When you have spent as many years travelling as I have, (10 years and 65 countries), you find yourself sleeping in some very weird places. If you want to survive long-term on the road, learning to sleep anywhere is crucial! I have slept in planes, trains, buses, cars, tents, bathtubs and on picnic tables, park benches, beaches, mountain tops and cement floors. You name it, and I have probably slept there.
One very hot and muggy summer evening, my family and I were taking a packed overnight train from southern Italy to Rome. It was the end of the summer vacation time and everyone was heading north. Our little train cabin was packed and I was very hot and very sleepy. So I arranged our luggage in the open rack above our heads so it was flat. Climbed up, took off my belt and attached myself to the wall and promptly fell asleep. Where there’s a will, there’s a way!
On another trip to Rome with my family, I had just finished a trip to Africa and I wasn’t feeling that great. So while my family toured the Roman Coliseum, I found a little nook in the ruins and got twenty minutes sleep. Sometimes a short nap can make such a huge difference!
Another time, the music group that I was playing with had just spent a month touring across Indonesia. We had to do a 1200 km trip overnight trip on bumpy, dusty roads back to Jakarta in an old orange school bus to catch our next fight to the Philippines. School bus seats are definitely not great to sleep on! I ended up clearing a space in the metal luggage rack above my head. I climbed up into that cramped space with my nose almost touching the ceiling and proceeded to sleep. Did I mention that I can pretty much sleep anywhere?
One of the tougher areas to conquer was jet-lag. There were some years when I made up to twenty-five trips per year to Europe and other corners of the world. The schedule was usually one week working in Europe and one week at home in Vancouver. That was a nine-hour time change difference. I was struggling with my shifting sleep patterns until a friend gave me some great advice.
He advised me to go to my doctor’s and get a subscription for sleeping pills. My habit became to take a pill while I was eating my first meal on the flight to Europe and sleep seven hours before we arrived. Then I would take pills for the first two to three nights in Europe to get adapted to that time zone.
On the way home, I would try to stay up for the whole flight and take a pill when I got home so I could sleep that first night. It wasn’t a perfect system but it made the constant time changes bearable. Jet-lag is tough! Just a word of caution though, pills can be addictive. Learn to wean yourself quickly from them and have your doctor check on you regularly.
Travelling for a living is not always as glamorous as it seems. But, it can be fun and exhilarating if you can somehow catch up on your sleep! 🙂
Question: What great travel advice has helped you deal with challenges of sleeping on the road?
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