Toilets, Love, and the Traveling Writer

It’s the journey of a lifetime: a six week sabbatical spanning Indonesia. After the tactful suggestion by my partner to bring only as much as I can carry on my back, it hits me: this trip is not the order-room service-and-sit-by-the-pool kind of trip. No, this is more of the muddy shoe-mosquito net-you-think-I-have-malaria kind of trip. No gauzy white curtains blowing through our palm-fanned bungalow. No swim up bar with white canvas beach beds. No blow dryers, no flat irons. No heels.

A new experience no doubt. Sure, I’ve roughed it before. Back in 2004 I took a surf trip to Costa Rica where friends and I stayed at the trendy eco-friendly (read: gringo) hotel, complete with cement rooms and giant hairy spiders as our silent wake up callers. But we had hot water and outlets, and now, I can’t help but wonder if this exotic excursion is going to push my city girl sensibilities to their breaking point. I can live without heels, and even makeup (I think?), but not showers. And toilets. There are toilets in the Javanese jungle, right? I have to draw a line somewhere.

We’re both global travelers, but my partner, Martin*, is what we call a Rugged Traveler. Before we met, he traveled the globe for eight months, mostly by motorcycle, holing up in dingy hostels and subsisting on local street food. He hiked mountains in India and built ferocious, roaring campfires using nothing but wet toothpicks and a broken shoelace. (Okay I made that last part up but you get my point.) Now, I’m not saying that’s not how I roll; I’ve just never rolled that way before.

I’m trying to frame the enterprise as a way to conquer a few fears: fears of uncertainty, intimacy, and caffeine withdrawal (as there will be no Phil’z coffee I am quite certain.) Because this trip will be a test in several ways. Can I travel—and enjoy, I mean truly enjoy—vacationing without my basic creature comforts? And what about us? Six weeks is a long span for a couple who are accustomed to two very different modes of vacationing. Will we bicker, spending so much time together, alone, in a culture we’re both wholly unfamiliar with, or will the experience bring us closer together? Will he object when we get to Bali and I suggest (read: insist on) a much-deserved spa day at the zen retreat I’ve already researched, mapped, and selected massage treatments at? I mean, after weeks of muddy sneakers and street side noodle bowls, a girl should be able to have one measly salt scrub at a hotel, right? With gauzy white curtains in a palm-fanned bungalow. And those curtains had better be blowing.

* Not his real name… he insisted I use Martin. I think I embarrass him…

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