You can hear the sniggering of some of the passengers around you, but you're so tired you don't really care. Boomph! Your head has just flopped forward again. For the briefest moment you wake, long enough to sense the laughter (imagined or otherwise) at your suffering of Floppy Head Syndrome and then, in an instant, you're asleep again.

But not for long. The next fall forward of the head is usually just as your hazy dreams of your holiday destination are starting to get good. Boomph! This happens to me on pretty much every non-long-haul flight I take. The combination of the pace of daily life plus the stresses of packing and getting to the airport on time mean I almost always fall asleep on planes before they've even taken off.

I'm not the only one. On long-haul journeys the headrests are usually better positioned, even without putting the seat back. The same can't be said on smaller planes and shorter flights where sufferers of FHS flop their heads like they're bobbing for apples at a school fair. We should start a group.

Drinking on bus trips and getting stuck in traffic


At a highway petrol station/food-court/popular indoor smoking arena somewhere in the Shanxi province of northern China in 2016, we made a fateful decision. "Let's bust out the vodka!" I was inspired by a couple of fellow travel writers who were buying cheap Mongolian rice wine due to (a) its competitive price of about $10, and (b) the attractive pseudo-suede and tusk-shaped packaging.

It was late afternoon and with our guide estimating we were about two hours from our destination, why not liven things up a little down the back of the bus? Grimaced sips from the tusks ensued and beverages of a less screw-your-face-up variety were poured. We were listening to music, cracking funnies and as rural China passed us by, I decided I was having a very, very good time.

Sure, my bladder was soon indicating it might be nice if we arrived a little ahead of schedule, but no cause for alarm. Enter a dragon festival-related traffic jam of almighty proportions on the outskirts of Datong city and things started to change. Our ETA came and went and the spiked Sprites and suede Mongolian tusks were replaced with a growing fear our minivan might not make it to the hotel in time.

"If we're not there in half an hour then we'll be at crisis point," I warned the other writers. Nothing sucks the fun out of a road-trip like the possibility of being urinated on. Empty bottles and offers to hold up privacy scarves were given, all the while the minivan crawled through traffic, the skyscrapers of Datong in the distance.

It's here things got a little weird. Our local guide refused to stop the minivan to let me pee on the side of the road. "But he's going to burst!" cried the supportive journo who'd bravely offered to hold up the in-van privacy scarf. With no bushes to be seen and a reluctant guide at the helm, I was starting to panic. Evidently our ultra-cautious guide was worried he'd be blamed if I was hit by a car, although perhaps it was the sight of a westerner relieving themselves in front of festive families that was of more concern.

"There's a bush!" yelled seemingly everyone in the minivan. It wasn't just the privacy scarf friend either - this time the whole group were alert to the emergency. Eagle eyes had spotted some foliage over a fence and amid a chorus of "let him off!", I ran from the minivan. Hurdling the fence like Edwin Moses, I got to the first roadside shrub we'd seen for many a mile.

Relief and euphoria the likes of which I wouldn't dared have dreamed possible washed over me — a feeling possibly not mutual for the bush. The moment was fleeting. Traffic was moving again! Who was writing this all-too-predictable script? With the minivan forced to keep pace, our Kiwi tour-leader then jumped out to keep me company in case we were separated — Paul, you're a good man! And then, much like that final scene in Von Ryan's Express with Frank Sinatra, we chased down the minivan, making good our escape.

Tim Roxborogh hosts Newstalk ZB's The Two, Coast Soul on Coast and on iHeartRadio and writes the music and travel blog