How to adjust to a new time zone

I have traveled across different time zones a bunch of times before, but this is the first time when it’s been extremely difficult to adjust to the time change. It’s been hard. One day I woke up when it was almost time for dinner! My biological clock is not having it. About 16 days today and just this past weekend is when my jet-lagged body finally felt like, OK, so this is what going to bed at a decent time feels like! It hasn’t been an easy transition.

Young businessman standing over a young businesswoman sleeping on a couch

A few factors might’ve interfered with my sleep pattern even before I got here, and so intensified the problem. The last two weeks of 2012 (it sounds so far now!), the holidays. It was a very joyful—and stressful—one. To name just one of the contributors: my huge family. This year more than ever there seemed to be a birthday celebration every weekend…for the entire duration of the year. It was crazy and exhausting. Alright; it was fun, too!

Once in Spain, my usual routine of adjustment wasn’t working, so I searched for ways to beat jet lag—which happens when we travel quickly through several time zones, messing up our internal biological clock. There are some helpful tips out there. I know some of them have worked for me in the past. Websites like WebMD and Wikipedia suggest to…

• Gradually adjust to the destination’s time zone ahead of your flight
• Select a flight that arrives at your destination in the evening
• Set your watch to the destination time prior to arrival
• Time your nap, if taking any, so that you don’t sleep through the whole flight
• Try to stay awake until at least 10pm when you reach your destination
• Avoid caffeine
• Get plenty of sunshine the next day (if you can) as it helps reset your biological clock

Pre-adjusting your internal clock is definitely a good first step.

On my way here, I took a PM (sleeping pill) on the plane to try to get some sleep, but I don’t think it was a good idea. It didn’t even work! I wasn’t about to time it, so I’m kind of glad it didn’t fall asleep if it was going to make this situation worst. Fortunately, I’m managing better now.

They say to allow one day per time zone and that will be how long it’ll take to adjust. For example, New York to Spain would be like, what, 4 or 5 time zones? You should then expect that amount of days to adjust to the new time. Well…it took me much longer. But again, I did everything backward this time.

Interestingly enough, new time zone adjustment is apparently easier to handle when traveling east to west, e.g., Spain to New York, because it’s easier to stay up later than go to bed earlier. That explains a lot…

What I’d like to know is what is your experience with jet lag when traveling to Australia, for instance?

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In this episode of my life in Spain…

So I’ve been completely MIA on my blog since Barcelona. This is due to the final weeks of May and first week of June being somewhat chaotic. Sometimes things don’t go as planned, and when that happens, we must improvise on the spot. Why do I say this? Well, other than moving out on a train and having a party of two sleep in a room for one…well, just read on.

I moved out of my apartment in Ciudad Real on Thursday May 31 and that same day my boyfriend Chris and I took a plane to Las Palmas, Gran Canarias. Bad idea. (Not Canarias, just the whole plan.)

Expectations: I would pack my things a month in advance and live out of my luggage for a few weeks because I detest having to do things last-minute. We’d return just in time to move in a little room in a shared apartment we had found in Madrid, which, though the room was small, only one person sleeps, it was at an awesome location. By Wednesday, May 30—my last day at school—I would get home at the usual time (about 3:40pm), eat, shower and head to Madrid with my boyfriend. Everything should have been packed by now; our Internet service would be disconnected, the last bills would be paid, my Spanish bank account would be closed and Chris would have his USB wireless stick ready for the last month. Once in Madrid, we’d sleep at a hostel for the night, and jet out to Canarias the next day.

Reality: I was still packing 30 minutes before moving out on Thursday 31. On Wednesday, May 30th, my school had prepared sort of like a farewell lunch for me (which was really sweet) and it lasted until a little after 3pm, after which some of my colleagues took me out for “coffee and tea,” after which fewer colleagues from that group took me out for a drink.

I knew I had to finish packing—I just couldn’t say no to them. But by five-something in the afternoon, someone remembered the others that I had to go. I postponed the moving date to May 31 because we had nothing ready. I got home, began packing and I never stopped. The more things I packed, the more that things kept re-appearing and coming out of the rubble. Where did so many things come from?! It was 10PM and I was still packing. My brother and his girlfriend were home to help us, thankfully, and Chris decided that I had to stop and the four of us should go out for some tapas in Ciudad Real for the “last time.”

I took a break from packing and went out for dinner with them. We had a great dinner and a great time. But I still hadn’t finished and I had told the landlord to come by for the house keys before 12pm on the Thursday because we needed to catch the 12:32 train to Madrid if we wanted to make it to the airport on time.

The next day—moving day—we are all rushing. Our bags are full. Not everything fits. We need more bags, but can’t really grab that many bags either. We managed to finish squeezing everything in before 12:00, but the landlord was still a no-show. We tried cancelling Ono (the Internet provider) the day before, but it wouldn’t be Spain if everything was taken care of immediately. The lady finally shows up, she doesn’t even take a look at the apartment (did she trust us that much?) and then tells us that she’ll have to do a “transferencia” (transfer) of our security deposit to my bank account because they forgot to take the cash out. The money would be in my account in 24 hours. Again, wouldn’t be Spain… They offered to go to the bank to take it out, but we had to go.

Then I was glad I didn’t cancel my bank account before May 31, but that meant I’d have to wait until everything cleared to close it, which would take an eternity. (The transfer didn’t show up on my account until a week later, by the way, but that’s another story).

After the almost-awkward good-bye to our landlord, I called for a taxi.

“Hola, ¿me mandas un taxi…no, perdón; dos taxis, por favor?”

I called for two big taxis to take the four of us to our two separate destinations—train and bus station—because we don’t have the U-Haul service here. Just between Chris and me there were about seven bags. My brother and his girlfriend were carrying some other seven…big-sized luggage (two of which were ours) and a bag of food. I felt really bad, but so glad they were there to help us because I was ridiculously unprepared. I guess I underestimated all the things we had collected over an eight-month period.

I’ll never forget the day we turned a Renfe train into our moving vehicle. We had so many things I was afraid they were going to deny us entrance. The bags were so heavy, too. But we made it to Madrid in one piece.

And remember that shared apartment I mentioned under “expectations”? It was available; everything was ready for us to move in. Then, while in Canarias, the girl renting the room emails me: “I forgot to mention, you have to pay one month deposit…” Eh? Here we all are—she’s subletting, we’re covering her one month rent for June (as her ad said)—we really are just moving in for one month!—so things didn’t make too much sense to me that we had to pay for another month, especially when she’s subletting. This means her landlord doesn’t necessarily know we’re moving in, so we only have a verbal agreement with this girl, so our money back is not a guarantee, even though she says it is. But very especially, I was a bit upset that she never mentioned it in the beginning when we went to see the piso. You can’t just go “Oh, by the way, you have to double the pay” to people two days before moving in!

I thought it was a bit irresponsible AND that was extra money we were using for other things—money doesn’t grow on trees! But I decided to go ahead with the move anyway.

We are now two weeks in room-mating with another couple, and one other girl, who all are doing the Auxiliares program I just finished doing. They’re good people; the guy is really friendly and he seems to share some of Chris’ likes (such as Sports—you guessed right). I have not a lot in common with the girls—one of them is rather quiet, at least around us, although the other is more talkative—other than being a language assistant and enjoying traveling. The girls are also very young.

I’ve never had roommates before, maybe except for the time I lived with one of my already-friends in Valladolid, Spain, so I didn’t call us roommates, even though we really were. Anyway, I’m not particularly ecstatic with the roommate situation—I have a privacy and cleanliness issue. I don’t think I can live with a group of people, unrelated to me in any way, under the same roof and, for example, sharing one bathroom. 😀 I’m strange like that, I can’t help it.

The good news is that July is around the corner. This was not the worst of ideas; it’s life and I like to experience it all! I will soon return home, though—and I keep saying it—I know I will want to turn around. Nevertheless, I think it’s time. My focus right now is to try to find some classes to teach, like tutoring, for this month of June because I’m going to try to milk this as much as possible, while I can.

(I have yet to tell you about the awesome time spent in Salamanca, Canarias, and Switzerland. That’s coming soon.)