Jet Lag | Postcards from Re-entry

by Elizabeth

I used to be an expert jet-lagger. For eight years we traveled the globe, making multiple 24-hour trips. We would arrive to a world exactly one-half day behind or ahead of the world we’d just left. It usually took my body about two weeks to fully adjust.

Sometimes I would hear travelers to Europe complaining about the long flights and the trans-Atlantic jet lag, and I would laugh. Because I knew they could arrive at their destination in less time than it took to fly my longest leg, start to finish. Their time difference was several hours shorter than mine, so I flattered myself either that I was “better” at jet lag — or that I merely suffered more.

Other times in those eight years overseas, I would hear people complaining about the shift between Daylight Savings Time and Standard Time. And I would think to myself, what can one measly hour do? How can it wreck an entire week? I had been told that it generally takes about one day per time zone difference to recover from jet lag. So I figured people should be able to recover from Fall Back and Spring Forward in just one day.

I mean, I remembered time changes from before Cambodia. Spring Forward was annoying, as I lost an hour of sleep. But I loved Fall Back. I loved the idea that I could get the same amount of sleep and still stay awake an hour extra. A night owl’s dream, right?

But now that I live here again, I don’t find Fall Back to be such a dream come true. We turned our clocks back a week ago, and all last week I woke up an hour early, effectively losing more hours of sleep than I supposedly gained last Saturday. What had happened to me? What happened to the globe-trotting girl who could hack time changes and days-long airplane trips? I don’t know if she grew old, or if she merely lost her traveling skills.

But from now on I understand why Americans complain about the biannual time change. Because it’s no joke.