It’s something you try to mentally prepare yourself for, because you know things will go wrong. Flights will get cancelled, bags may get stolen. You know you’re going to get lost, hassled, sick and frustrated. And then it actually happens.
By the end of the first week I had a full-on flu, fever and all. Not surprising given the 14-hour time change and jet leg, adjusting to our first hostel experience, walking around in the bitter cold in Tokyo, and going into the trip generally run-down from the move, job transition, and pre-trip preparations.
So my first tip for anyone planning a similar trip is:
Take it slow the first week and book a private room.
You need time to get over the jet lag and settle into the trip. Hostels often have a few private rooms available, or you can look for a budget hotel or guesthouse. It’s very strange waking up in the middle of the night to the sounds of other people snoring in the bunk beds around you, feeling wide awake due to the time change, and trying to fumble around in the dark to get your things. Having a private room means you can get a better night’s sleep and nap when you need to, and it’s just generally more comfortable.
Give yourself ample “buffer time” on travel days.
Don’t expect to fly into a new city in the morning after 10-20 hours of travel and get in a day of sightseeing. Not only will you be tired, but you can’t predict how long it will take you to get through customs and then from the airport to wherever you’re staying.
If you have a long way to travel to the airport before a flight, consider staying in an airport hotel. That's what we did in Tokyo the night before our long flight to Auckland. It ended up taking half a day to get from the city to the hotel because:
- We got to the train station and realized we were short on cash to pay for the tickets
- We got on the local train (instead of the express train) by mistake
- We just missed the shuttle bus from the train to the hotel and had to wait an hour
When your daily routine consists of going into the office and sitting all day, then coming home to take care of some things and re-charge, the contrast between that and a typical day on the road is pretty dramatic, so:
Allow time to adjust to your new routine.
It’s kind of like starting a new job. You need time to sort things out and get acclimated before you’re running at full speed. Here in New Zealand, Root still isn’t used to using the campsite showers so half the time he forgets something (his towel or flip flops for example). But each day we’re learning how to navigate a bit better and handle the bumps in the road as they arise.