The first time you travel across the world you'll experience jet lag and you'll wonder what in the world just hit you.
Here's the thing — if you're planning your first trip abroad, chances are high that you're going to get addicted. The travel bug is a real thing and the only way to scratch that itch is to travel (seriously, there's no other alternative). You'll want to visit all the countries ... which gets expensive.
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One side effect to all that traveling is going to be jet lag. There is nothing worse than arriving on the other side of the world and trying to enjoy your trip, but all you really want to do is go to bed and sleep for two straight days. Or, coming home from your entire semester and instead of catching up with friends and family, you end up sleeping through lunch. Not good.
While jet lag is basically inevitable if you're traveling to another time zone, there are some things you can to do to lessen how much it affects you.
Five ways to cure your jet lag fast —
- Know When To Sleep On The Plane
- Adjust To The Time Zone
- Take The First Day Easy
- Keep Moving
- Match Your Meals
Know When To Sleep On The Plane
Besides just making the trip go faster, sleeping on the plane can help you catch up on some sleep that you would have otherwise missed .... but it could be doing more harm than good.
If you will be flying through the night and will be landing in the morning, try to get as much sleep as possible. You'll want to wake up with as much of a night's rest as you can. We've got another post that covers all the things we do to survive those long international flights, but things like melatonin, eye masks and headphones will be your best friend while trying to sleep on the plane!
But sleeping on your flight isn't always the best plan of action. More on that in the next section, but essentially you want to get on the new time zone schedule as soon as possible. If you're arriving late at night, you want to go to sleep when you get there ... which means you probably shouldn't be sleeping at the end of your flight. There are online calculators out there like Jet Lag Rooster that help you figure out the ideal times for you to be sleeping according to your destination's time zone.
Adjust To The Time Zone
Depending on when you arrive (morning or evening), you'll either need to stay up all day or go to bed right away. The biggest thing here is to immediately adjust to their time zone you just landed in, matter how tired you are.
If you arrive in the morning, you will want to stay up the rest of the day (no naps!) and try to go to bed as close to bedtime as possible. Trust me, this is easier said than done, but do whatever you can to stay awake if it's the middle of the day. Go for a walk, call a friend, resist the urge to nap.
If you arrive in the evening, go to bed around your normal bed time (if you go to bed at 10:00 pm at home, try to go to bed at 10:00 pm in the new time zone). Sleep aids may be useful for this night as well, especially if you ended up sleeping on your flight when it would have been better to stay awake.
Trying to sleep at a normal time in the new time zone will help your body's clock reset faster.
Take The First Day Easy
You'll be tired enough already thanks to the severe time difference, so don't overdo it by exerting yourself too hard. Plan a relaxed (but active) day of interesting activities, like a walk on the beach, site-seeing in your new city, or a nature walk. Long museum tours where you sit down and are lectured to, or lazy days at the beach will give you opportunities to nap ... which will make it harder to go to bed at a normal time.
If you hang around the hotel you will fall asleep, so make you get out and start exploring.
Moving around will keep you awake and help you beat jet lag. Like I mentioned above, you don't have to plan anything that is physically demanding, but make sure you're out of your hotel room doing something that makes it impossible to fall asleep.
Just keep in mind how good sleep will feel that night and it will give you the motivation to keep going.
Match Your Meals
I get weird cravings when I have bad jet lag. I'll wake up wanting dinner ... because that's the meal I'd be eating if I were back home. I try to drink loads of water, and eat pretty clean (no salty junky food — solid proteins, fruits and veggies, and nuts are my go-to foods) and eat breakfast even when I'm craving the meal I would be eating in the country I'm used to living in.
It's mental, but adjusting to a routine and schedule that you just landed in will help you get over your jet lag, stat.
Have more questions about becoming an ILP volunteer?
Trust us, the chance to volunteer in places like Asia, Europe, Central America, and the Caribbean is worth the jet lag! You'll be able to get a few of them answered on our FAQ page, and by talking to an ILP representative: