Here’s a dirty little secret that I kept mostly under lock and key: although I’m a full-time traveler, I suffer from terrible motion sickness. When I move so often, I can develop a tolerance over time, but no, it doesn’t work like that.
And yes, this led to unpleasant moments. Like the time I vomited on a press trip in the majestic Tuscan countryside, pictured above. (All were very nice about it.)
That is, although I could not completely eliminate motion sickness from my trips, I found ways to reduce it and move from point A to point B with minimal time. Here are some of my best Recommendations.
How to prepare: know your triggers for motion sickness
Motion sickness is what happens when your eyes and inner ear receive conflicting signals — for example, when you are sitting on a Bus and your body feels movements, but your eyes are still looking at something like your phone.
For some people, the worst part is being in a car or bus. For others (including me), boats are the worst. Over time, you will find out where you are hit hardest. For now, here’s how to prepare:
Know if you have something rude in front of you. Be prepared if you take smaller roads through mountainous areas (or visit rural mountainous areas). Be especially vigilant on boat trips, especially on small boats at sea.
Explore Transportation possibilities. If you have terrible motion sickness on buses, is there a way to take a train instead? Trains often cost much more, depending on the route, but sometimes you will be lucky and they will be just as expensive. At the same time, large boats are often much more stable than small boats, as I learned on Lake Nicaragua.
If you are on a guided tour, be sure to inform your guide in advance. For example, if whale watching is part of your day, you might want to put the Guide aside and let them know that you might have problems with motion sickness, and ask if most people have problems with that part of the tour. He or she can advise You.
What to pack before your trip
Sea bands. Sea bands are acupressure bands that you attach to your wrists and put pressure on a point of your forearms. I know it sounds a bit Hippy, but seriously-they only cost a few dollars, so don’t hit them until you try them!
I first came to Seebands when I started serving at the age of 20. Smelling food on a constant basis made me nauseous during my shift. I tried the sea strips on a whim and they worked so well that they became an integral part of my server uniform.
Ginger chews. Ginger has been a cure for nausea for thousands of years, and I find thawing ginger to be the most convenient way to eat ginger while traveling. These are good to keep in your purse or day bag.
Crackers or other harmless foods. Some people swear by saltines; others prefer bananas, ubiquitous in tropical climates. A little food in the stomach can keep nausea at bay.
Dramamine or motion sickness tablets. If you end up feeling very sick or worried about a particularly difficult trip, you may want to take over-the-counter motion sickness medications. Remember that many tablets against motion sickness cause drowsiness.
Plastic bags. Plastic bags go with me everywhere-they are easily accessible in my purse, my camera bag, and my luggage. I take you even when you are at home for excursions. Just in matter you have to vomit in public, you have options.
Tips to prevent motion sickness during your trip
Do not read or browse your phone. Seriously. I know it’s so tempting for library worms to spend four hours in the car in their Kindle, but it’s usually the worst thing they can do.
Offer to drive if that is an Option. Being the one who has control can completely eliminate motion sickness, or at least keep it at bay.
Sit forward. Many people feel much better this way, especially on the train.
Keep an eye on the horizon. It’s a cliché, and it’s true. Keep an eye on what awaits you. This could mean going out when you are on a boat.
If possible, get a source of fresh air. Break a window or go out.
Close your eyes and lie down if possible. Closing your eyes effectively ends the speech between your eyes and your inner ear. (But how can you make sure you have the space for that? Sometimes when I’m on buses, I make sure I have extra space for myself by getting up early and then making myself look revolting, wearing a shirt and covering it with crumbs, and spreading like crazy.)
Listen to something distracting. Some People like Podcasts or audiobooks; I prefer something that does require Concentration. Dance music is my favorite music when I feel bad.
If you’re on a wild Pitching boat, get up and ride it as best you can. One morning, on my cruise in Croatia, we experienced rough seas and most of the boat was sick. As if by some miracle, I was not because I got up earlier and went to the bridge. (I then ran into the resident Kiwi boat, which grilled me with its morning beer.)
Know that you can not prepare for everything.
You can follow all the tips from this List and get sick. Things happen.
Make peace with the fact that you can’t control all the factors of a trip-or anything in life. Prepare yourself as well as possible, for motion sickness as much as anything else, and when the blows come, be ready to roll with them.
One of my favorite friendships that was shown to me on my travels was the first time I traveled from Chiang Mai to Pai in Thailand in 2010. The road is notoriously winding and I made the mistake of searching my phone in the minibus and had the worst motion sickness I’ve had in years. We stopped at a rest area and I went to a table and put my head on.
And then I heard someone come by and put a Cup next to me and ask if I’m okay. It was a Frenchman who was in my minibus-he bought me a Cup of tea after seeing how sick I was. How considerate is that? I’m always touched when I think about it.