Archive | January, 2013

What’s Your Cure For Jet Lag?

Photo of Paula Erskine, Photo credit John Vanderschilden

Photo of Paula Erskine, Catwalk to Runway creator, by John Vanderschilden.

What’s your Jet Lag Coping Strategy? Here we review different styles of dealing with short layovers from the newbie to the seasoned traveller. When I first started this flying business, I thought sleeping was over-rated. When am I ever going to shop here, tour here, explore here again? I had places to see and people to meet. Like the modelling, there are only so many years in your early twenties you can get away with not sleeping and showing up the next day all peppy, wide-eyed and refreshed. Jet lag strategies weigh in against layover length. Here is to pursuing happiness, sampling world cuisines and accomplishing short term goals beyond a hotel room.

Old-School: Pretend To Take Back the Circadium Clock

Staying awake after a night flight, dropping your bags in your room, start touring and go to bed at the local time of each country. Awake time ranging from 30-50 hours.

This is considered to be old-school practiced by seniors and the occasional eastern european in the flight biz. Hook yourself up to caffeine intravenously, wear a messenger bag so you don’t leave your belongings anywhere because even the seasoned flight attendants can suffer from serious delireum.

You will likely not be meeting any crew members for dinner. You might not care because you are so senior and you have been everywhere anyway and done everything. You’re that experienced and your air of confidence says you have such a satisfying home life that these layovers are just blips. Room service is your only friend. Yet, you are not lonely. Although you are getting away from it all by being away from home, you actually treasure this selfish act of aloneness. Still, you are a pro and accustomed to shopping while the veins in your legs pulse for help. Even though each night flight to Europe disrupts your circadium clock a few times per month, you still attempt to maintain some semblance of control by pushing your body beyond its limits. You not only seize the day you land in Europe, you pretend you didn’t skip a night of sleep by working it instead. But then, that’s how you appeared in this foreign land, so ultimately, you are fooling no one.

The Determined Keener

1 hour nap, shower and head for the shops in a haze.

Ok, I did a 2 hour nap twice in my life after being awake for 24-30 hours. but I can explain. The first time was my first layover ever in Rome. 35 hours awake was interrupted by a 2 hour nap that did not even put a dent into the level of exhaustion I had reached. With the support of 2 more determined keeners, we trudged our way to the Fontana di Trevi and picked up a gelato to soothe our pain. We mingled with a bicycle team before heading into the Vatican. We ended with a glorious Italian pasta dinner and dragged ourselves happily back to the hotel. 13 hours in Rome well spent.

Cut to Istanbul, Turkey this summer. I was experienced enough to know better. But with yet another 13 hour layover, there was no time to sleep for more than 2 hours. The Famous Turkish Bazaar was across the street and we felt like we were in slow motion. I bought jewellry from an Afghani vendor. His booth was 2ft by 2 ft. He showed me a picture of his baby and he thanked Allah that I had been sent to him. He offered me turkish tea, sweated profusely and adjusted necklaces. I bought a hot pink and gold tea set. My friends bought lots of things too, including spices with a few bugs in them for extra protein. ewwwww. We never made it to the Blue Mosque, our legs parked us for the evening at a typical turkish restaurant where the house specialty served in ceramic was set on fire then is smashed to reveal a delicious stew. Later we dragged our un-sorry selves back to the hotel for some long awaited R & R.

The Secret Sleepworkers

Catch some naps on the plane. Officially, this only works on a deadhead. A deadhead is a flight one takes in civilian clothing, assigned a seat, is a representative of the company and travelling to position for a working flight that day or the next day. Personally, I have never been able to sleep in the upright position. Traditional horseshoe neckpillows can’t seem to keep my neck in check. One time, while browsing through a skyshopper magazine, my friend found a triangular pillow that inflated so you could sling your body onto a stomach style position. Unfortunately, it would arrive in the mail long after my deadhead flight had come and gone. But if you can catch a few zzzzzz on a deadhead, you should be raring to semi-go if you don’t want to waste the day sleeping.

Liquid Oxygen Anyone?

They sell it in some duty free stores and it is sometimes available onboard your flight. Still on the fence about this one, and conducting an ongoing survey. A few years ago, they tried to bring oxygen bars to Toronto and the GTA. I tried it at some soiree and I actually felt refreshed. Casinos pump oxygen in to keep you awake, refreshed and gambling. The cockpit gets 100% oxygen pumped in, so a joke telling session in the cockpit between services can be refreshing on a whole other level.

Middle Ground Jetlagger

A Strong European espresso or latte, after a 3 hour nap. The alarm is pre-set for wake-up success. Reluctantly, I wake up because on a 24 hour layover, I don’t want to be spending the night watching BBC documentaries. Well actually, I do, but not before working a flight. The telly in the U.K. is soooo educational and enlightening sometimes. But I want to see daylight by 3pm. Shops close at 5pm. Marks and Spencer is the last stop with it’s marvelous grocery store as I stock up for the return flight. And I am missing some serious Indian food which is the late night food of choice all over the U.K. This is my kind of layover in a home away from home.

The Princess and the Sleep

A brisk walk after a generous nap, followed by a snack. This is ideal after an 11 hour Greece flight with obligatory layover. Some of this nap can be split with half the time poolside. Fortunately, Greeks eat dinner after 10 pm, and there is no shortage of night life from late night crepes at 3 am to all out night clubbing.

Slam Clicker

Keeping the first day abroad about securing shelter, and possibly a meal they’ve packed from home. Heck-bent on saving that per diem or recouping one’s right to do absolutely nothing. You only see these people on the plane during your shift. But I’ll tell you one thing. They are well rested and evasive about their goings on. Their story is boring at best. Why bother travelling at all. But then, this is just a blip for them. A blip of slam clicks. Can also be combined with a delsey diner.

Delsey Diner

The delsey diner brings food from home, which if used wisely, can save some money on meals out at least the first day arriving in Europe. I have brought many healthy “permitted” foods on flights and layovers and I encourage everyone to do the same. Sufferers of allergies can benefit from packing emergency food for their flights. Maximizing fruits and veggies while away from home base will boost your immune system when you’re running on empty.

When it comes to delsey dining, after more than a day,then you are not exactly getting fresh food and there is plenty of that at the local grocery stores. Don’t try to bring canned fish into Mexico, they won’t even let you bring a tuna pate. Sometimes veggies are taken away or overlooked. European countries are not so threatened by dried fruits, granola and tins of fish. The goal is to keep calm, and don’t get too attached to any of your emergency food items. Bags are often x-rayed and arguing is futile and foolish.

I knew a flight attendant who started her career during Portugal layovers cooking macaroni and cheese, canned food and hot dogs in her room’s kitchenette. I have seen her blossom into a more experimental eater with her favourites from every country. Who knew that the Nederlands was famous for their thick cut fries in a cone with gourmet mayonaise ranging from garlic to curry? Travelling can make you positively the biggest fan of world cuisine.

Delsey dining does not enrich your social life unless you picnic with a colleague in your room. Getting fresh salads from the local grocery and loading it up with grilled barbeque chicken, sundried tomatoes and stuffed olives and sharing stories with a friend is priceless. Flight schedules can fatefully throw you together for a blissful reunion abroad. Socializing on layover with crew or new friends builds and bonds friendships and the good times and laughter will keep you energized even at half-mast. Two of the best friends I have ever had I met in Belfast, Ireland watching bands play to packed houses in the late afternoon.

The Night Rider

Sleep all day after landing, go out all night. Repeat. Been there, done that. Not repeating. But no regrets either. There is nothing worse than the feeling of being sleep deprived for any reason before flying. You’ll do it a few times, and get cured fast. I watched an interview with a “sleep expert” on The Marylin Dennis Show who claimed that naps are not helpful and unnecessary in the course of a day’s activities. Marylin and I were quite surprised by his findings. He never interviewed a flight attendant. Long after a trip, there is nothing more refreshing than an afternoon nap.
And it doesn’t take one long to realize, that if you want to have optimal health and feel great all the time, quality of sleep is what we all talk about when we get together.

Get Cracking

Sleep with the curtains open during the day so I don’t sleep the whole day away. This does not work in Manchester, England. 7 days out of 7 I could not tell if it was dusk or dawn most of the time. Fortunately, there is so much to do there. You just have to trudge through the grey like they do. From museums, to shows to the country-side, that is one place I would never get bored.

This get your curtain cracking method also doesn’t work in Newcastle where luckily you can walk home from dancing in daylight at 3 am back to your hotel room. The night is elusive. So those blackout curtains have to solidly block out the Scottish brightness. Many studies have been shared that indicate darkness is what signals the body to go into recouperation mode.

Meditate to Refresh
Hands facing upward on your lap, meditation 5 or 10 minutes or day will clean the slate of any accumulated negativity within that may be weighing you down. The purist most transformative meditation I have ever tried that helps me balance myself is Sahaja Yoga Meditation. With a free Sahaja Yoga i-phone app or attend a free class or do the free online course Free classes are held world-wide in over 100 countries and it is a great way to evolve yourself, and ultimately mankind. It is like pressing the refresh button on your brain and making room for happiness. As someone who experiences jetlag monthly, it is a wonderful tool for life and happiness. And when given the chance, I visit classes in cities abroad.

What is your cure for Jet Lag?