The exams you studied so hard for are finally over, which also signifies the end of your schooling career. Your bags are packed and you're ready to jet off to some exotic destination for your graduation trip. But wait... your period's scheduled to come while you're overseas. Did you remember to pack your sanitary pads and tampons? Have you thought of how you're going to deal with your period when you're on a long bus ride or having fun by the beach? Here's how I managed my period while on a 2-month long grad trip around Southeast Asia (Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos and Thailand).
"Hole in the ground" kind of toilet.
Dealing with Unfriendly Toilets
The countries we were visiting aren't exactly known for great toilets. Most of developing Southeast Asia still uses squat toilets. At rural villages, the toilets were nothing more than a hole in the ground with four walls built around it. I tried to avoid emptying my cup in these toilets. Since the cup has greater capacity than tampons and even some pads, I was able to get away with this a few times. (From experience, I know I need to empty my cup every 6 hours on the first few days.) In cases where I had to empty the cup or risk leaking, I used drinking water from my water bottle to rinse out the cup after removing it. Tap water in these countries may not be as clean as Singapore's tap water, so I didn't want to risk it.
I didn't have to think about where to dispose of soiled sanitary pads, since most of these toilets didn't have a bin. Plus, the cup was way more comfortable.
On an overnight sleeper bus.
Long Bus / Train Rides
As we covered the entire route on land, there were numerous long bus and train rides involved. For overnight bus rides between cities, I used my cup along with a disposable pad (for convenience's sake since we were travelling) as I knew my cup would leak past 6 hours. I didn't want to use the bus' toilet while the bus was moving, and it was really dirty and smelly.
Kayaking at Halong Bay.
We swam and kayaked at Halong Bay, visited a hot spring, went to Nha Trang Beach, waded in waterfalls in Laos, took a boat ride through Kong Lor Caves. All these would entail getting wet to some degree. If I wore a pad, it would get soaked through with water and make it super uncomfortable to walk around and do other activities, since we usually went out for the full day. The water wasn't exactly clean as well. Tampons would work, but I would have to keep going to the toilet to change them as their capacity wasn't as high as a menstrual cup. Once again, using a cup works great for water activities. Plus I could wear a bikini bottom without any strings peeking out!
Trekking in Phongsali, Laos.
Our itinerary involved some trekking in forests, where it was even hotter and more humid than usual. Disposable pads would chafe and cause abrasion on my inner thighs, so they were out of the question. I could use a tampon but where would I throw it? (Definitely not in the middle of the forest!) My hands were also full of dirt from trekking, and wiping sweat off my brow. Definitely don't want anything to do with touching the vagina, same theory as how you don't use dirty hands to wear contact lenses. Luckily, the cup with its higher capacity lasted me the day's trek. Though if I was on the first few heavy days of my period, it would probably have leaked.
Walking around somewhere in Vietnam.
Day to Day
Of course, not every day was filled with long rides or water activities. On the days where nothing too exciting was planned, I still used my menstrual cup. Our itinerary involved a lot of walking (what better way to explore?), but I did not have to keep disrupting the itinerary by looking for a toilet to change a tampon. Unlike Singapore, there were few public toilets around. With the cup's higher capacity, I was able to go out the entire afternoon without having to empty it, only doing so when we returned to our guesthouse in the evening.
I did use disposable pads a few times when the situation called for it. You may be asking, why not cloth pads? Well, our itinerary was planned such that we only spent a few days at each place, and there might not be enough time to wash and dry cloth pads. Plus, I still had disposable supplies to be used up. Why throw them away unnecessarily without having used them? Of course, I would think that cloth pads would be a more comfortable choice, if you are able to wash them while travelling.
Using a menstrual cup has helped me stay really clean and comfortable during my period even while travelling, especially to countries where sanitary infrastructure is not the best. Sometimes, I even forgot I was having my period! It also gave me a lot more freedom in terms of the activities I could join in, such as water activities. Really thankful for my cup!