When Pigs Fly: Traveling During Chinese New Year Celebration

Who would think layovers could be fun? Returning from Australia we had a 12 hour lay-over in Hong Kong on February 5 and walked into celebrations for the beginning of the Chinese New Year: Year of the Pig. (You can look up the Chinese astrology symbols here). Pigs symbolize wealth and good fortune and are considered diligent, compassionate and generous. Being a lunar holiday it begins on the first new moon of the lunar calendar and ends with the arrival of the first full moon.

The Hong Kong airport directly connects to a large shopping mall/hotel so it’s an easy walk to check out part of the local scene. Red envelopes trimmed in gold (called hongbao in Mandarin) dangled from the trees and store windows.  Large red and gold posters of a fat-cheeked jovial pig adorned the walls and hung from the ceilings.

In the middle of the mall a large stage was set up and on it were several casually dressed young men practicing moving around in a sort of dance-like way. Later, when walking back to board the plane, a Dragon performance was taking place: the men were under two large red dragons made with fabric and trimmed in gold. Using poles attached to the dragon form, they made them writhe and prance accompanied by loud and boisterous drumming. At the end of the performance their ‘tongues” unrolled the Chinese characters for “Prosperity, Happiness and Longevity”.

Happiness and longevity were on my mind regarding the long plane flights. Honestly, I dreaded the long leg of the trip: 17 hours from Dulles to Hong Kong and then again on the way back. Using my herb allies and a massage technique, I was able to create a less stressful experience with the following tools:

  • Melatonin for jet lag (the liquid form is easy to swallow), 0.3 to 3 mg to help sleep.
  • Essential oil roll-on of Lavender (Pine is another option as it also helps calm). Periodically dab on forearms and neck
  • Elderberry syrup and Reishi mushroom: good immune boosters, especially when traveling in the Winter or if prone to getting sick either during travel or upon return.
  • Muscle Relaxing oil – No matter how carefully I pack and carry, lugging suit cases around bothers my neck and shoulders (plus, for me, trying to sleep upright on a plane creates a pain in the neck, even if using a neck pillow). I combined the oils of Arnica, St John’s Wort, Lobelia, Goldenrod and Blue Vervain and used to massage tight muscles.
  • Drink plenty of water: some airlines are better about handing out bottles than others (having to flag down an attendant every hour for a 6 oz cup of water gets old)
  • Eye mask: there is always someone watching tv or reading with a light and that can irritate on long flights. This blocks the light for the most part.
  • Ear plugs: noise-canceling headphones work well but often they hurt the ears after an hour. I find ear plugs are better and more portable.
  • Layered loose clothing to help with temperature fluctuations and to reduce swelling from too tight waist bands, leggings, etc
  • Slip-on comfortable shoes with socks
  • For this trip I bought an orthopedic seat cushion (click here for more information) and used it to help with padding (a lot of tushies get planted on that seat!) Not only did I NOT get soreness in my lower back and hips but my neck didn’t get as knotty and tight.
  • Movement: There’s always a concern about blood clots. Keeping the feet moving and standing periodically helps. If this is more than a passing concern, compression stockings help.
  • Facial massage: Before leaving for Australia we held a class on Gua Sha facial massage (helps move lymph and tones muscles). Using this method several times during the long flight helped me feel more refreshed and less stressed.

Traveling gets you out of your daily routine and into new experiences, some planned, some not. The unplanned ones are often the most memorable and life changing. On your next trip, consider using some of the above to make the experience less taxing so you can be awake to unplanned opportunities!

“Wishing you luck in the Year of the Pig. May you experience good health and lasting prosperity.”

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