Potty Training For Travelers, Part 1

Everyone does it, and yes, it is actually trickier in some places around the world. That’s right, folks, we are going to be talking about potty training for travelers heading into the great unknown.

We have all experienced traveling somewhere new, and certainly have encountered situations where we find ourselves needing of a bit of guidance. Sounds crazy, but—a simple thing like going to the bathroom really can and does present some new challenges, and if you don’t think about it ahead of time, you’ll wish you had.

This is important stuff and there is no shame in wondering about such things.

Be assured, I’m not the only one who thinks a potty training guide is useful when venturing into parts unknown. One google search and you will find hundreds of posts on the subject with diagrams and all. Many sites are even very thoughtful in giving you pertinent information such as proper posture and positioning. Who knew? Alas, before we dive into this important subject matter we must address my absolute #1 tip for traveling.

bucket with a handle in a bathroom in Asia with an unseen squatty potty

What the heck do we do here?

Tip #1

Actually RULE #1 – Always, bring your own toilet paper and/or cleansing wipes. Do not ever forget this! Since we advocate responsible travels both away and at home, we suggest trying organic bamboo toilet paper and wipes. They are lovely to the touch and can be easily found on Amazon. Now that we have that out of the way, let’s talk about that thing we all have to do on a, hopefully, regular basis.

I learned the hard way. My first trip to the other side was Bali back in 2002 and I researched everything BUT toilet issues. I was very green to the ways of the world then. Since then, I have learned some very valuable lessons and I share my wisdom with you now.

For me, it all began one lovely day in the middle of a rice terrace near Ubud. Most inconveniently, I found myself in a somewhat desperate situation where I couldn’t hold it in another minute longer, or so I thought. Our driver, Wayan, showed me the way to the bathroom and it was there I had my first encounter with a squatty potty.

To my absolute horror it looked much like this one, albeit clean, I got very confused. I walked in, turned around and I walked right back out. I whispered to my travel partner, “there’s no tp and what the hell am I supposed to do with the bucket and ladle?” I was mystified. In my embarrassment, I decided to just hold it in until something I was more familiar with came around — three more hours of total torture and holding it in.

I am pretty sure I’m not the first traveler to find themselves in this situation. As it turns out, an in-ground toilet is not as challenging as it looks and the best thing to do is check out this Wikihow. The pictures outline in great detail, how to best position yourself and it will also explain what to do with the extra tools and kitchen utensils you’ll find. Problem solved and just remember, practice makes perfect.

Now, you may be one of those folks who think you may never find yourself in a squatty potty situation. Well, you’d be wrong. I was in France, not too long ago, and walked into a public restroom in Moustiers-Sainte-Marie. This is a well-traveled and upscale area in the Alpes-de-Haute-Provence region where you would not expect to find a a squatty potty, much less one that was competing with the toilet from Trainspotting for being the most repulsive toilet on the planet. True story.

Fortunately there was a restaurant nearby to enjoy yet another glass of amazing French wine and fortunately make a visit to their wonderful restroom for a quick a pit stop. All I can say is be prepared, you never know when you’ll need to have your wits about you! Had I been out in lesser known parts, I may not have fared so well!

Tip #2

You didn’t forget your tp, right? There are many places in the world where you do not throw your tp or cleansing wipes into the toilet. The plumbing is not the same everywhere and it’s easy enough to clog things up at home. So, do the right thing and just don’t do it. Learn to roll your leftovers into a nicely packaged poop bomb for the wastepaper basket. This is really the kind thing to do so the next person in doesn’t need find themselves gagging. Also, bring a little more tp than you think you’ll ever need!

Tip #3

Hand Sanitizer. Enough Said.

With that, we come to my favorite type of loo. In places like Cambodia and Thailand, you will encounter the bum gun. You’ve seen it before, only attached to your sink in the kitchen instead of coming out of the wall where the toilet paper should be.

woman's hand with a bum gun and water streaming out

Behold The Bum Gun

Have no fear! Once you get the hang of it, you might find this to be something that you cannot believe you don’t have yourself. Thankfully, and for obvious reasons, there is no Wikihow for this. Word to the wise, don’t google that. You might accidentally come across something that you cannot unsee. Tread cautiously and pay attention! If you are not careful things can quickly go awry with these next steps.

It goes something like this; first test the water pressure. You really don’t want to find out the hard way. It’s a mixed bag out there. You might come across a bum gun having a gentle trickle or you could have the Niagara Falls heading your way. It’s kind of like driving a manual vehicle, you will need to first get used to the clutch. Learn to control the flow before you put that thing near your bum. If it were me, I’d take a test run or two before you do your business or you you might find yourself in harm’s way.

Now, aim for your bum, toward the back of the toilet wall, but not too high. Next step, just do it as only you know how. Poop away. Once you are done with the task at hand, go ahead and flush BEFORE using the bum gun. This is an important step to remember as you are now going to engage the bum gun for real. Again, take aim with the stream down the back of the toilet bowel wall, toward the bottom and while still cleaning the poop away. This is actually a very sanitary method of doing your duty and makes all the sense in the world.

Wait, we are not done with this one. Once you have finished, use the bum gun to clean the toilet and then give it another flush. Again, do not throw the toilet paper or wipes into the toilet! Use the waste basket. Also, if you weren’t paying attention, and you forgot your tp, you may just find yourself having to do what many locals do and that is use your hands in tandem with the bum gun to get rid of any excess, depending on how badly things got out of control in there.

If you ever wondered why some cultures don’t like to shake hands or use their left hand, now you know. You may want to pat yourself dry with the tp, especially since the humid weather you are likely in is not conducive to wet booties and other private parts. Now, you can get back to the fun stuff, or maybe that was the fun stuff? Once you’ve gone bum gun, you may never go back! I live for the day when I can build a house with a bathroom equipped with this common sense contraption and just so you know, I will only allow well trained individuals to use it.

High Tech Potty Training

Moving on to more sophisticated methods of getting down to business. The bidet. Fortunately, Wikihow does have yet another tutorial that can provide you with all you will ever need to know. Though the tutorial shows a woman, bidets are for everyone despite the common belief that these are strictly for the ladies. The important thing to have in your arsenal here is, once again, your toilet paper.

In the event you find yourself in a bathroom where some other traveler has absconded with the toilet paper because they forgot theirs, you do not want to be soaking wet after your affair with the bidet.

Now we get to the high tech toilets that you will find to be mostly in Japan. I haven’t been to Japan yet, so I can’t say first hand—but, I have heard the rumors.

Thankfully, there are icons and English is used along with the Japanese characters in this example. Whew. If that wasn’t there I’d be stuck at STOP. It looks like quite the process! Let’s see. We can choose our spray strength and the seat temperature, that’s nice. Preparation? I don’t get it. Maybe someone could explain that to me? It appears that it swivels?

Okay. I don’t know if it goes up and down or not but, as I type this I am booking a plane ticket to Tokyo to find out. What is the difference between a shower and a bidet setting? This is very complicated. At least I’d know what do with a simple hole in the ground in Africa. I’m not even going to keep trying to figure this one out. I’ll have to get back to you on this once I know from personal experience.

Well, I think we have covered quite a bit in this first escapade around the world in terms of toilets. In the next post I will have more information about relieving yourself in other far and away places. Stay tuned.