I’m not a girly girl. I rarely wear make-up, I still have a full tube of mascara that I bought in 2012. I get lazy blow drying my hair so that it’s always half damp when I leave for work. Jeans with heels instead of flats is my day-to-night metamorphosis. BUT I’m still a girl trying to retain an ounce of sex appeal while traveling with my boyfriend, Mike. Luckily, he seems to prefer shorts to skirts and hiking boots to heels but here are the five battles I fought and lost.
I wear men’s deodorant
Mike and I both smell like Arctic Splash. That’s because we share the same roll on tube of deodorant. At the start of our trip, I bought a fragrant (overpowering?) floral scented antiperspirant to replace my perfume (which was heavy and attracted hordes of mosquitoes). Unfortunately it also left chalky streaks on my tank tops and I smelled like a sweat soaked lavender. I’m not one of those girls who glows when lugging a giant pack down crowded city streets while playing slalom with the oncoming motos.
I don’t use hair conditioner
My plan was to swipe those mini bottles of shampoo and conditioner from each hostel we visited, creating an endless supply of hair products without the added weight. Unfortunately, $6 bucks a night really only gets you a bunk bed, a gym locker, and a bath towel the size of a wash cloth. The flaw in the plan. These days, I shampoo with whatever lime green or neon blue substance is coming out of the soap dispenser. My gravity-defying hair is starting to resemble Glenn Close from Fatal Attraction.
Sunscreen is my body lotion
I wear 90 SPF and look like one of the Engineers from Prometheus; but hopefully I won’t resemble luggage when I’m 50. Starting out, I had a lotion for every possible occasion: regular body lotion, Vaseline for those finicky dry spots like elbows and heels, and Origins Drink Up Intensive overnight mask so I could wake up after a night on the sleeper bus from hell looking impossibly fresh. But add those to the two pairs of tweezers, nail clippers, band aids, mini tubes of sample toothpaste, dental floss, tooth brush, contact case, solution, and a six month supply of lenses, and my toiletry bag was about to pull a Norma Rae. Something had to go.
I go commando
You can only stuff so many thongs and boy shorts into the zippered pockets of your pack before they start to rebel, springing out at inappropriate moments like the visa consulate office or a crowded bus depot. Also, laundry is time consuming (I’d rather be off eating meat I can’t identify) and expensive (it’s detergent not cocaine!). After a month, I had to acknowledge that I was just carrying around a mesh bag of dirty undies that were rapidly losing their color and shape with every wash.
I pee standing up
No, I didn’t get a sex change operation in Bangkok but on the back roads of Southeast Asia, finding a toilet with a seat is like finding a pop star with her clothes on. Throw in toilet paper and I’d have a shock-induced stroke. It’s your typical squat toilet or porcelain hole in the ground that I navigate with varying degrees of success depending on urgency, time of day and whether or not I’m wearing my contacts. Still, it’s liberating to be able to stand, pee, shake and go.
The Takeaway: Have a few items that make you feel purdy for those days when you don’t want to resemble a gym teacher. For me, it’s a bright colored scarf, an eyebrow pencil (I literally don’t have any!) and a pair of sparkly sandals (remember to shave toes!)