Squat Toilets…what’s all the flush?

The reward for the best Squat Toilet scene in a movie by no doubt goes to Slum Dog Millionaire.  It’s actually a very big smelly problem in countries like India.This is a great video from YouTube done by user rahulbrown that gives a good understanding of how valuable something most of us take advantage of everyday.

Toilets along the way

Yeah… it’s something everyone thinks about if you are on a crowded public bus or van in a foreign country.  “How long is this trip really going to take, will we stop for a toilet break and what kind of porcelain throne will be put before me?”  Being a women who occasionally gets sick (ok…let’s say I make sure I have a good amount of Cipro with me on each trip) it’s always on my mind for one reason or another.   There’s never a need to panic when it comes to using the least favorite option:  a swat toilet.  Just let it be clean.

It’s all in the technique

Just make sure you correctly use it, don’t flush anything down the toilet if it does flush (that’s what the bucket is for or is it for the flushing part or both?  Just do what you think others have done before you)  Travelers going off the beaten path will most likely encounter the squat toilet in some shape or form.  They can even be found in rural areas of Europe and Japan.  There not just South Asia.  Travelers need to just get over it when to these places.  It’s a good reason to get those inner thigh and glut muscles toned before the trip and get use of the face mask if it’s smelly. Just be sensitive to those who have no other options.

Here’s some supposed healthy reasons why you should use the squat position.  The best thing a woman can do is like the Army ad says be prepared.  A good tip for women is to bring along a long skirt since it’s difficult to keep your pant bottoms from hitting the squat toilet floor (icky)  There is a reason why most women around the world just wear dresses and skirts (men too).  Or, just use some common sense and roll the legs up before entering then take a deep breathe and focus on getting things done.  Oh yeah, and don’t forget the TP and that person hanging out isn’t just hanging out.  They probably have the job of selling TP and or cleaning up.  Do them a favor and give up some coin.

It’s all a part of the experience.  If anything, mastering it makes for good travel anecdotes at the end of the day.  I wish I had some pictures of toilets I have mastered but I usually didn’t want to stay to long and/or accidentally drop my camera in the bottomless hole (see toilet scene from Slumdog Millionaire)

Happy Squatting and remember to wash those hands.

Top 5 things an Adventure Travel Girl can’t go without

There are so many things a girl can do without when it comes to adventure traveling.  This list is long and it’s better to focus on the top 5 most important things bring along when going on an adventure trip.  In adventure I’m talking about one where you will have to carry your bag more than a few yards from the taxi to the hotel.  This will be a trip where you will maybe  find those things  you wish you had brought at your destination but if not oh well.

1.  Clothing made of synthetic material

Clothing that is not made of cotton but a material which keeps you cool or warm but will dry fast, not wrinkle and be compact.  The clothing should  have a neutral shade and be able to mix and match with other pieces.  Who cares if you are wearing the same pants and/or shirt two or more days in a row.  It’s good if  you are able to wash them every night and know that they will be dry by morning.  Look at it this way.  This will free up some space in your bag and give you an excuse to buy something locally. Besides, it makes a great souvenir.

2. One pair of shoes

This is not counting the light pair of Havaianas you have as well.  It is best to invest in a comfortable pair of nice looking travel shoes made of a durable material such as leather.  There are some great shoes that look good and function as a low-level hiking shoe.  Even if you are not going to hike up a mountain there is a good chance you will be walking a lot.  Another thing,  make sure this isn’t the shoes maiden voyage.  The shoes need to get worn enough to break them in and to make sure they will be suitable for the journey.

3.  A Good Hat

A hat has many functions while traveling.  It will block out harmful sun rays and heat of the sun, cover your head when it’s raining, cover your head when you are visiting a holy site, makes it easy to hide under when visiting countries where as a woman you don’t want to make eye contact, and it hides the fact that you are having a bad hair day.  The hat should have a wide rim on it so it can protect you and be also made of a breathable material.  It will get dirty so wash it along with those fast drying pants when needed.

4.  Cell phone with a good camera

Having a cell phone that you can slip in your pocket and use with a local SIM card can come in very handy.  You may have packed away a camera that takes better pictures but it’s handy to have one that fits discretely in your pocket for some quick shots of food or places where you may want to leave the more expensive camera back at the hotel in a locked safe.  A traveler can find that having a local cell phone number is convenient with booking a hotel that doesn’t have a website or to use in emergency situations.  The rates vary from country to country but they usually are reasonable.  A cell that is bluetooth enabled is key.  If there is a strong or strong enough wi-fi signal you can set up an account with Vonage or Skype and keep in touch with folks back home.

5.  Good bag with TSA approved locks

Your bag is one of the best investments you will make.  It’s worth the time and money investment.  I prefer one that is light in weight, has a protective cover which extends over the bag and locks, has strong zippers that can secure easily and not allow any gaps, made of strong material that resists tearing especially by a knife or other sharp edge, and fits well to your body type.  Some other helpful features are a bottle holder or hook for one, a small inside pocket in the inside lining which can fit dirty laundry, and be waterproof.

This list is short and is very subjective since everyone has their own priorities on what they need to take to make them feel comfortable in a foreign land.  These things are what I have narrowed my list down to over the years.  I used to bring much more when I started to travel but over the trips I have found that many things are best left at home.  It’s a life lesson to find out what you as a person really need to have to live your life.  It’s less than you would think.

She’s traveling to the Middle East

What a girl packs away in her travel bag will all depend on where she’s planning to go.  This case is the Middle East.   This being said, taking great care in how you dress and act while visiting. What a woman traveler wears and how she behaves will show how locals in turn treat her.  A woman well versed  in local social etiquette to avoid the long stares and unwarranted cat calls and hisses that go along being inconsiderate.

Clothing

Keep in mind that the less skin showing the better.   The year-round weather in most Middle Eastern areas usually no lower than 50F and can get up to an uncomfortable 115F (one considering the humidity levels which can make it feel much warmer).  Staying cool in clothing that covers you from head to toe will be challenging.

In these modern times, it is much easier to find women’s clothing that is both comfortable and covers most of your body.  The designs are getting better and the fabric is becoming more technologically advanced.  Caprilene is one of the greatest things available these days.  The designers are also making clothing out of these lighter and water whisking recycled polyester.  It’s a green product as well.  If you would like to really blend in to the local culture check out a tailor or local clothing market and buy a Hijab while you are visiting.  People will appreciate the gesture and it may lead to more interaction with the locals.

The women of Islam are usually required to dress in a hijab by law of the state and/or by their family.  The hajib has been a topic of discussion in many countries and has often lead to heated debates about when women should wear them, if they should banned, if the law requires women to wear them and what are they acceptable styles.  Women travelers need to have an understanding of local social codes.  This knowledge will help to avoid disrespecting the local population.  It is a very highly politicized  subject which requires a traveler, male or female, to educate themselves and be aware of current events popping up which surround the very sensitive subject.

Social Behavior

It is well-known that women in a moderate to strict Muslim society must follow the rules of Islāmic laws or face the consequences.  It is important to remember that we travelers are just visiting and must respect local codes of conduct.

On the other side, we are like embassadors from our own countries.  The way we behave in public while visiting may have a long reached effect on how locals view our country.  We should want to make the best impression since most of the time the country’s media and the movies and television shows exported to the country are the only exposure they have to a country like the United States.  All media takes an extreme perspective on a culture or group of people.  This being said, act on your best behavior.

This means, act on the side of caution.  It is best to be self aware and not get lost in and forget what surrounds you.  We all have those moments were we start getting comfortable with our surrounds.  So much, that we behave as if we are back in our own country.  Stay focused and always remember where you are and concentrate on what surrounds you.  This will also keep you out of harms way.

Here is more  information on gender roles in different societies.