Other Cultures and Bathroom Etiquette: Do I Bring Toilet Paper?
As I write this blog I'm sitting surrounded by a large backpack, various items of clothing strewn about the floor, and assorted medications of every kind. I am packing: this afternoon I leave for
While my head is swirling with concerns regarding my travel plans, accommodations, language barriers, and dietary restrictions, I have to admit that one of the things I am most concerned with at the moment is toilet paper - to bring, or not to bring: that is the question. I'll be spending a few days trekking in the
I know all too well from my previous travel experiences in Costa Rica and China that not all the world's citizens share our necessity for toilet paper. I truly enjoy traveling, and for the most part I much prefer to experience life as a local (as close as possible, at least) rather than as a tourist while on vacation. That's why I prefer to stay in my host's home rather than a 5 star hotel, and I prefer to eat at a shack off an alley-way rather than the local branch of TGI Friday's. I feel that it's a great way to learn about other cultures, and in seeing these differences I realize more often than not the commonalities we all share regardless of race, language, or class. But the lack of toilet paper I simply cannot seem to grow accustomed to.
The more I travel, the more I do feel that people generally share the same values in life: finding happiness, sharing time with those we love, realizing a sense of accomplishment. There are also certain customary staples in every culture: food, shelter, careers, and families. However, the toilet situation is almost always different from country to country. In
I find myself wondering why it is that different cultures have such vastly different approaches to toileting. The need to use a bathroom is - without exception - universal, and yet, some cultures provide public toilets on every corner for free, others provide them on every corner for an entrance fee, still others provide no public toilets at all. So I just don't know what to expect in
I believe that life is ultimately about learning. So I ask myself what I have to learn from the assorted toilets of the world, and my reluctance to conform. I think what I'm learning in this situation is a truth that I am forever struggling with - we are each ultimately responsible for our own happiness and well-being. I can't expect anyone else to provide for my personal comfort needs - even something as basic as toilet paper. And so I will leave behind yet another pair of socks, swapping it out for a roll of toilet paper. I realize that I can't bring enough toilet paper for the entire trip, but I'm hoping that one roll will get me through the first few days until I can find some more to purchase once I'm settled.
And finally - how does this story translate to incontinence? Why, it's the moral of the story, of course - the Boy Scout motto - be prepared The fear of being without toilet paper, although potentially very embarrassing, doesn't keep me from traveling, exploring other cultures, and living my life the way I'd like. Instead, I choose to adjust - I adjust my expectations, I adjust my packing, and I adjust my attitude. Likewise, incontinence, and the fear of being "found out" or being wet in public, doesn't have to keep you from the experiences that you treasure in life. You can't always make the world around you meet your needs, but you always have the choice to adjust yourself to fit into that world a little more comfortably. Adjust your expectations, adjust your preparations, and adjust your attitude.
I'll be gone for the next three weeks, but while I'm away my weekly blogs will still be posted, so keep checking back in with me and I'll update you about the trip once I return.