Healthfully Survive Travel and Jet Lag

Ahhh the week leading up to a big trip!  There’s nothing quite like it.  Excited. Restless. Energized. Enthusiastic. Frantic.  And a little bit nervy!  I actually really enjoy basking in the preoccupation and anticipation in the lead up to a vacation.  While traveling to new places around the world is one of my biggest passions, the window of time (which is sometimes days!) between my front door and that of my destination is not often the most pleasant part of the holiday.  Over the years, I have gladly mastered the voyage between Australia and America.  As I am most often travelling between Sydney and the east coast of the U.S., I am in-transit for more than 24 hours!  Whether I am landing in a U.S. city or back in Sydney, I usually have to ‘hit the ground running’ by way of social engagements or straight into the office for a day at work.  Feeling, or looking, ghastly is just not an option.  As the wise woman Sweet Brown once said, “Ain’t nobody got time for that!” 

So what do I do?

I have outlined below my tactics for making in-transit time as painless as possible and mitigating jet lag hangover.

BEFORE I LEAVE

 Do my research

On this trip back to the U.S., I am having a cheeky stop-over in Maui for a week.  As I've never been before, I sussed out where and what there was to eat.  With a quick Google search, I was able find a handful of awesome-looking organic cafes and natural foods stores that I can't wait to check out. Acai bowls here I come! I was also glad to find out that Maui has a Whole Foods Market which is extremely exciting for a health nut ex-pat like myself! I will go there to stock up on a few items I can’t live without for the week, namely chia seeds, maca, and coconut oil. 

Prepare food for plane

It should be no shock to you that I avoid plane food at all costs.  I would rather starve (or, fast, to spin it in a positive light) than eat the imitation eggs and mystery meat they will no doubt be serving us on the arrival into Honolulu on Friday morning.  No matter how long the journey, I always prepare with lots of healthy snacks and meals for the flight.  I like to bring water-dense foods, if possible, as any hydration in the form of food or drink will help with maintaining fluid levels. 

My Sydney to Maui plane food:

  • carrot sticks and cucumber slices with coriander tahini
  • chia pudding for breakfast
  • strawberries
  • packs of flax seeds
  • superfood bar (no added sugar!)
  • dried figs and apricots
  • herbal tea

Before the flight

I try to drink as much water as possible on the day of my flight to ensure I am not getting on the plane already mildly dehydrated.  Staying hydrated is the key to minimizing travel-induced lassitude and a sallow parched appearance upon arrival.

ON THE PLANE

Wear a watch

I wear a watch so that I don’t have to keep fiddling with the in-flight entertainment and/or asking the flight attendant “are we there yet?” After boarding, I set my watch to the time at my destination so I can mentally prepare. I try to eat and sleep according to the new time zone. 

Smell something nice

Ever noticed how planes have a stale stench?  It becomes even worse once the food cart has come around and deposited the horrendously unnatural tray of stuff they call a meal.  I like to bring some essential oils to sniff.  I have a ginger, lavender and geranium blend which is lovely and comforting for an aromatherapy hit when feeling weary. 

Sleep

For me, a window seat is absolutely crucial if I am going to try to sleep on the flight.  More sleep = less jet lag.  My tried and true method of guaranteed sleep is sedating myself with an Ambien. On this trip, I am going to trade in my prescription pill-popping technique for one more holistic.  I have Melatonin and Valerian root tablets, neither of which should make me feel drowsy unlike an Ambien blackout.  We’ll see how we go with a more gentle and natural method of assisted sleep!  I pack earplugs and an eye mask so I can choose to sleep according to my own schedule.   

Keep drinking

WATER! Can’t stress this enough.  I pack three (empty) liter water bottles to fill up once I pass security and then usually buy a plastic bottle of spring water at one of the news agents near the departure gate.  I try to drink two cups for every hour I am not asleep.  If I rouse even for a moment, I skull.  I know what you are thinking – this chick is the person in the window seat who constantly gets up to pee. Yep. That’s me! However, I have become quite good at doing the stealth climb over two sleeping row-mates.  I pray that they don’t wake up mid-arm-rest-straddle, but if they do, a smile and a shoulder shrug usually do the trick.  Of course, they think I am an annoying weirdo but, hey, I’m not there to make friends.  This is survival! 

Move

Whenever I am not sleep, knocking back liters of water, or peeing, I am working the aisle.  Not in a catwalk kind of way considering I am outfitted in grandpa-socks, track pants, at least three jackets, and an eye mask on my forehead.  More like stretching, lunging, squatting, walking or simply standing up in the aisle. Sometimes I go to the back and have a (probably incoherent) chat with the flight attendants while I do some calf-raises or something equally as shameless.  I say, do what you got to do to keep the blood circulating!

WHEN I LAND

Get some exercise

After being crammed in alarmingly tight quarters back in cattle class, it’s no wonder I stumble off the plane with an unfortunate set of 'cankles.'  Exercise is the perfect remedy - fresh air into the lungs and fresh blood pumping through the veins.  Depending on location, I opt for a bit of yoga, walk or light jog.  Bonus points for doing exercise barefoot on the dirt, beach, or grass.  The earth has a negative grounding charge to neutralize all the electrically positive toxins and poisons to which we’re all exposed (i.e. EMFs, radiation, etc).  The practice of earthing and exercising helps calm my body down after the trauma of travel and contributes to a good night’s rest. 

Get in the sunshine

Hopefully it’s sunny at my destination so I can get outside and soak up as much sun as possible.  Sunlight helps the brain adjust to the new time zone. 

Keep hydrating  

Even after smashing 4+ liters on the flight, I still feel dried out when I get off the plane.  Guzzle, guzzle, guzzle!

Sort out the gut

As I have mentioned many times before, my digestion is pretty touch and go.  It’s not uncommon for my bowels to get out of whack when I travel with a change in routine.  Drinking lots of water will help keep things moving, but usually it requires a bit more assistance.  I start off eating things like chia seeds, aloe vera, and seaweed which are all gelatinous plant foods to keep everything flowing smoothly through the intestines.  If that doesn’t do the trick, I take a gentle laxative such as magnesium oxide, prune juice, or senna to ensure I do a good poo.  Bikinis and bloating are not a favorable combo.

Detox

Airports and airplanes are toxin-magnets so I like to help my body rid itself of accumulated toxins after a long journey.  Hopefully my destination has a good juice bar so I can knock back a couple of green juices.  I also like to eat clay.  Zeolite is my preference.  If you’re curious, you can learn more about that here

Go to bed early

If I arrive at my destination in the morning, I always plow through the day getting as much water, exercise and sunlight as possible without stopping for a nap.  I find that naps throw me off even more.  Instead, I opt for an early night so that I can wake up the next day feeling fresh!  If I find it difficult (for whatever reason) to fall asleep, I take some Melatonin to help my internal clock adjust. 

Well, that should do it!  Sounds like a lot, but if you have a sensitive system like mine, it is better to plan ahead and help yourself out as much as you can so that you don’t spend the first few days of a holiday dealing with lethargy and/or tummy troubles.  I hope these tips and tricks help you on your next trip!

Mahalo!

Steph x