Expat Sat: The Wild, Weird World of Jetlag

Welcome to Expat Sat, the culturally kooky, map nonspecific, sometimes bewildering, always fascinating intersection of expat life and writing. And where every Saturday, I offer tips for writing and publishing to expat writers around the globe.

For most expats, jetlag is a way of life. And truly, I’ve never met a soul who enjoys being jetlagged. When suffering from it, most everyone I know sits around whining to anyone who’ll listen that “I’m so tired,” “I don’t think I’ll ever be right again,” “I haven’t slept in __ nights,” and so on. In the final throes, they simply beg, “Help me!”

The smart ones turn to sleeping pills (though those don’t always work).

The official Merriam-Webster definition of jetlag reads like this:

a condition that is characterized by various psychological and physiological effects (as fatigue and irritability), occurs following long flight through several time zones, and probably results from disruption of circadian rhythms in the human body—called also jet fatigue

(For the record, I’ve never heard anyone call it jet fatigue.)

My personal definition reads like this:

the strung-out, stretched-out, I-can’t-sleep-but-dammit-I-can’t-keep-my-bloody-eyes-open-so-my-head-is-going-to-drop-onto-this-plate-of-spaghetti-at-any-moment-and-don’t-talk-to-me-cause-I’m-mean-MEAN-I-say syndrome that results from too much travel over too many damned time zones

The only benefit to being jetlagged is that the brain pulls weird-ass tricks on you (and yeah, I guess I like weird-ass brain tricks…feels a little like writerhead).

One of weirdest that ever happened to me was that as my husband and I were driving from a friend’s house at night, I yelled, “Watch out!” and pointed at the white things bouncing on the road. Nearly killed us as he swerved and punched the brakes.

Course, there were no white things bouncing on the road.

Just my brain pulling a weird-ass trick.


Q4U: How about you? Jetlagged often? Love it? Hate it? Ambivalent? Resigned? What’s the weirdest thing you’ve done/seen/experienced as a result?



Image: krishnan / FreeDigitalPhotos.net


10 Responses to Expat Sat: The Wild, Weird World of Jetlag

  1. Oh gosh. I’m already gearing up for bad jetlag as I leave soon for nearly a month and dive right into heavy duty stuff on either side. Yikes! I fly back to the States and immediately attend a wedding and then a writing residency where I need to deliver a lecture and reading. Then when I come back to Paris I have a whole bunch of paperwork and apartment stuff to handle. I can already tell there will be days I shake my fists up to the sky.

    I do agree that this weird state does produce some, well, interesting results. Sometimes my brain makes inventive connections that I would never possibly come up with if it weren’t for jetlag 🙂

  2. leaving for US in a few days so may do the whiny stuff-2 days to get to Mom’s but won’t want to sleep-sometimes takes 2 weeks to adjust,…such an appropriate topic

  3. Here’s my best jet lag story – I was flying to Bangalore, India, to speak at a tech conference my company was putting on. My flight got delayed, and by the time I got through all the flying and arrived at the hotel at 6AM local time, I only had time to take a shower and get dressed before heading over to the conference. Luckily, I made my presentation first thing, and then had to stick around for all the speeches by dignitaries and local officials. By noon time, I was really starting to lose it, but our local office had set up a bunch of press interviews. So I did two interviews and was on my third one, when, all of a sudden, I realized that although the reporter was asking me questions in perfect, Indian-accented English, I could not make sense of what he was saying. I kept asking him to repeat his question, but I couldn’t make head nor tail of the words. I finally said something to the effect of “I’m sorry sir, but I am so jetlagged that I can’t understand what you’re saying,” closed the interview, and promptly fell asleep for two hours in the back of the dark conference hall. Surreal!

  4. I am in the throws of jetlag at this very moment, beginning repatriation in the U.S.

    Jetlag is a bizarre phenomenon and I find most of its effects to be negative.

    1) Forgetfulness – Purchasing a latte at Starbucks and realizing 30 minutes later, seated on an airplane, that I never actually picked up my latte.

    2) Loss of coordination – Tripping over my own feet, dropping the same item repeatedly.

    3) Babbling incoherently and/or being annoyingly chatty with strangers.

    But I do find one aspect quite enjoyable. I tend to have sleep issues resulting from anxiety or lack of exercise–difficulty falling asleep and/or nightmares. So I always look forward to that first good night sleep during the jetlag process. Surrendering to Morpheus when I just can’t keep my eyes open any longer, and sleeping long and hard without dreaming, waking up completely refreshed. It’s heavenly.

  5. I had just come back to Istanbul after a whirlwind trip to 4 (or 5 or 6) South American destinations, including Peru. I think I counted the flights in a week: 12.

    My head was still hurting from the altitude and suddenly I was at a table in front of a crowd talking about my newly released anthology Tales from the Expat Harem. It was out about a month and half. I couldn’t remember anything about it to say, and when questions came from the crowd, I acted like I had no knowledge of the book at all. Must have been impressive to witness.

    Next time I will clearly state that I am jetlagged and my head is still at Machu Picchu and leave it at that. That is, bow out!