Gentlemen, cover your eyes (or if you’re evolved and cool with learning about women’s issues, read on, gentlemen, read on)! This post is about something many women know all too much about: traveling with gremlins, those pesky monsters that lurk in your uterus, stabbing you monthly as a friendly reminder that they’re alive and well.
I’m talking about traveling on your period. More specifically, this is about traveling with endometriosis and needing something better than tampons.
Truthfully, it never occurred to me that my cycles were different than other women’s. I thought that every woman dealt with 7-8 days of bleeding. I was certain that we were all bonded by the struggle of bleeding through super absorbent tampons in under an hour. I was positive that we had all fainted from the pain before, or that everyone spent at least two days curled up in the fetal position, unable to stand up straight.
It wasn’t until my own wife finally said, “You know this isn’t normal, right?” Cue light bulb! It’s now been several year since my gynecologist educated me on endometriosis. I’ve since found a non-invasive daily routine that helps qualm my symptoms, including acupuncture, daily progesterone cream, and even a moxa stick. Bring on the holistic health!
Cue new challenge when we left the US. Ten years ago, when I was a high school student living in Eastern Europe, tampons and pads were extremely pricey. I was worried that we’d break the bank with the millions of tampons I tended to go through each month.
It was only out of sheer panic and hundreds of YouTube videos from teenagers across the globe (thank you, brave, open minded teenagers, whoever you are) that I decided to buy a Diva Cup before traveling abroad.
Let’s backtrack and get some facts straight. On average, women flow between 1 to 2 ounces throughout their entire period. A woman with endometriosis bleeds about 1 ounce every four hours. The average tampon holds about 0.17 ounces. No wonder I used to get up several times a night to run to the bathroom!
The Diva cup holds 1 fluid ounce – even on my heaviest days, I only need to check it every 4 – 6 hours. On my more regular days, I’m good for 10 hours or so. Towards the end of my cycle, I can go 12 hours. No more sacrificing underwear to the Period Gods. No more changing sheets nightly. No more worrying about lining my purse with 20 tampons before heading out the door for work or errands.
Now back to travel. Prior to the cup, I seldom left the house on my first 2 days of my cycle. Just before we landed in Spain (May 2015), the first country on our long nomadic list, I had visions of me standing in the middle of the Sagrada Familia, crying as I struggled to find a bathroom if I needed a quick change. I can feel you rolling your eyes through this blog, but at age 28, that did happen to me in the middle of the Mandalay Bay. You try running from the pool, through the mile wide lobby to get to your hotel room with blood running down your legs. Vegas, baby!
The cup changed all that. I can now be a worry free tourist even on my heaviest days, knowing that I have at least 4 hours worth of sightseeing before needing to find a restroom. I no longer cancel outdoorsy plans on my cycle – I can confidently go on a half day hike without worrying about logistics. I can book a window seat on a 10+ hour flight without worrying about disturbing my seat mate every other hour. Let that sync in for a moment: travel without worrying about product changes is a beautiful thing.
Other positives I’ve noticed? The cup is obviously a very visual tool, but it allows me to track changes in my flow. I never thought I’d say this before, but I feel empowered by a cup. Diva Cup recommends that you buy a new cup every 10 years. Listen. Do you hear that? That’s the sound of my bank account thanking me for the hundreds of dollars in savings. The final kicker (and take this with a grain of salt as this is just my own experience) but my cramps are less severe with the cup. I’m not sure why, or what it is about the cup, but my cramps are a fraction of what they used to be with tampons or pads.
If you’re an avid traveler (or heck, a woman looking for a change), I highly recommend the Diva Cup. Go ahead and book that overnight bus with no restroom stops between countries. Camping on a glacier? No problem. Trekking 10 miles through a new city? You’ve got this.
In my head, the gremlins in my uterus no longer look like the terrifying monsters from the 1984 cult classic by the same name, but now take after Gizmo. That’s right, the cup turned my uterus into Gizmo.
And for you lady travelers, here’s a fun infographic about how to talk about your period when you’re abroad: