When Nature Calls, It Won’t Get Lost in Translation

Questions About Trekking in Nepal That You Are Too Afraid to Ask

For some reason, the topics of poo, wee and bottoms seems to be either the subject of childish jokes or only discussed at the Dr’s office. But just for a moment, let’s get serious and talk about something that effects us all – the call of nature. If you like to plan ahead or have travelled to developing countries before, chances are, you’ve already experienced or thought about what the toilets will be like.

If you are thinking of joining us in Nepal, you’re probably especially curious about Out Houses there.
Most of the time, we don’t give much thought to our daily visits to the Lavatory. But habits and expectations surrounding relieving onself can change considerably across countries. Often it’s hard to ask these questions for fear of seeming ignorant, and instead we silently stress about them. BTW, Some poor folk face this fear on a daily basis: parcopresis is a fear of defacating in public places while paruresis is a fear of urinating in public places.

Your Travelling Toileting Profile

Type 1: The Fully Prepared

Those who really care (or worry) about the type, state and shall we say “accessories” of their Water Closet. If this is you, I have included links to each section where you can jump into your detailed research and know all the ins and outs to fully prepare yourself.

Type 2: Go with the Flow

You’re happy to do your business whenever and where-ever is necessary. The smells and sights of the lavatory don’t phase you too much, afterall, we’re all human. If this is you, I hope you pick up some pointers here to make your travels a little more straight forward. For you, I have condensed this blog in to my 4 Top Tips so you can pick the topic of interest to hone in on it.

Type 3: Quietly Interested

Those of us who live somewhere the between the two extremes; we’re not particularly afraid of the foreign rest rooms, but we’ll take any new tips that will help make our travels that much easier.

My 4 Top Tips for Toilets while Trekking

Toilet Types in Nepal

You will come across all types of toilets while in Nepal from the regular western type, to the Asian style squat toilet. Most however are usually the squat variety (especially when travelling overland). Mid to high-end hotels and cafes will likely have Western style toilets.

Regardless of type, one thing that is for sure: DO NOT FLUSH TOILET PAPER! Nepal is an ancient country and the plumbing cannot handle it. It will clog the system. You will need to put the paper in a rubbish bin (if in a hotel or cafe) or a plastic bag and take it with you if there isn’t a bin available.

For an in-depth description of what toilets are like in Nepal, I highly recommend you checkout this article by gogoguano.com – a website dedicated to teaching you how to use toilets while travelling.

Toilet Guide: Nepal

Which brings me to my next tip.

Toilet Paper Vs Water

Many countries in the world prefer to use water over toilet paper as a more hygienic and sustainable approach to toileting than toilet paper. If you don’t think you go paperless, or you find yourself without toilet paper, simply bring a roll of toilet paper with you. I also recommend a few small plastic bags (nappy sacks from the baby aisle work well and they’re usually scented too) and a small tube of hand sanitizer to keep you going.
If you use water, you are expected to let your bottom air-dry. I have to admit, I got a little tired of having a wet bum. So in the colder months my personal preference was to use a combination of water washing and then a little pat-dry from toilet paper.

For a great education on how to toilet yourself using the water method instead of toilet paper, read this article.
A guide to cleaning yourself without toilet paper

And that leads me to the next important subject…

Left hand Vs Right hand

Left hand is for wiping & washing your nether-regions, and the right is for eating and greeting. Before my first visit to Nepal I would stress about using the wrong hand and the wrong time and committing multiple social taboos and horribly offending the locals. I can tell you this – once my left hand was involved in wiping and washing a Number 2, I couldn’t forget it. In fact, I don’t think I looked at my left hand the same way again for months…

Secret Women’s Business

I think it’s safe to say that at the very least, many women find having a period a little inconvenient, especially on trek. But I’m lucky – for many, it can be painful and even debilitating. If this is you, I highly recommend consulting your doctor for solutions as soon as possible to rule out endometriosis or other medical conditions.

Although menstruation is a taboo subject in Nepal and not easily discussed in public (more on that later), I easily found and purchased sanitary products from roadside pharmacy stores, albeit a limited choice. For short visits like ours, it would likely be much more convenient to take your favourite products with you.

Consider that sanitation in Nepal is far from perfect and it would be a good time to consider more sustainable alternatives such as a menstrual cup like the Diva Cup. http://divacup.com/ (this specific product was recently introduced to me by a friend when discussing this very topic, and I have to say it is my new favourite thing in the world – consider it, trekking or not!) So give the Menstrual Cup a thought – they can be purchased online or from an increasing number of Chemists. Not only is it far more sustainable, but it will require less frequent changing and they are becoming more common place in Nepal.

To Illustrate what I mean about typical sanitation;

One night in Kathmadu, I was at a friend’s house when her sister called out “I’m just going to toss the garbage” as she walked out the front door with a bag of household rubbish. I imagined a scenario much like home where we wheel the bins out every Wednesday night (ok, so more realistically, in a mad rush Thursday morning). Except she literally was going to “toss the garbage” into the street. You see, there was a specific spot near an intersection that people tossed their household garbage. Stray dogs would pick through it for morsels of a meal. Rats sporadically scurrying in the background. Occasionally someone would attempt to reduce the pile by setting it on fire. In fact, on a similar garbage pile in another part of town, a dead cow had ended up on one. Eventually it would get big and obtrusive enough, so a truck (I’m assuming government ordered one?) would come and shovel it up and take it away. And the cycle would start again.

Spare a thought for many Nepali women. Even though it was officially outlawed, the traditional practice of Chhaupadi is still common place. This is where menstruating girls and women are banished to small huts outside the family home, sometimes resulting in disastrous consequences for the women.  http://www.abc.net.au/news/2018-03-10/chhaupadi-nepal-menstrual-cup-revolution/9531814

Sometimes their diet is severely restricted during this time and they are also not allowed to touch men or cattle or enter the kitchen. This is more entrenched in religious families and village communities, who think of menstruating women as dirty and unlucky and will blame misfortune on them. I am happy to say I didn’t experience any of this personally when I lived there and attitudes are slowly changing.

Happy New New Year!

This year I discovered that I’m not a fan of the New Year’s Resolution. But I’m not about to throw the champagne out with the party cups. Perhaps we can capture the discontented feelings that arise and trigger us to jump into a New Years Resolution and instead channel the energy to create longer lasting change.

As February starts turning into March, and hot cross buns have been hitting the supermarket shelves for weeks, I’m already wondering where this year has disappeared to. Our New Year Resolutions could may well be a distant memory.

The New Year & Resolutions

Whether you celebrate it or not, love it or loathe it, the New Year is an event that punctuates the Calendar year. Between every other month, we seamlessly (and sometimes unwittingly) transition from one month to the next. December 31 stands out like a sparkler in the night sky, when the fun and frivolity of the “silly season” draws to a crescendo. We take stock of where we are in life and where we want to be.

It just so happens that it is also a time of general overindulgence (food, drink, fun and lack of sleep), which eventually generates feelings of discomfort and discontent. For some of us, we might start considering study, a career change, quitting our job, booking a trip, buying a gym membership, starting Yoga or taking up running. Or all of the above. And perhaps we even make a New Years Resolution to make it happen.

With the chaos, confusion, joy and overindulgence of the season still reverberating through us, is this the best time or head-space to be making serious commitments and long-lasting, successful changes?


Me wearing the traditional Tibetan Dress for Losar with my Nepali “sisters” – Mingmar (with baby Kesang) and Pasang.

Losar (Tibetan for “New Year”) is a Tibetan Buddhist festival which can last 15 days, celebrating the Lunar New Year. Losar occurs on the first new moon between 21 Jan and 20 Feb and celebrations range from 3 – 15 days. This year, Losar starts on 16th February.

Losar was an ancient winter solstice celebration until perhaps the 16th century when it was moved to coincide with the Mongolian and Chinese New Years, the date of which are calculated by the Lunar Calendar (if you’re wondering about the difference between the Solar and Lunar Calendars, see the notes below. BTW – it’s currently the Tibetan Year 2144).

Losar is celebrated to bring good fortune for the year ahead. Each year is assigned an element (Earth, Fire, Water, Iron, Wood) and an Animal (rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, goat, monkey, rooster, dog or pig).

To prepare for Losar, families thoroughly clean and declutter their homes and decorate them with flowers. They settle outstanding debts. They sort-out old grudges. And of course there’s prayers, blessings, dancing and drinking Tibetan Tea.

New Year’s Resolutions vs Long Term Change

Sometimes things in our life need to change. And change takes effort. Author and speaker Robin Sharma (ofThe Monk Who Sold His Ferrari books) says “Change is hard at first, messy in the middle and gorgeous at the end”.

Making a reactionary New Years Resolution to what was going in at that moment, when we’re feeling discontented is not likely to help us make the changes we need. In fact, the Trasnstheoretical Model of Change in psychology shows that there are six stages of change, which we move through (forward and backward) at different rates.

1. Precontemplation: we don’t see any problems and there’s nothing we want to change.

2. Contemplation: we start to see a problem that we need to address, but we’re not sure that we want to or how we want to make changes.

3. Preparation: getting ready to change.

4. Action: we make the changes.

5. Maintenance: we keep on going.

6. Relapse (sometimes): we go back to our old behaviours and move through the cycle once again.

The New Year may be a time that triggers us from the precontemplation to contemplation stages where we actually see there is a problem in our life and that we might have to make some changes. This is a good thing. But forcing ourselves to make random changes without giving ourselves the time and space to live in contemplation and preparation is essentially rushing us through stages 3, 4 & 5 and suddenly we’ll be relapsing and giving up.

Losar and Change

Losar is a few weeks after the Solar New Year so it gives a little time and space to work through preparation and action stages. So if your 2018 hasn’t quite gotten off to an ideal start I invite you to start again with a little Tibetan flavour: tidy up, declutter, settle old debts and grudges. Think about what changes you want to make and make some goals of how to get there.

But in all honesty, it is another random date on the calendar. I invite you to start your own Personal New Year on whichever date you choose. Whenever your New Year starts, I hope it’s a great one.

Happy Losar!



Side-note: Lunar vs Solar New Year

The Solar Calendar (that we are used to) is determined by the sun – or rather, the Earth’s revolution around the sun. Because of this, the seasons always fall in particular parts of the year. We know that July 100 years ago in Australia, it was Winter. In contrast, the Lunar Calendar is dictated by the cycles of the moon: the first day of the month is always a new moon, the full moon lands in the middle of the month. The annual lunar calendar is set to 12 rotations of the moon, but this doesn’t quite match with the time it takes the Earth to orbit the sun. Thus, if you stick with just the lunar calendar you will find the seasons fall out of sync and over time, the season start to drift to fall in different months. The solar calendar falls out of sync with the phases of the moon.