No. 1 Where's the Bathroom?
A Gen-Xer Keeps Travel Real
I’m tired of Instagram photos of Millennials in bikinis, bottoms aquiver, gazing at waterfalls, oceans, lakes and azure villa pools. Influencers would have you believe that every destination is a visit to perfection.
Let’s be real.
Travel is never perfect. It’s stressful—a giant hassle. Travel is like having kids. You take way too many pictures that no one but your mom wants to see. It upends your comfortable routine; it makes you continually reassess the cost-to-value ratio; and it elicits the best-and-worst you that you can be. But in the end, it was totally worth it.
First you have to leave your house. Did I flush the toilet? The dishwasher was still running, do you think it’ll set the house on fire? What do you mean your passport is still on the kitchen counter?
If you’re flying, there’s the rigamarole at the airport. Computers in or out of the bag?We keep our shoes on? But the other airport made us take them off. Not here? Got it, bad guys only hide weapons in their shoes at other airports.
When you arrive at your destination, maybe you can’t speak the language or read the local alphabet. You don’t know how to use the public transportation and on the train your husband says, “Get up. Get up! We have to move to the next car” when the ticket collector arrives. No? Just me?
At every monument, museum or scenic lookout, there are a gazillion people who did the same Google search as you. Take, for instance, these two photos of the Twelve Apostles on the Great Ocean Road in Australia. This was the view in front of me:
It looks as though I stumbled upon an undiscovered sweep of ocean and am having a sublime moment alone to commune with nature and contemplate my place in the universe.
This was the view behind me:
And inevitably, there comes that time of day when you encounter the greatest travel stressor of all. The single most pressing travel question you will ever ask: Where is the bathroom?
We all need it: the restroom, water closet, WC, powder room, loo, lavatory, toilet. Hell, a big bucket or a large tree if you’re desperate. And we often need it at the most inconvenient times, especially when traveling in a country that’s not our own.
My family would probably tell you that I need it more than most. They’re not wrong. I’d love to blame it on the natural process of aging, but the truth of the matter is I’ve been like this my whole life. I have a bladder the size of a walnut. It fills up at just the thought of liquid…
Okay, I should be good for a few more paragraphs.
When I’m on my home turf in the United States, I possess an encyclopedic knowledge of restroom locations (I wanted to term my encyclopedia Wikileaks, but sadly, the name was already taken). My database of knowledge arises from survival instinct. I scan new restaurants, fairgrounds, plazas, cities, museums, public parks and freeways for restroom locations the way a hitman scrutinizes the exits for a getaway. Once I have a bathroom plan in place, I can relax and enjoy myself.
When I’m traveling, however, restroom reliability is thrown into chaos. The old I’ll-just-stop-at-McDonalds trick doesn’t work as easily. Their toilets are locked and need a code. The public restroom in the train station isn’t free—you need a Euro coin to get in and you don’t have any change. The store where you’re shopping doesn’t have a bathroom open to the public. Panic takes hold. Parents with little kids, I know you see me.
The point I’m trying to make (there is one, I promise) is that all the anxiety and hassle about travel, bathroom related or otherwise, is often the funniest part in retrospect.
Where’s the Bathroom? is a place to look at the good, bad and messy parts of loving the world and the people in it as we travel through it together. I’ll post anecdotes about the absurdity and beauty of travel, post reviews, photographs of inspiring locations, and updates about my writing projects.
So please, remember not to congregate at the lavatories. And remain seated with your seatbelts fastened while this newsletter is in motion.
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