I have never been a good traveller. That goes for pretty much any form of transport to varying degrees, except probably cycling or walking.
But I have to admit, the bane of my travelling existence has always been the ferry across The Minch on my way to Harris.
Despite the very strong attractions to Harris, (Well, MJ’s home is there, after all!) I have often had serious misgivings about the whole ferry-procedure.
In the summer months even the minch can be calm enough that I could almost understand what there was to love about the sea. Nothing but pure fresh air for miles around, sun streaming down with heart-warming intensity, the temptation to just dive off the side into the inviting depths…
But those memories are rare. Far more often it has been a rather grimer ordeal where I have been longing to be back on dry ground again long before I’ve even left the comforting solidity. You can just tell – that bland normalish weather, where overall it is pretty calm and ordinary, but with the odd showers. That always translates to a mild wind-tunnel on the minch.
Such a trip is fine, really. Pretty much everyone else on the ferry will be absolutely fine! It will just be me who is not-quite-fine.
It wouldn’t be so bad feeling a little queasy if you were just “one of the crowd” but it is just so much more humiliating when it’s just you having to give apologetic smiles left, right and centre. And everyone else with their forced attempt at being non-judgemental and sympathetic.
Now, psychologically-speaking, you could say that it is just a case of mind over matter. But I’ve tried that one. Once I managed to convince myself not to be seasick on any account. Thankfully my friends were more prepared on that occasion than I was.
Then there’s been the early morning ferry from Tarbert when I felt I had no choice but to stay out there in the elements. I would stand there, clutching the cold metal rail. Rusty, pain-peeling, hard, un-pillow-like as it was, my head has rested against it for hours as the breezy sea air stole any pretence of warmth from my body.
And then, for a little while, going down on the lower deck where the spray would flash across your face every fourth or fifth wave as the movement of the boat got most out-of-sync with the phase of the waves.
So, that comes to the depressing conclusion I have reached so far: basically, there is no silver bullet to sea-sickness (or travel sickness in any form) tho’ there are definitely some key ingredients.
- Level of tiredness is inversely proportional to enjoyability levels.
- Attitude is the make-or-break factor.
Fear fights the swaying movement, but adventure embraces it. However, this is still subject to lack of tiredness. It takes concentration to get into the right frame of mind… impossible when the mind is focused too much on subconscious habit as it drifts off to sleep.
- Focus is crucial for sustained enjoyment.
It is possible to go through all the effort to get yourself “right” then in a lapse of attention-span to be suddenly caught-out by a return of the full force of depressing unsettledness. Like that tipping-over-the-edge feeling.
Ok, with all this motivational chat, you’d think I’d be talking about the Olympics, or something decently worthwhile. However, I must say those few occassions I’ve enjoyed my ferry ride, it has felt exhiliratingly self-satisfying. Not for conquering the rest of the world, but for conquering myself.