It was all so easy! I got all of my things packed into two bags, and one was just slightly over the limit- and they didn’t charge me for it. My airline printed my boarding pass for me when I checked my luggage, even though I was taking another airline to Santiago.
I made the smart decision of eating a salad for lunch before I got on my first flight. Trust me on this: do not eat a huge fast food meal before getting on a plane. And drink a lot of water. Yeah, you’ll probably have to get up and use the bathroom on the plane. But you need to move around anyways, and hydration is key. Plane air is so dehydrating. If you add salt to that, you’ll feel icky. Travel tip #1.
Travel tip #2: be good to the couple with the screaming baby. I was eating my lunch in the terminal and there was a 1-year-old throwing a pretty monumental tantrum. You could just tell that everyone was praying that that baby would not be on their flight. But listen. My parents flew me everywhere when I was that little. I flew from Milwaukee to LA at that age. Then they took me to the UK about a year later. I don’t know if I was a screamer, but when you are tempted to glare at those parents for even daring to take their baby on a trip, remember that a) those parents could have been your parents, and b) those parents could be you someday!
Travel tip #3: you can live without Wi-Fi for a day. It’s okay. Try to save the battery on your electronics, because docking stations may be hard to find, and you don’t want to arrive at your destination with dead gadgets in case you need them. Take advantage of in-flight entertainment options and save your money on the shoddy Wi-Fi. Use that money to buy magazines or newspapers instead.
Tip #4: if you’re on an overnight flight, don’t caffeinate. Caffeine is dehydrating, and I’ve already discussed how uncomfortable dehydration can be. It will also keep you awake. You do not want to be awake for an entire overnight flight, especially if you’re changing time zones. I wasn’t. But. That brings me to tip #5:
Sleep! Oh good gracious, I hope you can sleep on planes. I can’t. And it drives me nuts. And I refuse to take anything to help me sleep. I didn’t even have a seat partner this time, and I still couldn’t get comfortable. The people sitting behind me probably hated me for how many times I moved around and tried to settle in. Thank goodness my airline had tons of movies and TV shows available on personal screens (in economy!), because that is what I did all night long. I dozed off for maybe half an hour in total. Oy.
Even if you’re not changing time zones, you need to sleep. If you don’t, your clock will still be messed up. I had conveniently forgotten just how tired I was after my first day in Chile last time. I think maybe I thought that since I already knew the language and would just be with my family all day, it’d be nothing. I’d be tired, but not beat. I was BEAT. I got off the plane, flew through customs, and was suddenly in the car with my host mother and on the way home. It wasn’t even light out yet! It was wonderful, don’t get me wrong, but then it was 10 AM and it felt like it was 1 PM. That is what happens with sleep deprivation, my friends. So I took a two-hour nap and then forced myself to get up, because otherwise I could have slept all day and not slept at all that night, thus repeating the cycle.
Tip #6: don’t drink if you’re tired! Frankly, that’s a life tip, not just a travel tip. But alcohol + no sleep = whoa. I had half of a pisco sour at lunch, and it felt like the world was rocking a little bit. It went away as I kept eating, but man. I knew I should have said no to that drink. But when you’ve been five months without something as great as the pisco sour, how could I say no? (P.S. I never fell over. I always walked straight. I was fine.)
Tip #7: make yourself stay awake until a reasonable bedtime. Unless you are a champion sleeper and can sleep for nine or more hours solid, don’t go to bed earlier than you usually would. Trust me on this. I cannot sleep more than eight hours at a time. If I had gone to bed at 9 o’ clock, as I so desperately wanted to, I would have been up at 5 in the morning. Not a good idea. Host mom and I went to the mall to drop my sister off at a movie, and we walked around for a while. It was hard, but it was necessary. I slept great that night and woke up at a decent hour the next morning, and my cycle was reset.
Tip #8: this is for returning travelers. Just because you’ve done it before doesn’t mean it will be easy the second time around! I’m really talking about language reacquisition and readjustment here. At about 5:30 the day I arrived, I couldn’t find my Spanish words anymore. I was done talking for the day. I had probably run most of the day on pure excitement and the little bit of rest I managed to sneak in here and there. But once everything was quiet again, my brain was done. I had totally forgotten about the effort it takes to live in another language and culture. Granted, I wasn’t thrown into the culture quite yet, since I was just with la familia all day, but I was definitely in the language. I am happy to report that the next day, after a good night’s sleep, it was a lot easier.
Tip #9: keep drinking water. If you have safe tap water, it’s still probably different from your water at home. Drink it up, mix it with bottled water if you have to, so your body gets used to it. It will also help your body cope with any lack of rest, and any new foods you may be encountering.
Tip #10: last one! Take it easy with exotic foods your first couple of days, even if you’re a returning traveler. This might seem obvious- if you’ve never eaten goat or guinea pig or squid before, your body might not be ready to handle it. We went out for a buffet lunch the first day. I wasn’t that hungry. So I didn’t eat too much. The next day, we celebrated host dad’s birthday with a big lunch. It consisted of pan con pebre; a massive seafood salad packed with shrimp, scallops, clams, crab legs, and topped with avocado and lettuce, plus homemade mayonnaise on the side (I SO wish I had taken a picture of it! It was BEAUTIFUL.); and two desserts. That lunch was a risk, friends. Not because I don’t love seafood, not because I didn’t trust how fresh it was or how it was prepared. But I rarely eat a pound of cold shellfish in one sitting. I’ve never tried homemade mayo before. As big of a sweet tooth as I have, I almost never eat two full desserts. Had this not been a special family event, trust me- I would not have eaten like that, and I’m glad I didn’t finish my plate.
Well that was longer than I expected! Another post about settling back in will be coming soon.