Airplane Travel Gives Me Gas

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Airplane Travel Gives Me Gas

This is not a post about the cost of air travel because of high gas prices. This is a post about air travel and gas, like stomach gas. And about air travel and crusty boogers. Air travel and stinky socks. Air travel and morning breath all day long. Air travel and a face so greasy-shiny my forehead is practically a mirror.

Can anyone relate?

Dehydration, carbo-loading, dandruff in my eyebrows. And, the aforementioned gas, boogers, stinky feet, morning breath, shiny face.

Air travel is not pretty. At least not for me.

airplane travel1

I don’t pretend, I don’t try to mask it. I don’t touch up my makeup during layovers or spray perfume over the smell of my unwashed humanity. Sometimes I brush my teeth, sometimes I just suck on a TicTac. I have been known to splash water on my face but I have also been known to feel a level of desperation leading to action if I have to wait too long to use the bathroom where I can blow those boogers out in private.

I am no longer cramming a toddler (or two), a diaper bag, a carry-on, and a stroller into a bathroom stall in the airport. I no longer change diapers in airplane bathrooms designed for miniature people. I no longer even accompany anyone to the bathroom at all. I no longer buckle other people’s seat belts (except when my seat partners happen to be refugees and first-time travelers). I don’t monitor food choices and I don’t get the extra leg room afforded by sitting between two small children.

So you’d think I’d have a plan, something all figured out for how to arrive fresh and stylish, how to keep my hair from sticking with ferocious static electricity to the blankets provided by the airline. You’d think I’d remember to toss an extra pair of socks into my carryon so I could change half-way through.

I’ve considered that route. But I decided that airline travel time is no effort time, or walking dead time. Here, in the nebulous world between actual countries, where time fluctuates and there are life vests under your seat even when flying over the largest desert in the world, here chocolate has no calories, here feet are supposed to reek and mouths are supposed to taste like dirty cotton balls. Fingers slide up noses. Farts release like silent death. If those last two are over the top for you, I have one question:

Have you ever been in transit for 49 hours?

There ain’t nothing pretty at the end of 49 hours except Tom picking me up at the airport at 4 in the morning. (Minus one suitcase which came two days later).

How do you travel? Do you arrive fresh or do you let it all turn sour?


  1. Georgia January 9, 2014 at 3:12 am - Reply

    I’m the same! for years I dated while I traveled overseas so I would want to arrive looking… not greasy and not like if someone poked me with a needle I would emit a high squealing sound while shooting away. I did find that packing a toothbrush, gum, mascara and a brush helped. And I avoid OJ, coffee, alcohol and anything fizzy while flying. I also don’t eat nuts or anything legume while I fly. I do find it helps so I don’t feel like I’m going to explode or be miserable for my first twelve hours in country. Ugh. I’m glad it wasn’t just me!

    • Rachel Pieh Jones January 9, 2014 at 4:07 am - Reply

      Ah! So glad it isn’t just me, too. Good ideas on what to refrain from eating to help with these things!

  2. Bethany January 9, 2014 at 4:17 am - Reply

    It’s definitely not just you! Granted, I don’t travel internationally as much as you (only 13 countries so far in my 32 years), but I’ve crossed the Atlantic a good number of times, and oh my word, the gas pain is horrible! And the greasy forehead. My forehead is never greasy like that anywhere else?? NOTHING, I tell you, NOTHING feels as good as a shower when you arrive at your destination.

    • Rachel Pieh Jones January 9, 2014 at 8:43 am - Reply

      13 countries is quite a lot! And AMEN to that shower upon arrival. You’re right.

  3. Lisa C. January 9, 2014 at 5:33 am - Reply

    My longest travel day isn’t as bad as yours–“only” about 35 hours (5 hour drive, 4 hour wait then 25-26 hours flights & layovers). But yes to everything you said! What’s the point in even trying to look good? I do pack a toothbrush just because a fresh mouth makes me feel better, and a hairbrush to smooth down the headrest hair before meeting whoever is picking me up at the airport. That’s about it. Love reading your blog!

    • Rachel Pieh Jones January 9, 2014 at 8:46 am - Reply

      I always feel thankful that I don’t have to add driving on top of flying, at least not in Djibouti. Because it is so small, we live less than 1.5 miles from the airport. Even the other end of town would only be about 15 minutes away.

  4. Ilja DeYoung January 9, 2014 at 8:02 am - Reply

    I ve decided long ago that travelling is part of the fun and I dont care how I look while travelling.And I am determined to enjoy sitting down with a book with no-one interrupting me.
    I want to feel comfy. So I dress in long (non-wrinkle) skirt, bring warm socks and a cardigan to wear on the plane. I also take baby wipes so I can at least FEEL a little cleaner (I just hide under aircraft blankets and wipe what bare skin I can reach, and I don’t care if other people look at me). I use a deodorant stick (not a fluid, excellent invention for air travel), also while under the blanket. I brush my teeth upon arrival, before customs, before finding my bags.
    I actually eat lots of nuts (almonds) while travelling (they are my snack, sometimes my lunch or dinner when there is much time between planes) and I drink mainly water, lots of water. Yes that means I will need to use the plane toilet at least once, but so be it.
    My latest travel was a 3 day affair, 4 different planes with several layovers (one of 12 hrs). The shower when I finally reached my destination was bliss!

    • Rachel Pieh Jones January 9, 2014 at 8:48 am - Reply

      Yeah for baby wipes – great idea. And I totally get you on the reading without interruption. I am not a person who talks on airplanes. When my seat mate sits down (if it isn’t a family member) I pull out a book or magazine and make it pretty clear that I’m not hear to converse. I take that as my introverted reading time and preparing time, for whatever country I find myself in upon arrival.

  5. Anita Mathias January 9, 2014 at 12:27 pm - Reply

    Ah, in the womb time, like the week between Christmas and New Year. Time out of time. A retreat from all expectations. Time to doze and dream and pray and scheme and doze some more.

    That’s how I am going to view long-haul travel in future.

    Though thus far, I have tried to read and write and think, except when I travel back from New Zealand and give up on all resolutions of using time well, and just watch movies, one after another!

    • Rachel Pieh Jones January 9, 2014 at 5:13 pm - Reply

      Anita, I also tend to veg. I try to read, I have good intentions to work or to at least think about work, but I often end up watching movies.

  6. Lyla January 9, 2014 at 2:29 pm - Reply

    I think the first time I came here with the kids I actually had them test power bars to see which ones they like the best so I could have some on hand just in case (and thank goodness, because we did eat everything we had in that backpack in our midnight to 7 am adventure in Amman-with NOTHING available to buy).

    On this trip back-hahahahaha- we were in Rome and I realized I had NO food, water, or anything during our layover and the lines for the concession stand were so long we would have missed our flight if we bought something. Ooops. The kids and I just collapsed on the floor to starve for 2 hours. And let me tell you-the people on a flight from Rome to Lebanon are almost all Lebanese, and they have a talent for looking and being fabulous AT ALL TIMES. Sigh. At least I didn’t know any.

    • Rachel Pieh Jones January 9, 2014 at 5:14 pm - Reply

      Darn those people who look good all the time and make looking good look easy.

  7. Lyla January 9, 2014 at 2:33 pm - Reply

    And I totally agree that Maxi dresses/skirts are the way to go on airplanes. Nothing more comfortable.

  8. Anna January 9, 2014 at 2:59 pm - Reply

    I have too many travel stories. The people I travel next to would probably be happy if it was just gas. Once I was seated between 2 business men & I spent the 4 hour flight throwing up every 15-20 minutes. (pregnant). They managed to carry on a conversation over my head!

    I can only wish I could look relatively put together while traveling. Now I travel with 3 kids, and we consider it an accomplishment if we can all stand upright when we reach our destination. If we managed not to leave any belongings on the plane, that is an added bonus. 🙂

    I tend to get violently ill while traveling, although not so bad when not pregnant. When traveling in the US, we are always at least 2 hrs drive from the airport. I have exited the plan, vomited, then sat in the car. I really hate the actual travel part- plane, car, train, boat, you name it! Unfortunately, I seem to have passed this gene on to my youngest. Poor thing!

    But my “main home” is in an isolated spot. I walk, bike, or if I ride in a car it is 5K. Then I get a break from motion sickness!

    • Rachel Pieh Jones January 9, 2014 at 5:15 pm - Reply

      Oh no Anna! Oh, barfing, no! That would be so miserable, I can’t believe they didn’t offer to change seats so they wouldn’t have to talk over you. I guess men just don’t get morning sickness, huh? Love hearing these stories, makes me feel more normal.

  9. Shannon January 9, 2014 at 3:34 pm - Reply

    Lots of transit – for LONG hours, probably at/close to 49. But I love how amusing or terrible travel can be (U.S. or international). Mostly, I Love to travel – flights, or in the car for 16 hours – alone, or even on the U.S. train – but the Bus in the U.S. is another story 🙁 (then again, I don’t have children, etc. – except for several outreach teams to “care” for). I love how there is an aura of mystery surrounding anyone and even myself. I love interesting and entertaining conversations with strangers, from everywhere (though I’m an introvert) – or avoiding conversations when I just want to sleep. I don’t love airline seats that don’t lie down for 11 hours straight or not working tvs or “perfumes” of a variety or how too hot/cold it can be or running to catch/miss flights or being so sick in the Quito airport with delayed flights only then to arrive at your “home” airport to lie in the fetal position until the car arrives to then drive 2+hours home… I don’t love taxi drivers in Rome who hit on you late at night so you divert conversation to their mother to be “safe.” But I still love to travel! 🙂

    I Have to freshen up during 2 to 3 continent hops – I don’t like feeling gross for so long. I always bring an extra shirt, underwear, socks, deodorant, soap, of course toothbrush, make up, blanket, etc. in my carryon because the airline/port somewhere lost my bag for 2 weeks when I was in Uganda – thought it was gone for good. And I’ve had to borrow Everything… So I’m prepared.

    I recommend everyone needs to create some of their own unique and adventurous travel stories!

    • Rachel Pieh Jones January 9, 2014 at 5:16 pm - Reply

      I love what you said about the interesting adventure of travel, I need to remember that. Listening to strange conversations, being anonymous and free to check in or check out. Here’s to creating more of these fabulous travel stories!

  10. Mary Perry January 9, 2014 at 4:03 pm - Reply

    My husband and I LOVE those times in the airplane when we travel for hours and hours to Indonesia and back, and now they’ve shortened them to fly over the North Pole, so we’re a bit sad. Nothing like the 36 hours in the good old days.
    At the seven hour to landing point, both of us are beginning to mourn…”only seven more?” I guess we’ll never quite recover from being burned out in the early days of living over seas!

    Nothing like being waited on hand and foot, movies, food, reading not stop, absolutely NO demands, except from kids whom we loved and who grew up to enjoy traveling and meeting people along the way.
    As I’ve become older, I’ve learned to drink LOTS of water and to get up and walk every hour or so. I usually stay up watching every film that is remotely interesting and some that I didn’t think were. I “intend” to read my Bible and a few good books that I lug along, but movies always capture me. I even still LOVE the airplane food, downgraded as it is!
    We’re in love with airplane travel. A lifelong romance. Though, I need to erase all phones taken of me at the end. Which is always possible!

    • Rachel Pieh Jones January 9, 2014 at 5:17 pm - Reply

      Mary, you rock. I don’t know what else to say. Your comment made me laugh and smile and think of you. Fantastic!

  11. Mary Perry January 9, 2014 at 4:04 pm - Reply

    Sorry, erase all photos! Not phones!

  12. Anita January 10, 2014 at 4:38 am - Reply

    Reminds me of my first long flight – LA to Seoul. After 14 hours in the air, my feet were so swollen that my shoes were really pinching me. My luggage didn’t arrive with me so I just broke down and cried.

    Travel IS a lot of work. It always leaves me with a throbbing headache.

    I too agree about the hot shower at the end. And it’s great to sleep in a familiar bed again.

    • Rachel Pieh Jones January 10, 2014 at 5:42 am - Reply

      I wish there weren’t tears about delayed luggage but at the end of a trip when all you can think of is that bed and shower…the LAST thing you want to do is stand in a line, trying to find where in the world is your stuff.

  13. Jody January 10, 2014 at 4:43 am - Reply

    I *love* that you just said all of this out loud!

    We just did a 30ish hour trip where my nose started running uncontrollably on the airplane. I mean, the snot literally dripped out onto my crossword puzzle before I could even reach for a Kleenex. It was so copious at one point, my kleenex even overflowed. Completely grossed my daughter out (at least I wasn’t sitting next to a stranger), and everyone else around me put on face masks.

    • Rachel Pieh Jones January 10, 2014 at 5:44 am - Reply

      Oh no Jody! Oh no. I’m laughing but feeling bad for you and your runny nose. They put on face masks?! Too funny.

  14. Carin January 10, 2014 at 12:07 pm - Reply

    Hahaha!! You are so funny! Experiences that I have never seen written with such honesty and forthrightness. And oh so true! I would add puffiness as well, my ankles swell…

  15. Debbie January 13, 2014 at 11:17 am - Reply

    My last flight from Atlanta to South Africa was filled with sleep which is fine with me as long as I don’t miss out on the food!

  16. Emily @OurAwesomeAdventuresAbroad January 15, 2014 at 7:23 am - Reply

    Oh girl! I completely understand! We haven’t traveled quite that long {yet} but we’ve been all over the place and now live in Kazakhstan. I am also an anxious flyer and recently started taking medication to help with that. My husband said I need to start meds three months prior to flying. I do not ever sleep in the car, so surely I’d never sleep on a plane. And we are gross and stinky and gas-y, too. Not to mention dry eyes and sinuses that scream for ocean air that we won’t see for months or years. Ugh. You are not alone!

    • Rachel Pieh Jones January 15, 2014 at 3:19 pm - Reply

      I’ve been getting more anxious about flying too, strange, I should be getting less anxious as we do it more and more.

  17. Malia January 23, 2014 at 6:31 pm - Reply

    I loved everything about this post! Thanks for the good laugh as we prepare for our own return home tomorrow (from the states to Seoul, Korea). Traveling with three kids (ages 5, 3, and 1) keeps my focus on them (it just has to be!), so I’m mostly oblivious to my own icky state. Maybe it’s better that way. Maybe in a few years, I’ll be missing those good old days when the kids distracted me from my own dishevelment. Ha! ^^

  18. […] Airplane travel gives me gas by Rachel Pieh Jones.  ”This is a post about air travel and gas, like stomach gas. And about air travel and crusty boogers. Air travel and stinky socks. Air travel and morning breath all day long. Air travel and a face so greasy-shiny my forehead is practically a mirror.” […]

  19. Walter Watland February 2, 2014 at 8:35 pm - Reply

    I once travelled Minneapolis to Alice Springs Australia, 36 hours with last hop from Sydney to Alice Springs in small plane that kinda bounced its way along. Didnt have trouble with farts because men dont worry about such things. Bottom side was pretty sore though. A few days later a train ride of about 36 hours to Melbourne Australia,
    Think I am about done with air travel,.

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