Been back in Hargeisa for a few weeks and, uh… I’m still unpacking. Anyone else slow to unpack? It takes me weeks, actually using each item in my suitcase one by one until they’re empty. Otherwise, I put toiletries in the bathroom and throw laundry in the hamper and leave the rest to marinate for ages. Oh, the unexpected luxuries of adulting!
We went to Toronto on this last trip (joy of joys!), and smashed multiple long-hauls there and back. I did a few things as usual and a few things differently, and wanted to get them down here
before I forget them for the Greater Traveling Good. Recapping the list posted here, with some updates:
Starting with jet lag support, because this has me thrilled to pieces: I
always used to get sick when I travel, usually 7 to 8 days after arrival, and usually a dastardly flu that would linger for ages. This time around, I was gettin’ hitched on Day 7 and couldn’t afford to be under the weather. I did mountains of research, and here’s what brought miraculous success:
- Fasting: Turns out your eating schedule is as important as light exposure to your internal clock. Fasting puts your body in rest mode, and your first meal essentially reawakens your internal clock, realigning you to the local time. Research suggests fasting for 12-16 hours before your first meal (before you land). This was easier than I thought it would be on the outbound long haul, since it was essentially an extended overnight flight; it was a bit more challenging on the return because we flew during the daytime at origin, so I was hungrier en route. But it was worth it… a few weeks have passed in Hargeisa, and nary a sniffle (knock on wood).
- Hydration: I followed this advice and drank Pedialyte (in travel-size sachets, thanks Sarah and Sam!) en route and upon landing. In fact, I drank electrolytes like nobody’s business the first 10 days or so, often Gatorade, just to make sure I wouldn’t fall behind. Bathroom breaks aside, I think hydrating and fasting were the main things that got me through.
- Light exposure: This one is tricky, and frankly I forgot about it once we arrived in North America, but this is how it’s supposed to go:
- Traveling west — seek afternoon light exposure and melatonin. This means keeping sunglasses on/avoiding light in the mornings until it would be around 6 or 7 am in your city of origin.
- Traveling east — go for morning light exposure and afternoon melatonin, so a similar effect in the opposite direction.
- Extreme hand sanitizing (and moisturizing): I’m no germ-aphobe, but stakes were high this trip, and research has shown that tap water in airplanes is horridly dirty (there’s lots of advice out there to avoid hot drinks and ice in the air), so I was that person who slathered on hand sanitizer after every trip to the bathroom and a few more times in between, just for good measure.
Whatsapp: Still my go-to communication method. Wifi is everywhere these days, and Whatsapp is such a light app. A couple friends told me they downloaded it only to talk to me, which I guess isn’t super efficient for them, but as long as it’s free and encrypted, why not? I created group chats to keep people updated, and sent photos to family and friends that couldn’t attend, so they felt a part of the celebrations.
Healthy eating/vegetarian options/teas: I stand by what I wrote earlier, if you don’t fast; veggie options will keep you less bloated, disoriented, and frankly, grouchy.
Clothes: Ditto; the aforementioned uniform still works for me.
Health & Refreshers: I still pick up whatever facial cleansing towelettes are available (without fragrance) at the drugstore. One thing that hit me on this trip, especially traveling to cold, dry weather, was dandruff. I almost always see a few flakes for a few days after many hours on a plane. At the salon in Toronto, one of the staff put a bit of this on my scalp to soothe it. I’ve also read about lemon juice, honey, and tea tree oil. Suggestions welcome!
Luggage & Ergonomics: Still a devotee of backpacks for travel.
Kindle: The best thing for expat and traveling bookworms. I downloaded these books for travel this year.
And lastly, an update on the expat food haul from July, with the goodies I loaded my suitcases with this time around:
- Coffee: Check!
- Cheese: Check! From Global Cheese in Toronto’s Kensington Market neighborhood, where I chatted for an unreasonably long time with a resident Cheese Enthusiast about crafting the perfect goat milk cheese straight from the source.
- Chocolate: Check! Mostly Ritter Sport bars, in all their wonderful, multivariate flavors (cornflakes! butter biscuit! white cinnamon! yogurt!)
- I failed on much of my previous recommendations, largely because the last couple of days in Toronto were spent dashing about trying to rectify missed flights. But I did make it to Bulk Barn, a.k.a. My Personal Paradise, where I bought enough weighty grains to furrow the brows of airport check-in counter staff, including farro, quinoa, steel cut oats, brown rice, black rice, and couscous. I’m pleased as punch to have a few alternatives to the pasta and white rice that are local staples.
- (PS I was fortunate to convince a friend on holiday in the States to bring back a family size—bless him!—box of Cheez-Its. Angels are among us, and they schlep cheddar crackers over oceans).
Headed further east for the very first time in a week or so; looking forward to validating some of these highly-scientific travel strategies!
Are you traveling for the holidays? Any tips to share? Let’s hear ’em!
Mmmmh Kindle. I’m a Luddite when it comes to books, for me it’s worth taking one trusted book with you, preferably one that’ll last long and that doesn’t require 100% concentration to be understood. In other words, yes to “It” and perhaps leave “The trouble with physics” to when you arrive.
My other idea is to go low on the alcohol whilst onboard, as it actually dehydrates you, and to prefer doing a long leg and not two short ones. In other words, if going to Asia from Europe, I think it’s better to do a long haul straight out and then a shorter hop rather than doing two 6-hour-legs as you’d be bound to do should you stopover in the Middle East. I’m generally lucky, though, because I’m rarely jetlagged and even by doing catnaps I’m sort of OK.
Ah, finally… Bring your own coffee and mug. Never did it before going to Kazakhstan this summer and it actually worked like a charm.
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I feel strongly that books are superior to digital reads, but I can’t much justify to myself the weight while traveling – especially because I like to read 2 or 3 books at a time, and rotate between them! I’m envious of your catnapabilities and jet lag resistance! Good for you!
What’s the deal with the coffee and mug? In particular, why the mug? Do tell!