It’s always a little bit more complicated traveling as a woman. You have sexism, worries about traveling alone, and how you are going to fit everything into a suitcase (sheesh). On top of that, you also have the issues of, well, health to deal with.
I remember my first time living in Italy when I was studying abroad and that time of the month rolled around. I was shocked when I went to the grocery store to find two types of feminine hygiene products—over-priced tampons and flimsy pads. I had never considered what it would be like to travel and have to deal with this stuff. (Because, honestly, that’s not what comes to mind when I book a trip. I don’t know about you.) I ended up grabbing both and changing my pad about every two hours.
Because you might not always know what’s available when you travel, here are a few tips I’ve come up with while traveling that have saved me some headaches.
Save room for your favorite products
While this might not be a solution if you are planning on being abroad long term, it definitely helps when you are on short expeditions. Knowing that my tampon will hold up in the Amazon jungle or that I don’t have to worry about finding the right pad for the right occasion (sleeping in the desert in a tent) helps a lot. I like sport tampons because they are easy to carry and not messy, which can definitely be a godsend when you’re at an airport and rushing to your next flight.
Factor in the products that you love in packing your suitcase. I promise, you’ll be happy you have something familiar in an unfamiliar place.
Put together an “emergency kit”
Travel is stressful. And millennial travel tends to be far from the vacation other generations take when they choose to get away. We usually experience more, party more, and come back with more memories. However, this added stress can do a number on your health—especially down there.
Between missed periods, infections, and all sorts of other sh*t, it’s not a bad idea to prepare for the worst. (Or be prepared to do a lot of miming when you head to the pharmacy where they don’t speak the language. “Yo tengo un infection de…vagina?”) Pack creams, aspirin, and anything else that you can think of that is specific to the problems you tend to face when stressed. For me, this includes a big bottle of Vitamin D.
Think about your birth control
Whether you are in a relationship or not, this is important. Getting frisky abroad can be a reason to travel, but it does tend to make things more complicated when you don’t want to bring back a baby souvenir. This is especially crucial as an expat where you might be living in countries where birth control is harder to get a hold of.
When I had moved back to Italy at 23, I was thrilled my boyfriend was coming to visit. I was less thrilled that I was running low on birth control pills that the pharmacies told me they didn’t have them in Italy (which they could have been lying—Italy is one of those countries where it can be difficult to convince someone you need it). I had to ask my parents to ship some over. It took a month to get there and it was a debacle to get the package (a walk five miles in the rain that required picking a lock with a bobby pin in order to get the receipt so I could pick it up).
Think about whether you will be able to take your pill every day or if a condom provides you enough protection for your state of mind. Eventually, I made the leap to an IUD because I was tired of trying to track when to take the pill in different time zones and tired of being worried about how to get the exact prescription I needed abroad. Best choice I ever made, and it was free to do.
Not all gynos are created the same
This goes without saying: health care in some countries is better than others. I feel perfectly fine seeing a doctor in say, England. Less so in Morocco where I hear they diagnose you with the wrong disease in order to take out your body parts and sell them on the black market (true story from a friend).
That’s why if you need any assistance abroad, you should do your research before you just go into a hospital. It’s likely that they will just stick you with whomever is on call, which could be a blessing or a curse. The hours might also be off. I tried to make an appointment with a doctor (again in Italy—not the best health care, obviously) and I had to schedule a time when she wasn’t home with her children. Instead, I waited it out until I could get checked on in the States.
This stuff isn’t always so easy. Before you head to or move to another country, you should take a look at whether or not you can get the medication you need while there, which doctors can help you out if you run into issues, and how best you can take care of yourself when away from home.
Any ladies run into health issues abroad?