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Conquering Travel Sickness On Buses

A photograph of trees in motion - the photograph was taken during a car ride

I have always suffered from travel sickness, something I expect a lot of you can relate to. It’s a major hassle when you like to read a lot, and more so when you’ve a review deadline looming. I think in my case it has something to do with the fact my parents didn’t have a car until a good number of years into my life; my journeys in cars were infrequent, they were all different (a few very old cars, too, with the requisite vintage smells which to this day I can’t stand) and it was generally the case that if we were in a car, we were going a long way, to a place without a train station or bus route. I believe my nephew’s the first person not to suffer from travel sickness at all; he’s been used to cars since he was born.

I can read on planes and on trains – the only aspect to contend with there is chatter – and I’ve tried on many occassions to read on buses and in cars but it’s always come with a sense of borrowed time. A 30 second glance at a text message? Sure, but it might affect the rest of the trip.

Recently I tried once again, on a long bus trip, and found something that worked. In researching travel sickness previously, I learned some tips, such as don’t look out the windows, and read in moments here and there, but they didn’t work. I experimented a bit and found a solution:

I sat on my seat, facing towards the aisle. I’d picked a window seat, and this is a good idea particularly as facing inwards mean you’d be intentionally blocking yourself from anyone sitting next to you were they in the window seat. (It’s also more comfortable; I’m not sure what I would’ve done if there was no choice of seat.) I made sure not to look away from my book unless the bus was stationary. When the bus jolted, I stopped reading until it was travelling steady again.

With time I think it will be possible to look up briefly whilst the bus is moving. I don’t know the effect a different direction would have – I sat in the direction of travel. I also don’t know whether format would have an impact – I experimented when I was reading an ebook so I didn’t have to worry about the slight difference in the context of left and right pages or holding a book open.

If you suffer like me, I recommend giving the above a go and seeing if you can work something out. Get that time back.

Next goal: reading when a passenger in the car.

Have you any tips for travel sickness and reading?


April Munday

September 13, 2017, 10:43 am

I’ve travelled in cars from birth and I can’t read in a car or a bus. I can read on trains and in coaches. Odd. If I’m a passenger in a car, I’m normally happy enough talking to the driver, so I don’t mind. Bus journeys tend to be too short for it to be an issue.


September 13, 2017, 1:29 pm

Traveling in cars has been a big part of my life since I was a month old and my parents thought I would sleep on the trip from Wisconsin to Arkansas to meet my grandparents (evidently I didn’t). I learned to read by finding a way, as you did, to avoid seeing anything out the window.


September 14, 2017, 3:39 pm

I was always travel sick as a child (cured by ice lollies bought at strategic distances along the route!) and still find reading in a car difficult, with a feeling of words swimming about on the page. Recently though I’ve tried using an e-reader and found it much better. It seems to jingle about less (although logically it doesn’t), and there’s certainly less eye movement left-to-right but I don’t know why there’s a difference.



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