Caffeine Connoisseur

When you’re really desperate for a pick-me-up, where do you turn? Are you a coffee junkie with a standing order at Starbucks? Addicted to Red Bull or Monster? Or are you more holistic in your approach, preferring natural green tea?

Personally, I don’t have a caffeinated vice. Previously hooked on Diet Coke, I made a clean(ish) break from it here in Japan. It’s just too expensive to maintain at ¥650 per. But the past 72-hours demanded some extreme caffeine intervention.

Here is our story:


Alex and I spent a magical four days on the island of Okinawa, one of more than a thousand Ryuku islands which make up the southernmost prefecture in Japan. Easily accessible through Space-A, we hopped on a flight last Friday and enjoyed every minute of our time there. It wasn’t until Tuesday night/Wednesday morning that things started to go south.

Zero-dark-thirty flights suck. They shouldn’t be scheduled. And when you’re on vacation, you can’t waste your last day sleeping in preparation, so you just power through. Or at least we did; the beginning of our 72-hour travel marathon.


We spent the day touring the island, arriving back at our hotel around 9pm. Rather than taking a cat nap, we watched wacky Japanese TV and snacked on chocolate and Monsters (caffeine Type A – fruity with a hint of chemical). It did its job, and I was perky and awake at 1am when we arrived at the airport. We easily signed in, roll-called, and checked our bags. Then we sat. (Which isn’t pleasant when you’re pumped up on processed energy).

Red Bull

After two hours of nothing, I felt myself nodding off, so I supplemented with Caffeine Type B, Red Bull. (Fruitier and metallic, a reminder of my college years when Red Bull and Vodka was the greatest invention ever.)

More anxious energy and aimless walking.

At 4am the flight was pushed back a whole day. Awesome.

We booked a room on base and promptly hit the hay. Well, tried. With two glasses of green tea (caffeine Type C; it’s best when served with warm milk and a hint of sugar), one Monster and one Red Bull still in my system, it was pretty hard to shut down.


Twenty-four hours can be a long time. Especially when you have no transportation, nothing to do, and a sleepless night hanging over your head. But we pushed on. We had lunch on base at Chili’s, including unlimited Diet Cokes (caffeine Type D – aptly named!). We walked around base, explored the city, dined at an awesome burger joint in town, and then bought a few old movies to watch in our room while we drank more sodas from the hotel vending machine.


At midnight, we were ready to try again.

How naïve! After making it all the way to the gate this time, the flight was pushed back yet another day. Now we had to make a decision. Confirming all flights were cancelled, we booked last-minute commercial tickets and rushed to Naha International Airport to wait … and wait… and wait. (Don’t you just love delayed flights?)

Hurry up and wait, that’s the expression, right? Hurry up: “showing, involving, or requiring haste or urgency.” Wait: “stay where one is; remain in readiness for a purpose.” A painful yet accurate oxymoron. But it’s the “remain in readiness” that kills you. It reminds me of volleyball: the ready position. Knees bent, butt parallel to the floor, body bouncing gently in anticipation, quads burning, shoulders tense, mind racing… just serve the damn ball!

“Remain in readiness.” No sport had been played, no marathon run, but my body ached. My neck was tight, the veins bulging out in stress. The tendonitis in my wrists flared. And my fingers and toes couldn’t settle, constantly tap, tap, tapping away.

This is when I got desperate. This is when I turned to the dark side: Pre-workout – have you heard of it? Alex and I both take it before tough gym days. It pumps you up and helps sustain long runs or big lifts. And there’s something so pleasant about the tingling sensation it brings, the jitters that affect your whole body, the bright red flush as your face burns with vigor…

Well, I was weak and it was in my bag, so I had some. No workout planned. I just needed it to keep me going. (That would be caffeine Type E. E for energy. Man, I’m getting good at this whole naming thing!)

Leaving me sitting in the airport, waiting to board, flushed and tingly. My hair a mess, my makeup nonexistent, and my wardrobe close to pajamas – though not quite. I still have some dignity!


Finally we board the plane – thank God – and arrived at Narita airport with just 30 minutes to retrieve our bags, catch the bus to Terminal 1, and board our shuttle. I’m sure you can guess what happened next. Murphy’s law, and that’s my maiden name, so…

We missed it. By ONE minute. Truly. Hurry up and wait. We ate dinner, went shopping (I finally found an English bookstore!), and located a Starbucks. Back to the basics: coffee – caffeine Type F.

coffee plane

We boarded the bus and my loving husband got me yet another Diet Coke (this trip has ruined my soda cleanse) and some chocolate, which technically has caffeine and therefore deserves its own category: Type G, G for glorious 😉

I will cut to the chase. We arrived at Yokota Air Force base, picked up our car and then drive 100km home to Yokosuka, retrieving the highly energized dog en-route. (Too bad he couldn’t drive!)


  • Total travel time: 69 hours
  • Total sleep: 6 hours (4 in the hotel, 2 on the plane)
  • Distance traveled: 2,643 km

But here’s the kicker.

  • Time the “cancelled” Space-A flight left: 12:30pm
  • Time it arrived: 3pm


  • Time Lost: 8 hours
  • Money Lost: $496

As you can see, traveling Space-A is a gamble. We gambled.. and lost. But that’s all part of playing the game.

Travel is hard, even if all goes as planned. But when it really hits the fan, an optimistic traveling buddy, a solid playlist, an engrossing novel, and a heavy dose of caffeine in whatever form you can find make all the difference.


Despite our rocky finish, we had a wonderful vacation. We explored every part of the island and absolutely loved the local cuisine. And we now have a great, if somewhat complicated, story to tell. And it has a happy ending: we are home, reunited with our baby boy – Hercules, and fully rested after 11-hours of sleep!

Oh, I almost forgot. The verdict: which caffeine reigns supreme?

  • Pre-workout is by far the most effective, but it comes with serious side effects.
  • Diet Coke tastes the best (in my humble opinion), but provides nowhere near enough get-up-and-go.
  • Coffee tastes like poo (even with boatloads of sugar).
  • Tea is delicious, but the warm milk puts you to sleep.
  • Monster and Red Bull are interchangeable and over-priced.

And the winner is: gin!

The best drink I imbibed was the fabulous Gin and Tonic my husband made me upon arrival. Crisply cold with a hint of freshly squeezed lemon, it instantly made me forget my troubles and eased me into a lovely and well-deserved sleep/coma.



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