haleakela sunriseIt’s a fact that most of us traversing time zones just have to put up with – the nagging fatigue and disorientation that jet lag can produce. There’s no sure jet lag cure  – except a technique I stumbled on while traveling to Asia and back to the US West coast – making a mid-way stop-over on the return trip.

There’s little sympathy for the trans- oceanic traveler from fellow workers when you return to the office and complain of headaches or worse due to jet lag. Showing up ready to jump back into work can be daunting after days on exotic beaches or trekking through far-flung cultures. How to master it?

Prepare for overcoming jet lag when you first reserve your trip.

The best and most universal jet lag remedy is a 2 – 3 day layover midway on your return. I’ve found that, between Asia and California, a few days resting or working remotely from a Hawaiian Island gets me home ready to tackle the ‘real world’ once again.

It may mean extending your budget or time away and that can be a hard decision. Should you visit  remote village artisans or start your return trip early? The upside is your health and if you stop on the island of Maui you can make that time mis-match between waking up and dawn work for you.

Hawaii sunsetDon’t fight it! Make jet lag your friend during the lay over. For example, I visited Maui on a return trip from Japan recently. Getting up at 3 AM to visit the crater of Haleakala for the actual crack of dawn is a challenge if you’re on vacation sleeping-in mode. I found it much easier to get up that early because my internal time clock was still on Japan time.

It helps to lay low. We were staying at a quiet resort on Napili Bay, The Napili Kai, and put our condo coffeemaker to good use before getting in the car to visit the “House of the Sun”, (the translation of Haleakala). Leaving about 3am left more than enough time to arrive before sunrise but every minute helped in finding our way along unfamiliar, dark roads and switchbacks up to the summit.

Just before the turnoff for the Park Entrance, a small food-truck beckoned and it was a good thing that we stopped. There would be no food or drink, other than a water faucet at the summit, and once you’ve gone that far (over 10 thousand feet!)  it’s a shame to rush down the mountain due to a grumbling stomach. Mike’s Crater Coffee is the last chance pit stop. His advice and generous bagel sandwiches were most welcome an hour later.

There was plenty of time to find a space in the small crowd lining up to greet the dawn. The light soon cracked across a still, cold expanse. We were catapulted into another realm as a song broke out. Just as the sun broke the horizon, Nan, a guide at the visitor center, sang a Hawaiian chant. She followed with a short talk about how special the morning was. There was no wind, which can cause the peak’s temperatures to plummet, and a clear view above the clouds.

Returning was a pleasure. Where there had only been shadows beneath an inky sky, now the valley opened up to lush views and we thoroughly enjoyed the drive back. Stopping at a farm stand led to a lunch of mangoes and bananas, nuts and coconut easily prepared in our resort kitchen before we ventured into the sheltered waters of Napili Bay.

During our two days there I was able to catch up on emails and prep for work. Soon enough back at the office, while buzzing through tasks, the journey to Japan and Hawaii turned into a sweet memory. Because my body had time to adjust to the shift in time zones, work and home tasks were relatively easy.

Consider this simple jet lag sure the next time you venture across the continent or the world and enjoy a restful stop-over on your return.

What jet lag cure have you discovered?
P.S. The Maui trip was made possible by the Napili Kai Resort but I discovered this jet lag technique on an earlier trip between Thailand and the big island of Hawaii. All the opinions are my own!