He Said/She Said: Keeping Clean

He Said/She Said: Keeping Clean

Staying clean, it’s something we all want to do, but while traveling in the developing world can be quite a challenge.  Here are our thoughts, experiences and things we wish we had.




Cleanliness is next to godliness…or so his earthly representatives say, but I’m pretty sure that was a man-made slogan.  If God felt cleanliness was so important would he made Adam and Eve live in a garden?  Where in Genesis is soap mentioned?  I don’t know about you, but a few days sleeping outside in even a pristine garden would leave me dirty brown.

Compared to the conditions laid out for the perfect humans, I am doing relatively well.  Yeah, I’d love to have more regular cleanings, shavings and clothes, but the reality of living out of a bag makes that impractical.  The other side of the coin are the beds, bathrooms and showers we encounter, no matter what I did, I would struggle to feel clean.  Look at the photo below, it’s from a hotel shower in Yangon, Myanmar.  I wish I could tell you that they were cultivating mushrooms, but sadly I cannot, that’s just the state of some of the bathrooms we come across, after showering here, how clean could you feel?

I miss that clean feeling that I had after showering at home.  With a life of regular exercise, a fairly controlled diet, and a bathroom full of scented products, my personal grooming was much better.  Not only did I feel cleaner, but healthier, and more attractive.  Cleanliness is though a small price to pay to see the world, which is a really dirty place.




Did you know that you should only exfoliate your skin every three days and that the less you wash your hair the healthier it will be.  Yep, it’s true…and it’s my justification for not having showered in a couple days.  I know you are wrinkling your nose in disgust reading this, but let me tell you staying clean on the road is easier said than done.

First off let me say that this topic was thinkCHUA’s choice as he is definitely the neat freak/germ-o-phobe of the two of us.  In fact I sometimes don’t mind skipping a shower and I certainly don’t miss cleaning.  But, the rest of the world is a lot dirtier than our apartment ever was, regardless of what my husband says.  This is also a topic that is often not talked about on rtw blogs, but let me tell you based on some of the backpackers I’ve met they are skipping showers as much as me.

The issue of keeping clean starts with budget hostels and hotels, which leave a lot to be desired when it comes to cleanliness.  Most showers at places we’re staying in I’m less than eager to spend too much time in.  Not only are most of them growing mold,  but most are also not hot or even warm, nor in my room, which means carrying all of your stuff to and from the washroom. Budget travel definitely changes your expectation of feeling clean.

How clean can you feel in hand washed clothes drying on a line next to the toilet?

Once I’ve showered I often am donning dirty clothes, which doesn’t give me much incentive to shower because that “clean” feeling won’t last long.  When you’re carrying all of your clothes on your back your wardrobe is pretty limited.  On top of that getting laundry done is tough, for example in India if you can find someone to wash your clothes, but they don’t do woman’s underwear.  Due to this we are often left with no option but to hand wash in the sink, which I’m definitely not an expert at.

However, even if the stars aligned and the showers were pristine and my clothes spotless I would step into the street in many of the countries we have visited and would soon reverse all of my efforts to not smell.  The heat alone in SE Asia will have you sweating through your clothes in minutes, the smoke and pollution in countries such as China and India will quickly negate any fresh feeling you may have managed to achieve.

Of course I’m not complaining, but this is an oft missed topic when it comes to round the world (RTW) travelers and we thought that as travel veterans it was about time someone talk about it.  Besides let’s be honest the smell gives away the fact that most travelers are struggling with the same cleanliness issues.  I’m here to tell you that if you are planning on doing long term travel and living out of a back pack, staying clean will take some conserted effort.  However, as thinkCHUA said it’s a small price to pay to see the world.

Do you have any tips for staying clean while living out of a backpack?  Share them in the comments.

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» Bka :
Apr 11, 2012

Out of curiosity did you bring/buy those xpensive REI wash in the sink /dry over night under wear?…..I am not a clean freak, but the “freshness feeling” a shower provides would be missed…….good blog, brings reality of back pack travel into focus…..eat safe as one can…..love dad

LOCAVORista Reply:

I don’t have the REI underwear but the patagonia underwear instead and it’s fabulous! You can always check out packing list for more tips, but fast drying underwear is a must for us. I’m sure you have developed your own tips for staying clean on the road, but let me tell you India makes all of that much more difficult…

» Shannon :
Apr 18, 2012

Pew, I can smell you from here. I’m sending you a can of Febreze….That could be Febreze’s next advertisement. “When the Chuas used Febreze, the aroma of fresh linens suddenly filled the air and they felt clean. It can work for you, too!”

LOCAVORista Reply:

Shannon, that’s a good idea…maybe we just work on Febreze sponsorships from here on out. Not only would it help to put some money back in our travel fund, but we would be less offensive smelling to our fellow travelers!

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About the Author

thinkCHUA: Photographing and documenting the world on a 3 year round-the-world trip to help future travelers discover new places, travel longer and enjoy the world's great experiences.

About the Author
thinkCHUA: Photographing and documenting the world on a 3 year round-the-world trip to help future travelers discover new places, travel longer and enjoy the world's great experiences.


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