The Reluctant Travel Writer - Travel Writer’s Jet Lag

Leonard Lea Frazer

I first experienced “jet lag” in 1980 on my first trip to the Fiji Islands. My wife and I flew from Vancouver to Hawaii, stopped to refuel, and continued on to Nadi International Airport in Fiji. A return flight to Fiji cost about $1500 Canadian back then, and we made the most of it.

That is to say, we stayed up, watched all the in-flight movies, ate the free meals, and drank the complimentary drinks as we passed the time on the 17 hour flight.

An Air China jet preparing for departure.
An Air China jet preparing for departure.
The swimming pool at the Coconut Inn Hotel in Nadi, Fiji, which Leonard never had a swim in due to his jet lag.
The swimming pool at the Coconut Inn Hotel in Nadi, Fiji, which Leonard never had a swim in due to his jet lag.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When the ground crew at Nadi opened up the door of the aeroplane at about 5:00 am Fiji time and we walked down the steps that had been rolled out to the plane, we were hit with a hot, dry tropical heat wave that almost knocked us over. Then came an awful headache followed by more heat. It had been suggested to us that we should make reservations at a local hotel, which we had done, instead of catching an early morning bus to the south end of Viti Levu to the capital city of Suva after our arrival in Fiji. It was a good thing we did. The jet lag was just kicking in.

All we wanted to do was get to the Coconut Inn, book in, and lie down on our bed. Yes, we were now really suffering. The room we had was hot, so we had to keep getting up to put coins in an air conditioning machine. The room ceiling seemed to be spinning, our heads were pounding, we felt nauseous and, downstairs in the lobby of the hotel, a traditional Fijian Meke, with singing, live music, dancing and loud drum beating was going on. We slept through one whole day and didn’t get up till the next morning when we continued on our island-hopping journey by bus, still not recovered from the effects of our jet lag.

Travel Writer Leonard, the day after his arrival in Fiji. He still had a pounding headache.
Travel Writer Leonard, the day after his arrival in Fiji. He still had a pounding headache.
 Artwork by a Fijian artist, perhaps inspired by the pain of jet lag.
Artwork by a Fijian artist, perhaps inspired by the pain of jet lag.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The condition of jet lag occurs when one flies in a fast moving jet-plane and travels East to West or West to East through different time zones. Flying North to South and back does not have the same effect, because the time zone remains the same. Jet lag is not just a concern for tourists and would-be travel writers; other passengers that include athletes travelling to compete in the Olympic Games, Special Forces flying to a mission and politicians and heads of state on diplomatic tours have jet lag to contend with.

Each group has instructions to carefully follow to combat jet lag.

Just before I left on my first tour of Wales I happened upon a brochure at a travel agent’s office. “How to Beat Jet Lag,” was the title. The formula within was written by a travelling salesman who had frequently travelled by jet across the Atlantic Ocean to England from the eastern seaboard. After suffering numerous episodes of jet lag he tried different food and beverages that he consumed before and during his business flights. After years of experimenting he discovered a successful solution and I decided to try it out.

Here’s what I did on my trip to Wales: The night before my flight out of Vancouver I had a heavy carbohydrate dinner of Mac and cheese and a good nights sleep. In the morning I headed to the airport. No breakfast! No coffee or tea! Only water or fruit juice. During my flight from Vancouver/Toronto to Heathrow I consumed no meals, no drinks except water, and watched no movies. I wore a heavy sweater, which I had in my carry-on bag, got an extra blanket and pillow from a stewardess and slept (or at least tried to) all the way to England. While still on the last leg of my journey, and an hour or so before arrival at Heathrow, “We’ll now be serving breakfast,” was announced. I got up from my seat, splashed some water in my face (in the washroom) removed my sweater, changed my shirt, returned to my seat, lowered the meal-tray in front of me, and waited for my breakfast to arrive. What I was doing was preparing to reset my internal clock for London Time.

I had the full breakfast including coffee and was soon at the airport going through security and immigration. I looked around at the people from my flight moving slowly through the lines. Most were like the walking dead. However, these were not zombies I was looking at. These were travellers suffering from jet lag.

Well, the so called “formula” worked for me. I was now in a different time zone than British Columbia but I was now in tune with the British time-slot and ready to face the morning the rest of that first day! I had planned to do several tours and stops in southern England before heading to Wales and was able to do all of them. I was wide awake, alert and void of any travel fatigue. And, I was ready to start gathering material for travel stories.

Any time after that, where I endured any traces of jet lag, I could safely say, “It was my own darn fault!”

There are other commonsense precautions to help combat additional travel ailments that travellers should learn and follow. The big one that comes to mind is “Montezuma’s Revenge” (Traveller’s Diarrhea) and motion sickness (on the water and in the air), and these need to be addressed when we are contemplating a journey. Educating ourselves regarding different forms of travel sickness and their causes can be the first step to relaxing, pain-free adventures in travel destinations of the world.