The hidden gifts of jetlag

It’s 3 am. My stomach is growling, I have a headache, and I can’t sleep. Jet lag. All of us who’ve traveled internationally across time zones have experienced this in some way or another. I just came back from a trip that had me away from home for 6 weeks, in a time zone 9 hours difference.

Over the years I’ve noticed something very unique about returning from these trips. Everything feels fresh, the possibilities and opportunities feel open and unspoiled. It’s like starting over, a reboot, a new perspective.

Yes, there are projects I left unfinished before I left (can anyone say, ‘moving into a new apartment?’), and my to-do list is a mile long. But before I dive in, sitting on the couch in the middle of the night, I am able to step back, look at it all, and see things from a unique perspective that I don’t have any other time. This enables me to start new habits, new routines, and re-focus my priorities. That exercise routine that seemed to flop before I left? Now’s the time to get it going again. Being more strict with keeping track of my grocery budget? This is the easiest time to set up a better system and use it. That ministry project I’d been putting off? I have new passion and vision to tackle it.

This “magic” tends to wear off in a couple of weeks, and usually lessens with the jet lag. Yet when taken advantage of, I can establish enough of a new pattern to get some momentum that will continue to carry me when the effect wears off.

There is a downside. Sometimes coming back is a bit like experiencing a crash after a high. The weeks away were filled with wonderful people, activities, and a sense of fulfillment. Coming home to an empty quiet house in a place where I only know a handful of people can feel like a let-down. I remember experiencing something similar after a youth conference as a teenager, or after a missions trip. This is the place where God meets me, and the place where I turn to him for help. I need him more than ever during these times, and I am keenly aware of my limitations. Yet he also gives me that new perspective as a gift. I can lean on him to be the helper and sustainer in the changes I’m making during this unique time.

In what ways have you experienced something like this when returning from an international trip? How has it helped give you an extra boost?

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