Travel hack #2: beat the heat

The news continues to stream out of Japan of the unprecedented heatwave, and it makes for sombre reading. The longest and deadliest heatwave since the 19th Century!

I visited this wonderful country in the first half of July, knowing it would be hot, but astounded by just how all-consuming and furious the heat was.

I thought that this was somewhat normal for Japan, having never experienced a summer there, but as the death toll and hospitalisations have shown, it’s anything but normal.

The epidemic of heatwaves and wildfires around the world shows more than ever before the reality of a warming planet and the consequences of the throwaway lifestyle many countries have adopted over the decades. I wrote recently about small changes you can make when you travel, to help reduce your carbon footprint.

But how to deal with the matter at hand, the heat?!

If you’re travelling somewhere in the coming weeks, and the forecast is HOT, I’ve got ten top tips to cool you down. Yes, some of them are total common sense, but, honestly, I didn’t follow half my own advice when I first arrived…

1. Drink up

Eating Dim Sum in a restaurant in Hong Kong

Easy. Except, it’s amazing how often you end up traipsing about from one sight to another, without stopping to grab a drink, or to refill your bottle. I must have tried about 30 different vending machine drinks in Japan. It was level pegging between Fanta grape and Orangina for the title of most thirst-quenching drink…

2. Pack an umbrella

Umbrella in the sun

I was inseparable from my umbrella for most of the trip.

The biggest mistake I made when I first arrived was forgetting to take my umbrella out with me on day one, but when I did use, it was a major life saver. Not only are you shielded and don’t have to keep applying lotion to your face, if you’re somewhere like Japan in summer, it’ll help you when the typhoon hits too.

3. Wear a damn hat

Butterfly on my straw hat in the Japal Alps
A butterfly landed on my straw hat while I was out walking in the Japan Alps. If you don’t use an umbrella, you better at least have a hat with you!

4. Spread it

Good quality sun lotion, that is. It’s taken me a while to find my favourite, but I’m a big fan of Ambre Solaire sun cream. It absorbs really well and any slight greasiness disappears very quickly. Not a fan of their mist spray lotion though, that stuff sucks!

5. Number one fan

My electric hand held fan in Hong Kong
I bought this hand-held electric fan in a shop on the Peak in Hong Kong.

You cannot beat a fan on a crowded train, it can be almost unbearable otherwise. Whether you opt for traditional or electric, I recommend combining it with number nine!

6. Freeze stuff

A Dominique Ansel creation, filled with salted caramel ice cream
A Dominique Ansel creation, filled with salted caramel ice cream, from his bakery in Tokyo’s Harajuku district.

If you’re staying in hostels or self catering then you may have access to a freezer. My brother and I went our whole holiday without the brainwave to freeze some of our water overnight. I say brainwave, we used to do it all the time at school, it’s hardly news!

7. Head indoors

Inside the Kyoto Museum
I felt a bit underdressed in this gallery in the Kyoto Museum.

It doesn’t always work out, but for that chunk of time in the afternoon when you might as well be in a 100% humidity sauna, get into the nearest good museum of choice. In Japan most museums have lockers and heavy duty air con. For us they were always a nirvana away from the sweltering sunshine.

8. Shop, don’t drop

Talking of air con, the best I came across was in the Landmark Chater shopping mall in central Hong Kong (not pictured). It was North Pole cool. However, I always found, no matter how cold the air con was, it would soon lose its edge, so a quick walk through was enough.

9. Simply the best (thing to do ever)

Take a water spray bottle with you. Easily found in Boots, Superdrug etc. Spritz and fan, spritz and fan, spritz and fan… in Japan they go one step further and have sprinklers. Not for plants or emergencies, but for perspiring humans!

10. Relax

A bench on an island on Lake Akan

After a few days of insane heat, you do get used to it. But, still, the best thing you can do if you’re struggling is relax and not pack so much into your itinerary… less rush = less thirst.

With these top ten tips in hand, it’s time to enjoy your holiday!

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