I know… the title of this post is rather odd. You know how to shower. What could you possibly have to do differently to shower while you are traveling — unless you’re camping out and your shower is a jug of water hanging in a tree?
The answer is nothing — unless you want to be sure you won’t get caught with a head full of shampoo or a body full of soap.
Picture this. You’ve been on the plane, bus, or train for hours. Or you’ve been walking for hours. Or you’ve been at the black-sand beach or out gazing at pyramids in the hot air. You get back to your hotel, hostel, guest house, CouchSurfing.com host, or the home of your far-removed long-lost relative.
Shower or wash in body sections.
You turn on the hot water. Ah, hot water. You’re so anticipating that feeling of warm water rushing over you. So you stand under the beautiful water. You slather your body from head to toe with a nice foamy later of soap — and then…
That hot water becomes not quite so hot. Now you have a few minutes to get that soap off of your skin before it becomes tepid, then rather cold.
That water suddenly goes cold on you, running down the back of your neck putting your body into shock!
That hot or warm water stops. Yes, stops. And you’re still covered with soap!
Since you can’t know what the water in a new location tends to do, always do what you can to avoid this.
Rather than soap up your entire body all at once, bathe in body sections.
Start with your face and neck. Soap, then rinse.
Then do your torso, neck to hips. Soap, then rinse.
Next, get your back cleaned and rinse.
Now one arm. You’ve got it, soap, then rinse. Next, soap and rinse your other arm.
By now you have the idea. Wash in sections moving downward.
Are you wondering why I said move top to bottom? If you are, then you’ve never had to stand under a cold shower and run cold water down the back of your neck and over your back.
It’s a lot easier to tolerate the cold water on your lower torso, legs, and feet. And, I think, at least, it’s easier bucket-wash your lower body.
Men, you may want to adjust your procedure a bit for your own best comfort. Women, you may also want to adjust this. But now you get the idea. Don’t get stuck with any large portion of your body covered in soap.
EXTRA TIP: I like to use a washcloth (flannel) that has some texture. I like the feeling that my skin is being gently scraped clean. A loofah is great, but may take a long time to dry. (My post about a loofah.) A polyester cloth dries very quickly and has texture, but it’s polyester fibers so I don’t resort to using it often. My favorite is a cotton washcloth that has a texture. Again, it takes time to dry, so it’s a luxury item for me. The fast-drying washcloth I carry as of 2018, although not textured, is from Cocoon.
Use as little shampoo as you possibly can.
I prefer to wash my hair before I wash my body, but you may do the opposite. Either way, don’t get caught with a head full of shampoo foam. The foam doesn’t really do anything for you anyway.
Use as little shampoo as you can. (I use an amazingly small amount and will discuss that in another article.) Your hair won’t become foam-covered and you’ll be able to wash the shampoo and dirt or oils out quickly.
Then shampoo again, and again use just a tiny bit. This time you’ll have a bit of foam. Slow the water down and enjoy the foam for a minute, gently rubbing it around without tangling your hair. Then get that shampoo out so you won’t be stuck if you lose the water. Or maybe you let the shampoo act on your hair for a minute while you start your face and neck — if you’re feeling secure about that water source.
Think this won’t happen where you’re staying?
Even a 5-star hotel can have water delivery problems in a country where the water supply isn’t constant.
- In places that use spot heaters, a flame or electricity might go out.b
- In places that have water tanks, water can run out. Even in a million dollar NYC home, on a cold winter day, I’ve had hot water run out.
- In warm-for-the-most-part Israel, a cold snap in the mountains froze water pipes cutting water to homes and hotels.
- In various remote parts of Central America, water flow often simply ceased or the hot water heater was turned off mid-shower.
(Just to be sure you don’t think I am stereotyping Central America, in El Salvador I had one of the best showers of my life, consistently for 3 months at Hostal Combres Del Volcan, wealthy home turned into an inexpensive hostel.)
Each time I shower, regardless of where I am, I am reminded of how many places and situations it’s important to shower intelligently.
EXTRA TIP: Many hostels provide towels these days and your host may have a towel for you. However, it’s a good idea not to assume. I always carry the Matador NanoDry towel. And yes, it has come in handy and saved my wet butt. In Prague 2017 I was in a hotel room 5 floors up from the lobby when I realized they’d not mentioned or provided a towel. I used my NanoDry and when I asked later, learned you need to purchase your towel for €5. You can read my recommendation for the Matador towel here.
Note: This tip was first published on May 29, 2012, while in Central America and I came across several places where you couldn’t quite depend on a steady flow of water. At the time, I wrote this. “If you are about to travel in a third-world country you may appreciate this tip.” This is somewhat of an elaboration on it, based on a lot more travel that brought a lot more of my shower experiences to mind. Now I can’t find that old post, but you may come across it.
Thanks for your tips and insight through your travels. As a former airline employee, I did quite a bit of solo travelling. Getting there is also part of the adventure. Experiencing the local culture is my preference. I look forward to reading more of your tales and putting them to use!!
This week, at one of the Planet Fitness locations in Chicago, the men’s showers lost hot water. I wish I had read your article earlier.
Glad you have the idea now, but let’s hope you won’t lose hot water (or all water) again. :)
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I love this post. It seems like an obvious post, who needs to know how to shower. But I agree with everything you’ve said. Having been caught out a few times this is great advice.
It was definitely odd for me. But it was in my head every time I showered, so yep, I wrote and posted it. :)