How to acclimatise to your surroundings on your gap year

When you’re travelling to a new environment it’s completely understandable that you might not feel like yourself at times. Whether suffering from jet lag or homesickness, there are ways of coping and reducing the effects to allow you to acclimatise, so read on…


You’ll no doubt have the time of your life but homesickness happens to the best of us, and when you’re in a far-flung corner of Peru or wandering along an island in Indonesia you might find yourself thinking longingly of your home comforts. This is where the wonders of technology come into play! Skype is a brilliant tool and will make it feel like you’re in the same room as your best friend. Don’t worry if you haven’t taken your own laptop or tablet, as there will always be internet cafés scattered about and your hostel might have internet access. Just don’t forget that this is the opportunity of a lifetime so make the most of it!

You’ll feel more homesick when you are in a new culture that’s completely different from your own. Whilst this is an exciting new adventure, it can also feel overwhelming — learn a few useful phrases in the language, brush up on the culture and read our travel etiquette guide to help you adapt in no time.


Whether you’re a sun worshipper or embrace the cold, you still may struggle to acclimatise to a new climate. Make sure you take appropriate clothing for your destination such as thermal layers or lightweight, breathable material, or have enough money to buy some when you arrive. Remember to keep hydrated and slap on the sun cream if you’re in a hot climate.

Regularly apply sun cream to prevent burning

Altitude Sickness

If you’re travelling to destinations that have a high altitude (usually, at least, 2,500m above sea level) then altitude sickness is a risk. This is because, at high altitudes, the air pressure is lower and decreases the higher you climb meaning your body gets less oxygen. You may end up suffering from symptoms such as headaches, fatigue, breathlessness and nausea. It can take around 2-3 days to acclimatise to high altitudes so steer clear of alcohol, have a high-calorie diet, get plenty of rest and fluids, and avoid climbing any higher in this period — when you do start climbing (once symptoms have improved) gradual ascent is crucial. Serious altitude sickness can be fatal so stay safe and if necessary, seek urgent medical attention.

Motion Sickness

Motion sickness can be caused from any mode of transportation whether it’s by road, air or sea, but can also be inflicted by fairground rides. It’s thought to be caused by the conflict between what you see and what your ears (which are responsible for balance) sense, and how your brain processes them. The most common symptoms people suffer from include nausea/vomiting, cold sweats and dizziness. Some people’s symptoms improve once they acclimatise to the change but for other people, their symptoms can continue until they leave the environment responsible for them. Mild symptoms can be alleviated by keeping still and relaxing, getting some fresh air, looking at a stable object, such as the horizon, and staying calm. For more severe cases, there is medication you can take such as Hyoscine which might help. 

Motion sickness can put a real dampener on your trip

Jet lag

Not many people can jump off a plane after a 16-hour flight and get straight back into their usual sleep pattern. Jetlag isn’t fun and is caused when you travel across several time zones. Your body clock ends up disrupted, which affects your sleeping and eating pattern, along with: bowel habits, urine production, blood pressure and body temperature. It usually affects you more the further you travel and when travelling east because you lose time/ shorten your day and it’s difficult to force sleep. When you travel west you gain time/extend your day so you can delay sleep, which is easier.

One of the most common causes of jet lag is disturbed sleep, but it’s not the only symptom. Other symptoms can include feeling disoriented, lack of energy and generally feeling unwell but you will usually be back to normal after a couple of days.

Reduce the effects:
You might find it difficult to acclimatise, particularly if you’re dehydrated, already lacking sleep, or stressed. So before you jet off, try to get lots of sleep and alter your routine slightly to fit in with your new destination. Try going to bed an hour earlier or later (depending where you’re going). On the flight take short naps and make sure you keep hydrated (but limit your caffeine consumption). Also, we know it’s tempting to drink alcohol on a flight to settle your nerves/get you in the holiday spirit, but it can also make the symptoms of jet lag worse so try to stick to the soft drinks. Look after yourself. If you take medication such as the contraceptive pill or insulin that you have to take at specific times of the day, it’s a good idea to get advice from your GP before you travel.

How to cope when you arrive:
Change your eating and sleeping pattern straight away to fit in with your new time zone. It’s best to keep those eyelids open and avoid napping if you arrive in the daytime. Keep yourself active and spend time outdoors in the natural light so that you sleep better when it’s the correct time to sleep.

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