Welcome to the first installment of our Interview with an Expert series!
It should come as no surprise that many of us at Trails have travelled a lot. We’ve made many friends along the way, many of whom are perpetual or frequent travellers. In this series we interview some of our friends to bring you travel tips from true travel insiders.
Our first expert is Ann, who runs a consulting company that provides aid and technical assistance in developing countries.
Confused? Yeah me too… The point is that she travels internationally 5 to 10 times a year (jealous)… For work (less jealous). She travels to places that are not on your typical bucket list, for example, the last three cities she worked in were Ulaanbaatar, Addis Ababa and Kigali (there’s no shame in Googling where they are… if you can’t be bothered, they’re the capitals of Mongolia, Ethiopia and Rwanda).
At the time of our conversation, Ann was working in Kigali which is 8 hours behind her home timezone. She routinely starts work the day after she arrives, so there’s no time for jet lag. Here’s how she does it:
#1 Early Preparation
In the lead up to her trips, Ann will gradually adjust her sleeping patterns to her next destination.
“I find it easier to adjust in small increments, 15 minutes a day is a good start. Any more than that and I find myself unable to sleep or unable to get out of bed!” – Ann
It may not seem like much, but doing this for a week will move your body clock by almost 2 hours. This alone may be enough to put you in your destination timezone, preventing jet lag completely.
Depending on where you’re going, it may not be possible to shift your timezone completely before you leave. For example, Los Angeles is 17 hours behind Melbourne. Adjusting fully to that timezone means your 9 to 5 work day will run from 4pm to midnight… I doubt your boss would be okay with that!
Luckily there’s more you can do when you get on the plane…
#2 As soon as you get on plane, behave as if you are in your destination country.
Many people think that the only way to adjust your body clock is to change your sleeping patterns; but Ann’s secret is to also change meal times.
This can pose some problems as many airlines’ meal service is affected by take off, landing and turbulence than the destination timezone. As a result, you may have to refuse a meal that is offered to you at the wrong time.
“I stay on track by setting my watch to my destination as soon as I get on the plane (rather than when I land). It’s also helpful to bring protein bars to replace any meals that are offered at the wrong time.” – Ann
If you’re anything like me, you’re very skeptical of any theory that involves turning down free (or in this case, prepaid) food. But Ann’s methods are backed up by scientific research conducted by the Medical Research Council’s Laboratory of Molecular Biology. Their findings suggest that meal timing has a pretty big impact on your circadian rhythms (science for body clock). If you’re curious, you can find the study here.
Would you turn down plane food if it meant no jet lag? I know I would!
#3 Tailor Your Body Clock To Your Holiday
If you’re stopping over in multiple time zones, adjusting your body clock can get tricky. When I backpacked through Europe, I made the mistake of adjusting fully to the first timezone. This meant I was slower to adapt to my second destination, which snowballed to my third and so on.
So what should I have done? Ann says: split the difference!
When Ann has back to back trips planned, she will adjust her body clock to a time zone that sits in between the two places. That way she’s never so far out of sync that she’s sleeping the days away, and she’s able to adapt quicker to her next destination.
With these three travel tips, you’ll be well on your way to making jet lag a thing of the past!
How do you deal with jet lag? Did we miss anything? Let us know in the comments!
Ann has such a wide breadth of knowledge that she will be our featured expert for the next three parts of this series. Stay tuned for part 2 where Ann teaches us how to get the most out of our accommodation. Considering how much time she spends in hotels, this is one you won’t want to miss.