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Online Professor Travel, Tips, International Long Haul Flights & Avoiding Jetlag

Online Professor Travel, Tips, International Long Haul Flights & Avoiding Jetlag

by Dani Babb
June 17, 2016

One incredible benefit to teaching online is the ability to travel – internationally – experience other cultures – and work at the same time. Online professors do not have to wait for Paid Time Off, their two weeks of heaven each year, to hit the road. We can see the world while holding down our jobs, albeit stressful at times with the occasional 3am live call with our students. To me, the benefit is worth the price and for a lot of other road-warrior online professors, it is for them too.

With a lot of miles (millions) under my belt and countless international trips to time zones not conducive to working from the minute you hit the ground, a good friend recently asked me for some tips for international travel to keep from going stir crazy when your hours hit 15 or more in the flying tin can. The truth is long hauls do not make me crazy, it feels like a bit of an office with wings; but her question is valid and points well taken.

I was asked by a few folks to share this with other educators who may also be traveling a lot. So here goes – my method to surviving long haul international trips and avoiding jet lag pretty much completely (admitting that lifelong insomnia plays an instrumental role in jetlag survival and staying awake for long periods of time without much downside beyond crankiness). My goal is to land, stay awake until nighttime after being awake the entire flight, sleep a full night, and hit the ground running the next day both at work and enjoying the new sights.

I have read a lot of articles that suggest moving your clock back one hour per day a week before you leave; taking melatonin.. bla bla bla. I don’t do any of that. This is a mind over matter thing in my experience. And, it all begins on the aircraft. I use these same tips no matter what time I leave (red eye or morning) and what time it will be when I land in my destination.

My Travel Tips to avoid Jetlag

  • First .. Don't look at the clock. Like ever. When you get onto the plane, stop looking at the cool map showing you how many hours you have left. It’s a reminder of how many hours you have left. No Bueno.
  • If you have to sleep, sleep on the time zone you're going to even if that means being awake for a ton of hours. On a recent trip to Europe I wrote a post and was on my 45th hour awake, which hit 60 before I landed with less than 2 hours of sleep. Ideal? Nope. But make for a better trip? In my view, absolutely. It helps to never have jet lag. Eat brownies, red bull, whatever it takes to stay awake. You'll enjoy your time there so much more when from day 1 you're feeling good.
  • Books.. Lots! Bring them and read them. Not boring books that put you to sleep. My stats students should not bring their texts.
  • Avoid magazines that you can read fast. When you see the “I’ve read that” pile get big, it’s a not great reminder that you are on hour 8 and half way there.
  • Don't fly American-based airlines if at all possible. If you are using miles like I often do, use code share airlines. You’ll likely find the service so much better. European and Middle Eastern airlines, with the exception of British Airways and Air France, are my favorites.
  • Download movies beforehand. WiFi on the plane, if you are lucky to have it, won’t stream.
  • Don't watch your favorite shows for 2 weeks before you go and download them Instead - gives you something to look forward to.
  • Bose noise cancelling headsets are a must, and they just released a wireless version (finally!)
  • Get up every hour and walk around even if it's just to watch people sleep, because that’s likely what you will be doing.
  • Bring a super squishy down pillow for your butt. No I’m not kidding. It hurts after a while.
  • If you have WiFi, expect it won’t work over water, even with satellite (during storms and so on). But bring the laptop on board and do any offline (and online if you can) work to kill time and make your first few hours at your destination less stressful.
  • Make a to do list of work stuff you want to get done and don't let yourself off the hook- that'll kill a quick 12 hours or so:)
  • Bring fuzzy warm socks and ibuprofen, lip crap and eye drops- you'll be glad about hour 6. Even the latest Boeing, which did a admirable job improving humidity, is moisture sucking.
  • Music – the end.
  • Avoid alcohol if you can. It dries you out even more, disrupts sleep patterns when you arrive and may put you to sleep if you are trying to stay awake.
  • Don’t watch the flight map. Except on the Emirates A380 – their pilot and ground view is just cool.
  • Bring shoes that are easy to slip on to use the loo. I see people coming out of the can with only socks - that's not water on the floor people. Bla

Try to look at the plane not as transportation and counting hours, but your "home for the next nearly a day". When you get into that mindset it's much easier. I actually love love love flying long hauls now. An acquaintance and I were having this convo at dinner maybe 18 months ago. You can just tune out the world if you want to- or kill time and be totally "normal" when you land via the sleep deprivation method. He and I both commented we love it when the doors lock and you feel real freedom. Not the 2 hour to Dallas kind. I think for most of us it is mental. You just board knowing that in a full day you'll be in another land.

And now back to a proposal for my own to do list. This blog post was on that list, and I’m writing it on a flight. ;)