It is no secret that when you go backpacking, you commit to getting a little bit dirty. For some people (like Tim) this is just an added bonus of travel. It gives them an excuse to shower once a week and rock the festival look full time. For germaphobes like me, it is a stressful battle to curb my own body odour and try not to be the only girl that looks like they have slept in a hedge. Being stinky is pretty standard for backpackers but add in the South East Asian climate to the mix and things get a lot more sticky. These simple tips kept me sane and healthy during my time in South East Asia!
Wash your hands
This is not just a vital piece of travel advice but also imperative to being a generally clean and healthy human being. Make sure you wash your hands regularly using warm water and soap but be aware that clean sinks aren’t always easy to come by in South East Asia. To combat this issue, make sure you carry a bottle of hand sanitiser with you. This is a quick fix for when you are on the move but opt for soap and water where possible as some alcohol rubs can be harsh on your skin.
Carry loo roll
The toilets in South East Asia are pretty gross. Despite this, I believe them to be hugely character building and also, thigh enhancing. The large majority of the loos that you will find in this part of the world are squat toilets which mean you will need both balance and stamina if you are going to master the art of the crouched poo. Aside from the physical strength required for squat toilets, one other important thing to remember is to keep pocket tissues on you at all times. Very few toilets in South East Asia come fully stocked and being caught out is not conducive to staying clean!
Use sun protection whenever possible
This message is very close to my heart, partly because I am a redhead and partly because it has been burned deep into my skin. As someone who is frequently mistaken for a tomato in the summer months, believe me when I say sunburn is not pleasant. Avoid it whenever you can by purchasing both sun cream and lip balm with a high SPF, not forgetting to reapply every few hours. Aloe vera is great for sunburnt skin but avoid gels as they will stick to your clothes and are painful to peel off.
For the ladies: Manage your period
Let’s be honest, very few of us feel clean when it is that time of the month. I can guarantee you that the baking South East Asian climate won’t help much either. To minimise discomfort, make sure you know when to expect the crimson wave and stock up on your sanitary product of choice (mine is a menstrual cup!). Wash regularly (goes without saying) and change any disposable product every few hours.
Carry something to freshen your breath
Bad breath is an absolute killer and affects many travellers around South East Asia owing to the lack of bathroom stops on lengthy bus journeys. Ideally, clean your teeth twice a day with a mint toothpaste (watch out for bizarre Asian flavours that include green tea and black bean) but always carry gum for those times when it’s just not practical to brush.
Use a makeup remover towel
I know of many backpackers who swear by the classic wet wipe when it comes to keeping their faces clean but I believe I have found a better solution. Rather than the continued use of disposable wipes which are both costly and not environmentally friendly, instead purchase a reusable makeup remover towel to limit your use of one time wipes. Simply apply warm water and wipe your face, it will freshen you up and remove makeup (even waterproof mascara)! Reusable makeup remover towels can be an investment initially, but they pack down small and will save you money in the long term.
Eye mask and earplugs
Everyone knows that the key to feeling fresh is a decent nights sleep. Sadly, backpacking on a budget doesn’t often mean private accommodation and other people’s snores and farts become a real burden. To help you sail off to the land of nod, it is worth investing in a cheap eye mask and earplugs. Let’s be honest, whilst these other points are helpful, if you’re tired, you’re going to feel crap regardless.
Choose your clothes wisely
I know that everyone wants to rack up their Instagram likes with sunset poses in long flowing dresses but in reality, this isn’t practical attire. Instead of worrying about the catwalk instead opt for quick drying, sweat-wicking clothes. These clothes won’t solve all of your body odour worries but teamed with a decent deodorant they will definitely help. As these clothes are quicker to dry, washing becomes much less of a faff and can, therefore, be done more often.
Drink lots of water
Ahh, the magic liquid that is water. This is vital to staying healthy and feeling fresh when you’re on the road. Keeping hydrated with enable you to stay both physically and mentally strong and it also helps to flush out toxins which cause your sweat to smell. Check out reusable water bottles to do your bit for the environment. My favourite is the Vapur flat pack bottle.
This may be a bit too personal but it is important to consider nonetheless. Perhaps the warmest areas of our bodies are the parts in our pants. In hot, humid temperatures, it is easy to upset the natural balance of things downstairs which can result in yeast infections, chafing (talcum powder is your saviour but for external use only) and even UTI’s. To limit these nasty inconveniences in the pants department, wear cotton underwear to ensure decent airflow to your privates.
We arrive at the end of the list with the ultimate backpacking essential, baby wipes. Whilst I try to go reusable when possible, there is no denying that baby wipes are universally available and can assist with most hygiene issues. Whether you want to wipe away the sweat from your brow, scrub the mud off your hands or tend to your sensitive behind after some questionable street food, baby wipes are your best friend. Surely an absolute must for any backpacking journey but always dispose of them responsibly. If you flush them, you could end up blocking the toilet, causing the contents to erupt over your feet. Fresh? I think not.
What are your top tips for staying fresh in South East Asia?
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