Toilet anxiety: how to just let it go.



It happens to the best of us: we arrive at a new destination but soon our dream holiday or adventure is marred by the fact we don’t like the local loos and – worse than that – can’t seem to go! It’s called toilet anxiety and it’s the pits, but we’ve compiled some tips and tricks to help get things flowing again.

Let’s face it: toilet chat and bowel movements can be a divisive topic. But the bottom line (pun definitely intended) is that whether you call it the dunny, the loo, the lady’s room or the crapper, the toilet is something we all use. Where it sometimes becomes an issue is when you have to use someone else’s commode, far from the comforts of your own home. Simply put: not my loo – won’t poo. No matter what your normal toilet habits are, they often disappear as soon as you touch down on foreign soil causing, at the very least, mild frustration and at worst, severe discomfort. But you needn’t hang your head in shame or embarrassment – rest assured, this happens to almost every traveller at some point and there are ways to combat it so you can enjoy a less blocked-up holiday or adventure.

So, let’s take a walk through some of the causes of toilet anxiety – and how to cope with them:


Flying dries you out.

Flying can seriously throw things out of whack. Not only are you stuck inside a pressurized tin can flying through the air at speeds of 700 to 900 kilometers per hour, up to 38,000 feet off the ground, but you could be travelling through multiple time zones and even arriving the day after you left home. If that doesn’t confuse the heck out of your body, I don’t know what will! Those factors alone can put pressure on your organs and regular bodily functions, leaving you feeling blocked up, not to mention super dehydrated. And what happens when we are super dehydrated? We stop pooping, that’s what! Not to mention those airplane toilets are more than a little pesky to use. No one wants to spend ten minutes sitting on the loo when there’s other passengers waiting – and if you’re anything like me, you really don’t want to be stuck in there if there’s turbulence!

How to deal with it: It’s actually super simple. Drink, drink, drink! Yes, a wine or two on board a long haul flight is a nice way to relax, but your main focus whilst up in the air should be good old H2O. Take up the offer every time the cabin crew come around with the water jug – or better yet: take your own reusable bottle on-board and have them fill it for you throughout the flight.




Going to the loo is not your top priority.

With everything you need to take care of upon first arriving in a foreign country – getting through customs, collecting your baggage, sussing out the transport system, fumbling your way through the local language to check into your hotel, figuring out what the hell the time is and whether you should eat dinner or breakfast or just go to bed – it’s no wonder that a trip to the loo finds its way down to the bottom of the priority list. Before you know it, a day has passed and you’ve not yet seen the inside of a toilet cubicle.

How to deal with it: Don’t hold on! When you do get the urge to go, GO! Keep your water bottle topped up (with safe drinking water) to keep everything flowing as much as possible. If you’re in a hot environment, consider using rehydration sachets in your water, to replace the much-needed salts and minerals you are likely sweating out as you rush around in the sun or humidity.

The food is not your norm.

In New Zealand we have a pretty typical Western diet, so enjoying the local cuisine in faraway lands can sometimes upset the system, so to speak. Some cultures include far less fresh fruit and vegetables in their diet (I don’t remember seeing a single green vegetable on my travels through Central America) and may rely heavily on rice and starchy foods instead. Adjusting to a new diet can take a while and in the interim, may press pause on your digestive system.

How to deal with it: If you know you’re susceptible to ‘blocking up’ when you switch to a new diet, try to seek out fresh fruit and vegetables – markets are a great place to find these – to get that all-important fiber flowing through your system. Avoid heavy, fried foods – at least to begin with – and opt for lighter meals. Always drink water before a meal, and hold off on super sugary, dehydrating drinks that will only make constipation and bloating worse. Top tip: make sure all fruit and veggies are washed in safe drinking water before you consume them.



You just don’t like the dunnies!

Loos are different everywhere you go. Ok, so most western countries share the same style of potty – that of the white, porcelain variety with a roll of toilet paper to one side and a sink and hand soap on the other – but even so, I’ve come across my fair share of bidets, squat toilets and ‘no paper down the loo!’ rules in France, Italy and Greece too. Let’s just say – squat toilets on a ski field 1800m above sea level require some tricky manoeuvres when you’re dressed head to toe in alpine gear! It’s no wonder some people hold off going all day, especially when you consider the loos in places such as South East Asia, Central and South America, and India. For one thing, most of these facilities have such delicate plumbing that flushing anything other than human waste down the pipes can result in catastrophe – and if your toilet anxiety is already at an all-time high, that’s the very last thing you want.

How to deal with it: Face the facts: when you’ve got to go, you’ve got to go. Sure, you can hold on until you come across a “nice-looking” café or restaurant – but what if you don’t find one? The agony of holding on is much worse than just (wo)manning up and getting the job done. Fears and anxieties become a whole lot more manageable if you can be prepared, so combat any toilet worries by researching what sort of loos you can expect in the country you’re visiting; carry tissues, toilet paper and/or biodegradable wet wipes in your day pack, along with hand sanitizer; learn how to ask where the nearest toilet is, in the local language; and RELAX – remember: every human being on the planet poops!



Toilets are few and far between.

The thought of not being able to find a toilet when you’re travelling, can add unnecessary stress which in turn means your digestive system comes to a halt. Long, overnight bus rides and all-day boat trips both pose the question: but what if I need the loo?

How to deal with it: Find out ahead of time whether your bus or boat has a loo. If not (or if you can’t find out beforehand), learning the local terminology for “I need the bathroom” will be a huge help. Most bus or taxis drivers will pull over at the next available place to stop and if you’re in luck – there might be an actual toilet there! If not, be prepared to find a tree or building to ‘pop a squat’ behind. I’m not condoning public peeing or pooping, but again – if you have to go, it’s best not to hold on. Most boats have toilets on board, however smaller boats and water taxis do not. Try to use the loo before boarding and book shorter trips if you know it’s going to be difficult for you to be without a toilet for any length of time.


When the only option is to go outdoors.

Toilet-ing in public is a big no-no pretty much everywhere in the world, but sometimes out in nature – for example, when hiking or on safari – it’s the only option. Being prepared is crucial, so BYO paper and hand sanitizer, but most importantly – leave nothing behind but human waste.

How to deal with it: Check your surroundings before you go. Are you in a location that is frequented by picnic-goers and sightseers? If so, maybe choose a less popular spot. Is there a steep drop off, lose ground or stinging nettles right where you plan to go potty? Choose somewhere stable and safe – the last thing you want is to disappear off the edge of a cliff all in the name of popping a squat. On that note – check that there is no wildlife nearby. New Zealand may be safe in that respect, but other countries are not. Bears, mountain lions, buffalo and monkeys, to name a few, are territorial and will react defensively if they feel threatened. I had an interesting experience taking a ‘bush pee’ in Africa, where I couldn’t help but sense eyes on me as I did my business. When we checked our motion-sensor cameras the next day, we discovered a big female leopard had wandered past and checked out my pee spot, pretty much just after we’d driven off! My guide explained that she may have sniffed out my pee and gone to check out whether it was a threat or not. Yikes!

It’s important to remember, in any travel toilet situation you find yourself in, it’s likely someone else has been there before you – both literally and figuratively. We’re all human and the sooner you can accept that using the loo while you’re on your latest adventure is par for the course, the better. Happy travel pooping!




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Kerrie Morgan is a content writer, copywriter and sub editor, passionate about travel and sharing her travel experiences.

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