We all know that feeling. When you wake in the middle of the night and have to pee so badly it hurts. But it’s so warm under the covers and the bathroom seems so far away. You try your hardest to go back to sleep, but you just can’t, so you fumble your way in the dark and then maybe fall partially off the toilet seat because it’s dark and you’re half asleep (here’s looking at you, Ladies. We’ve all been there). But once you’re back under the blankets it seems worth the effort because now you can go back to sleep. That’s a good feeling, isn’t it? Yeah. Don’t ever take that feeling for granted. Peeing in the middle of the night when you live in the back of a Jeep ain’t so easy, my friends.
A question I get asked repeatedly, always by females, is where I pee while living in my Jeep. It’s natural to be curious because there clearly is not a toilet in my vehicle, and let’s be honest – peeing is more of an ordeal for women than it is for men. Always has been, always will be.
Part of the truth is that I’ve become accustomed to using the toilet every time I stop for gas while on a road trip (I drive a gas-guzzling V8 4x4 – I stop often) even if I don’t have to go. I usually have an idea in my mind of how much longer I’m going to drive for and about an hour from that waypoint, I stop drinking all liquids and then find a public toilet right before I pull over for the night. It’s a pain in the ass that sometimes takes some strategic planning, and often backfires on me at 3am when I still wake up and have to pee.
Clearly, the course of action you take depends on where you’re parked. Sometimes it’s just not possible to get out of the car and squat, but even when it is, you still have to crawl out of the car and squat. Did I mention that it rained all…damn…summer in Seward, Alaska when I was living in the Jeep? So you can imagine how awesome it was to put on my boots and raincoat and then drop my pants in the cold, rainy Alaska environment (was that a bear rustling in the bushes?! Or a creepy dude?! Which one is worse…??).
But if you’re parked in a place where no one is going to see your full moon (and other bits) then let ‘em drop, Sister.
But then there was that one time, when I woke up in the middle of the night in the back of a van parked downtown and really (like, really) had to pee. I lay there, and tossed and turned, and tried to ignore it, but I couldn’t. (Sorry you’re about to read this, Mom…) The dude next to me was asleep on my dress and no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t wake him up or even roll him over enough to get my dress out from underneath him (I wish I could sleep like a guy). So I laid there a bit longer trying to figure out the appropriate and lady-like thing to do, but my mind was clouded with visions of sweet relief. So I crawled over the top of him, put on my Xtratuf boots and cracked the door of the van to peer outside. When I was positive that Seward was sleeping soundly and that no stray kayak guides would come wandering past the van on their way out of the Yukon Bar, I jumped outside and squatted over the dark asphalt of Fourth Ave.
Naked. Wearing Xtratuf boots. You gotta love Alaska.
The other part of that truth is something I’ve only ever admitted to one person (sorry, Corbin). Sometimes you simply cannot get out of the car to pee in the middle of the night. Clearly I’m not going to squat in the middle of a hotel parking lot when nature calls, and sometimes I’m parked in sketchy places, like that one 24-hour gas station along the Alcan Highway. So what do I do? You probably will be revolted by my answer…
I pee in a travel mug and pour it out the window. And yes, Ladies – it’s as challenging as it sounds.
I’ll never forget the very first conversation I had with my nomad friend, Ashley. We were standing on the street outside the Yukon bar in Seward talking about how we both live in our cars and the challenges we face being female, such as the inconvenience of peeing. She laughed as she threw one leg up in the air, mimicked holding a cup to her crotch, and said “people would be horrified if they knew I pissed in a travel mug!”
She’s been one of my favorite people ever since. I thought I was the only one.
It’s a harsh truth, though – when your options are either getting out of the car and risking exposing yourself (in more ways than one) to men who aren’t gentlemen or pissing in a cup, well…which would you choose? So my advice is to always carry a roll of toilet paper (don’t litter!), a travel mug with a wide opening (you feel me, girls) and to be very careful not to spill.
While I’m driving, I avoid rest areas as much as possible and go for fast food restaurants and gas stations. The miles between McDonald’s is never too great so pull over when you see those golden arches. The only way I’ll stop at a rest area is if it’s broad daylight and there’s lots of cars and people. Like I said in Part I – minivans are good (this is the only time minivan’s are good…).
What about number two, you ask? Don’t do it outside. Ever. That’s disgusting and rude. Remember how pissed off you were the last time you stepped in dog crap? Now imagine if it had been human crap. Know your body, and find a public toilet. Or carry what we outdoor guides call a ‘wag bag’. Yes, it’s a bag you shit in.
The price I pay for not being a trust-fund baby and living in a pimped-out Sprinter or VW Westfalia is that my vehicle (i.e. my home) doesn’t have a toilet or a shower (or a sink, or a fridge, or a stove). Marina showers and lots of quarters are a nomad’s best friend. I hoard quarters like they’re going out of style (sorry, barista – your tip will be in all nickels and dimes). However, I was fortunate in Seward. Once I began working at the Sea Bean Café they gave me full access to the shower in the staff house (I’m sure it was more out of pity for the customers I waited on). Once a week, I was able to wash my sins away in the tiny little box of a shower in the bathroom with no locking door. It was my favorite part of the week. The joke among the homeless kids of Seward was “how long has it been since you showered?”, or “how long has it been since you brushed your teeth in a sink?”.
But you know what? It makes us tough. We now know that we can handle anything that life decides to throw our way. We’ve been challenged, and we’ve prevailed. We will always prevail, no matter how difficult things are. The nomadic lifestyle builds character; it humbles us and ensures that we appreciate every damn thing we have. I don’t know of a single nomad who would trade it for the nicest house on the biggest hill with the greatest view of the ocean.
Stayed tuned for Part III – I think it might be about how to find seasonal jobs, but I’m not sure yet :)