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.
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.
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.
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.
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?