwalk Virus is common in situations where there are a lot of people in a group setting such as shopping malls, schools, nursing homes, banquet halls, dormitories, campgrounds, summer camps, churches, schools and cruise ships.

The Cruise Ship Problem

Of course you won ‘t be seeing Johnny’s camp aired on the news when half of the kids are sent home sick with a virus. Those headlines are reserved for large cruise lines. And that’s the reason why the news headlines about the cruise ship illness are misleading.

In our everyday lives, if we became ill with Norwalk Virus, it’s extremely difficult, if not impossible, to identify the location where we contracted it. Unless you’ve been isolated and had limited contact with others, to such an extent that identification of our exposure is an isolated instance, your guess about where you contacted Norwalk Virus would be just that – a guess. But, when you are isolated for seven to ten days on a cruise ship and you become ill midway through your voyage, it’s a bit of a “no-brainer” to assume you contracted the illness onboard ship.

The CDC (Center for Disease Control) estimates that each year 23 million people in the United States alone become ill from Norwalk virus – and that means that outbreaks are common place occurrence. From 1966 to 2000 the CDC recorded 348 outbreaks; most occurred in restaurants (39%) nursing homes and hospitals (29%), and daycare centers an schools (12%). Of the remaining incidents, cruise ships and vacation settings only accounted for 10% of the recorded outbreaks.

This doesn’t mean that the cruise industry is sitting on it’s laurels – quite to the contrary. The lines are doing everything possible to control illness onboard their ships. Surveillance teams have been assigned to ships, reporting standards above and beyond the CDC requirements (3% or more of the passengers and crew with vomiting and/or diarrhea) have been internally instituted and new behaviors for crew members and food preparation and storage are happening oceans wide – on every passenger vessel.

The main problems the cruise lines are facing are they can’t pretest passenger for Norwalk Virus before they board their (clean) ship, they can’t control the appetite of the news media for sensationalism, and they can’t control the perception of the public that cruise ships in someway are responsible for causing the illness. If you ask anyone in the travel industry, there’s no cleaner, safer place to be than on a passenger cruise ship.

Treatment for Norwalk Virus

As for the illness, there’s no real treatment for Norwalk Virus, only treatment for the symptoms. The objective of treatment is to replace fluids and electrolytes (salt and minerals) lost by diarrhea and/or vomiting. Antibiotic therapy is not effective in viral illness and antibiotic should not be taken. Unless for are actively ill on a day when you have to travel, DO NOT take an antidiarrheal medication like Petmo Bismol®, Lomotil®, or Imodium®, as they may prolong the illness, the symptoms and the infectious process.

A Norwalk Virus infection results in illness 24 to 48 hours after exposure, and symptoms last from 12-48 hours. Illness is characterized by the abrupt onset of vomiting and/or non-bloody diarrhea; abdominal cramps are common. 25-50% of patients report headache, nausea, malaise, myalgias and low-grade fever.

Self-care measures to avoid dehydration include drinking over the counter electrolyte solutions (Gatorade®) to replace fluids and electrolytes (minerals ) lost by diarrhea and/or vomiting.
Passengers who are unable to take fluids by mouth because of nausea may need intravenous fluids. This is particularly true in infants, small children, and the elderly who are greater risk for dehydration. Jell-O® water, soda and plain water and do nothing to replace lost electrolytes.

Do not give antidiarrheal medications to children (unless directed by a physician).The risk of dehydration is greatest in infants and young children, and parents should closely monitor the number of wet diapers changed per day, or the urine output when their child is sick.

For fluid replacement Pedialyte® or Lytren® have liquid and minerals and are recommend them for babies.
– Sport drinks like Gatorade, Power Ade, All Sport,
– Sodas like ginger ale, flat cola, 7-Up, or Sprite
(Mix them half-and-half with water.)
– Dilute tea with sugar
– Frozen popsicle
– Don’t use red Jell-O. It can look like blood in the stool.
– To give Jell-O Mix, 5 teaspoons of sugar and 1/2 teaspoon of salt with
4 cups of water. (Don’t use too much salt.)
Note: Water by itself is not good for children with diarrhea.

– Don’t give your child very hot or very cold liquids.
– Don’t give your child apple juice. Apple juice can make children’s diarrhea worse.
– Give your child as much to drink as they want. Call the doctor if you are not sure.
– Call the doctor if your child shows signs of dehydration:
– thirsty – muscle cramps – confused or dizzy

If you’re a passenger who’s prescribed diuretics (water pills) and you contract Norwalk Virus, you should go to the ship’s infirmary. The reason to be extremely caution is because dehydration develops very quickly in the presence of diuretics and vomiting and can be quite profound in a short period of time. But, don’t be guilty of practicing medicine without a license – don’t stop taking a prescribed medication or a diuretic until you consult consult with a physician!

Preventing Norwalk Virus

The best way to prevent Norwalk Virus is to practice good hand washing techniques. This means to wash your hands frequently, and thoroughly with soap and hot running water for at least ten seconds:
– before each meal
– before ingesting any food item handed with your fingers (snacks, peanuts, etc.)
– between handling food raw and and ready-to-eat food
– after going to the bathroom
– after changing children’s diapers
– after smoking
– after using a tissue or handkerchief

An additional practice that needs to be learned over a period of time, is to never touch your head with your hands, anywhere above your neck, unless you have just washed your hands. Norwalk Virus, other viruses, and bacteria are easily transmitted when you touch your nose, eyes, or mouth. Resist scratching your itchy nose with anything but a clean tissue. Keep your hands away from your eyes, and never touch your lips, teeth or tongue. Sure, easier said than done, but it’s a travel practice long followed by savvy third world travelers.

Don’t worry; it isn’t deadly. It just causes some uncomfortable symptoms that will pass in 24 to 48 hours. No one likes to be sick, especially on vacation. You can be assured that every cruise line is doing everything they can to disinfect their ships and be sure that their food handlers are sanitary. The problem with the Norwalk Virus and cruise ships is that the cruise lines can’t prevent you from bringing the virus onboard and they can’t prevent the news media from getting out of hand – when all we’re talking about is a the most common stomach virus on the planet. Play it safe this year, take a cruise and call Accessible Jouneys – Choose to Cruise.

Accessible Egypt

Our wheelchair accessible group tour to Egypt includes everything a wheeled travel wants in a first class accessible tour to Egypt; wheelchair accessible hospitality: hotels with wheel-in showers, accessible van transportation, knowledgeable English Speaking guides, time to wander and roll around Egypt’s many antiquities, a cruise on the Nile River with an accessible stateroom with a wheel-in shower, a morning to barter for goods in one of the world oldest markets and time to refresh by the Red Sea in the desert before returning home.

All of our trips to Egypt are very customizable and adjustable to every travelers level for energy and endurance.  We’ve managed very well with travelers with Multiple Sclerosis (MS) and quadriplegics who can’t perspire.  Part of the success is taking advantage of air conditioning and places in the shade, the other reason for success is timing.

We send travelers to Egypt all year, however the highest seasons for tourism are in North America’s Spring and Fall. In the winter months of December, January and February, temperatures range from (68°F) in Alexandria where it rains a lot, to 80°F in Aswan where there’s no rain.  For March and April the dry and hot winds of the Khamsin blows in from the West and the sky is choked with dust.  Hottest of all times are the summer months of June, July and August when any destination south of Cairo is unbearable hot – I mean sizzling.

Of the hundreds of Nile Rive cruises sailing in Egypt, very few of them are accessible. Our specially selected Nile River Cruises are wheelchair accessible with 5-star service and accommodation. Our Nile River cruises sail every Monday from Luxor for 4 nights and from Aswan every Friday for 3 nights. We have access to a maximum of 4 fully wheelchair accessible staterooms. These selected staterooms are junior suite category and spacious enough for wheeling around and without barriers. Bathrooms are equipped with wide entrance door Grab rails and roll-in showers.

When it comes to disembarkation there are some inherent issues with access: In Egypt, Nile River cruise boats dock parallel to the pier and often times multiple ships will dock side by side to one another extending from the pier. The Nile cruise boat we use normally docks in the 2nd or 3rd position from the pier and this presents a series of obstacles from the quayside to the boat. For this reason, we have to ask passengers who wish to disembark to agree to being lifted by the crew during disembarkation. Passengers using heavy wheelchairs may need to disembark separately from their equipment in a manual wheelchair and join the equipment once on land.

On land, our clients are to accompanied by a trained Egyptologist tour guide throughout the Nile Cruise. Sightseeing is specially prepared and accessible tours are available at the following sites:
– Aswan High Dam & Unfinished obelisk
– Luxor East Bank: Temple of Luxor & Temple of Karnak
– Luxor West Bank: Temple of Deir Bahary / Colossi of Memnon

Our tour is designed to provide maximum participation and to be as barrier free as possible. Our wheelchair accessible vacations in Egypt are the very best of all possibilities. Our first hand knowledge about access and accessibility in Egypt and our collaboration with the world’s best accessible travel planners make any Egypt travel dream come true.

For more details about wheelchair travel and handicapped traveler access in Egypt, contact Accessible Journeys.

Share the Wealth

Share the wealth with wheelchair accessible cruisingWe all know that cruise lines offer special promotions to entice their former cruisers to sail with them again. Today I discovered that Princess Cruises offers past passengers promotions where Captain Circle members can extend their discounted offers to friends and family members sailing with them on the same itinerary. The program is called “Share the Wealth”. My client saved almost $1600 on a 7 night sailing.

Jet lag and the seasoned traveler

HJM & Friends at 2010 WTM, London

I’m just back from WTM (World Travel Mart) and I’m still in the midst of handling my jet lag.  In some part, telling you have jet lag means you secretly want your listener to know you’ve been someplace far away and mysterious, or that you have done something so adventurous that you can’t help yourself with your desynchronosis; in other words, you have jet-lag and any confusion in your mind is not your fault.

On the other hand, if you’re like me and in the travel industry, most listeners assume that I’m immune to such oddities because training obviously allows travel professionals to exert better control over such things that would annoy the average human being. It’s akin to believing that boxers somehow learn to enjoy punches in the face, just like tour operators somehow learn to enjoy sleep deprivation, dehydration and constipation.

I first heard about jet lag was when I was growing up and the phrase was the buzzword for a whole generation of people who didn’t know a thing about intercontinental air travel. Back then, my only experiences with time zone alteration came from falling asleep in the back seat of my parents car on the ride to Beach Haven, NJ on a long weekend ride. Nowadays my travels are much broader. In just a half a day’s time on my watch, I can travel from home and settle-in in New Delhi, 12 hours ahead of where I started. And in a full days’ trip on a jet from Philadelphia, I can cross the international dateline, sip coffee at our favorite romantic cafe inside Darling Harbour, Sydney Australia, and still have a few hours to spare in my 24-hour day.

Dealing with jet lag in the modern world incorporates much more than merely readjusting our internal biological time clock and getting back to our normal sleeping habits, jet lag also refers to the amount of time it takes for the traveler to reconnect with their family, friends, neighborhoods and colleagues who carried on with their lives while the traveler went-out in search of overseas treasures and tales of wonder from other lands.

For a seasoned traveler, recovering from jet lag is a gradual process that can take more time than the average traveler imagines. To catch up with others, reply to emails, pay bills and reintroduce myself into the busy lives of others, I find I need two days of jet lag for every day I’m away from home. When I reach that point after my trip, I find my life’s back to normal again.

My friends and neighbors know I have jet lag when my brain’s confused over when I should eat and when I should sleep. I’m in pajamas at dinnertime, I prefer breakfast cereal for lunch and most of my emails come from Ridley Park when most of Pennsylvania’s population is fast asleep. Secretly, I want them to know that I’ve just been someplace far away and mysterious and that I’ve done something so adventurous that I can’t help myself. As for the fact that I’ve been gardening by the light of midnight moon ever night this week; well that’s my desynchronosis, and that’s not my fault.