Have you been through the travel struggle? You know the one I’m talking about…The struggle to fight the urge to see all of the things immediately on your first day after you’ve had about four hours of sleep, have had all the hydration sucked out of you by an airplane, and your stomach is less than impressed with you after eating questionable airplane food?
If you’re like me then the struggle is real.
I generally believe that a hot shower will fix all of my woes and that I’m definitely ready to adventure all over the city immediately. Who’s with me?
Over my years of solo travelling I’ve learned that:
- I don’t need to see all of the things right away;
- I’ll enjoy everything tenfold once I’ve had a bit of rest and food; and
- I’ve got time since I tend to travel for six weeks to three months in a given country (If I’m only somewhere for two weeks, you better believe it that I’m powering through everything from the flu (thanks Kuala Lumpur) to severely sprained ankles (I remember you, Peru) and everything in between).
Taking it easy
I’m a strong supporter of letting the “take it easy” side of tug of war win when I first arrive in a country. To quiet my inner child that is screaming to go see something, ANYTHING, I do a quick tour of my area for some necessary provisions.
Four Things You Should Do When You Arrive
Sleep…like a snug bug in a rug
The first thing I do is get a bit of sleep. Since late night or early morning flights tend to be cheaper, I generally arrive somewhere in the middle of the night or in the wee hours of the morning.
Although it can be tempting to sleep for a solid eight hours, I try to get up at a decent hour (7 or 8 a.m.) if I’m arriving in the middle of the night.
Water…yourself like a spring garden
Planes are a vacuum that sucks all the moisture out of your skin, hair, and let’s face it, eyeballs. Dehydration after a long flight (in my case, 14 hours to Beijing) can take its toll on you and as you deplane, you’re probably feeling tired, headachy, and fully aware that a sense of general malaise has landed upon you like a rain cloud.
If you can’t bring several litres of water onboard with you and the flight attendant is starting to give you the stink eye for how often he/she has come refill your complimentary thimble of water, then I recommend buying the nearest bottle of water and chugging at least 500 ml (or more) before you get some shut eye. You’ll feel loads better when you wake up a few hours later. After waking up, do not leave the room until you’ve had another 500 ml (or more)
Which brings me to my next point…
To feel like I’m not “wasting” my first day, I walk around the neighbourhood to scope out where I can get water and other necessities, check out where I can catch local transport, what kind of restaurants/cafes/street food is in the area. This also lets me get my bearings around the area where I’m staying and lets me observe the way people are going about their daily lives.
When I was in Bangkok a few months ago, I walked around the Khao Sand Road area taking in the smell of exotic spices in the area, the stray dogs plodding about in search of food, dodging the crazy Bangkok traffic, and watching this area come to life with its many street vendors, food kiosks and bleary-eyed travelers.
Refuel…like a local
By now, you’ve probably scoped out restaurant that has delicious smells wafting from their front door.
If you’re up for it, start eating local food right away. You’re bound to feel a bit off because of new foods or spices being introduced into your diet or maybe even have a bout of traveler’s diarrhea. I know that these things are unavoidable so I’d rather just get them out of the way at the start of the trip rather than be plagued by it for the next six weeks.
The first meal I had in Bangkok was a Pad Thai and diet Coke (for $3) from Green House, located on a street behind the famed Khao San Road. It was that amazing combination of sweet, sour, crunch and fresh that you seek in a Pad Thai. Green House is a lively spot with great service, food and atmosphere, and the energy was contagious.
The eating area sprawls onto the sidewalk (like every shop, cafe, and kiosk in Bangkok) and has dozens of lanterns hanging from a shady tree. I enjoyed my meal as I watched other bleary-eyed travelers have a seat at one of the tables. My waitress was adorable and seemed very excited that I ordered the Pad Thai…I suspect because all the other tourists were ordering bacon, eggs and toast.
It was at this moment that I realized it was only 9:30 a.m. Who has Pad Thai and diet coke for breakfast?
I regret nothing. As far as I’m concerned, there are no rules about what kinds of foods can be eaten at what time of day. In fact, I’ve had the occasional stuffed scallop, spaghetti, and chicken noodle soup for breakfast back at home.
I almost never eat western-style food when I’m travelling because I can eat it any time I want at home and most of the time, it’s not that great in other countries because it’s not their specialty. I do make the odd exception for when I’m on the road for three months or more, to be completely honest with you. I’m not reaching for a box of Froot Loops or anything like that, but I do miss a bakery-quality bun or the classic cheeseburger every now and again.
What do you do to recharge after a long flight?