Diary of a Menstruating Traveler: #1 Adapt
October 15th, 2018
Picture this: you’re sitting on a rest stop toilet, tired from driving, and bloody, so so bloody. You realize you don’t have any tampons with you, and you glance around the stall looking for toilet paper to act as a placeholder – cool, there isn’t any. You only see a bum gun (the term “bum gun” is slang for a bidet shower).
You try to remember if there is a feminine hygiene dispenser – damn, there isn’t one. There is no trash can. There’s a sign that says ‘do not flush paper down toilet.’ Even if you had a tampon, where would you put the used one? You’re panicking in your head thinking ‘why aren’t women allowed to be women in this toilet?
Okay, focus. What about my lady bits?
This exact scenario happened to me in rural Vietnam, March 2018. I was on an extended spring break trip, and the only other Asian country I had been to was Japan, where the toilet situation was slightly more ideal– they had automated bidets and some feminine hygiene dispensers. I assumed Vietnam would be similar.
I didn’t read travel blogs ahead of time because I’m spontaneous and somewhat careless. I’m what you call a laid-back traveler who goes where the wind blows, so why would I read travel blogs before going to these places? I did not foresee myself hovering over a squat toilet trying to convince my vagina to stop bleeding in the middle of rural Vietnam. In hindsight, I probably should have read some travel blogs.
So I bum-gunned my way out of that situation, and found one solitary single-ply tissue in my backpack to stuff into my underwear until I saw the next convenience store.
I didn’t find tampons, only pads which I am SUPER NOT KEEN ON. I’m still alive, still able to tell the story, so I guess everything worked out. I don’t like to talk negatively about any of my experiences, but this definitely does not rank in the top ten.
Flash forward to May 2018, I fly out on a DREAM HOLIDAY (literal dreams are made of this) with a big hiking backpack and no space for two months worth of tampons. I knew I couldn’t be bothered with my period, so I bought a menstrual cup. I fly into Singapore and buy a roll of toilet paper (just so I don’t get trapped in the above situation again).
A month later, I’ve made it to Vietnam again. I buy a motorcycle, drive North to South over the course of a month, get my period while on my motorcycle, and I still have the roll of Singapore toilet paper. I enter the rest stop bathroom, no trash cans in stalls, spot ‘do not flush paper down toilet’ signs, use bum gun to clean cup and lady bits, ignore Singapore toilet roll, and reinsert my beloved savior ‘the cup’. Notice: no panicking. Then, I continued on with my day.
I guess after you’ve been trapped in a stall with blood dripping down your leg, and no toilet paper in sight, you adapt.
Honestly, the best part of leveling up, getting the cup, is how free I feel. I don’t have to sneak a tampon with me to the toilet. I don’t have to walk out of the stall and do the red walk of shame back to my motorcycle in search of a tampon. I don’t have to empty the entire contents of my life on the side of a Vietnamese highway because I forgot to put my tampons in an easily accessible part of my bag. I don’t have to walk into a convenience store in search of tampons, and walk out with pads because there are no damn ‘pons in rural South East Asia. I also don’t have to use precious space in my pack just for lady products.
My ABSOLUTE favorite part about the cup– I no longer have to add to South East Asia’s trash problem just because I bleed while I travel. That’s a topic for the next installment of Diary of a Menstruating Traveler.
Ladies, it’s time to level up and get your cup. If you’ve ever been stuck in a bathroom in the middle of nowhere with a red wedding in your pants, let’s hear your story below!
(In case you’re wondering about Singapore toilet roll’s fate, it was left in a hostel bathroom in Bali, unused, in July 2018).
About the Author: Steph Carlson
Explorer, entrepreneur, animal whisperer and fitness enthusiast.