It’s  3:14 a.m. I’m wide awake. My heart is racing. My stomach is turning.

I’ve been awake for an hour. Every time I close my eyes and try to sleep, my mind sets off on a wild tangent. It curses my body for not being able to fall asleep. It relives my time with the elephants, my time in Chiang Mai, Thailand. It runs and runs and runs.

This has been going on for four days. This … jet lag?

I’ve never experienced this before. Every other time I have returned from travel, I’ve been tired for a day or two, but have never felt so utterly exhausted. So starved. So … shitty.

And now, I’m awake and the sun isn’t even up.

I run over in my head the options for such an early start.

I live in Las Vegas, which means if I want to go across the street to the local bar, it is still open. If I want to go to the gym for a quick workout to see if that will finally give my body permission to sleep, I could.

But, want I want to do the most is force myself to eat breakfast, drink a cup of coffee to stay awake until mid-day, and write.

And, because this is Las Vegas, there are very few spots where I can actually do that.

Yes.

Free wi-fi in Las Vegas is hard to come by. In a 24-hour-town, the amount of wi-fi that operates 24-hours at no cost is few and far between.

Starbucks, Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf, they all have it. Only, they aren’t open. For another three hours.

Awake early enough to see the full moon sinking ...

Instead, I open my laptop and prop myself up on pillows in bed.

At first, I attempt to write. But, my brain is mush from lack of sleep. So, instead, I edit photos.

Then, the sun is up and I am out of bed, headed to the coffee shop for a change of scenery.

Later in the day, at my job, I sit on the computer, trying to edit menus, only the words blur. My eyes grow heavy, heavy, heavy.

This is unbearable.

A message pops up on my screen from my co-worker in California:

“Are you overwhelmed?”

Why, yes. Yes, I am. I am sleep-deprived. I can’t focus on letters. I can’t eat. Yes. Overwhelmed. And miserable.

I hastily respond: “Yes.”

Two nights later, I’ve made it through the night, sound asleep (thanks to some Tylenol PM). Regardless, around 8 p.m. on a Friday night, I’m out for Girls Night at a local casino, checking out Kevin Devine play poolside. Snuggled up on a lounge chair, I fall asleep for 20 minutes as I listen to his acoustic guitar.

The next week, I’m all but entirely recovered. I can eat again. I can sleep. Then, it happens.

The owners of the company I work for have requested a private meeting with me. Sitting in the private dining room of one of the restaurants, we speak about my time in Thailand.

“It’s clear you have been struggling,” says one of my bosses.

“Sorry, I didn’t expect to have such jet lag. It’s never happened to me before.”

“Well, you need to understand something. It has come to my attention you’ve been overwhelmed lately … and … it’s because of this trip you took. You’re part-time. We let you go on this vacation. And, it isn’t going to happen again.”

I sit there.

Stunned.

Did I just hear correctly? Did my boss just tell me I can never travel again while I am in their employment?

In a flash, I’m not even thinking about my jet lag anymore. I’m thinking how the hell I am going to get out of Las Vegas.

Fate sealed.

You can’t tell a traveler she can no longer travel.

29 comments

    1. Haha … it’s coming. Promise. A lot has happened since I got back from Thailand in September, so it’s taken me an abnormally long time to get to the present!

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  1. I definitely couldn’t work for a company or an employer who wouldn’t let me travel ever. I think it’s important to do work and to work some place where you can be happy, and not being able to travel would make me miserable.

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  2. One of THE reasons I dream of working for myself. Nobody to judge on you their criteria of what a good employee looks like… you are only measured by what you consider success! Cannot wait to see what you did from this point… Don’t leave us hanging!

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  3. Jet lag is the absolute worst. Coming back from Malaysia, I was physically sick for a week. I couldn’t open my eyes! But that wasn’t my first trip to Asia, and it won’t be my last. Nothing can stop me!

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    1. I would have loved to do exactly that, but if I had done that, I would have not had enough money to live without dipping into savings. And, I had plan 🙂

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  4. The title for this piece is awesome. haha. Ugh jet lag is the absolute worse! Our bodies work in such weird ways. I always find it way worse coming back, no matter how long I’ve been on a trip. Great story about your experience with jet lag. It gives people a great idea of how it feels.

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    1. Thank you! It’s funny, jet lag going either direction for me isn’t nearly as crippling as returning home. Maybe it’s because the excitement of a new place is gone?

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  5. That’s right – you can’t tell a traveler they can’t travel! I request the next chapter to have the true ending, and additionally an alternative ending, where you stand up right there in that meeting, snap your fingers and say ‘oh no you didn’t’ and storm out. That would be epic. But I am pretty sure the next part of the story is pretty epic anyway. Can’t wait to read it! 🙂

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  6. Isn’t that like…. not legal? Your job can’t be like… nope … you’re not allowed to travel…

    Ugh you know what I hate… is that people from our North American culture, are so obsessed with money and career success that most people would totally put up with that sort of bull shit.

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    1. Well … I was “part-time” and salaried, which kind of made everything a gray area. Our culture is exactly that … fortunately, it’s not the way I choose to live my life. As soon as those words came out of his mouth, I checked out. The job, as career-oriented as it should have been, was not what I wanted. I needed it to support my pursuit of freelancing.

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  7. I once had a new job where on day one, knowing no-one, I went out to lunch (lunch was an hour, it was in my contract), ate a sandwich sat on a park bench, then wandered back after around 45 – 50 minutes. My ‘boss for the day’. who was in a goldfish bowl office where we could see everything he did and he could watch us, scowled at me, then put his suit jacket on, walked out and asked me to go in to his office. He shut the door and then told me ‘we don’t do lunch here’. I reminded him, politely, that it was in my contract and he told me it ‘was not worth the paper it was written on’ and that it was ‘my way or the highway’. In a flash, not thinking, I said ‘highway’. He looked at me puzzled as I left his office, packed my things and left the building. I can still see the look of anguish and disbelief on his face. He would have to recruit again, and cover the work until he did this. Sure I was broke for a couple of weeks until I got another job, but happiness and peace of mind is more important than money. And it still makes me smile each time I think of ‘that look’ on his face !!!

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