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Today is the third day I have been home from a quick trip to Taiwan with one of my sons, and I feel awful. Getting up was awful. The thought of heading to work and trying to be productive was even worse. Even after falling asleep at a reasonable hour, the morning was not fun.

Now that I am at the office, my eyes hurt and I feel totally lethargic. Generally, I adjust fairly well to new time zones. But sometimes I have unfortunate bouts like this week. And one thing has consistently held true…

Jet lag is worse going east

I’m just agreeing with the science here. I’ve always found this to be the case, and I’m glad that claim can be backed up. Every time I’ve needed to adjust from Western Europe time to Pacific time, it’s been a breeze. Ditto for California to China, and California to Australia.

But California to Europe? Brutal. Both when I traveled to England a decade ago and the trip my wife and I took in 2016 resulted in rough mornings and nights where you wake up at 2:00 a.m. The trip I took with my older two kids last year was better, but I’ll attribute this to powering through essentially two days until we were utterly exhausted. They didn’t sleep on the plane and woke me up enough that I effectively didn’t either.

The same even holds true for my work trips back east. My first couple mornings in Virginia are awful. I often need to leave the hotel at 6:00 or 6:30, which is brutally early when you’re arriving from Pacific time. But heading home is a cinch. I even try to dial bedtime back a bit, which helps me have even more productive morning time. My coworkers give me the stink-eye, though, when the coffee pot warmer turns off at 8:30 after its 2-hour cycle. 🙂

Go west, young man

It hit me that this asymmetrical jet-lag adjustment phenomenon can be applied to an around the world trip. It now makes more sense to head west rather than east. Rather than making Europe your first stop, consider Hawaii. Then maybe Australia. Then slowly advance across Asia until you get to Europe before jet-setting home again.

You can even plan such a trip rather cheaply, given the abundance of low cost carriers. I’ve done some research into a few different itineraries, although I have typically started off with a cheap Norwegian flight to Europe. You can match this with the previously suggested hop to Hawaii, followed by a Jetstar flight down under. The following itinerary should ring in about $1,100 in economy, stopping at each of the locations shown.

a map of the world with a route

You could break up the flight back to California, but nothing really beats that $147 LEVEL flight from Barcelona as far as deals go. Besides that flight, none of the hops shift you more than 4 hours at a time.


Jet lag is no fun, and it is one of the tougher parts of air travel, especially for a quick trip. But the good news is adjusting for just a few days in Asia or Australia is the easier of the two. You’ll just pay for it when you return home.

Maps generated by Great Circle Mapper – copyright © Karl L. Swartz.

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