Monday, August 01, 2005


i can't believe it's august already. suddenly, my syria trip is transforming from "not until the summer is over" to "one month from now." how did this happen so fast?

i have a bunch of rituals in my life. one of them is that i decaffeinate myself one month before i travel. this particular ritual is about a decade old, and it wasn't always tied to travel. shortly after i moved to chicago, i got in the habit of drinking coffee every morning. i always liked the smell of coffee, but i also had a serious aversion to addiction. and a certain childhood experience watching my parents go through caffeine withdrawal during a family trip to utah made me really reluctant to ever let me get hooked like they obviously were.

but then one chicago winter i worked in a law firm where the kitchen was right near the entrance. each morning i would come out from the cold and smell the coffee brewing as i tromped back to my office. it didn't take long before i was having an "occasional" cup every single morning. even after the thaw, coffee became a way to stall just a little bit after i got to work. but i wasn't an addict. or so i told my friends.

one of my friends called me on it. i bet him that i could go an entire month without any caffeine passing through my lips. nothing. no coffee, tea, chocolate, or cola, nothing. and so to prove that i wasn't an addict, i got to experience withdrawal, thus proving that i was, in fact, an addict. the headaches passed after a few days. the drowsiness took a bit longer. but then i actually felt great. i even slept better. i didn't actually miss the coffee that much, it was the chocolate that i really craved. i would dream about chocolate. it was the hardest part

on the 31st day, i ate more chocolate than i should and i was buzzing all day. soon, i was back to my daily cup of coffee too. but i didn't mind as much. i could stop any time. i already proved that i could.

i decided that my caffeine-free month was a good idea and i resolved to do it at least once a year. for a few years i did it at random intervals. but because i could schedule it whenever i wanted, i would also put if off. at some point i started linking my caffeine free month with my annual travels. that way i stopped putting it off. if it was automatically the month before i left, i would just do it. i looked forward to my trips and so i also looked forward to my caffeine fast as an extension of my trip. i also found that it's a lot easier to adjust to different time zones when my body isn't expecting a burst of caffeine at a certain time of day.

so tomorrow is my last cup of caffeinated coffee until i am in the air on my way to syria. wednesday begins my one transition week, when i drink decaf in the morning, but can have anything else i want--i can drink tea to temper the headaches a little. then a week from wednesday, it's cold turkey for me. no tea, no chocolate. no nothing.