I’ll shortly be on the road going both near and far. And it occurred to me that the distance isn’t the issue so much (aside from the time zone) as is the adaptations you face. I’ll suggest it’s the change that you must adapt to as much as the time.
Sure, first of all, there’re the time differences. On short jaunts, the direction matters too. I (selfishly) don’t have a lot of sympathy for East Coast US folks who have to come here to the West Coast. I find it easier to stay up later and get up later (well, I don’t really get up later, I’m a bad sleeper, brother got all the good sleeper genes) than to try to go to bed earlier (as if) or get up earlier. (I’ve gotten my doctor to assist with the ‘going to bed earlier!). Of course, at the end Easterners will have to go back, but that brings up a second issue.
I think it’s much easier to adapt when you’re in a familiar context. It’s easier for me to get back to schedule at home than to adjust to a different time zone in an unfamiliar environment. There’re the regular rhythms of life at home that give you many more cues than just the clock about what’s happening. Kid’s schedules, meals, etc. Which makes one of my strategies for travel to give myself food cues.
And that difference magnifies. I find it more exhausting overall to deal with new contexts, and that diminishes your available resources for other coping. So it’s harder to cope somewhere else than at home, and in a more similar culture than a more unfamiliar one. I would find it easier, for example, to go to Germany (where my Mother was born) or the UK than somewhere a similar distance away (maybe Spain or France) but more foreign to my experience. And Europe is easier than the MidEast, which in general is more different. Saudi Arabia, for instance, though a fascinating place, was quite challenging to figure out how to cope. And despite being quite far, Australia is easy for me because I lived there for a number of years (and the culture isn’t that different regardless).
Business makes it a bit easier, too. As a somewhat common culture, you can moderate the differences in expectation. Dress and hours won’t vary too much, but there are subtle differences in discussions and negotiations. Hofstede’s dimensions help illustrate how countries can differ. Though even organizations can have different cultures that may need to be navigated.
And this all affects some more than others. Some people are naturally relaxed and confident, and if it’s coupled with being good sleepers, they’ll be fine. Others of us fret more about having things go trouble free (and I find as I get older that this is becoming more frequently the case :). And, of course, the importance of the outcome can influence the degree of confidence and comfort or not. So I invest effort in trying to get things right (and recently relearned the lesson from being too relaxed about it).
So food cues, striking the balance between bringing the right stuff and traveling light, getting outside, and caffeine have been my tricks. Also reading up on new places to have some advance notice. Books and movies too, for the travel time itself (again, not a good sleeper). Does this make sense to you? How do you cope?
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