The magic of a sunrise

12 08 2015

When stuck in the grip of jet-lag, I often wonder if humans are really fit for transcontinental air travel. Sitting in a large shiny metal tube for up to 10 or 12 or 15 hours, moving at close to the speed of sound, traversing vast distances at 6 miles above the earth’s surface with no regard for the landscapes, peoples and cultures below. I suppose it’s the most efficient way of getting from point A to point B, when point B happens to be about 5,000 miles away. But it’s tough on the body and the soul.

There are days and trips when jet-lag has no power over me. Exhausted by the emotions and the anticipation of the trip alone, I arrive home, sink into my own bed, thankful for the peace and quiet of not having a carpet of noise produced by four CFM56-5C4/P engines thrusting the metal tube across the sky. I sleep the sleep of the dead.

This morning, though, I didn’t do so well. Shifting one’s internal clock by nine time zones is truly brutal. My night was over at 430am and my brain went into overdrive, as it usually does when I have about 5 million things on my never-ending to-do list.  It was still dark outside, but a light sheen was starting to illuminate the sky just above the hills beyond my back terrace. And so after about an hour of lying in bed, tormenting myself with problems that need immediate solving, I thought I’d go outside and watch the sun rise.

Night turns into day.

Night turns into day.

There is no sense of urgency at 545am. Mist slowly rises from the meadows below and the crisp, fresh air sits still as time creeps from indigo to light. The slightest crescent of a moon climbs into the sky before disappearing as the sun prepares to burst over the horizon. I sit on my back terrace in the half-light, my cup of tea cools before I can drink it all. A curious grey fox trots up to the fence that separates me from the wilderness, we look at each other for a moment before he loses interest, turns around and trots away.

A solitary single-engine aircraft crosses the clear light blue canvas above me from east to west. Its pilot is probably thinking the same thing that I am or she wouldn’t have made the effort to get up in the middle of the night, prep her airplane and take off at dawn to watch the night turn into day. (Or maybe she has jet-lag too.)

Jet-lag is a tedious by-product of travel. But a sunrise is simply magic.

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V-A-C-A-T-I-O-N

2 09 2010

And we’re off! A 12-hour flight lies ahead of me today. Zurich-San Francisco non-stop, Seat 30A on flight LX38 to be exact. The last couple of days have been rather taxing, and the last two sleeps far too short. In fact, I will be spending more time in seat 30A today (sitting upright) than I spent in bed (lying horizontal) in the last 48 hours. Just thinking about that exhausts me. I’m getting way too old to travel across nine time zones in cattle class.

Though excruciatingly, painfully long, the actual flight – the getting there – stresses me the least. And when it comes to organizing whatever trip we are about to undertake, we also usually have all our ducks in a row. This one’s really easy: we know our way around and we speak the language.

Up, up and away!

It’s always a crunch down to the wire when I’m about to go someplace…and it seems no matter how well I prepare, there’s no way to make the last few days before departure less stressful. (And we’re not even talking about work here…) As you probably know yourself, even the best-laid plans just go to hell at the last minute. After all the traveling I’ve done since I was six years old, you would think I’d be the savviest jet-setter you have ever met.

Much of my travel stress comes from me getting way too far ahead of myself; I obsess about what it will be like to return home after vacation. And you say – “But….that’s the last thing you should be thinking about!” Well, no, it’s actually the thing that worries me most. When I walk in my front door after 3 days away or 3 months, aside from the depression of returning to real life and realizing that not a darn thing has changed since I left, I’m also bringing home a suitcase full of dirty clothes, the one or the other negative experience (along with all the good stuff, of course) and maybe even some tropical disease, for good measure. I need the place to be tidy and spotless so that I can make a new mess and drop into bed like a stone to sleep off the jetlag. Dealing with re-entry and the mountain of laundry is more manageable when I am rested and there isn’t a bathroom waiting to be scrubbed.

When we return to Switzerland in two weeks, Fall will have arrived, with foggy, frosty mornings, a bitter-cold wind and shorter days. I call it “suicide weather.” A very bad time to be getting the post-vacation blues. Therefore I need my home to welcome me home.

Then there’s the whole “What-did-I-forget-to-pack?” drama that stresses me out at least as much as the “I-must-come-home-to-a-clean-place” complex. Several checklists and excel spreadsheets usually help me not forget anything really essential, like my brain. Toothbrush, hairbrush, deodorant, check. Driver’s license, credit cards, passport, check. Laptop, Kindle (new toy!), Blackberry, check.

(Wait a second – get back here, you evil piece of office equipment….you’re not going anywhere today.)

But sometimes even checklists can’t help my faltering memory and there comes that moment of truth (and anguish) when I remember that one particular item I set aside in a prominent place at home especially so that I wouldn’t forget it as I’m running out the door. And where it still sits a couple of hours later as my plane reaches cruising altitude.

So when I collapse into my seat on LX38 this afternoon and settle in for that long haul, I expect to be served a gourmet lunch accompanied by a very good bottle of red. I’ve certainly earned it after all that self-imposed pre-trip stress.

Oh yeah, I forgot. I’m flying economy.