To all my male readers, you may want to give this post a miss – this week I am writing a piece dedicated to making the lives of all my fellow female travellers just a little bit easier.
A common problem for female travellers spending extended periods of time on the road is working out when and where you can obtain birth control. Things such as getting a new prescription for the oral contraceptive pill or finding a place to give you a new depo shot may be easy back home, but can prove unbelievably difficult while abroad.
So what to do?
Get yourself a Mirena!
A Mirena is a form of intrauterine contraception that lasts a whopping five years – so unless you are travelling for longer than that, having one can eliminate any hassle associated with obtaining birth control in foreign lands.
There are numerous types of IUDs – the most common being the Skyla, the Mirena and the Paragard (also known as the copper coil) – so you will have to work out which one is best for you, but the Mirena is easily the most popular.
The Mirena itself is a small t-shaped device which is inserted through the cervix into the uterus and works by releasing very small amounts of progestin (a synthetic version of progesterone) which thickens cervical mucous and blocks sperm for up to five years. IUDs are incredibly effective – even more effective than getting your tubes tied! Plus, removal is easy, so if you decide after a few years that you do in fact want a tiny human inhabiting your uterus, it won’t be a big hassle. Another bonus – 1 in 3 women who use the Mirena for over 12 months will stop having periods altogether.
The copper coil (Paragard) lasts for 10-12 years but can make periods heavier and more uncomfortable, so may not be the best choice for travelling women. The Skyla lasts for up to three years and works very much like the Mirena, but it does have a slightly smaller size, which supposedly makes insertion more comfortable. However, there is no need to be scared of IUD insertion.
Before I got my IUD, I made the mistake of asking Doctor Google what I could expect and after reading nothing but horror stories I was absolutely terrified. So terrified that I burst into tears before I had even put my legs up into stirrups! However, after I calmed down and relaxed, insertion was easy. I would say 4/10 discomfort at the absolute most. It just felt like a medium level period cramp, and in exchange I now have a wonderfully uninhabitable uterus!
Expect a fair bit of spotting after insertion, and be aware that you may have weird periods for a few months. Research shows that satisfaction levels of women who have had the Mirena for less than 4 months are fairly low, but satisfaction levels of women who have had it for over 12 months are incredibly high. If you choose to get an IUD, be prepared to go through a few weird months while your uterus adjusts and plan to get it inserted a few months before any long term trip begins.
Like everything, IUD contraception may not suit everyone, but should definitely be considered, as it is both incredibly convenient and incredibly cost effective. I love my IUD!
Menstrual cups (also known as moon cups) are an alternative to pads or tampons during the ever dreaded Shark Week. The concept of using a menstrual cup may seem gross or odd at first, but once you try one, you will kick yourself that you didn’t do so earlier!
Made of medical grade silicone, moon cups are bell shaped devices that sit inside the vagina (kinda like a tampon) and catch up to 30mls of menstrual blood. You can leave the cup in for up to 12 hours, it is easy to clean and reuse, there is no risk of toxic shock syndrome and with most menstrual cups retailing for around $45-$55, they are much cheaper to use than pads and tampons.
So how is this going to make your life on the road easier?
Firstly, you will save money. Secondly, it’s tiny and will free up more space in your backpack. Thirdly, you can leave the cup in for longer than a pad or tampon, so you won’t need to do frequent tampon changes during the day. Furthermore, in many conservative and/or developing countries, buying sanitary items can be expensive or even borderline impossible, so instead of having to carry months and months worth of pads or tampons, all you need is one small cup. Lastly, unlike with pads and tampons – the ‘smell’ factor is totally non-existent – a bonus if you are travelling in hotter climates.
I personally use a Diva Cup, but there are numerous other brands on the market (Lunette, Juju, Keeper, Eva, Iris, MeLuna) so do some research, pick one (they are all FDA approved) and give it a go!
Multi-Purpose Beauty Products
When travelling, whether it be for 7 days or 7 months, the less stuff in your backpack, the happier you will be. But cutting down your belongings can be tough! I used to find packing light absolutely impossible, especially when it comes to cosmetics and beauty products. I bloody love my make-up! So up until about a year ago I would always pack way more than I needed, and never use half of the items in my make-up bag. Cosmetic items may be small, but when you carry like 30 of them, they really do weigh up.
These days, I consider myself a carry-on champion and packing light is now second nature. Something that really helped with this was finding products that serve more than one purpose.
Here are just a few of my favourite multi-purpose make-up products:
This stunningly peachy blush is a cult-fave for good reason. It looks good on just about everyone, goes on smoothly and has the perfect amount of shimmer to give you a natural looking dewy flush. However, as well as being a pretty much perfect blush, when used sparingly this can also be a beautiful eyeshadow for a subtle but polished make-up look. Retailing for $44 AUD, you can purchase this blush here.
The name of this product says it all! It doubles as an easy to use liquid blush and a stunning lip stain. When I first tried this product I really thought I would hate it (cream/liquid blushes aren’t usually my thing) but Benetint is so easy to apply and wears so well (it lasts for ages) that it is the perfect addition to my travel bag. Buy it here for $55 AUD.
Want groomed brows and long lashes without the risk of mascara and brow pencil dripping down your face on a hot summer vacation? Clear brow gel is the answer! With more staying power than a clear mascara, a brow gel will hold bushy brows in place and make your lashes pop all at once. I love the Joey Healy Brow Structure ($45 AUD) but most brow gels will get the job done.
What Australian females did before this product I truly do not know! If you think all pawpaw products were created equal, then you have probably never tried Lucas’ Pawpaw Ointment. This ointment has more uses than I could ever list here, but I have personally used it as a lipbalm, a highlighter, to soothe the skin around my nose when I have had a cold, to soothe burns, to stop insect bites itching and even to treat sunburn! This stuff is amazing, and for around $8 a tube, it is a true blue Aussie bargain.
High Waisted Swimmers
You know those travel pouch things people wear under their clothes? The ones that are meant to be discreet but seem to always be noticeable?
I have used them before and find them bulky and uncomfortable to wear. I hate them. However, I like the function they serve, and sometimes do find myself travelling in places where I feel more at risk of being pick-pocketed. So what is a good alternative?
High waisted swimmers!
Instead of wearing a travel pouch, I wear high waisted bathers and put my passport, cards and a small amount of cash into a little ziploc baggy, which I then sit against my tummy inside the bathers! Bather material is fairly firm, so my valuables never budge from where I have placed them, and the firm effect of the material smooths everything out, making my secret stash of possessions totally invisible to the naked eye.
I like bathers by Tigerlily Swimwear, but as long as they are a good quality firm fabric, any brand will do.
Creative Places to Hide Emergency Cashola
Everyone needs a few little places where they feel safe stashing emergency dollarydoos. Lockers are too obvious, shoes have been done for years and pockets are just silly. So what other places can you stash your cash?
Empty lip balm tubes are super subtle, no man will look inside sanitary pads and you know that part of your bikini tops that is open on the inside to allow you to remove or insert padding? Yep – nobody would think to look there, it is the perfect place to keep emergency money.
Solid Shampoo and Conditioner
Now, these are true game changers.
If you are like me and have a lot of hair and/or hair that requires frequent washing, then you may also loathe carting around big bottles of shampoo and even bigger bottles of conditioner. So when I discovered Lush Cosmetics solid shampoo and conditioner bars, my world was changed.
Each of these bars can fit in the palm of your hand and last like 50-60 washes!
So how do they work?
Firstly, you have to totally saturate your hair, it really needs to be absolutely sopping wet. Then, wet the bar, but don’t rub it in your hands to try and get it to lather! – it won’t lather in your hands and you will just waste precious product. Swipe the bar across your hair 2-3 times and lather into your hair like you would a normal shampoo. Though the bar won’t lather up in your hands, it does in your hair.
I was skeptical that a bar could really work as well as an ordinary shampoo, but it really does get my hair smelling great and squeaky clean. Plus they take up barely any space! My personal favourite is the Godiva Bar, which you can buy here for $14.95.
Now go forth and travel the world more prepared and with a lighter backpack than ever!