Fighting Motion Sickness

Fighting Motion Sickness

Miles of unpaved roads jarring every bone in your body combining with the side-to-side motion of bus weaving through the mountains makes seasickness appealing.  If only you were on the ocean, you could stand on the deck to get fresh air.  The sea would be absorbing the bumps instead of your body.  Wishing that you were somewhere else isn’t going to help you now though; the bus ride has sunk down into your stomach.  You can imagine yourself elsewhere, but the twisting you are feeling now isn’t the bus, it’s inside you.

You are now regretting your lunch.  No longer is it clear if you bought your lunch or were just renting it.  Then it happens to someone else, at first it’s muffled, you want to believe it’s not happening.  Then you smell it.  Soon the sounds are louder and you can identify the source, attracting your gaze like a wreck on the freeway, you see the woman in the row next to you is throwing up.  While you want to be disgusted as you see she is missing the plastic bag and it’s hitting the floor in pasty chunks, you are more concerned about if you are next.

You don’t want to be next, but it’s not clear if you have passed the point of no return.  Remembering how you threw out a couple grocery store plastic bags, wishing you hadn’t, wishing you had them now, how stupid were you to not bring a bag.  If this happens, it’s going to happen on the floor in front of you.  The same floor which you will have in front of you for the remaining four hours of the bus ride.

Starting to get the nervous sweats, you wonder, “can I get the bus to stop?”  Realizing that the driver is letting the woman in front of you throw up, in his line of sight, this isn’t going to happen for you.  You begin to sweat, you’re heating up due to the nerves.  “Why doesn’t this bus have a bathroom?” you angrily think, “why did I throw out that plastic bag?  Why am I in this stupid no bathroom on the bus country?  Why didn’t I pay the extra money to fly?”  The questions are coming faster.  Is there anything you can do?

This situation is inevitable.  There are times that you ate the wrong thing, or its just the bus.  I have thrown up in every mode of transportation: cars, planes, buses, and trains.  Here are my tested, works for me, solution to when you get that feeling that your lunch is thinking about leaving you like that jerk freshman year of college.

  1. Calm down, without calm, you can forget the next steps
  2. Get cold.  Take off any sweater or removable clothes until you’re cooler.  Open the window or point air vents on you.  If anyone comments or asks you to close the window, tell them you are sick.  Those downstream of you would rather have a window open than puke flowing their way as the bus climbs the next hill.
    1. I don’t know if there is a scientific reason for this, but I believe when your body is cold, it focuses on that first, and being sick second.  Thinking back to all the times I have returned my food, it started with progressively getting warmer, then a hot flash.  Staying cooler or cold is most important for me.
  3. Take deep breaths through your mouth.  Count as you inhale, pause and exhale.  Try to get to where you can count to 10 while inhaling, hold your breath for 10, then exhale for 10.  Mouth breathing will limit the smells that could affect your stomach.
  4. Don’t talk, focus on calming yourself
  5. Don’t think about throwing up.




There are some things that you can do before you get on the bus that will help you avoid feeling sick.

  1. EAT.  Again, I don’t know why this works, but I used to get sick on planes very often.  Thinking I was going to get sick anyways I didn’t eat before flying.  One day my Aunt told me I needed to eat before flying.  This made a huge difference.  For some reason, not having food in your stomach makes you queasier than being full.
  2. DRINK.  Knowing you will be on a bus for a long time, drink judiciously, but don’t be thirsty.  Water is a key component of your body and digestion, so give it what it needs.  The more in balance it is, the better you will feel.
  3. BE PREPARED.  Have a plastic bag or two with you.  Maybe even bring wet wipes.  This will alleviate your mind when you think it’s going to happen.  Instead of being upset about the things you wish you had, you can work on bringing yourself down from the ledge.
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» Mom :
Jan 22, 2011

Well written article on a delicate subject. For that, we will leave you with your dignity and let these questions remain a mystery:
Did this occur on the overnight bus to Hanoi, or on the 4 hour trip to Ha Long Bay?
Did it work this time?

Sounds like the boat on the Bay was a much better experience!

Stay well and be careful!

» bka :
Jan 23, 2011

after “regurgitating” your blog, may have been more than i needed to know, but not unlike erica, you both have a great ability using words to describe ones emotions….. a real gift, me thinks…..sounds like the 10 extra bucks, maybe 6, you spent on the private island was a good investment for the memory file…….actually watched 10 minutes of Nadal in your honor this morning…….be safe…love…bka

» Kate C :
Jan 23, 2011

Well, as I imagine this experience was while you were travelling toward Sapa (I don’t remember the trip to Ha Long being bad at all) I warn you, it can be so much worse! Fly to Laos, if you intend to leave from Hanoi. I repeat, FLY. The 24 hours bus trip from Hanoi to Vang Vieng is reported to be the worst decision you can make, as I heard from multiple sources. I flew, and I’m glad. It doesn’t put you out too much and you get there in an hour. If you decide to go to Northern Laos from Sapa, though, the bus is more ok. You can take shorter bus trips from Sapa into the cities of Northern Laos, and then slowly move around from there. Good luck!

» Donna :
Jan 23, 2011

Hey Kate! No fair tipping them off … after all this is supposed to be a journey of adventure, exploration and living like the locals! Kidding aside, I think I’d opt for the plane too! Sometimes living local can be a little more challenging than necessary! Take the plane so we don’t have to hear how you puked your guts out on the bus!! Good luck! Love ya! Donna

thinkCHUA Reply:

We have been warned by everyone about busing to Laos, therefore, we are flying to Bangkok, heading north and eventually crossing into Laos. Will be in Bangkok for a while as I need to get a new passport.

» Kate C :
Jan 24, 2011

What did you do with yours?

thinkCHUA Reply:

Airasia, $56 per person.

» Kate C :
Jan 24, 2011

No, I mean what did you do with your passport? :-)

thinkCHUA Reply:

I filled it up! Apparently not all the back pages in the passport are for visas, the back pages are for other things. I thought I had four pages left, but I don’t have any. I only have 18 months until it expires so the embassy here recommended that I get a new one, but I don’t have time here to do it.

» cindy :
Jan 25, 2011

Your father says it’s always good to also carry an empty paper cup in case of emergencies while traveling.

» Ed :
Jan 25, 2011

Love reading your posts. Fresh or dried pickled ginger available in most markets (in many colors–but often red) can be chewed to extract the juice which helps cut down on nausea and stomach discomfort. And you can always use it for tea if you don’t need to chew it.

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About the Author

thinkCHUA: Photographing and documenting the world on a 3 year round-the-world trip to help future travelers discover new places, travel longer and enjoy the world's great experiences.

About the Author
thinkCHUA: Photographing and documenting the world on a 3 year round-the-world trip to help future travelers discover new places, travel longer and enjoy the world's great experiences.


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