You see all these travel bloggers; Their beautiful adventures, perfectly angled, perfectly colored. They’re thin, beautiful, digging into some large exotic street food, enjoying a large brunch spread full of cheese, pastries, and lattes. WOWZA, you want that.
But I want to talk about what really happens on these trips, post-brunch. If you’ve been anywhere, even on vacation, you know what I’m talking about. Shitting… or lack thereof. How are there so many travel blogs out there without even the mention of it? Because for me, the inconsistency of pooping is the only consistent thing while traveling.
I embarked on my first long-term travel adventure last month, knowing full and well that even domestic travel put my sensitive digestive system at risk for constipation. Throw in a little jetlag and a whole world of new foods and I was set for complete catastrophe no matter how much water (or coffee) I drank.
When you’re sightseeing, hiking, beaching, enjoying a beer in an authentic pub, or in no man’s land looking at the glories of the world, you don’t want to be thinking about the last time you spent a solid amount of time in the bathroom (or the last time it was solid). Wondering “how long can I go without shitting before I die” isn’t exactly what I want running through my head when I’m trying to look cute in travel pics. But it’s somewhat unavoidable, so let’s chat about it, shall we?
First of all, this is a completely natural occurrence.
In fact, it’s an evolutionary trait dating back to our hunter/gatherer days. When you’re a real nomad (not the cute, insta-famous ones), hunting for animals, you probably don’t want a predator tracking your scent during your journey. So as soon as your body recognizes that you’re in a new location, it shuts down all colon activity.
Yeah, not so much when the bloating sets in after that lovely brunch spread.
Traveling is also stressful, and your tummy knows it.
Did you know that you have 100 million neurons in your gut? That’s more than in your spinal cord. So if you’re in a gross bathroom, stressed about missing your connecting flight, or overly exhausted from being in airports for 36 hours straight, your second brain in the gut is going to just say no.
Obviously, there are ways that you can keep on your merry loo schedule while you’re exploring.
A few tips (and reasons I failed – lesson learned):
A few days before the trip, I normally start packing my diet with fiber. Kale salads for dinner, spinach smoothies for breakfast. Being on a super consistent schedule leading up to your trip gives your body routine, which will be easier to follow.
I failed at this. Packing up your apartment, quitting your job, and leaving for two months led me to some serious stress eating. Constipation – 1, Caroline – 0
Water, Water, Water
As soon as you head to the airport, drink a bottle. Through security? Drink a bottle. Just chug them as often as possible.
8-hour flight? Doomsday. They offer free wine on the plane, and I just couldn’t resist. Then I landed in Europe where water fountains are not a thing, and who wants to spend money on water bottles? Constipation – 2, Caroline – 0
Keep it Moving
Exercise. And this is where it gets tricky. Unless you’re able to maintain the same type of exercise as you’re used to, your body has to adjust. Yes, you may be walking 10+ miles a day when you’re exploring, but if you’re adapted to doing yoga every day, that’s a very different type of movement.
No, I’m not going to do yoga every day after wakeboarding and walking a marathon. Sorry. Constipation – 3, Caroline – 0
Fruits and veggies! And preferably fruits that have not been cooked into a jam, resting in the middle of strudel.
Ha. Ha. Ha. You think I’m not going to try every pastry on this side of the world? In my defense, the salad culture that I’m accustomed to isn’t quite as popular outside of NY. Sure, we’ll go with that. Constipation – 4, Caroline – 0
Fast forward to our second stop on the trip and I’m getting desperate. Panic poop mode, if you will. After chugging about 6 bottles of water, I start pulling out all the stops for things that are my go-to’s:
- Coffee: Ended up dehydrating me even more. Next.
- Soft Serve Ice Cream: Flickering memories of my childhood, but still nothing.
- Activia: If it works for Jamie Lee Curtis, why not me?
- Kale: Okay, you know it’s bad when Kale doesn’t work.
And right when I was about to order some Haribo Sugar Free Gummy Bears, I realized that I was past the point of no return and it was time to fold. My boyfriend and I started a 3-hour long venture to buy laxatives. Let me tell you, you know it’s love when a man asks the convenient store worker for laxatives in Hungarian after using google translate on every box in the store.
Travel Tip: Most laxatives can only be purchased in proper pharmacies, not your average Walgreens. But have no fear, either buy them and pack ahead of time or purchase there, you won’t need a prescription!
So here are my recommendations (to pack & and to buy in emergencies):
Metamucil (To pack)
A gift from the heavens! For those with potential to reach a desperate situation, but able to catch it early enough. The equivalent of 5 kale smoothies ready to hit your digestive system in the form of fiber pixie dust.
Pro Tip: Since it’s orange flavored, mix it with some Emergen-C to get the total travel package.
Colace (To pack)
This baby is technically a “stool-softener” but the sound of that title sends shivers to the insides of my colon. Let’s just say it loosens things up in a nice way without completely dehydrating you into a prune.
Pro-Pro Tip: Colace + Metamucil + . You. Will. Be. Invincible. Go climb Mt Everest.
Suppositories, Fleet or Equate (To buy or pack)
In short, these are not fun to talk about since they go in the opposite direction of how you want most bodily items to flow. But they work. I’ll let you decide how you feel about them. They aren’t for everyone.
Pro Tip: I say that you can pack these, but I could easily see them not being the best to travel with. Google it. Proceed at your own risk.
Dulcolax (To buy, available in lots of countries)
For those of you with the desperation level of wishing a solid dose of food poisoning on yourself. The normal version says to take it before you go to bed and things will start rattling about 6-12 hours after you take it. Convenient. Have your morning coffee and take a seat, my friend. This puppy works.
Pro Tip: Drink SO SO SO much water after. Lax attacks pull all the water in your body to aid the process and leave you feeling like a raisin. So if you get a headache a few hours later, just chug.
To Sum It Up
That’s the shitty side of traveling. The moral of the story is that it’s bound to happen, so let’s not pretend that it doesn’t (even to those pretty little #wanderlustgirls). Here’s to many more trips where laxatives aren’t the necessary option for you, but if so, pack in preparation and cheers to flushing!