On my first trip to Taiwan in 1999 I spent most of my time scoping out and making mad dashes to the nearest available restrooms. I saw more porcelain thrones than any other site we elected to see. As part of the business trip we visited three of our top suppliers’ development facilities, spending one day with each touring their labs and offices as well as spending hours in stuffy conference rooms sharing endless slides about expectations for collaborative efforts. We also spent a full day (at the end of the visit) touring the city. I barfed each of the companies we visited, as well as christening the facilities at the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial, the National Palace Museum and the Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall. I barfed at the local hospital…not because I was admitted there, but because it was convenient.
Many years passed before I made my second trip, but I had laid a strong foundation for my propensity to barf during my world travels. On that first trip I was throwing up before I ate my first foreign meal. On at least one other trip I was sick during the trans-Pacific flight. Most of the other “bad experiences” found me indisposed within a few days of my arrival. By “indisposed” I mean incapacitated from nausea and vomiting. Needless to say, I try whatever means are at my disposal to remain “disposed”. And when something works, I stick with it.
For example, I’ve come to appreciate the magical powers of Pringles and peanuts, although I can acknowledge it’s probably their salt content – nothing magical about that. As a means to an end (that being not barfing) I swear by them and carry plenty with me on each overseas trip. Additionally, I drink as much as 3-4 liters of water during the 24 hour trip from Austin to Taipei. And yes, it’s no coincidence that I ask for an aisle seat. I am convinced that the lack of salt in the Chinese cuisine, compounded by the desiccating effects of airplane air, contributes to dehydration.
As I’ve gained experience, both positive and negative, I’ve tailored my travel quirks accordingly. One such quirk is the wearing of the Golf Shirt. I suppose it’s an average golf shirt, as golf shirts go. It’s black with thin horizontal stripes. The fabric and pattern travel well, consistently resisting stains and wrinkles, looking no worse for the wear and tear brought on by the 11,000 mile journey.
It’s a men’s shirt. I don’t kid myself into believing it flatters me in the least, probably quite the opposite. But, it is loose-fitting, exquisitely comfortable, it breathes and it seems to have some sort of temperature control. It’s wonderful and I’m reluctant to travel without it.
But of course there’s a catch. As much as I love the Golf Shirt I’ve yet to make it through this journey without at least once tricking one of the airport toilets into believing I vanished from the stall, triggering the automatic flush and alarming myself immeasurably in the process. This inspires an internal conversation about the wisdom of wearing a shirt that renders me invisible to the magic eye in airport stalls. So far, the outcome of the argument is always the same. An unexpected flush is a small price to pay for a traveling Golf Shirt that has so much else going for it.
I’m delighted to report that my barfing days seem to be behind me, but I appreciate the irony that I’m still plagued by restroom follies.