There’s Always Room for Sleepy the Teddy

How to stay fit in spite of stress and sleeplessness while traveling

By Richard Quest

And so, dear fellow traveler, we have started a new year. And if you are like me, your good-intended-better-lifestyle-home-travel-balance is already in tatters. You are reading this in another hotel room wondering, how on earth did I get conned into doing this trip.

After all, didn’t we all promise ourselves, we wouldn’t travel so much. You said to the wife/husband/partner (delete were applicable) you were definitely going to turn down so many assignments and make more time for home life.

And then it happened. An assignment was offered that was simply too good to miss. A quick transatlantic meeting, or even better a transpacific crossing, that would earn you oodles of frequent flier miles towards elite status, and so early on in the year. The mental bargaining began.

Well, if I do this one now, then I am already 10,000 miles towards Gold States – and you know what means!!! Or worse, deceiving yourself – I can earn the miles now and then not travel so much later in the year. Liar. Hypocrite. Deceiver of the worst sort.

The fact is you, me, the whole lot of us have got on the bloody merry-go-round all over again. Our elite points balance in all our loyalty programs magically went back to zero at midnight on December 31st. And we had to start all over again.

To those of you who didn’t make the top tiers, there was a fresh resolution to make sure they make it this year. To those of us who made it several times over, we smugly wondered why we bothered.

And to those of us who still have a shred of decency left, even though we scheme and connive our way around the world earning points in airline and hotel schemes, let me offer some fresh thoughts.

Our object this year has to be to make life easier on ourselves and our families. Each of you thinks you can travel better than the next road warrior (c’mon let’s have a moment of honesty here – you DO believe you travel better than anyone else you know, especially better than that obnoxious prig in accounts).

Making life easy when on the road has been one of the great challenges frequent flyers face. We all know the theory, but actually putting it into practice is the tricky bit.

People always want to know, with so much travel, whether I suffer from jetlag. The short answer yes, of course I do. Jetlag is a natural phenomenon all to do with the relationship between our circadian rhythms and the sun and atmosphere. Our bodies just know they are in the wrong part of the world for the way they should be feeling – jetlag will arrive! A few things to remember: Eastbound travel is always worse than westbound. So Europe to Asia will knock you out much more than Europe to the US. I always try to behave on local time as quickly as possible once a trip starts. Sleep when you know they are asleep where you are traveling to. And eat when they are about to eat.

There is no substitute for the vitamin D provided by the sun. If when you land it is daylight and sunny, I always allow myself 15 minutes of sitting in the sun. It will pay dividends.

Oh yes – the most obvious of all – when it hits, tell people you are tired. What makes us think we are so superhuman that we can screw up our body clocks and not admit it? I often take a short nap (DON’T tuck yourself up back in bed; you will go into jetlag sleep and feel awful when you awake.)

Right – assuming you are still awake … other tips that can make life useful: Try to have a regular time to speak to the family. It is stressful for those back home when you call at any old hour, disrupting the routine of the family household. So make a time and Stick To It. Surprisingly enough, your business contacts will actually respect you when you announce you are taking a 10-minute break to say goodnight to your little one on the other side of the world. And best of all, your spouse will thank you for not spoiling a meal, or creating havoc at bed time just because you have five minutes to escape your client.

Try to do some exercise. At this point I am straying into the world of fantasy. Because while I am very good at practicing the rest, I am dreadful at getting to the hotel gym. The truth is I just never get there and I haven’t been able to work out why. So instead, try something more modest. A few gentle push-ups in your room and sit-up or two before breakfast. Even swinging your arms around your head banshee-style would be something.

In the end, take along something from home. Something that is just between you and your travels. Wherever I go, Sleepy comes, too. He’s my constant companion, a much-loved and now much-traveled bear I got from a US motel years ago, and has knocked up as many air miles as I have. It’s just wonderful to see other passengers faces light up when I put sleepy in the seat next to me (assuming its empty).

And best of all – Sleepy has now joined the frequent flier club. Thank you, Singapore Airlines, for making Sleepy a member of Kris flyer – he even got a personal letter of welcome from the CEO along with his card. Of course Sleepy doesn’t accrue miles (well, CNN doesn’t actually buy a ticket for him, so I guess that’s fair). But at least now he feels “part of the club.”

So as we start the New Year, racking up these miles, I hope we all learn some lessons and make our traveling life easier on ourselves and our loved ones. That way, when it comes to spending those frequent flyer miles, we might still have someone who is talking to us and wants to come along.

And if not, well, Sleepy always enjoys another trip – that is unless he racks up more miles than I do. Then I will be really angry.

Wherever your travels make take you in 2007, I hope it is profitable.

Richard Quest is a CNN anchor and correspondent based in London.

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