Not to brag or anything, but I've traveled a lot. I've hopped on planes to Europe, the West Coast, and tropical destinations all over the world — every trip leaving me in awe and reminding me how much I love to travel. But, time and time again, jet lag has knocked me off my feet — and not in the romantic way. It's made me exhausted in the middle of airports and sight-seeing tours, and a straight-up moody person to be around. So, on my latest trip, knowing that I was facing a six-hour time difference, I tried this one thing to beat jet lag. Believe it or not, it actually worked.
My latest trip was to Italy with one of my best friends in the middle of September. This is one my absolute favorite times to be in the country because it's warm enough to go to the coast, but not too hot to walk around the cities. We planned to go back to Florence, where we studied abroad a few years ago, and spend time in spots that we hadn't been to before. All in all, the trip was a success, and I've been daydreaming about going back ever since we touched down in New York City.
Part of the reason why it was a success, though, is because I felt energized and awake to take on the world. I didn't let jet lag get the best of me this time around, and found that going on excursions and making memories was a lot easier. I wasn't constantly thinking, "Wow, I could really use a nap right now," and enjoyed plates of pesto risotto and cobblestoned streets instead. Who would've thought that was so possible? Not me!
Now, when it comes to wellness when you're traveling, everyone is different. What works for me might not necessarily work for you. But if you're struggling to beat jet lag, maybe consider trying this one thing that was truly life-changing for me on my latest trip.
Here's the one thing I tried that helped me beat jet lag.
Think about your latest trip that included hopping time zones. You likely got off the plane and watched the clock on your phone switch forward or backward, depending on where you were in the world. And you immediately downloaded an international clock and set it to the time back home.
After catching up on your notifications, you did some simple math in your head or looked at that clock to see if it was an appropriate time to send text messages. Your parents wouldn't care if you texted them at 2 a.m. saying, "I made it!" They might eagerly reply, "Yay! Thanks for checking in." But, your best friend might not be as ecstatic to hear that notification ding in the middle of the night.
You did the math, sent some texts, and then went straight to your accommodations — looking for a pillow and a comfy blanket, too. The second you saw that bed, it was game over. What could you have considered doing differently, though, that I tried on my latest trip? Well, let me tell you: For me, it really was mind over matter.
On my latest trip, I didn't do the math in my head or focus on what time it was back home. I knew that my body needed to adjust and create a new "normal." Instead of thinking about my usual routines and what I would be doing in that moment if I were in the "correct" time zone, I thought about what I would be doing when I touched down in Italy — what meals the locals were about to eat. To be honest, it made a huge difference and I didn't think about taking a nap until much later than usual.
I felt more awake, focused, energized, and ready to take on the world.
Not telling my body subconsciously that I was in the "wrong" time zone made me feel more awake, focused, energized, and ready to take on the world. I wasn't creating this internal battle between my body clock before the trip, and my body clock in the current moment. That gave me a lot more energy and space to adjust.
I still hopped off the plane feeling drained from traveling, but I sat in a restaurant in Milan (our first stop) hours later, ready to see the entire city and then some. I ate that plate of pesto risotto, scrolled through my phone a bit, and sunk right into life in Italy.
There were markets filled with fresh fruit near our Airbnb, and we walked by a Fashion Week show that was going to start at any minute. Sure, I was running slightly on adrenaline and sugar from my lemon soda at lunch. Within those few hours, though, I fell in love with the country all over again and didn't even think about taking a nap or two.
What other things have I found helpful for beating jet lag?
Now, every trip that I take that includes a time difference, this is my new mindset. I try to focus on where I'm going instead of where I've been, and beat my jet lag that way. So far, the success has been quite real. (Score!) Although, sometimes I bring in some of my other tips and tricks for backup.
For example, I found that trying to sleep (or stay awake) on the plane and get on the right schedule can be helpful. I'm also a huge fan of taking a nap that's only about an hour or so long when I first get to my destination. Hitting snooze for a little bit always makes me feel more awake and energized, and doesn't make me feel like I'm wasting time that could be spent exploring or taking pictures.
Last but not least, eating and drinking well has helped me beat my jet lag a lot. I found that my body relies a lot on what I put in it, and that fruits, vegetables, and protein-filled snacks are essential for me. I feel like I'm operating at my best when I've had a breakfast that isn't too heavy, and a dinner that is colorful and full of fresh ingredients. And don't even get me started on how life-changing a glass of water can be for my mood and energy levels.
Maybe these things will work for you, and maybe they won't. I truly hope they do, but everybody's different and it's quite possible that you might need to find your own tips and tricks that work for you. Either way, happy traveling and see you hopefully never, jet lag.