I’ve just arrived back from a brief trip to South Korea. It was so brief, that I purposefully tried to not adjust to the time. Bed before 8:00 PM and wake up before 3:00 AM was the schedule for all my days there. Lots of coffee helped me power through. At least until I hit a wall at 4:00 PM.

Given the 16-hour time difference between Seoul and my native California, mid-afternoon feels like late evening. But it’s actually late evening of the previous day. Keeping the days an times straight was especially difficult this trip.

Case of the Mondays

It wasn’t until the trip home that I realized how spectacularly long one of my days was going to be. My itinerary back home wasn’t as efficient as the nonstop to Seoul from San Francisco. No, I’d elected to go through Honolulu, burning a stash of Hawaiian Airlines miles to fly the carrier for the first time.

My flight to Oahu departed around 9:30 PM on Monday, Seoul time. I’d had neared total zombie status by then, having been awake since 3:00 AM. It’d been a good day, but I’d nearly fallen asleep on the train to the airport. The saving grace was that the flight was in business class. It’s an interesting cabin, one I’m not sure I would pick if there were comparable options. The flight review will come later.

So, the sleep afforded me in business was much needed. I woke up most of the way through the flight and enjoyed a light breakfast before landing in Honolulu. And I didn’t feel half bad as we descended into Honolulu.

a rainbow over a city by the ocean

Surprise! Still Monday

We landed at…11:00 AM on Monday, local time. We’d just spent 8 hours in the air, and I’d arrived way before I’d left! So weird.

I cleared immigration and returned through security without incident, admiring the hills from afar. They are lovely. It was weird to be back on the island, considering the result of my last visit. But it was also invigorating. I retraced so much from my last departure – the United check-in queue, the seats where my parents and I sat and waited for our delayed flight, and the end of the terminal where I’d taken a walk, cane and all. It was surreal to be back.

Then 4:00 PM arrived for the second time that day. Last time I was on my way to Seoul Incheon Airport. This time I was boarding a flight for California. I’d booked United’s ancient 8-across business class for this segment, spending 15,000 Turkish Airlines miles for the privilege. It’s nearly the worst business class I’ve flown, but at least I was able to catch some sleep on that flight as well. It was my third stint of the day, if you include sleeping for the first few Monday hours back in Seoul as one of those.

I finally did the math as we descended into San Francisco. Monday had officially started at midnight Seoul time. And it was Monday still. By the time we touched down, the clock had just clicked over into Tuesday, local time. My Monday had officially been 40 hours long.

Modern Travel Disorientation

Our modern age of air travel messes with one’s head. Time zones were unnecessary before people could talk instantaneously over long distances or travel over them in a short span of time. Time was just time before, guided by the sun. I’m sure a clever few realized that evening in China was close to midday in Europe. But there was no need to think like that.

Now it’s vital to understand. I had to make sure I booked a hotel for the right day. And since I booked two separate flights over the single day (a “self-connection” of sorts), I had to make sure I did this correctly as well. Adjusting to a new local time can also take days, something people in centuries past didn’t have to consider. It’s my own silly decision to travel so fast where your body can’t even adjust. But I usually enjoy these whirlwind trips.

All that being said, I don’t really want to repeat this particular Monday. It definitely sets a record for my longest day ever – quite literally.