“Be the kind of woman that when your feet hit the floor each morning the devil says “oh crap, she’s up!”
Fair warning boys, this one really is for the ladies since it’s about hygiene and living specific to us gals. A few weeks ago a fellow female cyclist who I met at the beginning of my journey on the Pacific West Coast emailed me with a few personal questions since, as she rightly pointed out, there really isn’t much information about a few specific subjects since no one wants to write about them. So if you aren’t interested in how we pee or what we do about our period when we are on the road, I would suggest you skip this one and come back tomorrow instead.
This one isn’t only for us gal, but bears pointing out never the less. You will often go for days and sometimes even weeks or months without a shower while backpacking or cycling but it’s still important to keep certain areas clean. I have found that wet wipes work splendidly, and if by the end of the day we haven’t found a stream or river to wash in, I try to give myself a little “wet wipe bath” before bed. It’s also important to bring enough pairs of underwear and wash them frequently to avoid infections or unwanted smells, and since underwear is so small, I have ten or so pairs with me so I never run out. Before climbing into my sleeping bag I always change into my pajamas, a clean pair of breathable clothes I never wear outside the tent. It’s important to have light clothes to change into so that after you take off everything, including your underwear, your body has some time to air out overnight.
Pee rags are an option for us gals as well, though I haven’t met many who use them. It’s just a piece of cloth that you use to wipe when you pee, and then attach to your bicycle as you ride so it disinfects in the sun. Though I used one during my first month I ended up giving up on it since I found it to be too much work each and every time I had to pee. Instead, I just give myself some time to drip dry and air out when I stop to pee at the side of the road.
The worst part about not showering for me is greasy hair. In Georgia I was able to wash my hair (and body) daily in a river or stream because it was hot out and there was water everywhere, but here in Turkey that hasn’t been an option at all. I’ve had to sort of except the inevitable dirty hair feeling, and just keep it up in buns (with my bangs pulled back by bobby pins) in order to keep it out of the way. Though it seems gross coming from a culture where everyone showers nearly everyday, you do get use for showering less frequently and when you do get to wash, you appreciate it all the more.
I have one word for you, “mooncup” (or “diva cup” – look it up online!). Even if you aren’t cycling or backpacking, I would high recommend this little silicon reusable cup as it’s cheaper (a one time cost of thirty dollars), environmentally friendly (you can use the same one for years and therefore you don’t create waste every month as you do with tampons or pads), and in my opinion, healthier and more hygienic since it’s merely collecting the blood so that you can dispose of it when you wish. I have been using mine for two years now, and even once I’m back home I’ll continue to use it for the rest of my life. In many parts of the world tampons are either very difficult or downright impossible to find, and even if you do find them they are extremely impractical since they create waste which you can’t leave in the woods, but don’t want to pack with you either. The one difficult part about the mooncup is that when you dump it out you obviously want to wash or rinse it, but I have leaned that that’s pretty easily done with the squirting water bottle that I carry with me on my bike.
Birth control is another thing that can be hard to find in many countries, especially as a girl because in many cultures it’s (unfortunately) very looked down upon for a women to buy condoms. My suggestion is to bring a supply of whichever method you prefer with you when you leave, even if that means carrying twelve months worth of the pill in the bottom of your bags. I’ve met a fair number of women cyclists with IUDs, all of whom are very happy they got it before their trip so that they have one less thing to worry about while traveling, so that may be something for you to look into as well.
If you have any personal questions, feel free to email me and I’ll get back to you privately since being a gal should never cause you any unnecessary hassles!
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