As an ex-active city lady who has become an adventuress, it has not always been easy for me to go on an adventure – you know, the one with a big A! With hindsight and experience, I realized that I had a lot to say, some tips and tricks to share about women on travel. In this post, I will talk about everything and nothing, not very glamorous subjects, real life stories, menstruation, hair removal… In short, travel issues that are only combined in the feminine form.
Alternative travel for a woman
Except for our nights spent in the middle of nowhere, near a magnificent landscape, in most we look for pitching our tent not far from inhabited houses (or even inside a walled garden): not only we feel safer, but very often people give us access to water – an essential point for me, in order to be able to do my private bath. In any case, I always keep a little bit of water for myself, just in case. I have also had to wash, as an emergency, a stained panty… (it won’t always be glamorous!).
On this topic, and since I travel with a man, I don’t really feel legitimate to give advice on solo hitchhiking for women. It’s better to be inspired by other women who practice solo hitchhiking for their travel, whose advice will be much more relevant than mine! On the other hand, I can tell you that even hitchhiking by two, I was confronted with inappropriate solicitations. You must be mentally prepared for all eventualities, even if you are accompanied.
If you are just starting hitchhiking:
- Try to find a road partner. Important note: this advice is also intended for solo male travelers.
- When stopping a car, don’t focus only on what you are going to say to the driver: take a few seconds to look inside the vehicle, judge the driver (smell of alcohol? drugs on board? etc). And if you don’t feel right, even for some reason you don’t understand, don’t jump on this car (like “sorry, I actually am in the wrong direction…”)
- Rather than stating directly your destination to the driver, first ask where he or she is going. This technique allows you to escape politely if you have any doubts (like “oh no! we are not going in the same place… but thanks anyway to have stopped for me!”)
- If the driver insists on taking you to your destination, be careful: it may be a taxi, or worse…
Margaux, a solo woman hitchhiker shares her tips
Limits of travel as a woman
There are things I don’t like very much in life; seeing people around me overprotecting me because I’m a girl who travels is part of it. The feminist in me can hear herself roar: “And why shouldn’t a girl be able to travel like everyone else, like a guy?”… And even if I was able to prove that I could travel “like a grown-up girl”, that traveling as a woman is not impossible, I had to face the facts: I can’t always travel “like a guy”.
- I can’t walk around with my hair uncovered in some Muslim countries: this is the case in Iran, where I had to cover my hair to respect the law.
- I can’t visit Mount Athos in Greece – and probably other sites in the world that are forbidden to women….
- I can’t pee standing, without showing my butt: it will make you laugh, but when you wait on the side of a road (with traffic, otherwise it’s not funny) and there’s not a single shrub to hide, it’s hard… I know, there are now FUDs (a kind of small silicone funnel). Personally, I don’t find it very practical, especially when it has to be cleaned after each use…
Protection and contraception
In Malaysia I met a solo girl traveler who regularly hitchhikes and couch-surfing. One evening, she confided to me that she was afraid of being pregnant: 2 days earlier, she had slept with her host without protection. I was especially afraid that she might have been given STIs… In the end, no weird illness, no baby. But what I wanted to say it’s when I suggested to her that she should always have condoms on her, she looked at me wrong: “But Margaux, men will think I’m an easy girl”. Girls, please, let me tell you something: no matter what others say about you, it’s you, your health and well-being first! Moreover, in her post entitled “Why you should always carry a condom with you”, Annick Marie also gives us another good reason to travel with condoms.
Today, we are lucky enough to be able to choose our contraception thanks to an infinite number of possible choices (boys, you are also concerned): male condom, female condom, patch, intrauterine device (IUD), vaginal ring, diaphragm, cervical cap, spermicides, implant, pills, etc. But traveling around the world means choosing a reliable and long-lasting contraceptive method.
The choice is essentially reduced to 4 types of contraception:
• Condoms, that we can find almost everywhere in the world
• IUDs (copper or hormonal IUDs)
• Natural method, with (LadyComb) or without equipment (Symptothermic method)
I would like to remind you that we are all different, with different needs. The best contraception is still the one that suits your needs, so it’s best to discuss it with a health professional.
As for me, my gynecologist (who has been following me for a long time, very long time!) suggested to have a contraceptive implant – a contraceptive method that is 99.9% reliable and lasts up to 3 years on paper. Practical! Like IUDs, implant has other advantages when traveling, such as no periods or no “I forgot my pill” days – useful for women who, like me, have been used to the contraceptive pill method.
However, after 2 years of travel, I must confess that my assessment of the implant remains very mixed: blood spots appeared from the 2nd month, without interruption… I was warned: this side effect is due to the thinning of my endometrium. But managing these bloody spots every day while traveling has not been practical for me. That’s why I don’t think I’ll renew this type of contraception and use the natural method instead, coupled with a condom for the future…
Dealing with the menstruations
Before leaving (our departure took place in October 2016) I was thinking about adopting alternatives to the sanitary pads sold in supermarkets: not only did I find that they were full of harmful chemicals, but also they are definitly not well recycled… Without regret, I drew a line under these products, and started to use the menstrual cup.
Back in 2016, this revolution was not universally accepted because of its unattractive appearance and impractical use. My first tests were not very conclusive either: failed suction cup effect at the first positioning, withdrawals not always done in the proper way… But I persisted, and today I am still very satisfied. It has been a total benefit for the future: space saving, economical purchase (32€ for 10 years of use), ecological, hygienic and guaranteed without leaks and odours!
Small note (important) for girls who own a Cup: remember to empty your Cup regularly, otherwise bacteria will develop and cause bad smells and septic shock. As soon as you can, sterilize your Cup in a bath of boiling water (with sodium bicarbonate added, if you want to get rid of the smells).
Panties revolution! Since 2016, many beautiful alternatives have emerged, such as menstrual panties or washable sanitary pads. I was even convinced by positive feedbacks about Fempo menstrual underwear. It’s in any case a very good solution for those who can’t stand the menstrual cup!…
The only little hitch remains the question of washing your pad/panties while traveling: washing them regularly (by hand or in a washing machine at a low temperature), and finding a place to dry them is not always easy!
Hair removal: razor and alternatives
Even if tweezers and razor were going to be part of our toiletry bag (at least for Julien to trim his beard), I looked for other more efficient alternatives over time.
Here are the solutions I chose:
It’s a cylinder with two abrasive sides: depilation is done by circular movements on the area to be depilated. It’s convenient, painless and doesn’t take up too much space in the toilet bag! I use my depilatory disc for thighs and arms (parts too sensitive for me to be done with an electric epilator).
Ultra practical for the less sensitive ones! I brought a medium-sized epilator because electric mini epilators are much less effective on sensitive areas (bikini line, underarms). After use, these areas always remain for me a painful passage, attenuated however when I do it while showering: pores dilate under the effect of hot water, it really helps!
Toilet bag: what can be found inside?
Before looking at the contents of our toilet bag, I would like to say a few words about the toilet bag itself: for the trip, I found it essential to have a toilet bag with a hook to hang it up, with many storage compartments and a small removable mirror.
Being able to hang it everywhere (even on trees!) is a real plus, especially when we’re doing wild camping! In addition to having found this perfect toilet bag, we have chosen to optimize its contents to reduce the weight of our bags. Here is what you can find inside:
Real alum stone is known for its deodorant properties, but it can also relieve insect bites, burns or cuts!
To wash our body and wash our clothes by hand, without being harmful for the environment!
Intended for all those who want to maintain their mane, in an ecological (no perfume, preservatives or plastic packaging) and economical way (1 solid shampoo = 3 bottles on average!)
You can make or buy your own solid toothpaste: a very ecological solution!
To take care of your hair while traveling!
A small mascara, an eyeliner and a nail polish: these are the only make-up products included in our toilet bag!
[EDIT] Since I left, I haven’t put any makeup on my skin (except for nails). I have learned to love myself naturally, and no one has yet made a negative remark about it (not even Julien!). Mascara and eyeliner eventually dried out, before being thrown away.
A worthy replacement for cotton discs and make-up remover oils: the cotton make-up removal disc allows you to remove your make-up quickly and ecologically… with just soapy water!
Always useful, especially when it’s (very) hot outside to keep the neck cool!
Julien uses the razor as a complement to the pair of scissors to trim his beard. As for me, I only use the electric epilator for… almost everything!
An ecological and durable accessory that replaces the disposable cotton swab: the flat part of Oriculi is inserted into the ear, and the cerumen is scraped off by pushing it out of the ear. I use it twice a week.
To get rid of nails that are too long!
Practical to remove some unwanted hair or splinters!
Very practical for teeth that tend to scale easily!
Cold, warm: temperature differences directly affect our lips, so better to carry a lip balm
Versatile item, which can also be used as a beard and hair cutter for your male companion!
… Because a good day starts with a good night’s rest!
What have we taken in our bags?
Learn to love yourself
I wanted to finish this post about women travel with a subject that is close to my heart: learn to love yourself! Before traveling, I was often confronted with society’s injunctions (“your skirt is too short”, “why aren’t you wearing make-up today?” etc), and insecure.
As I travel and now feel detached from the society where I grow up, I gradually learned to love myself and no longer feel ashamed: I no longer wear makeup (okay, except for my nails), I ended up throwing away most of my makeup products, I don’t always have perfectly smooth thighs and perfectly styled hair. And you know what? I don’t really care!
* Post written according to
our my personal experience *