- Expect jet lag. When we left, I figured that since my sleeping patterns were so irregular already, I wouldn't really be affected by jet lag. I was incredibly wrong! The flight to Paris was looooooong, and I slept very very badly. It was uncomfortable and every position I moved into was painful or weird, too weird even for me (given that I've slept upside down in a car once).
We arrived in Paris a bit after midday, and so decided to stay awake as much as possible before going to bed for the night, to get the body clocks organized. For the first few days of this I was fine... By the third day it hit me in a bad way. I had a nap in the afternoon, woke up around 6pm in order to head out for dinner and I felt borderline delirious. Couldn't think, couldn't move, felt ill... It was really bad. I sent the gorgeous boyfriend out to search for some food for us! We had been eating a lot of rich, delicious noms in the first couple of days so he came back with chicken and chips, and a pack of raw vegetables - carrots, snow peas, leeks, and a few bananas and apples. Eating that, and being given a chance to just stay in and relax proved to help very much in getting over my jet lag. But definitely not something I want to experience again!
- Don't feel guilty about taking time to nap. We went to a lot of places - Paris, Berlin, Munich, Salzburg, Venice, Florence, Rome and London. It meant a lot of travel, a lot of physical activity, often long walks to places, even long walks around airport terminals. It also meant I became pretty exhausted just about every single day. My plans for each day basically revolved around what cool stuff to see, and how I was going to time it so I'd be able to get back to the hotel at some point to nap. I know that's not how normal people do it - normally the idea is to cram as much crap into each day as humanly possible otherwise it would be a waste, but unfortunately I can't do things that way. Yes, I wanted to see a lot of stuff, but I wanted to enjoy it too.
More often than not, the days where I did take time to go back to the hotel my man would go gallivanting about without me, and I was fine with that. Sometimes he'd go for a run around the city, which he loved, and sometimes he would go to see something else and take lots of photos, like Versailles. I'm sure it would have been an amazing place to see... But I also know that these things are best appreciated awake and alert, not tired and cranky.
Some days I ended up taking naps just where I was, if i could. Took a pretty spectacular nap on the seats of an amphitheatre in the middle of Pompei. I actually think it's quite cool that I can say I have slept in the sun, under the shadow of a volcano, in the middle of a dead city
.- Be careful how you sleep on planes. On most of the journeys around Europe I've either managed to be next to only the boy, or been able to scam a few seats in a row and lie down flat. Our plane from Rome to London was only half full, so I actually got a fairly comfortable nap in, lying across three seats.
However, on the trip from our stop over in Singapore to Sydney, our seats were two of 4 in the middle of the plane and I sat in one of the middle middle ones, next to someone I didn't know. I had a bit of an attack of tiredness just as we were jetting off and basically passed out in a matter of seconds, waking up about an hour and a half later vaguely remembering tossing and turning around in my chair trying to get comfortable... Then realizing that for part of it I was doing the whole head bobbing thing, where your head gets lower and lower until you suddenly jerk up, then gets lower again and so on, basically right on top of the girl sitting next to me. I must've looked utterly bizarre... I hope I wasn't encroaching on her space too much!
- Keep in mind that if you're traveling with someone else, they will also most likely hit a couple of sleep walls themselves. It can be good actually - I was fairly empathetic when I could see my boyfriend fading, since I know what it feels like, and hey, if he wants a nap I'm always good for a nap. It also helps other people to understand what it feels like to be a narcolept every day. Having that desparate need for sleep and downtime, having to choose between sleep and activity. Sometimes I forget how constant it is, the narcolepsy is always there, always informing my choices whether I like it or not.
- Be ok with scheduling downtime. I think, due to the busy nature of our travel schedule, that's one thing we didn't really do much of on our trip, and I think it's something I really need to do in future. There were some days where I basically just decided that I didn't want to be anywhere, didn't want to see anything, no matter how amazing, all I wanted was to sit in my room, read a book, play with my iPad, sleep and not deal with people. We did a bit of that but not for whole days, and I think I really would have liked that more than constantly having to catch metro trains, or walk places or whatever else.
- Staying with friends, instead of in hotels, can be difficult. Obviously there are many positives to it - you see your mates, you save on accommodation, you have someone to talk to that isn't the person you've just spent the last 3 weeks non-stop with (not that it ever got on my nerves, but sometimes different people can be good). But it also means that you are kind of expected to be sociable at all times, whereas in a hotel room it's perfectly ok to sit around, in your undies, with your head buried in a book and not speak to anyone. I missed having that quiet, alone time to myself, missed knowing that despite the hustle and bustle of the city you're in, you can come back to your room and just enjoy the quiet and your own space. It was fantastic to stay with the friends we did, but I don't think I would have coped if it had been like that for the whole trip. I like to have my own time, with myself. I'm a bit antisocial like that!
So, it is perfectly possible to have a whirlwind tour of all the amazing places in Europe, without losing your mind and without losing too much sleep. It may mean planning things a little differently to how others may plan it, but that's ok. I feel incredibly lucky to have had the experiences I had!