Sunday, July 6, 2014

Travel Fatigue

Millions of Americans say that when they retire, they'll do their traveling then.  Some of them say that as an excuse for not traveling when they really don't want to travel anyway.  That's a valid point of view, and I can't blame them for being homebodies.  

However, so many more intend to travel at retirement, and never actually do it.  There are various reasons: they don't have the money, they have too many responsibilities to take a break, they don't have anyone to travel with, or they're not physically well enough to travel any longer.

Travel fatigue is a situation that dogs me with every trip I take.  It's more than jet lag.  It feels like an exponentially increasing case of jet lag that overcomes me to the point I fall asleep on benches in Paris, surrounded by pickpockets.  I fall asleep with my feet propped on the wall, perpendicular to my head, in the middle of a sentence which segues confusingly into sleep talk in the middle of a thought.  I'm not sure if it is exacerbated by my constant femoral nerve pain, but that could be a contributing factor.   (Yet I still run and lift weights, hopeful that someday I'll accidentally knock that nerve free, I suppose.)

Someone very close to me told me that he wishes he could travel now that he's retired, but he has no one to travel with.  I remember that when he was in his 50s, he supposedly slept his way through a Caribbean cruise.  It was a subject of much complaint for his wife.  She accused him of being difficult, and not wanting her to have any fun.  At the time, I wondered why he would do that myself.  

Now I'm beginning to see that he probably didn't have a choice.  As many hours as he worked each week, I understand why he slept so much. He worked third shift, still has untreated obstructive sleep apnea, and probably never EVER got enough rest to recuperate in all those years. Anytime he got a few days to rest, his body put him out.  

Mine does that when I have an accumulated sleep debt. At some point, my brain shuts down everything under my conscious control.  The problem is, you can't get five hours of sleep each night through the week and then make it up by sleeping twelve hours a night on the weekend.  It doesn't work that way.  My gut tells me that if you don't compensate within two days, you won't be able to make it up, and the body prefers consistent sleep times and lengths.  

I could put it this way -- I'm just too old for staying up late.  I can still handle doing it, but feeling like crap for several days afterward just isn't worth it to me.  I've discovered that 8 1/2 - 9 hours of sleep is what I need.  If I'm sick, I might need more, but if I'm not, about ten hours of sleep will make me feel pretty awful.  

My first trip out of the country was a cruise to Mexico. It was during spring break from work, and I was already worn out from job stress and inadequate sleep for the last 8 months.  What I remember the most about that cruise was that I slept around fourteen hours a day on board. I would take hours-long naps in the room in the middle of the afternoon.  (I suppose that's my body's warning system -- lengthy naps I can't avoid in the afternoon point to inadequate sleep at night.).  Maybe it was the slight motion of the boat.  Maybe it was the fact that out interior room was totally black with the lights off and it was the perfect suggestion to stay asleep for a long time.  Maybe it was the ear infection I didn't yet realize I had.  Hmm.  Who knows?  I wasn't even exercising at that point, and I had a marked feeling of being old.

My second trip out of the country was to Italy, and early on, I was falling asleep with my feet on the wall.  I couldn't sleep well on the flight in, my legs swelled horribly, and I just felt worn out every night.  I had been exercising for a year by then, and had been running for several months, but I still felt exhausted.  Drinking water like crazy that excessively hot Mediterranean July didn't help much.  I was likely dehydrated already.  It was abnormally hot in Rome that summer -- the Vatican was allowing visitors to wear shorts, if that tells you anything.  

The third trip out of the country was a cruise to the Bahamas with my sister.  I was tired (it was spring break, once again -- no rest time between work and the cruise), my legs swelled up from flying, we did a lot of walking in the ports, but we did a lot of lying around and relaxing, so it was okay.  I didn't sleep quite so excessively ion that cruise, so perhaps my exercising was helping me out with stamina.

The fourth trip out of the country was last month.  I went to Ireland, England, Wales, and France.  Considering that it was a high speed tour like the Italy trip, it's no wonder I was so tired.  I'm sure I was dehydrated because bathroom opportunities were not plentiful, and I knew it.  Why would I want to go around with an overfull bladder literally all day and night?  So I didn't drink enough, and definitely not enough water.  It just wasn't practical.  This time, I wore compression socks on the plane, and they worked! But instead I my legs swelling up, it was my torso.  Yep, the whole thing.  Even my bra was overflowing, in that not-a-good way when it's too tight everywhere. 

I made a few mistakes on this last trip.  I brought plenty of gum for the flights, and it was even sugar free gum, but you know, this was NOT the best time to discover I have a digestive problem with Xylitol. I threw away three almost-new packs of gum in the hotel when I realized why my tummy was so troubled.  I didn't drink enough water.  But I couldn't.  They say that when you drink enough water consistently, you stop having frequent trips to the bathroom to get rid of it, and your body stops bloating with water every time you drink it.  Not me. Every 20 minutes.  It never equalizes in my body. Imagine teaching an hour long class with no way to go to the bathroom once, let alone three times.  I can go fast, but there is no bathroom close to my classroom, so, um, yeah.  That's a problem.

I wish I'd had opportunities to ship things home as the tour progressed. I'd bought most of my souvenirs halfway through the trip, and they were dead weight the rest of the time.  I got off the Eurostar in Paris with a feeling of impending doom.  I honestly believed that I was going to DIE if I had to take my luggage another city block.  I wanted to cry.  I was afraid I was going to.  Granted, this was day 9 of an 11 day tour, and I was already accumulating sleep debt, dehydrated, and suffering from Continental breakfasts since we left Wales. And of course, not in great shape to begin with. My own fault.

I had plenty of energy in Ireland and Wales because the day began with protein-rich breakfasts.  Sure, there were some carbs, but protein makes the energy last.  The breakfast provided by the English and 
French hotels was mostly bread, and in France, just a tiny slice of meat and cheese to go with it. So I grabbed several slices, and it still wasn't much of a breakfast.  The provided dinners weren't much more help -- we had parsnip soup for lunch one day and thin crust pizza for dinner one evening, with meat sprinkled like bacon bits on top.  Carbs, starches... Must have protein!  I suppose it's about the cost. Apparently the Irish are willing to provide meat at all meals.  I love them for that.  

I was at a bit of a loss about what to do for protein based snacks, other than bring small packs of mixed nuts to keep my blood sugar up.  Beef jerky would have been okay, but Ireland has restrictions against bringing in foreign meats and cheeses, and I had no clue where to buy anything like that once I arrived.  I had protein and granola bars, but the sweetness became too much for me to stand pretty fast. 

Please, if you have any helpful suggestions about combating travel fatigue, make a comment. I'll go back to Europe in a couple of years, and it would be nice to bounce with energy the whole time.  I was pretty good about taking my iron, b-complex and b-12 supplements, but I could have felt SO much better than I did.  I couldn't take energy gels, because of liquid restrictions.  I did take Sport Beans, but they require water because of the sodium content.  

What's a tired girl to do, when she wants to enjoy her travels? :). (Don't recommend illicit drugs, please.  Lol   And not sugar... I'm a diabetic.)

Countries visited:

Mexico
Bahamas 
Spain
Italy
The Vatican
England
Ireland
Wales
France

Such a short list... You think I'm gonna stop?  :) You could always join us -- save for a few months like I do, and let me know if you want to join the group.

Countries I still want to see:

Scotland
Australia
New Zealand
Germany
Greece
Sweden
Switzerland
China
Japan
Norway
Denmark

Oh heck, I'd like to see all of Europe. :). And Hawaii.  Lol. 

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