I travel for my job. As and when required. Worldwide. Some people say I have a sexy job.
When I was travelling about 10 days ago I got really annoyed by something I read. Someone had boasted on Twitter about how amazing it was that they had travelled 9,000 miles in the month of October.
I tweeted that I thought this boast was ridiculous. That travel is TOUGH. Physically and emotionally.
I must admit, I got varied responses, some of which surprised me. Some people totally understood what I meant. Others, well, it seemed that perhaps a little travel envy was bubbling under the surface of some of the tweets I received. And some people were really defensive, saying that travel had never hurt them (or others they know) either physically or emotionally.
The Grass Is Always Greener
Source: Google images took me to this blog for the above image.
I think it is important to realise that sometimes the grass can appear greener on the other side. Let’s face it – that is probably what I am going through at the moment.
When I look back into my account on British Airways, since June, I see 6 long haul flights and 1 short hop listed. This doesn’t include my travels on other airlines. I *think* I have another 3 long haul flights on different carriers during this period of time. That makes for 10 flights in the last 6 months. About 20,000 miles a month (as the long haul trips are at least 5,000 miles each way). This excludes train travel. I know I was in Paris twice during this period as well, and I travelled out of London to Suffolk once or twice.
Don’t get me wrong. We definitely do our best to make the most of where we are. During breaks from meetings, we visit gorgeous parks and temples. In the evenings, we find amazing restaurants to sample.
But it still doesn’t make this much travel easier.
Travel can be punishing…
Rather than go and cite the research, let me share with you some of the more personal things that I have experienced that make travel hard for me.
– If you are at all interested in having children, travel messes with your hormones and cycles. The mythical two day window of ovulations becomes unpredictable. And let’s face it, if you are ovulating, chances are you are no where near your loved one to make the idea of pregnancy into anything other than that, an idea.
– Travel is tiring. Running on adrenaline during jetlag can mess with the body’s hormones. Fatigue raises cortisol levels, which mess with body weight. It is no wonder that people pack on the weight while on the road.
– Always eating out, when you are used to eating clean home cooked food, is hard on the stomach. I’ll leave it at that.
And more than any of the physical things, there are the emotional. And it goes beyond me. When I am gone I miss home and my family. I turn non-communicative and retreat into isolation.
And I turn into a real crab from all of the jetlag and tiredness. I get crabby while gone (which I can manage by making sure I have early nights and some non-social time to myself, mostly via room service breakfasts – witness the isolation trend mentioned above). And I get crabby when I get home. The crabby when I get home is probably the worst – I get irrationally crabby because things (you name it, a mismatched sock can trigger me) are not the way I want them to be. Because I am tired. Crabby Donna is not a nice person to hang around. Just ask DH, who bless his heart puts up with the crabby me way more than any person should ever have to tolerate!
Google images took me to this shop front for this image.
Welcome, Under Woman
Sometimes my friends and family call me “Wonder Woman”. I have received Wonder Woman gifts, like a fantastic MAC mascara with a Wonder Woman theme case, and matching make up bag. It is kind of a running joke, because I seemingly balance work travel, being social, and healthy living. I guess the appearance I can give sometimes says that “I am Wonder Woman and nothing will stand in my way.”
(On a side note, Wonder Woman was totally my childhood hero, and I really wanted her wrist bands and golden lasso…)
But right now, as the end of 2011 approaches, I don’t feel like Wonder Woman. Sigh. I feel more like Under Woman. The washed up cousin of Wonder Woman.
This. In my mind, this sums up how Under Woman looks these days. From this site.
Under Woman struggles to keep it all together. She knows what she was once like. She knows that things like drinking water, laying off the caffeine, exercising – she knows that all these things are the right medicine to manage fatigue, jet lag, and lots of travel. But she has lost her motivation. Her mojo has gone AWOL. She is turning to pot.
Now I’m not saying that I have just let things go totally – it is just that I have to have talks with my inner Under Woman regularly. She is the one who would rather lay in bed all day than go for a swim or run. Of course, when she does go for a swim or run she feels better. But getting up and going and staying motivated. For me, going to the pool is HARD when I am bone tired – when I am tired the idea of going into a pool makes me feel how I imagine a cat must feel about water.
Yep, this about sums up me and water when I am tired. Not me and baths though, which I love all the time. Image from this site.
I do my best. I trained for the Bay Swim when I was on the road, enjoying the challenges of finding pools to work out in. I also have been training for a half marathon since September, finding parks to run in while on the road. I get myself out and active, using exercise to manage stress and to maintain good energy levels. I am clocking about 3 or 4 sessions per week while on the road, which is not bad. Less than when I am at home. But still something that I am proud of doing. Because it is HARD to stay motivated…
The Medical Skinny
As a side note, recently someone asked me if the travel and fatigue were bad for my CMT. It is an interesting question.
In 2008 I asked my doctor at the National Hospital for Neurology the same question. He assured me that travel like I do will not “speed up” the progression of my CMT. However, one of the side effects of a neurological condition like CMT is fatigue – the nerves need to work harder to communicate with the muscles. Add to that some extra fatigue from travel and suddenly paying careful attention to fatigue management becomes critical. Anecdotally there are many who say that fatigue worsens the ways they experience symptoms from CMT (such as pain, muscle twitching, or the ability to maintain an active lifestyle). Personally, I am never sure what is CMT related and what is just normal tiredness from travelling, so I don’t try to make the distinction. Rather, I focus on trying to keep my fatigue in check.
One More Trip To Go
Part of me wants the excitement to continue – I love being busy at work, and we have been super busy this year. I have loved my trips to Asia. I have done some great things in 2011. And I want that to continue into 2012.
But right now, an even bigger part of me is looking forward to December 10th. You see, my last trip for 2011 is on December 3rd. I think I will be gone for a week, and Sydney and Beijing are on the agenda. It’s a lot of travel time. Did you know it is 14 hours of travel to get from Sydney to Beijing? Yeh, like I said, that’s a lot of travel time. But… It’s our last trip for 2011 – hurrah!
So what is the point of this post. Besides just having a general whinge (which is okay to do but not my normal blog post style).
I guess there are multiple things I’d like to leave you with…
First, it is not easy to battle one’s inner Under Woman. But it is possible. And I think by winning a few battles (not all I hasten to add) with my inner Under Woman this year I am a healthier person as a result.
Second, the grass is often greener on the other side. By that I mean that my job may look sexy, but it is hard. It creates physical and emotional stresses that I don’t think I’d have to deal with if I travelled less. So before assuming how wonderful anyone’s life is, take a look at things through their perspective.
Third, even if I am tired and crabby, I do try to make the most of wherever I find myself. I think this is the reason I have had a life full of great experiences. I think this applies no matter where you are or what you do, if you travel for work or not.
And finally, recognise when you are being irrationally irritable and a crab. When Miss Crankypants come out to play it is not nice for anyone. Be thankful to those that put up with moody streaks.
And on that note – a special thanks DH for putting up with me through the good and the tired this year. You are indeed the best.