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.