The Periodic Curse: Being a Woman is Hard

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June 1, 2012

The Periodic Curse: Being a Woman is Hard

Okay, this has been going on for 6 months straight now. Now it’s time to talk about it.

*Kind warning: this content is dealing with a highly feminine subject. I’m not saying you shouldn’t read it if you are a male; just FYI. You are more than welcome to read & comment.

As a young and healthy female, I have a fairly regular cycle every month. My periodic table is accurate, if I may say it like this. Yes, I’m talking about the menstrual cycle. Sometimes it’s off when I’m overly tired or sick, but it has been on schedule most of the time; fourth week of the month, always. Why am I brining it up now, you may ask? You see, I had troubles for the last six months continuously and I want to share the frustration with my female readers. I’m not complaining about the fact that I’m a female; I’m talking about how inconvenient it is when it happens at an inconvenient time.

Many of us female travelers need to think about one more thing than men when we are traveling; one more thing to pack. But that’s not an issue; it’s just one small bag. And we embrace the fact; there’s no negotiation for that. Also, this isn’t the critical condition to avoid when I’m planning the trip. It’s inconvenient for sure, but it’s not like ‘avoid driving on holiday weekend’ type of issue. Since I don’t have a big side effect from it, thankfully, I don’t really seriously consider it as a big deal.

However, I’m truly amazed by the coincidental accident for the last six months during the time I’ve been traveling in Asia. On December 6 of 2011, I left Korea for Hong Kong to start touring Asia. For last six months, periodically, my critical week of the month always landed on my big travel day. No kidding. Every single time. I’m not talking about the starting or the ending of the period: I’m talking about the day of the climax. The time when you don’t want to leave your bed. (You know what I’m talking about.)

Especially because I was traveling in the rural areas of Asia, I had a hard time controlling the difficulties. For example, when I was traveling in southern China where minority nationality people live. Their toilet is usually a pit hole in the mountain with no running water and no door that everyone in the village uses. No, not an ideal condition to take care of the lady business. Oh and there’s no tampons sold in those countries that I’ve been for the last six months.

Ready for the train trip to Kunming from Guilin

December, 2011: Christmas day in Hong Kong. I spent Christmas day in Hong Kong. What a beautiful place to spend a holiday. The question was, what to do? Stephen’s friend invited us to go camping in the mountain region on Christmas day. Camping on Christmas day, I liked the idea but I had to decline the offer right before the trip because of the obvious reason: I was in that time of the month and it wouldn’t be pretty.

January, 2012: Guilin to Kunming, China. I was on the train from Guilin (Guangxi Province) to Kunming (Yunnan Province) that took 18 hours. Train rides in China ain’t pretty. Sometime in the middle of the trip, oh my god the smell, I can’t even describe it. It was the result of numerous smokers and open-door urination. Technically there was a toilet, but the whole train was a toilet for a lot of people.

February, 2012: Luang Namtha to Luang Prabang, Laos. I was on the bus from Luang Namtha to Luang Prabang, that took 10 hours on the mountain road. Peeing on the side of the road in the mountain wasn’t so much of a pleasure. Though there was no running water, it was cleaner than the Chinese toilets I’ve been to. But still, I was in Laos.

March, 2012: Lijiang to Chengdu, China. Unfortunately, it was one of the longest extended trips in China. Departed from Lijiang, Yunnan Province in the early morning and arrived in Panzhihua, Sichuan Province in the afternoon. Then took an overnight train to Chengdu for 11 hours. That was not the end; it took one and a half hours to get to my friend Tom’s house from Chengdu train station. I’m having a cramp just thinking about that day.

April, 2012: Nanning, China to Halong City, Vietnam. The day of the border crossing happened to be the hardest day of the week of my period. Thankfully the bus ride didn’t take that long like other extended trips, but it took a good 10 hours from Nanning, China to Halong City, Vietnam.

May, 2012: Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam to Washington D.C., USA. The ending of my tour Asia hit me big time. The 27 hours of flight that required frequent trips to the toilet was certainly not convenient. I prefer to have a window sit, because of the obvious reason, so I had to jump over two people next to me to go to the toilet.

Can you believe this? Did it ever happen to you? Since I flew into Washington D.C. just last week, I have three more weeks of the window without any trouble. I don’t have any specific ‘big’ travel plan for the end of the month yet, but if it lands on a crucial day again, I really need to think what I did wrong to be punished like this. Still, it won’t stop me from moving around, but it will be interesting to see what happens in the future. Good lord.

 

I apologize for the overly intimate sharing via this post, and please do share your frustrating experiences if you have had any! (and I’m sure you have.)

 

 

Juno Kim
Juno Kim
Juno Kim, a happiness-seeking storyteller. Photographer, writer, and trained mechanical engineer. Life-long nerd. I left the cubic farm to follow my true love: the world. A firm believer of serendipity, astronomy enthusiaster, and living by passion and love in life. Currently, on a quest to discover stories and find the place where I can call 'home'. Follow my journey through @RunawayJuno and Google+ .

49 Comments

  1. Lissie says:

    I’ve got to say menopause is WONDERFUL! I was always on the pill when I did long-term travel – it makes your periods much lighter, and I also carried about 6 months of tampons – can’t say how many I’ve given away over the years – the only item I refuse to buy local!

    • Juno says:

      Right, buying sanitary pad or tampons locally isn’t fun ; especially in China or Laos. Packed for 6 months? Wow, that’s a lot. But I’m sure it came handy! I’m not a fan of the pills, just it made my body feels different and I didn’t like that.

      • Ann says:

        I stockpiled tampons before I left for this trip, since I knew I was going to the Middle East and India. In the end, it turned out to be 5 months’ worth of tampons! haha. But I wasn’t crazy… there was a ‘tampon shortage’ when I was in Chiang Mai last fall (an after-effect of the floods). I bought the Diva Cup (like the Moon Cup) before I left NYC but it didn’t fit me well and wound up not packing it.

  2. I hope someday you compile your travel stories into a book. I have thought about this sort of thing when traveling to foreign countries…it is SO inconvenient, and you wonder what people who live there do on a regular basis! Ah, the trials and tribulations of being a woman. Don’t even get me started on trying to dry my hair.

    • Juno says:

      I like that idea. I just need to improve my writing & grammer to do so! 🙂 It was amazing how they go through the period every month, with the limited toilet situation. It was hot, I was sweaty, the road was bumpy and dirty… it was just a disaster. But it was good to see and realize how blessed I am to live ‘easier’ than them.
      For years, I was looking for a hairstyle that ‘look natural’ without any dryer or hair-iron, but still haven’t found yet. Oh, the womanhood!

  3. Kaylin says:

    Oh I feel your pain! Mine is regular now because of the birth control pill but when I was younger, it was so irregular and I never knew when it would come!! Terrible!
    Fortunately, I have been able to plan around mine pretty well. With the pill, you can just keep taking it instead of having an off week for period, and then you can skip one that month. But in my experience, it usually makes the next one worse! But if I have to do something important that week, I do that.

    • Juno says:

      Yeah, I hear you. I used to do the same but since I travel so much now I just let it go. Like you said, I experienced it was more painful next month when I managed few days. Our body is sensitive 🙂

  4. Natalie says:

    I love this post! It can be SO frustrating getting your period at an awkward moment when traveling. Where are the sanitary bins? Where are the sit down toilets? Where are the toilet doors?! So many things that just make everything so difficult! And then of course there is all the things that you have to turn down…I also had to turn down a camping trip just last month. I was supposed to go to the Rainforest camping with some of my Sri Lankan guy friends, but the toilet would simply have been the trees, and so obviously that just isn’t possible when you are on your period!

    And I totally sympathise with you about the long train/bus journeys on the awful, gut-wrenching first day of it when you just wish you were lying in your bed eating Tylanol and holding a hot water bottle to your stomach, but instead you are wedged inbetween chickens and children on a hot sweaty bus holding your breath for about 6 hours until you get a toilet pit stop in the middle of no where.

    I’ve been thinking about buying a mooncup….apparently it lasts longer than tampons and pads so you can leave it in for 12 hours or something. Obviously it doesn’t stop the cramps but it lessens the worry of having to nip to the toilet every few hours. Google it and see what you think. I wanted to get one before I came traveling but there was none being sold in Korea. I’m not sure I can get one where I am now either. But they do sell them internationally in bigger/richer countries like Thailand, Malaysia, etc.

    Anyway, thanks for sharing! Nice to hear I’m not the only one struggling with this! No one ever seems to talk about it!

    Natalie x

    • Thumbs up to the moon cup!

    • Juno says:

      Hey Natalie! Glad to hear from you! And you described way better than I did. 🙂 All the memories are coming back…. Not pretty! I didn’t mention about the squatting toilet; it’s relatively familiar thing for me as an Asian. But yes, it’s hard to control. Camping and period? No thank you. It’s okay for everything, but where the trash go? and certainly I don’t want to carry that trash around in my backpack for few days…
      I don’t really have bad cramps normally, but it can get worse in extensive travels, as you know.
      I think I’ve heard about mooncup, maybe I can get it while I’m in the US. I’m not so worried for next few months since I’ll be around ‘western’ countries, but might as well prepare for the future. 🙂

  5. Leslie says:

    I can totally relate to this post! Haha. I also had my lady time on an overnight bus through rural Laos, where the toilets had no running water. Not fun!

  6. expatkerri says:

    i appreciate the frankness of this post! i also have had the loooong train ride experience through China (my ride was from Jinan to Xi’an, but just as ugly), but I can’t even imagine being on that time of the month and doing the train ride. i might have kicked the guy playing “Backstreet’s Back” on repeat in the teeth. thanks for sharing your experience and thoughts as always juno 🙂

    • Juno says:

      Train ride in China is beyond imaginable. How can it be so bad? I like overnight buses and trains because I like the night view and I can save money for accommodation. But in China, I don’t want to do it ever again. For three months in China–my lifespan got shorter because of the stress!!

  7. I loved reading this post – you’ve been caught at some really awkward times! 🙂 Amazingly, I’ve always managed to travel to more remote places when I’ve been between those moments. However, this is more good luck than good management!
    Julia

    • Juno says:

      You’re right — this is about luck. Once my period came two days earlier when I was in China, so that landed on the perfect day of travel. Just simply bad luck. 🙂

  8. There are some women who embrace that time of the month – it reminds them that they are women, they get to embrace their womenhood, connect to Mother Earth and all that sh*t. Me? Not so much. It’s a frigging pain in the ass, especially when travelling.

    It’s even more of a pain in the ass when after having found the love-of-your-life (turns out she wasn’t) on the internet, you’re flying to the UK for 10 days to spend with her, your first meeting…..and it’s that THAT time of the month. Now, that’s inconvenient.

    So is being in the middle of the Northern Cape in a dry river bed, so is being on geological field camps in the middle of nowhere, so is being on a 17hour flight to NYC. Hysterectomy, anybody?

    P.S. A solution to the “tampons not sold here” problem that I use – http://www.mpowercup.co.za/

    • Juno says:

      Ouch! I hear your pain! Sorry about all the troubles that you’ve been through! It’s amazing how we all have this inconvenience experiences and it didn’t stop us to travel around. 🙂
      The the product is made in Cape Town? I’ve never thought about using one of those products… maybe I’ll look into it more. Thanks for the link! (No for the hysterectomy for me though :))

  9. Cristina says:

    three words: birth control pills! sure, they serve me exactly that purpose (married but not planning a baby yet) BUT they also allow me to play with the menstruation date. So yeah, I’ve “postponed” it during my last trip b/c i didn’t want to deal with it while flying. But I did pack tampons (just in case, you know). I can stock up on both pills & tampons b4 i leave , so it’s generally not an issue

    • Juno says:

      I stocked up some tampons before I left, but I couldn’t pack it for 6 months 🙂 I thought I could get it at a big western-chain supermarkets like Carrefour in China, but no. It just didn’t happen. Did you experience any differences when you postpone it with the pill? Sometimes I got worse cramps the next month. Maybe because I’m not used to it.

      • The joy about the moon-cup thing Juno is that you pack one item for 6 months, not 6 boxes of tampons. You don’t have to worry about shopping in the personal hygiene aisle any more.

  10. Giulia says:

    Oh yes that is something that we as female travelers always have to think of, before leaving to any destination.

    Last time I had the worst two days of my period I had to travel from Italy to London and then to the Caribbean, with a stopover in London and a total of 3 flights and a boat. Not cool!

    Also I had a 16 hours bus in the middle of the Egyptian desert once, with my unexpected period and not a single place to buy pads/tampons or anything. That was so bad!

    I know that being on the pill allows you to skip periods, I did it a couple of times but now I’m not on the pill anymore and I don’t want to start it again. I feel like the benefits are less than the potential damages!

    So I think we have to live with it… Even if it’s a real pain in the ass while travelling 🙁

    • Juno says:

      Ahh, that’s not good. How did you solve the problem at the desert? I’m sure you figured something out (after all, we have more than 10 years of experience…). I totally understand what you mean by less benefits than damages! It suits the purpose, but I don’t want to manipulate my hormone, not just yet.
      Hope it won’t happen in your next travel 🙂 For me too!

      • Giulia says:

        Well I asked around and got a pad from a fellow traveler, but I had to stay with that for the whole trip and you can imagine… Also we stopped at some point on the way, in the middle of the desert, but I am not sure you want to know about the squat toilet that has obviously NEVER been cleaned! Oh boy that was a hell of a trip.

        This time, for my Middle East trip I will leave right after my period so that I can stay without for most of it – I will get it again when I am in Egypt with all my comforts. 🙂

  11. Meaghan says:

    Squat holes + The Devils Curse = The worst nightmare

    Just imagine when you’re backpacking with 3 other women. You all sync up and then descend upon your hostel like 4 horrible PMS ridden zombies!

  12. Alexandra says:

    I love this post! Not enough of us talk about the ugliness of traveling long term! Sometimes these kind of incidents occur but to have them every month for 6I’m thinking you did something very very bad in a past life 😉

  13. Oh Juno! I, too, feel your pain. Literally! It’s always a long haul flight or a trip to the beach.

    I used to do what many of the other readers do… take birth control pills and skip a period. That’s OK for short vacations but for long term travel it doesn’t work. Also, now that I’m a mother that’s not really an option for me.

    Mostly just the case of grin and bare it. I’ve got a week at the beach in the Perenthians, Malaysia coming up this month. Of course what other week would that co-incide with!!!

    • Juno says:

      Grin and bare it; exactly. We have ways to enjoy beach even when we are having periods (cheers to tampons) but still it’s not fun, at all. I think the biggest issue is that our body feels different at that time of the month. Little more sensitive and get tired easily. Just not feel 100% me. But that’s just what it is. 😉

  14. The things us ladies have to think about, hey! I’ve been lucky that I can control it with the pill, and go for a couple of months without mother nature deciding to make travelling a pain in the arse. And am now having discussions with other tyravel girlies about these cup things. I am going on the road indefinately and I can’t be dealing with the stress of finding solutions and not being able to deal with the monthly hand of inconvenience we are dealt with. Hope your back luck in timing changes!!! 🙂

    • Juno says:

      Apparently there are many female travelers using Mooncup! I have no idea how to use and how convenient it is, but it could be a great solution. I’m not a fan of the pill, I used it several times but that’s not a good solution for the long term travel; every time would be inconvenient.
      Hope you find a good solution, and if you do, please share! 🙂

  15. Emilia says:

    While not a long-term traveler (the max time in my trips is 3 weeks), I can totally relate to what you have been through, Juno. It can be really frustrating, such bad coincidences! I never tried the mooncup, but I’ve been thinking about it and maybe for you it’ll be the best option. Anyway, I’m hoping you’ll have a change for next periods 🙂
    Since we’re talking about women’s health, I just wanted to share my worries about birth control pills plus long plane trips. I was very frightened last year as I had trombosis (I’m 35, not the most common age for them, I’m not a smoker or overweight). It wasn’t probably due to long plane trips, as it was almost 2 months since I had one, (or for genetic reasons, as I researched for them), so what was left was only the pills. Now I make a point to wear compression stockings whenever I travel, I was told by my doctor that they’re still the best way to avoid the clogs in plane trips (I also apply enoxaparin shots before them, but that’s my case) .
    Sorry for the long explanation, but only a reminder for the frequent traveler women out there, especially those who take pills: stockings can be friends 🙂
    A big kiss for you.

    • Juno says:

      Thanks for sharing your stories and giving us a great tip! I’ve heard about stockings in the airplane. I’ve never thought about it though. Didn’t know the pills can cause that!
      Also I’ve never tried mooncup, and it’s a little scary to think about it. (It looks like a size of a little baby!! — maybe smaller but still) But since I’m in the US now maybe I can get a hold of it pretty easily. I’ll be on the road for this time of the month, just hopefully not the long and extended travel day!

  16. Ele says:

    I see you already discuss the moon cup. However, after reading the instructions I think I will never manage to put it inside of me without a surgeon slash car mechanic help. I always carry tampons but the problem is I need the ones with applicator, which is a challenge to find even in my country. And I always pack stuff even if I don’t have my days coming because travel, fatigue and stress can result in a nasty way. But another thing is the pain!

  17. Bryony says:

    I did the overland 6 day trek in Tasmania on my period, only drop pit toilets and freezing water (atleast we had water). Soooo not cool. The trip itself was great though. 🙂

    • Juno says:

      Freezing water! Yeah, drop pit toilets are not so cool for the ladies. I like the squat ones; since it’s healthier for humans, but not when I’m having a lady business!

  18. Priya says:

    Uh, the time of the month… I’m not a full-time traveler- um, I’m not even a part-time one… but I can imagine how uncomfortable it must be to hop from place to place and then boom… it’s time again. and not having the proper toilet at that. blah. I personally have some non-travel-period-related-experiences that I won’t really go into because it will take some time to explain. Basically, I grew up in a “traditional / cultural home” where there were rules to how a girl was treated when she was on her period. and it took me a long time to understand that I disagreed with these traditions.

    Anyway, I can relate, since I’m a girl. Haha.

  19. jess says:

    i nearly cried 2 weeks ago. my period came on the day i left for my 2 weeks trip. i traveled with tour so i change country throughout europe almost on a daily basis with bus journey that last for hours. DAILY!!!

    anw it was my first long trip [considering my longest trip thus far is 1 week, 2 weeks is doubled for me given im not a frequent traveller.]
    so yes, it was horrible. i nearly cried bcuz i didnt eat my delaying period pills on time. [plus if i did, delaying for 2 weeks is no kidding.] but did it really had to be on the day i leave? 🙁 end up i rushed into my room and grabbed my pads, then unlock my luggage and packed it in. [well i had my pills ready and wanted to delay it till i come back, but when i was about to leave house for the airport i felt it, thou i had ate the pill in the morning.] doc told me i am supposed to eat 3 days before due, but i was working up to the day before travelling so i didnt have time to go get the pills.
    anw it was a bad experience and all i can say is, when i travel, i hate it that im a girl. cause periods really spoils the trip! for me that is.
    i dont even like being on period when im in my own country or home! you worry about leaks and everything, i dotn even get proper sleep as i worry abt it day and night. sighhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh

  20. Vera says:

    Was never bothered by the ladies’ stuff much, anyway, but ten years ago, I found out about ‘Mirena’, a hormonal intrauterine device (IUD) that’s inserted into the uterus for long-term birth control (it lasts five years, but can be taken out at any time before that). It has the lowest hormone concentration released, is about as safe as sterilization concerning contraception, and I haven’t had one single period in the last ten years. Latter is not necessarily a given, though: they only claim it weakens periods. And not every woman feels comfortable with having no period at all, anyway, but for me, the whole thing was and is complete awesomeness -I’d wear T-shirts to advertise for Mirena:)!! So while I totally get that it is not for everyone, I still like women to know that it exists. It’s convenient because of the contraception, and that is what it is mainly marketed for, I think, but I wasn’t in a relation-ship for most of these ten years and just enjoyed the fact that I never had to plan around or cancel anything due to my period. AND the thing basically payed for itself – I just took the money I would have spent on five years of tampons etc. and used it all at once. So that’s my take on that topic -and yeah, I am not on the ‘Tampon-Team’ anymore, but I hope you didn’t mind me commenting;)

    • Juno says:

      Hey Vera, thanks for commenting and sharing your experience. Maybe this is just a conventional thinking; but what I’ve educated for whole my life is that period is an important factor to measure women’s health. Like, having a regular cycle is important, that sort of thing. But everything’s changing, right? 🙂 I’m not sure how IUD scientifically works, how that blocks having period, but I guess I just don’t know it yet! You’re right, tampons are expensive. Thanks for sharing! I’ll keep an eye on ‘Mirena’. 🙂

  21. […] all know what that means, don’t you, ladies? Monthly crankiness is […]

  22. […] all know what that means, don’t you, ladies? Monthly crankiness is […]

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