Such a simple word, and one we toss off so casually. According to my very respected source (Dictionary.com) the term was coined between 1965 and 1970, and means "a temporary disruption of the body's normal biological rhythms after high-speed air travel through several time zones."
"Temporary disruption" my . . . Well, you know what I mean. I'm just back in Texas after fifteen days in London, and finding it as difficult as ever to slip back into the current of normal (glamorous, as Julia has revealed) life. It's not just trying to eat and sleep on the right schedule, it's trying to remember where the spoons live in this suddenly strange kitchen, being shocked not to find the BBC on the telly, wondering what it is that we usually eat on Friday nights . . . (And what IS that disgusting stuff in fridge?)
How could I possibly have been driving through Hyde Park in a taxi, gazing at the London fruit trees bursting into bloom, only a few hours ago?
What we are really talking about when we say "jetlag" is severe temporal, geographical, physical, and emotional displacement.
How do you think Meg Murray felt in Madeleine L'Engle's A Wrinkle in Time when she tessered for the first (or second or third) time and wondered how she could be suddenly in one place when she had just been in another? (Queasy, if I remember correctly) L'Engle's novel was published in 1962--interesting when you consider that commercial jet travel had only become a viable reality four years earlier, in October, 1958, when, amid much fanfare, Pan American inaugurated its New York-London route, ushering in a new era in the history of passenger aviation. (This flight stopped over in Iceland. It wasn't until the next year that true intercontinental New York-London routes were opened.) Was L'Engle prescient in the matter of jetlag?
Now, here we are fifty-ish years later. We may not tesser yet, but we fly faster and farther, and I don't think anyone has come up with a better way of adjusting our bodies or our psyches.
I think I could call myself a seasoned international traveler, having, in the last thirty-some-odd years, made more trips between the US and the UK than I can count. (By seasoned, I mean that no matter how much advance warning I have, I end up in a blind panic, packing and repacking my suitcase in the wee hours of the morning before a trip. I invariably take all the wrong things. I forget something essential. I leave my house looking as if it's suffered the passage of a minor hurricane. And then I do the same thing in reverse, except I have to tidy the London flat before I leave, AND find room in my suitcase for the books I didn't mean to buy.)
Every trip I swear the next one will be easier, that I will be a new, organized person, but it never is, and I never am. So I fantasize about the QE2, of having a slow, luxurious in-between time where I can plan and think and accustom myself to the reality of arriving in a different place. And then of course there's the even more seductive fantasy of coming home to a clean house, a perfect desk, meals ready and waiting, and a valet to unpack and put away my clothes . . . (Jeeves, where are you?)
What about you, girls? Are you sophisticated, organized travelers? Have you discovered the secret to the glamorous jet-setting life? And if so, will you SHARE?
HALLIE: Whenever I get ready to travel I think of Rosemary and her box of Cheerios. I always always always pack a bag of trail mix. I'm more worried about going hungry than I am about not having the right clothes.
These days I travel with less and less. Just bought myself a really little (half-size) rolling suitcase and I'm determined to use it through my book tour - starting in under a month! Here comes COME AND FIND ME. Wish I were going to London to flog it and having to return jet lagged.
HANK: Welcome home, Deb! And much applause. I was once the QUEEN of overpackers--you never know when you'll be invited to tea at the castle, or horseback riding, or a red carpet event, right? But once on a trip to the Caribbean, my bulging suitcase was lost by the airlines. I arrived in Nevis with NOTHING. I went to a shop, bought a long black skirt, a tank top, a bathing suit and some flip flops. I wore my husband's shorts and t-shirt. I was FINE. When my stuff finally arrived, it was embarrassing.
Now I, so virtuously, just bring what I can carry on. (My secret? Really? Packing with tissue paper. It takes up NO space, and nothing ever wrinkles. It's astonishing.
ROBERTA: Congrats on your first blog appearance Deb--and welcome home! I have one of those little half suitcases too, Hallie. I feel so virtuous when that's all I bring:). But traveling is stressful--I'm anxious the entire week before a trip. Feeling like I have to have EVERYTHING in order--straightening piles that I haven't looked at in months, arranging for pets and plants and mail...I can begin to see why people decide to just stay home.
And ps, my neighbor, who's very well traveled, insists that the secret to avoiding jet lag is refusing to lie down the first day you arrive. Immediately switch over to the new time zone and avoid all temptation to nap. Easier said than done!
RHYS: Welcome dear Deb. I have become the queen of light packers. We went around the Australian outback for 3 weeks with a 20 inch rollaboard. I find I do well with a couple of pairs of khaki pants, coordinating T shirts, sweater, pashmina for unexpected cold an one broomstick skirt that can be rolled into an old pantyhose. I take a silk scarf in case I have to dress up. However, I always manage to arrive after a long flight looking as if I've just been released from a horrible jail--pale, hollow eyed, unkempt, while those around me look jolly and fresh. And I've never learned the trick with jetlag. I always go straight onto local time, take a sleeping pill the first night, AND still feel like death warmed over. I always feel like a zombie for two days in London (you should hear the BBC interview I gave once the afternoon I arrived!)
I'm waiting for one of those thingies they had in Star Trek, but then they'd probably send half my molecules to India by mistake!
JAN: What your talking about Deb is a Re-entry problem, not jet lag. I have it every time I travel. You've been gone from home (or one of your homes) and while you've been gone, life and responsibilities have continued. And now, where ever you have been has slowed you down or altered the rhythm of your life -- this the worst when you've gone on a sailing vacation or to a an island - and now you have to come back to the INSANE PACE we live at. You just have to declare the first week back a catch up week, and lower your expectations.
As far as packing goes -- every time I pack light I regret it. I still am shallow enough to care more about what I have to wear, than what I have to eat. My husband laughs at me every time. I've decided I'm incorrigible.
ROSEMARY: On adventure trips everything is about comfort for me - and not being cold. On business trips I have no problem wearing the same black pants and just changing tops and jackets. It's those pesky "fun" trips where I seem to think I'm going to wear all the jewelry that I never wear at home...and different scarves..and belts and shoes. And dresses...why do I have so many dresses? I'm going to Paris this weekend and I'm probably not bringing a dress. If you're not going to channel your inner Audrey there, where are you going to do it?
Will go carry on, with black pants, black jacket and a scarf. I ignore wrinkles, and re jet lag there's nothing a Red Bull or 5 hour Energy shot in the right direction can't fix
BTW Hallie, I've upgraded to Heart to Heart - the caviar of cereals!