Jet lag and culture shock

You have just crossed several times zones and landed in a new exotic country on the other side of the planet. Even though the sun may be high in the sky and your watch may tell you itís the middle of the afternoon, your body may be telling you that you should be sleeping in bed. Not only will your body be adjusting to the new sleeping, waking, and eating schedules, you are also going to adapt to a completely new environment. There could be huge altitude changes, climate changes, and cultural changes to deal with.

Jet lag is your body adjusting to a new time zone. Our bodies are designed for regular cycles of daylight and darkness, this is referred to as our circadian rhythm. Crossing time zones forces your body to change its expected awake and sleep schedules. You begin to feel symptoms like daytime drowsiness, difficulty sleeping, and general fatigue. People have been known to experience a form of jet lag by crossing as little as three time zones. Jet lag only happens when you fly east or west crossing time zones. If you are flying north or south, you wouldnít experience any jet lag.

I flew from Singapore (+30 degrees Celsius) to Calgary (-20 degrees Celsius and ten hours difference) to Madrid (+5 degrees Celsius and eight hours difference) within a month. I was feeling the effects of jet lag and climate shock for a couple of weeks. I didnít know when I was tired, when I was hungry, or when I needed to use the toilet.

There are ways of dealing with and limiting the effects of jet lag.

Before you leave: Depending on where you land, you are going to be dealing with culture shock. Simply put, you are going to be arriving in a new land, with new cultures and ideas, and itís going to take some adjustment for you to get used to this new environment. Most backpackers experience some kind of culture shock when they initially arrive in a foreign country. When you first enter into a new country, everything is new and exciting. You enjoy absorbing all the new experiences that are offered to you. After a while, the newness wears off and you start to discover minor irritations and annoyances. It could be as simple as not being able to communicate or eating new foods. This is basically you transitioning from your previous ways of doing things to your new culture.

Some of the symptoms are:

Note: One of the best things about being a backpacker, if you really donít like a place, you can always go someplace else that is nearby.