I’m baaaack! I know it’s been radio silence for a long time on this travel blog, but that’s because Lionel and I haven’t been traveling. We’ve been settled on Koh Tao now for a while. This month was actually our 5 year anniversary of starting our PADI Open Water scuba diving course. In December this year, it’ll be our 5 years of actually living and working on Koh Tao as dive professionals! Crazy how fast the time has gone.
I’ve slithered back out of the water that is now my home to talk about something that has radically changed my life recently. The thing that I believe is an essential item to pack for any backpacking girl, especially around SE Asia.
The Essential Item to Pack for Traveling is…
The menstrual cup.
Odd item I know, especially for the men reading, but one of the things that I really wish I had packed when I first started backpacking around SE Asia. One day I swear I’ll make a packing list post. Things I wish I had brought, and things that I wish I hadn’t!
What is a Menstrual Cup?
A menstrual cup is a feminine hygiene product. It is used for when you’re on your period. It is a little cup that is inserted like a tampon. This cup then collects your menstrual blood before it leaves the body.
Why I Switched to a Menstrual Cup
I’ve been wanting to try one for about a year. Especially after we watched a bunch of Netflix eco docos. Lionel and I had tried becoming vegans for the environment and the poor animals. But we failed, so we became ‘Flexitarians.’ This is where we occasionally eat meat and fish but try to limit our consumption.
We’ve actually been doing so well that we haven’t cooked meat or fish for about 6 months. For example, I’ll try to go for the Tofu fried rice instead of pork or chicken. Though once in a while, we’ll have a tasty proper Spag Bol when we’re out.
The Environmental Concerns
Anyway, these terrifying but really informative documentaries made an impact. This led us to be more conscious of our waste and our habits. Especially when you live on a small island in the Gulf of Thailand, and you dive in the ocean every day. You end up seeing first hand the impact of plastic consumption and waste that end up in the sea.
Plastic Waste Everywhere
In Thailand, and most of the SE Asian countries, we see locals and foreigners walking into a minimart or a 7-11. They walk out with a can of cola in a plastic bag, with a plastic straw, wrapped in plastic.
When partiers are on the beach drinking ‘buckets’ (literally a bucket with alcohol and mixer), there are usually eight straws so everyone can share. But after 20 minutes those straws and buckets usually end up on the floor. Slowly winding down to the beach. Then washed out to the ocean. Major sadface. Won’t someone think of the turtles?
Small Things to Help Reduce Our Waste
So, we tried to be a bit more proactive in our habits. Taking a canvas bag when food shopping. Filling up our metal drinking canister with water. Using bar soap instead of liquid soap. Making a small compost garden for waste etc. That’s about when I discovered the menstrual cup.
Now the menstrual cup is a great idea. Apparently, it’s been around since like the 1930s before the wars started. But then production of these cups was halted, due to more important productions like guns I guess…
With years of marketing and advertising going into tampons and pads. Menstrual cups were not a hugely successful concept until more recently. When more people wanted to go eco-friendly, and were more aware of waste and trying to find ways of helping our planet. This is exactly me.
My personal reasons for switching to a menstrual cup
- Because I didn’t want to keep spending hundreds of baht on tampons and pads.
- I want to reduce my waste on this island, and on this planet!
- Diving with your period on a boat is a hassle. It’s hard to change your tampon and discreetly dispose of it properly.
- I also wanted a menstrual cup, because it sounded cool, and was the new IT thing!
Getting my hands on a Menstrual Cup
But unfortunately, getting a menstrual cup was quite difficult on this small island. Any of the girls who did use one (and the number of female divers using them that I know of is still quite low), got theirs when they traveled home. Also, with so many different brands and sizes, how would I know which one was best for me?
I checked out the Lazada website, where you can buy super cheap products and have them sent to Koh Tao with cash on delivery. But most of the objects are made and shipped from China, and I really wanted a ‘proper’ one that’s been tested, and approved, and safe for my body.
Presents from Mum & Dad
Luckily, this year, my lovely parents came to visit me from Oz to see where I’ve disappeared to for 5 years! So as my Christmas present (cos, treat yo-self) I bought a bunch of stuff that I wanted/needed etc. and got it sent to Mum, so she could bring it over in February.
I ordered a bunch of bikinis for work, a hoody (for the cold monsoon months), bio-degradable sunscreen (see, I am trying to be more eco-friendly!), and of course, the menstrual cup!
How did I choose which menstrual cup?
I did a bunch of research, and going with the fact that I was ‘just’ under 30, hadn’t gone through childbirth etc, I went with a smaller size. I also went with an Australian made menstrual cup, the JuJu cup. At $50 AUD, it was a little pricey. But I expected that, and this will easily pay itself off considering I don’t have to buy tampons and pads each month now.
The Initial Fear
I was worried about getting my period on a diving liveaboard trip that we had booked to do in Myanmar. A liveaboard is where you live on the boat, you sleep, dive, eat, sleep, dive, eat, repeat for several days, with four dives a day!
Because of the liveaboard, I didn’t want to have to be concerned with my period while on a shared boat with shared bathrooms. Luckily my period happened the week before so I could try the menstrual cup out for the first time.
What a Game Changer.
My First Experience with the Menstrual Cup
It took a little while to get the hang of using the menstrual cup, I won’t go into details, (but you can get more info using menstrual cups here) but there was about 40 minutes where I thought I had ‘lost’ it. Scariest 40 minutes of my life…. thank you google. But once I got it, and knew how to use it, clean it, etc. then it was amazing. It’s even better in Thailand, and SE Asia, because all of the toilets have a bum gun, which I can use to clean the menstrual cup each time.
It is working so far and it hasn’t leaked which is super lucky. Using it on the diving boat was super easy. Just popped into the marine toilet on the boat, removed it, tipped it out, reinsert, done. There was no ‘pressure squeeze’ or anything crazy, even when I went down to 40 metres, or swam upside down.
The best thing is that once I felt comfortable with it, I would leave it in for about 8 hours (a standard work day), and completely forget about it until I came home and had a shower. You can also sleep with it in (unlike a tampon)
All in all, transitioning to a menstrual cup was pretty easy. I’m kicking myself for not having tried it earlier. Feminine hygiene products were sometimes difficult to find. In rural Laos, they weren’t so easy to source. When I went on three-day hikes in the jungle in Thailand, how do you safely dispose of your used products…? Toilets aren’t readily available in the jungles of Vietnam while motorbiking. I know now that backpacking would have been much easier with a menstrual cup.
If you haven’t already, then I highly highly highly recommend trying a menstrual cup out. It honestly makes your life easier, and of course, saves the environment! Win win!
If you’re unsure of which menstrual cup to get or why you should definitely, maybe, for sure, consider the switch, check these out!