Chapter 6: How to Recover From Jet Lag and Enjoying Life After Travel
There’s no question traveling provides opportunities that could change your life. You’ll never forget the experiences you had abroad, and you may even stay friends with fellow travelers for a long time. Returning home might feel like a culture shock, and you might experience jet lag after your journey home. In this chapter, we’ll help you pull through the transition. We’ll explore the impact of traveling, from how to get over jet lag faster to ways to stay in touch with the people you meet.
Jump to Key Section
- What Is Jet Lag Disorder?
- Ways Traveling Can Create Lifetime Friendships
- Long-Term Benefits of Traveling
- Tips for Avoiding Post-Trip Blues
- Advice for First-Time Travelers and Parents
What Is Jet Lag Disorder?
Jet lag disorder is a temporary sleep issue that occurs when someone travels over several time zones quickly. Jet lag happens because traveling tricks your internal clock. Your internal clock, or circadian rhythm, tells your body when to sleep and when to stay awake.
For example, if you land in a country in a different time zone where it’s daytime, while it’s nighttime back home, your body may still think it’s time to sleep and you might experience jet lag. Usually, symptoms occur if you traveled at least two time zones.
What Are the Symptoms of Jet Lag?
You may experience any of the following symptoms with jet lag:
- Mood change
- General feeling of being unwell
- Disturbed sleep
- Trouble concentrating or functioning as you normally would
- Constipation or diarrhea
Fortunately, jet lag is only temporary and typically only lasts a day or so until you’ve adjusted to the local time zone.
What Time Zones or Directions Are the Worst for Jet Lag?
Jet lag if most often worse flying from west to east rather than east to west. Additionally, your chances of experiencing jet lag increase the more time zones you cross.
Scientists aren’t exactly sure why traveling west increases jet lag for some people, but they’ve developed a model to explain why traveling east usually feels worse. Generally, cells in your body called pacemaker cellssend signals based on light or dark. When it’s light, your body wants to stay awake. When it’s dark, it wants to sleep. When you travel across multiple time zones, the cells get confused, and this leads to jet lag.
Our internal clocks are a little slow, or slightly longer than 24 hours. Without consistent light to prompt your body to stay awake, the pacemaker cells want your body to have a longer day. When you travel west, the day lengthens, and jet lag is less severe. When you travel east, you “lose” time, which makes it worse.
How Long Does It Take to Recover From Jet Lag?
Generally, it takes one to two days to recover from jet lag for each time zone crossed. There are ways to minimize the effects of jet lag and speed up the recovery process.
How to Get Over Jet Lag Faster
Here’s how to treat jet lag symptoms so you can feel better faster. These tips may also help prevent jet lag:
- Arrive early: Arrive at your destination early if possible to give yourself a few extra days to adjust.
- Rest: Get plenty of sleep before you depart because sleep deprivation can make jet lag worse.
- Adjust your schedule: Try adjusting your schedule before you leave by going to bed an hour early every night a few days before your trip if you’re traveling east, and one hour later every night if you’re going west.
- Trick your mind: If you wear a watch, change the time on the watch to match the time zone of your destination. This is a trick to help you get in the right mindset. Also, try not to sleep until it’s nighttime at your destination, no matter how tired you are, and try to eat meals with local meal times.
- Stay hydrated: Drink water and stay hydrated before, during, and after your journey to prevent dehydration. Also, avoid caffeine, which dehydrates your body and keeps you alert. This way you’ll sleep better and have more energy to handle the effects of jet lag.
- Sleep on the plane: Try to sleep on the plane if it’s nighttime at your host country. Bring earplugs and a sleeping mask to help you sleep. Try to stay awake if there is still daylight when you arrive.
Ways Traveling Can Create Lifetime Friendships
Traveling opens your mind and your heart to new friendships. You’ll feel more confident to meet new people in a foreign place because friends can help you adapt to the change.
Also, traveling is a special, unforgettable experience. After your journey, you’ll never forget the time you and other student travelers wandered around ancient ruins in Southeast Asia, for example, or when you and new friends worked alongside local farmers in the Dominican Republic.
When you travel, you meet others who were afraid to step out of their comfort zone, but brave enough to try it. Here are more reasons friendships made abroad can last a lifetime:
- You’re on the same journey: It can be a challenge to leave the comforts of home, family, and friends and leap into the unknown. Other travelers understand how you feel and may miss their homes. You’re there for each other to face each challenge together, and this forms a strong, lasting bond. In a short amount of time, your group will become closer and could even feel like a family.
- You experience new things together: You participate in so many activities with student travelers, you get to know their likes and dislikes fast. From zip lining in Peru to riding camels through the Sahara Desert, you’ll experience things you’d never get to try at home, and you’ll always remember the people you’ve shared them with.
- You share common goals: When you travel as a student, you meet up with other students who chose the same program as you, and you’ll often find you instantly have a lot in common. For example, maybe your new friend also feels passionate about working to protect native sea turtles in Costa Rica and also aspires to study zoology in college. Or maybe your traveler friends also want to learn Spanish and hope to immerse themselves in the language. Sharing similar plans helps you bond with others while you’re away from home, and it also keeps you connected when you return.
How to Stay in Touch With People You Meet While Traveling
It’s easy to stay in touch with friends from all over the globe because there are so many ways to communicate. And it’s fun to share memories or make future travel plans together long after you’ve returned. You can simply send your friend an email, text, or chat message on occasion to remind them of your special bond. Here are more ideas for keeping in touch after the journey:
- Stay connected through social media sites like Instagram or Snapchat.
- Share stories and memories and get updates through email.
- Send postcards, letters in the mail, or cards for special occasions.
- Chat on the phone or through texts.
- Use Skype or FaceTime to feel like you’re talking in person.
Students who travel with Rustic Pathways and want to stay in touch with other students will have access to alumni-only events and more through the Alumni Association.
Long-Term Benefits of Traveling
Besides making lasting friendships, here are reasons why traveling is really good for you in the present and the long-term:
- Sharpens your mental skills: Traveling gives your brain a workout because you break out of the usual routine, learn and use new skills, and keep the skills you’ve learned abroad with you once you return.
- Gives you a sunny perspective: You’ll gain a new perspective and appreciation for life long after you return as a result of being exposed to different cultures and ideas.
- Improves self-confidence: You’ll be a more well-rounded and confident person after you’ve traveled than you were before you traveled.
- Enriches your social life: You’ll build friendships you can enjoy for many years.
- Boosts physical health: You’ll naturally get plenty of exercise when you travel. You’ll see how fun it is to be active, which you can carry with you far into adulthood.
Tips for Avoiding Post-Trip Blues
Post-trip blues is a melancholy mood resulting from traveling. Some travelers feel blue when it’s time to head home and get back into their normal routine. This happens because traveling is so exciting, fun, and full of surprises that it can make life back home seem boring.
These feelings generally wear off in a few days, or once you get used to your normal routine again. Here are ways to reduce sad feelings with the return home and enjoy the memories of your amazing experiences abroad:
- Share your experiences: Keep your journey alive by posting photos on social media or writing a blog and sharing your experience with others. Stay connected with student travelers and share your feelings about returning home, so you don’t have to go through it alone.
- Enjoy your discoveries: Incorporate the culture of the country you visited into your life back home. For example, if you discovered you love ceviche after traveling to Peru, practice making this food at home. Or maybe you found you enjoying taking long hikes more than you realized and can keep up this healthy habit once you return.
- Continue your impact at home: If your travel experience gave you the service bug, find a similar project taking place in your communitiy or look for an opportunity that will allow you to make a different contribution.
- Be grateful for the things you have: Your friends and family missed you while you were away, and it’s likely you missed them too. Enjoy the comforts of home again, like getting to sleep in your own bed and cuddling with your pets.
- Treat home like a foreign place: You’d be surprised at all the things you can discover in your own backyard, so the adventure doesn’t have to end when you step off the plane. Try new restaurants, go to a festival, or visit a museum. Pretend you’re a tourist in your hometown, and you’re bound to learn something new.
- Let yourself feel: It’s okay, and natural, to feel a little down after a trip abroad. Let yourself recharge, eat healthy foods, spend time with friends, and get plenty of sleep and exercise. Before you know it, you’ll feel great again.
- Make plans to travel again: Just because you’re home doesn’t mean you’ll never get to have another exciting adventure. After you recharge, you can plan to participate in another program with Rustic Pathwaysand look forward to another life-changing experience.
Advice for First-Time Travelers and Parents
Traveling might seem scary if you’re a first-time traveler, but once you have an experience abroad, you’ll see how fun, exciting, and rewarding it is to travel. The best advice we can give to a student traveler is to be open to learning, prepare for your journey, and enjoy the adventure. For the parent of a first-time traveler, have no fear. When your child travels with Rustic Pathways, they’ll enjoy all of the benefits of our program itineraries while staying safe and comfortable.
Rustic Pathways transforms students through immersive travel experiences. Students participate in meaningful service to have a positive impact on communities around the world. And they return home with new skills and the desire to make change in their home communities.
We offer a variety of programs to suit your goals and personality, whether you want to work with animals, practice your photography skills, or just explore some of the world’s most magnificent places. To start planning your trip, request more information about our student travel programs. If you’re ready to take the leap abroad, save a spot with one of our programs and enroll today!