Environmentally conscious traveller: How to avoid menstrual mishaps abroad

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“Nooooooo they are not hats, dirty, very, very bad. Children – take the sanitary towels off of your heads now.  No, you are not an elephant.”

Environmentally conscious travellera lesson learned.  So, travelling broadens the mind. Travel teaches you things.  Travel throws up things you never thought of before but wish you had.  And then there’s that saying.  Once is a mistake, twice is stupid.

Using sanitary products abroad: it’s not easy

The first menstrual mishap, sigh, was when I was volunteering in an orphanage in Cambodia. Where can this story possibly be going you may wonder, well…

orphanage environmentally conscious traveller

I was there for a month. So, I had duly worked out I would have a period, and I would need to take the necessary sanitary products with me.  And so the day arrived I had to use them.  Firstly, squat toilets are not a delight for the uninitiated at the best of times.  So having a period abroad where there are no ‘real’ toilets, really is a challenge. There’s not a lot of room to manoeuvre for one and being a generation x type; flexibility is not on my side.  Anyway, I got by, until…

Sanitary products: they really do have wings

There we were sitting chatting in our designated child-free zone.  When suddenly off white, wing-shaped, articles began flying through the slats in the window guided by some giggling nimble hands.  It took a second, but then, oh dear god, yes Always Ultra were aeroplaning their way on to our floor. I quickly ran outside to find children running around with said items on their heads. “Nooooooo not hats, dirty, very very bad take the sanitary towels off of your heads right now. No, you are not an elephant!”

Environmentally Conscious Traveller: I was not

So, there is a lesson here.  Something I hadn’t considered.  Firstly, in the Cambodian jungle, as in many places you may visit around the world, there are no adequate means of disposing of rubbish, let alone recycling.  Furthermore, when in an orphanage, or the streets, or out the back of your five-star hotel where garbage is dumped, children, and adults and animals, will rummage for food.

I had considered myself an environmentally conscious traveller, but I really hadn’t considered what precisely this entailed or what my part in it was.  Super tying up the offending articles and trying to bury them among the rubbish was not the solution; these children know how to dig.  Furthermore, I hadn’t in any way, considered the long-term implications of doing this or looked at what environmentally-friendly sanitary alternatives there might be.  I will come back to this…

Menstrual Mishap Two: Sanitary Products – Take something, anything!!

The second menstrual mayhem was on a trip to Yunnan Province in rural Western China.  To be honest, here I hadn’t been thinking of environmentally conscious terms at all; I was just being practical.  So, I had again considered whether I would have a period while abroad? This time it was a 2-week trip so maybe not. I looked at my dates and no I wouldn’t, good. Then I thought, should I take something just in case. No, thought I……

So, halfway climbing up a mountain in China, horror transcended. I had got the dates completely, utterly, wrong.

Consequently, legs crossed, shuffling sideways and upwards, with a look to other fellow travellers of ‘this is how we climb a mountain in Scotland get over yourself’ I had no choice but to carry on. Well, that was bad enough. Have you ever tried to find sanitary products in rural China?

The Bridget Jones approach: fail

This is not a position you ever, ever want to be in. “Ni hao, lady things, lady things?  Not pregnant – hand gesture for pregnant – no, need lady thing. I’m a lady. Not for men, pointing at a man, no he not need, I need. For a lady with no baby?” I had seen this approach in reverse on Bridget Jones when she tried to get a pregnancy test, and it seemed to work for her.  It did not work for me.

Consequently, I realised it is such a westernised thing.  And again, felt kind of stupid for not realising this before; of course, it is. I did eventually find some in a small shop in the airport before flying on to Tibet.  And thereby hangs another tale.  Do not expect to find anything familiar to what you get at home!  Well, as long as you are not planning to walk, or sit down, I guess they are probably fine enough.

Being an environmentally conscious traveller: environmentally friendly sanitary alternatives, what are they?

Soooooo, when planning this year-long trip, menstrual mishaps memorised, I did consider how I could be an environmentally conscious traveller.   But, what environmentally-friendly sanitary alternatives I could use, I had no idea.  Consequently, I came up with the following I found on Amazon … :

Environmentally Conscious Traveller: Reusable sanitary pads – the good, the bad and the ugly

Click here to have a look on Amazon

Being a bit apprehensive about the idea I was pleasantly surprised to find they were kind of cute looking (yes not sure that’s the right word) and they felt like they would be quite comfortable.

My two main concerns were, first: would they stay put and secondly well, just the whole idea of having to wash them – right?

A pre-trip test-run, my verdict:

First of all, even for anyone not travelling anywhere but who are just conscious of the environment; these are fantastic.  They save you money, protect the environment, 100% work as they should, are entirely comfortable and even a bit liberating!  I hate the idea of being a slave to big brands because you have no alternative: so here you go!  The washing, I won’t lie, first time felt a bit ‘ick’.  But there is nothing to it, rinse in cold water then fling in the machine.

But: what about the practicalities when travelling abroad

What did occur to me, for world travelling, what if I have no water, never mind a washing machine? It’s all very well to be an environmentally conscious traveller, but you also have to deal with practicalities.  Where do you put the cute little panda pad if you need to switch halfway across the Kalahari desert?

So, I also found you can buy little waterproof bags for this occasion. Mmmhmm, well let us see how useful they turn out.

However, I was so impressed; I decided to order another pack for when I might have to ditch one or two or may not have good washing facilities.   I also decided to take some of my usual Always or Tampax as a back-up or even to alternate between the two depending on the available facilities.  Okay, so it’s not going to save the planet, but it’s a start towards becoming that environmentally conscious traveller.

…so, such was the plan while sitting in my London apartment: check back for updates to see how this pans out in reality!

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