Everywhere you travel, you’ll always end up naked with a certain stranger: The shower. The (near) daily ritual of bathing is a sensory riddle, forcing you to figure out a place on the most basic level.
Sometimes it’s easy and you have a predictable, jet-infused tub to soak in, with surround sound speakers and fluffy white towels.
But most scenarios aren’t as agreeable. Often you’re lucky if the water’s clear. Are you willing to find out if it stings your eyes, or do you clench them shut? Do you worry and spit if you swallow a few drops, or just wait and see what happens?
Will you be forced into a turf war with roaches and spiders?
Where on the spectrum of water pressure will today’s shower be? Every variation demands you adapt the soaping and rinsing technique you’ve grown to love. There’s the hand-held shower head with the water pressure of a coffee maker, forcing you into one-handed contortions. There’s strong but erratic pressure, with renegade needles of water fighting for access to your ear canal.
The water temperature is ice cold, but you relish the chill because you’re covered in tropical sweat and will be drenched again by the mere act of toweling off. Or miraculously, there’s an unlimited supply of muscle-massaging heat at 3700m. Or all of a sudden you realize you’re planning your day around the weak warmth of the first come, first served solar shower. Most likely, though, a travel shower will jump from boiling to frigid and back, only enjoyable for milliseconds at a time as you finesse the dial like a safecracker.
Afterward, it’s tough to dry yourself as thoroughly as at home. Because of pack weight concerns, you’re only carrying a hand towel or swim chamois. Or no towel at all, and so you opt for the hostel pillowcase. Or maybe the beach outside your door urges you to air dry.
Sometimes a shower’s no shower at all–it’s a bucket. A multipurpose tap midway up the wall. A river. Your head dunked in a town square fountain. And maybe you too have used palmfuls of water to attempt ablutions in an airplane bathroom.
However you try to get clean, there’s one thing that won’t wash off: Your immersion in an unfamiliar place.
How has the unpredictability of bathing affected your travels?
Photo “Urban Shower” by Christian Haugen via Flickr.