Many people are reluctant to fly to Asia for a number of reasons: jet-lag, 12 to 14 hours in the air, dislocation and anxiety from being in a time zone 12 or 13 hours ahead of home. I count myself among the hesitant. I wouldn’t go until four years ago.
But I’ve been back three times since that first visit. Once you’re in Japan or China, all the confusion, boredom, and worrying are balanced by experiencing cultures that are frankly exotic, confident, and affirming. It will change your life.
But to get over the concerns of that long trip takes effort and information.
I spoke to Richard Levy, a commercial pilot for American Airlines for 30 years, to find out how he copes with being airborne. If you follow the captain’s orders, you’ll do fine.
INTRAVEL: How often do you fly to Asia?
RL: I’m there all the time. I was in Tokyo yesterday. Today I’m back home in Chicago. Every other month I’m in Bangkok, Tokyo, Shanghai, or New Delhi.
INTRAVEL: How do you cope with jet lag? What’s your advice?
RL: The last thing I do when I get to Asia is sleep. Take Tokyo, for example. We get in around 3 P.M. local time, and it takes about an hour to get to the hotel. The first thing I do is email my wife—we might use Skype to talk for about a half hour, too. Then I’ll go to the work-out room where I’ll do some cardio-vascular exercise with my iPod for about an hour. Then I’ll do stretching exercises for 35-45 minutes. Back to my room: Shower and shave, I’m starting to feel very refreshed. I’m ready to go into town and have something. Don’t eat a heavy meal. Just sushi - about seven pieces - and a little green tea. By 8:30 I’m back at the hotel.
INTRAVEL: You’re asleep by 8:30?
RL: No, I try to prolong sleep as long as possible. I don’t sit down. I might have a massage and doze off slightly, but mainly it’s to relax. Finally, by about 10 or 10:30, I’m ready to surrender to sleep. But not until then.
INTRAVEL: How do you sleep?
RL: I don’t sleep all the way until the morning, but I’m only up maybe one time. The thing is: Don’t fight it. If you wake up in the middle of the night, you can send email or read. I’ll contact my wife. This might last an hour and then I go back to sleep.
INTRAVEL: Aren’t you disoriented by the time difference?
RL: I set my watch to local time. And I stop talking about what time it is in Chicago.