A Trip to an Island Paradise Goes Wrong . . .

*First amazing photo taken from the awesome website pixabay.com & remaining photos taken from the awesome website pexels.com.



I am about to depart on a ferry trip from an Asian country to one of its coastal islands.

I am excited because after a short two hour journey the ferry will deposit me at a location that has a reputation for being one of the area’s most impressive attractions.  I imagine clear blue seas, pristine beaches, incredible spicy food and interesting local markets.

As we head out onto the ocean I initially smile at the lurching motion of the boat, enjoying the delicious butterflies-flying-up-in-the-stomach feeling that the boat gives me as it falls back after mounting each wave.  It reminds me of how my Dad used to fly over a crest in the road to give his kids the only adventure ride type thrill that was available inland.

My initial enjoyment however transitions to a feeling of slight queasiness.  I become quiet, telling myself that this queasy sensation will surely subside soon, especially since only a few short minutes ago I was enjoying the dipping and diving motion of the boat.

Unfortunately the queasiness escalates rather than disappears.  I get up to secure myself a vomit bag from the post in the aisle two rows in front of me.  Seated again with my vomit bag I try to assure myself that I probably won’t need to use it, but that it’s always good to have one just in case.

This is of course pitifully wishful thinking.

My queasiness morphs into full blown nausea relatively quickly.  Luckily I missed out on a good sized breakfast that morning, though my body seems to find plenty to expel regardless.  In fact it’s not long before I am in the throes of a delightful sea sickness routine.  The cycle commences firstly with progressively building nausea, followed by the act of vomiting, and finally a brief sensation of temporary relief.  As the ferry doesn’t seem to be getting anywhere near our destination any time soon I keep my head down and my vomit bag close, counting on the fact that each minute will at least get us closer to our port.  I also savour the brief feeling of relief one gets after throwing up, before my poor body realises that I have not removed the cause of the problem, and the whole cycle commences again.

As this is Asia, no one enjoys the luxury of a supply of vomit bags in a pocket attached to the back of the seat in front of them.  So when I need a new bag I have to steady myself to make my way to the pole with the vomit bags attached to it a couple of rows ahead, stoically stumbling back to the safety of my seat in between the bounces and swings of the boat.

At this point in the journey I marvel at my body’s apparent ability to find liquid from some unknown reservoir to throw up, long after it feels like it should have exhausted the entire contents of my digestive system.

After what feels like months the ferry suddenly slows and movements are made by the crew suggesting that we are docking somewhere.  Miraculously the boat eventually slows to a complete halt and it appears that some items of cargo are being exchanged.  I sit with my head down, not keen to move but savouring the break from the incessantly building waves of nausea.  At this stage no one is being told to disembark from the boat.  I then recall that there was a short stop at a port near our destination displayed on my ticket.  I brace myself when the boat inevitably slides into motion once again, and it is not long before we are once again leaping and hopping our way back through the high seas.  I am of course once again quickly back in the grip of my now familiar regurgitation cycle.  Perhaps the only advantage I now have is that I am quite accustomed to the process.  I can also tell myself that at least the next port will definitely allow me an escape from this evil boat and the most wonderful blessing of all:  motionless dry land.

After another successful half an hour of vomiting we finally reach our port.  Luckily my partner takes responsibility for collecting our bags and I manage to disembark from the ferry.  I immediately take a seat on my bag which waits for me on the mercifully still bitumen pier.  I am by this stage as white as a sheet and still feeling both completely horrid as well as unhelpfully light headed.

Thankfully the waiting throng of locals offering taxis, tours and various other goods and services politely leave me to recover in peace and quiet.  I do love them for this, for caring about the fact that a fellow human being is suffering even though we do not speak the same language and despite the fact that by all appearances I am just another spoilt Westerner.

I am still sitting on my bag well after most of the passengers have moved off into the terminal.  My partner waits with me until I feel like I might be able to manage walking back up to join the crowd.  By now I really need to go to the toilet, with my body keen to purge absolutely everything from the other end of my digestive system too due to the trauma I have put it through.

We eventually get up and wander down into the terminal to find a toilet.  Luckily there is one close by and I find a stall and breathe a sigh of relief as I lock its door.  After everything has been purged from my bowel I look up to find the toilet paper.

There is in fact no toilet paper in the stall.

Apparently people around here wash their bottoms with some sort of shower hose after toileting instead of using toilet paper.

I am grateful beyond words when I find some form of tissue in my backpack that allows me to exit the toilet with at least some dignity.

I return to find my partner waiting with our bags in the terminal.  I still feel remarkably sick, but as I seem to have purged absolutely everything from my system I figure that I will start to feel better soon.  I decide that I better start pulling myself together.

Unfortunately the next step is to catch a taxi to get to our hotel near the centre of town.  We find a taxi and I quietly take a seat in the back, gripping my backpack tightly.  As luck would have it, the roads on this island are extremely curved.  My nausea predictably rears its ugly head again and it starts to feel like we are simply driving around in one continuous large circle.  I have to tell myself that the hotel is not far away and incessantly repeat an internal instruction to hold myself together in order to survive the journey.  I silently thank no one in particular when we pull up at our hotel before I get too close to making a mess of myself or the taxi.  Almost before the taxi has come to a stop I find my way out of the vehicle and deposit my body on the nearest concrete hotel step, leaving my partner to deal with paying the taxi driver and collecting all our bags.

Luckily the nausea subsides again and I also avoid making a mess of the hotel driveway.  After initially wondering why these strange hotel guests won’t move away from the hotel entrance, a very kindly porter immediately swings into action on my behalf.  It only takes a very brief mention of the boat for him to understand the situation.  We are not due to check in until later in the day, but he generously explains to the reception staff my predicament and when I feel stable enough to stand we move inside the hotel foyer.  After a very brief wait we are ushered to a room much larger than the one I actually booked that has quickly been made available to us so that I can recover.

I have never been more pleased to see a bed and in an instant I fall fast asleep.  I remain that way for over three hours.  When I wake I feel like I have slept for 12 hours and am absolutely ravenous.  I have never felt more appreciative of my normal state of full health as I forage around for my travel chocolate supply.

By now you are probably wondering what my point is in telling the above story.  The moral of the story is that while the above experience was one of the most unpleasant experiences I have ever had, quite obviously it wasn’t that bad.  I was lucky enough to have a caring partner with me who does not suffer from sea sickness to help me through.  He also held up astoundingly well considering he had to sit right next to a continuously vomiting me as well as endure being surrounded by many other vomiting passengers on a rocky ferry trip.  The ferry journey was also fortunately only two hours, rather than an entire day trip.  Plus, the experience ensured that I would never forget the fact that I suffer from sea sickness, and from that day forward I would always choose alternative modes of travel.  I was also lucky enough to have the money to be able to choose to fly to our next destination from the island, rather than to have to endure another ferry trip.  Most of the locals would not have had that choice.  When you think you’ve got it bad (which I do all the time), you really haven’t got it that bad.  As a good friend of mine always used to say, “there’s always someone much worse off than you are.”

In fact most of the experiences I have had are nothing compared to what other people have successfully come out the other side of.  Sure, I’ve been unemployed, but I haven’t had to put up with being unemployed, being diagnosed with cancer and having a parent die all at the same time like some people have.   Sure, I’ve been lonely, but I haven’t had to endure being lonely, having absolutely no family support and being terminated from a job all at the same time like some people have.  I live in a comfortable house that is equipped with a fire and an air conditioner and I have a warm bed and plenty of food to eat.  I don’t have to contend with poverty and at the present moment I haven’t gone without food for days while I trek to a refugee camp with nothing but the clothes on my back.

The ferry trip was also a good example of the way experiences do occur to teach you a lesson that you probably already should have learnt.  It really was my own stupidity that caused me to book the ferry trip in the first place.  I have never been able to read in a car as I am prone to car sickness.  As a teenager I had been on a short ferry trip on a relatively rough day and felt queasy.  It wouldn’t have taken much thought to have been able to avoid the ferry trip altogether, and to instead have booked a return flight to and from the mainland (at a significantly reduced cost to what we ended up paying to get a one way flight back to the mainland at short notice).  However I gave absolutely no thought to any of this when I was working out our travel itinerary from the comfort of my home in Western Australia.  It also never even occurred to me that as weather conditions significantly affect the smoothness of any sea trip, it would probably be wise to only book a ferry trip on a calm day.  Fittingly the island destination also turned out to be nothing at all like the incredible and pristine hideaway I’d imagined it would be.  The fact that I jagged a particularly rough day for the ferry trip over was a great way to teach me a lesson considering the lack of thought I put into the trip all round.

Plus, whenever I look back on the experience, I find it funny.  I can’t even think about it without smiling.  It really is always the way, that the most mortifying and tragic of experiences are often the funniest.

© Annemaree Jensen 2017