Muffed-Up Books And Motion Sickness

Deadly WatersIt’s been well documented that I muffed up the number of books I took to South America last year. In an effort to be a responsible packer and not load my luggage up with books in place of underpants, I took excellent books but not nearly enough of them.

It turned out that I didn’t take enough underpants either, and endured some embarrassing moments. The first was at the hostel reception, where the staff were trying to dissuade me from putting in a small bag of washing for 20 Reals, They were adamant (and hung up on the fact that) it was expensive for such a small bag of smalls. In the end I blurted out something that stopped every conversation and turned every head in the room: ‘I. Have. No. Underpants.’

The second was at the laundromat I eventually took my bag of smalls to. I’m not sure if it’s a Brazilian thing or just a that-laundromat thing, but they picked through, held up, inspected, and counted out every pair of undies before assigning them to a washing basket and me a pick-up time.

Note to self: don’t pack scungy undies for overseas trips where you’ll have to endure having them laundered in public. Note to you: they weren’t scungy so much as practical and cotton, honest. I was there for a football event, so packed the practical Bonds and left the impractical lace at home.

But I’ve gotten off track. The point of this blog is that these incidents were at the forefront of my thinking while I was packing for the 2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup in Germany. I’m here covering the Westfield Matildas’ World Cup campaign for such sites as Girls FC. I managed to pack plenty of the right undies, but the book packing once again stumped me.


So many books, so little time to read them. Then having this compounded by the fact that a passionate hate for air travel ups the ante for requiring books that will grab and distract me from my motion sickness and claustrophobia means that the pressure was on to pick well.

What I realised is that although I have about a billion books on my to-be-read shelf, not many of them make for great international-travel reading. Sigh. I buy a lot of ‘serious’ non-fiction books. They’re brilliant, and I wouldn’t change that for the world, but there’s a reason why they’re not the bestsellers at the airport.

I mean, Half The Sky: How To Change The World, The Accidental Guerrilla, Slow Death By Rubber Duck, and Songs Of Blood And Sword, are incredibly worthy reads, and ones I absolutely cannot wait to tackle.

But they require more brainpower than I’m able to give them while hating being cooped up in a too-small seat next to a bossy woman with elbows that seek out parts of my body like sharp, probing magnets. It took all my willpower to resist buying new, different, air-travel-safe books at the airport: Charlaine Harris’ Sookie Stackhouse series was top of the list.

It turns out that I didn’t get to read any books on the flight. Or, in fact, rue not buying any at the airport: I got spectacularly sick on the 15-hour leg to Dubai. Stress + motion sickness + sheer exhaustion are always a lethal, migraine-inducing combination for me. I almost fainted and vomited in the toilet, stripping to try to cool down and prevent both. Then the plane hit turbulence and the return-to-seat light went on. Doh.

I’d always wondered who pressed the call-for-assistance button in the toilet. Now I know. I put enough clothes back on so as not to appear entirely naked when the air hostesses burst in, and then spent a fair amount of time surrounded by not one but five of them as they tried to assess what to do with me.

The flight was choc full to the luggage cabinets and there weren’t any seats left in economy (even my promised aisle seat turned out to be a wedged-in-the-middle one instead). There was some talk of putting me in business class, but that was quickly kyboshed by the senior hostie: I think it was because I was likely to vomit. Note to self for next time you get a migraine on a plane: don’t admit you’re going to blow chunks.

But I’ve digressed again. Sadly between illness, jetlag, and hitting-the-ground-running work hectic-ness, I haven’t had a chance to read any of the books I agonised over when packing. Here’s hoping I find some time to do so soon, especially the review copy I have of Deadly Waters, which contains an in-depth examination of Somali pirates far exceeding what we see in news grabs. Heavy material though it covers, that one I’d be super, extremely keen to read.