Some people travel well. They can read while traveling, eat, sleep, watch movies, play games, and even join the mile high club. I’m not one of those people.

I’m not sure when I first discovered this. While we were on a road trip from Barstow California (one of the armpits of America) to Cedar Rapids, Iowa (not so arm-pitty, actually), I made the mistake of trying to read a magazine. I was 13 years old. I didn’t know that I had motion sickness; all I knew was that reading produced dizzying results.

By the time I was 15 and flying to Thailand, I knew that I had it. I went through boxes of Nips Coffee Hard Candy on the train ride from Bangkok to Chiang Mai.  My mom was the one that suggested that I suck on something when I was in a car, boat, train, or plane. She’s definitely one of the lucky ones. She can sleep anywhere, instantly, and doesn’t get sick. Although, when she was pregnant with me, she had bad morning sickness.

“Research also suggests that some people inherit a predisposition to motion sickness. This predisposition is more marked in some ethnic groups than in others. One study published in 2002 found that persons of Chinese or Japanese ancestry are significantly more vulnerable to motion sickness than persons of British ancestry.”

On a Korean Air flight from Hawaii to Korea, we were at the back of the plane (disaster 1), there was crazy winter turbulence over the seas (disaster 2), and we were served our meal during this time (do I need to say it?). I ate my bibimbap and seaweed soup enthusiastically feeling no adverse effects of the turbulence. I was amused that food was served during this time because the turbulence was pretty strong, but I suppose they had to serve the food before landing, having delayed it as long as possible.

Foolishly I thought that all the traveling I had done had helped kick the motion sickness to the curb. After all, it had subsided to the point where I didn’t have to take medicine or flood system with ginger or do any of those other things to ensure that I didn’t get sick while traveling. But after the turbulence stopped, then it hit me, then I realized I was in BIG trouble.

My mom and boyfriend-at-the-time were concerned, but not really. They traveled well. They felt fine. I thought I was going to die. My vision dimmed, I stumbled as if walking was something new, and all I could think of was getting to the toilet. And after I finally did wait in line, and endure all the horrible smells of air travel, I pushed opened the stall, closed the door behind me, and hurled seaweed soup and friends into the toilet.

I was slick with sweat so I didn’t think about the the noises I must have been making until afterwards. Then, my boyfriend-at-the-time thought it would be funny to take pictures of me moaning and going fetal on the airport chairs. (It was not.) My mom had walked away to find an overpriced bowl of ramen. And this pretty much illustrates the extent of understanding I received from my “healthier and stronger” travel companions.

Motion sickness [Source: Google search]
About 8 or 9 years ago, when we were making our way through Laos, I made damn sure I was at the front of the van despite traveling with a family with children because sitting at the back of a vehicle is the worst place to be if you get motion sickness.

If you’ve never been through Laos, the roads were winding, mostly red dirt with small villages dotting the way. The roads were paved the closer you were to a major city or town.

Laos songtaew taxi, Vientiane, 2009

Van drivers in Asia are notorious for driving like they are being chased. (Do you see where this is heading?) We went from Vientiane to Luang Prabang breaking up the trip with a pit stop in Vang Vieng. What I remember best from that trip was all the dusty red dirt – and the children throwing up from the back of the van. We’d roll down the windows for fresh air, sticking our noses out despite the billowing dust, listen to retching, and cringe. Their parents did not offer to trade seats. “They’ll be fine,” they said.

They were not mean or cold-hearted, but I want to say one of them had originally moved up since they were feeling a bit green around the gills from sitting in the back. They simply knew that as adults it would be worse for us. Although, we were all surprised that the driver didn’t slow down despite listening to the sound of young kids vomiting into plastic bags, and handing the full bags from back to front, and fresh empty ones from front to back.

Before take-off and before needing an air sickness bag…[Oahu, Hawaii, 2005]
But having motion sickness does more than simply inconvenience you or make you dread traveling. It also curtails opportunities. For instance, when my friend Roman got his flying license he decided to take us up for this first flight over Oahu. I grew up watching the Magnum P.I helicopter flying around the island, and now was my opportunity to see my birthplace, my childhood home from a bird’s eye view. Well, I saw it for a short while before I had to tell everyone that I couldn’t take it anymore.

I loved being up in the air in that tiny Cessna plane, and I wanted to see what he had in store for us because he talked us through the flight, but I felt so sick that Roman landed as quickly as he could which was back at where we took off. I felt gutted that I let everyone down (literally). My friends, of course, were super understanding and lovely. As soon as we landed, I walked away from the plane as quickly as I could. I was like a cat that needed to get away from the house in order to expire. And then, yes, I threw up.

Wasted when traveling. Caution: contents in overhead bin may have shifted.

The Thai word for motion sickness is essentially two words together “drunk” and “car” or เมารถ. When I first heard it I thought that was pretty funny. I get car drunk, and I wish I wouldn’t.

What about you? Do you get travel sickness?

20 replies on “✈️ Have sick sack, will travel

  1. I don’t really get motion sickness per se. Sometimes on roller coasters I get a dizzy feeling in my head, but only on occasion. I did experience a little bit of nausea when I was doing loops and rolls in a WWII vintage plane (a T-6 Texan) but I didn’t lose my breakfast and I have it on video ’cause there was a camera in the cockpit aimed at me. It’s funny looking back on that video and watching my face get a bit ashen, reaching into my flight jacket and pulling out a brown paper bag and start blowing into it. Got past that though and did a couple of rolls and loops with me at the controls. Your chart indicates that I am well past the age of motion sickness now, so maybe I can step up my adventures a bit more.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh my goodness. I can just imagine. 555+ Actually, you should be proud that you survived all those loops and rolls on a plane. I think it takes a rare bird to keep their breakfast on such a ride. Makes you appreciate fighter pilots and astronauts, but maybe they don’t get sick when they’re at the wheel.


  2. Interesting fact about the Asian pre-disposition to motion sickness! I never had a problem util I turned 40, when suddenly everything started making me sick. Apparently it’s hereditary because the same thing happened to my mother. It sucks! A couple of years ago I needed the barf bag on a small plane ride, and even roller coasters make me sick now 😦

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oooo, that’s strange. And that would totally suck! You go through life never having a problem with it and then suddenly you do! GAH!

      It’s funny that you bring up rollercoasters. I thought they were fun when I was much younger, but then they stopped being fun because they just became to scary! I think it’s because as I’ve gotten older, I’ve decided I want to live. Hahahha.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. That plane incident where you threw up sounded so bad! And hurling your entire meal in the small lavatory as well D: You probably wouldn’t give a toss about the stench of the lavatory and just wanted to feel better yourself. I’ve suffered from motion and travel sickness all my life. Plane, bus, car, train…yeah, usually half an hour into the journey I get headaches and the nausea kicks in. I’ve had prescription pills but all they make me do is feel sleepy, a bit better but much worse afterwards. Up in the front seat of the car helps a bit. Driving a car I will also get motion sick. It’s pretty bad.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Wow. You’re worse than me. I never have a problem if I’m driving or if I’m in the front seat. But like you, the drugs that make you sleepy don’t always help. This last time when I took a bus ride it did, but anything was better than the last time where I was doing deep breathing and “willfully forcing myself to be okay”. 😛

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I used to get car sick when I was a kid. I don’t anymore. My youngest daughter has a lot of trouble with motion sickness. She wears an acupressure bracelet when she’s on a cruise. Driving, she insists on being behind the wheel, no matter whose car it is, which is fine with me. She’s a good driver. I guess it’s her Chinese heritage. I think it’s also the migraines she inherited from me.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I remember when I took a bus ride in Ecuador and we were at the back of the bus. I was totally dreading it. I had a mask to help me with the bus fumes, but then a friend let me borrow her acupressure bracelets – it must have worked because I felt fine!


  5. No, I don’t think I ever did. The only time I remember throwing up was when I ate a lot with friends before going home on a bus for two hours or so. It felt like I may be getting sick, but I didn’t throw up while on the bus. I was ready with a plastic bag. I still didn’t feel good. So I got to my home city, rode a tricycle towards home, got down, walked a bit, got to our gate, went in…then I promptly just threw up! I didn’t even expect it. My mother was so shocked and concerned. I got clean, changed clothes, and slept to rest the whole night.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Awww, you poor thing. But overall you’re good, right? So that’s a lucky thing indeed.

      I guess according to the chart, I have something to look forward to in old age! Hahahaha.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I rarely get sick from travelling, only on mountain roads, and I only get dizzy, no puking. Ugh, poor you! Do you still get sick on planes now?

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I get travel sickness pretty easily in a car if there is a lot of starting and stopping during traffic. I’ve been through being carsick many times to realize I cannot be in a car right after I ate or drank because then I can feel the contents of my stomach sloshing around with the motion of the car and that really accelerates my bouts of nausea. The worst was one time I had just gotten back into the city via a car and ended up on a sidewalk throwing up everything I ate for lunch (a burrito from Chipotle). That was an experience, lol, of being stared by passerbys as I hurled my guts out.
    On a moving bus, I sometimes feel unsettled but never sick. What I have always disliked is the smell of the fumes coming from the bus engine… It’s a smell that makes me uneasy. I’ve taken ferries and felt fine, except when it rocks a little too violently. I guess maybe that has more to do with my fear of falling into the ocean and drowning, though, since I can’t swim. Airplanes are no biggie for me but I hate when the plane tilts at an odd angle during liftoff.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hahahaha. Yeah, thanks for the burrito detail. You brought up another thing I failed to mention which is the fumes. Bus fumes and airplane exhaust or whatever that horrible smell is, I hate all of that too, and it makes me queasy. I have learned to don a face mask which is super common in Asia so I don’t look like a freak or something. But yeah, that smell. Ugh. Gross. I hate traveling!!!


  8. Car drunk. That is so, so appropriate. I get motion sick every now and then, but I’m fortunate that it’s infrequent and hasn’t ever made me throw up before.

    My worst experience was in Taiwan. We were going to the top of Alishan (a mountain), and the only way to get up besides hiking was a winding road that literally went back and forth like a compressed snake. And we were in a tour bus, swaying back and forth, constantly turning…several people did throw up, and I felt awful. Like death, indeed. The mountain view was worth it, but I don’t know if I could ever stomach going through that again.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah, I’ve avoided certain places in Thailand because they have those harrowing roads. Nah, I’ll pass.

      If there’s a mountain top view, I’ll walk, thanks. Hahahaha.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Poor Lani!! This is some of the worst cases of motion sickness I’ve ever heard! That airplane story about the bimbimbap and seaweed was so well written… I could almost hear you throwing up through the computer, lol.

    I can only imagine how carsick you must get taking unpaved roads in Laos and Thailand. You’re a trooper.

    Do you get motion sickness on trains?

    I don’t get motion sickness on planes or trains, but good lord… in cars I feel awful.

    The word for motion sickness in Chinese and Japanese is the same as Thai–Car drunk!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hahaha. Thanks. Actually, I have a friend who is worse, if you can believe it. And we’ve been friends for years and sharing my story recently brought up the fact that she has it quite bad. Funny how that happens.

      I do get sick on trains – and boats! when the water is choppy.

      That’s perfect that “car drunk” is the same in Japanese and Chinese. 😛


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