My very serious guide to the nomadic beauty routine

Since some people have commented on this glorious bronze glow I’ve obtained while traveling through Central America, I thought I’d share my beauty secrets for achieving radiance and staying glamorous while on the move.

Repeat at your own risk.


Shower (but not too much). One pervasive theory suggests that regularly bathing yourself with water and soap is a good way to, you know, remove sweat and dirt. But that theory doesn’t know sh*t about ice cold water lines, and cockroach-lined walls. So resort to this option only when you start to wonder who in the room smells so bad and then realize you’re the only person in the room. When the time comes, here is the proper protocol:

  1. Do some jumping jacks. Maybe some pushups. You’re going to want to be sweating going in to this. Bonus: this will help keep you #lean and #fit.
  2. Scream as you walk into the shower. This is akin to breathing out while lifting weights or biting down on something while digging out a splinter. You’re acknowledging that this is going to suck and you’re proactively dealing with it.
  3. Find some 3-in-1 action. This is no place for multiple steps. This is a war zone. Forget the conditioner; forget the loofah full of body wash. You’ve got time for one substance — it doesn’t matter if it’s supposed to be 3-in-1, it just is now. Slap it on, wash most of it off and get out.

Go be in the sun. Everything looks better when its tan. Leather? Better with a tan. Toast? Better with a tan. Autumn leaves? Better with a tan. A good tan will cover up how little you’re sleeping and how few vegetables you’re eating. It will make people on Instagram see a “glow” where there’s actually just an extra smudge of Vaseline. Just be smart and wear sunscreen and all that.

Eat some vegetables and sleep a little. Your tan isn’t *that* good.

Do some workouts. Climbing ruins is a workout. Doing jumping jacks before a shower is a workout. Sprinting to a bathroom after a couple greasy tacos is a workout. Yeah, there’s no gym around here so get creative.

Jump into a pit of sewage-infused quick mud occasionally.  It puts things in perspective real quick. You’ll see literally every other moment of your life in a new, fresh, I’m-not-covered-in-poo kind of way. (More on this incident next week.)

Say no to the razor. Body hair is great for a lot of things. It helps you stay warm while you sleep if its a cool night. It helps ward off cat calling on the street. It keeps all the sewage from directly entering your pores when you jump into a sewage-infused quick mud pit. On the other hand, shaving sucks. It especially sucks when your shower is the size of a high school locker and when your legs are covered with obstacle courses of bug bites. Do this only when people stop laughing at your jokes about liking Bigfoot.


Use only the best products on your face. Haha just kidding, get some baby wipes. Facial cleanser is for people with warm water and wash cloths and money. You don’t have any of those things anymore, so stop being funny.

Get Vaseline. OK, some sort of lotion is better, but let’s be honest, sometimes we run out. In which case, Vaseline is a one-tube wonder. Chapped lips? Vaseline. Dry skin? Vaseline. Stray hairs? Vaseline. Cost-effective “glow” for Instagram? Vaseline.

Don’t be in front of a mirror too much. Honestly, mirrors aren’t great. They show you things like Your Pores and That Bird’s Nest on Top of Your Head. And that’s BY DESIGN. Wild, right? Whose idea was this for us to start putting them everywhere and then get upset about it? Well, no more. Sans mirrors and good lighting, I’m free to believe I look however I want to look. This is especially true when the power goes out. Suddenly, I’m “au natural!” I’m “raw beauty!” I’m “glowing!” I’m …aw dang, the power’s back on.


Wash it. With 2-in-1 dandruff shampoo, that is. Why 2-in-1? See section one. What if it is bad for your hair? See section two. Why dandruff shampoo, especially if you don’t have dandruff? Because that’s the only 2-in-1 bottle in smaller-than-industrial size you’ll find in Central America. Why is that? I have no clue, and frankly you’re asking too many questions. Things like not having dandruff or a baby’s bum no longer matter when it comes to your beauty routine.

Dry it. Hairdryers? Curling iron? Straightener? What are those? Even if you wanted to haul them around, what, you think you’ll find a mirror, a light and an electrical outlet ALL within cord distance of each other? How silly of you. Fortunately, Central America, and every other desired destination with the exception of Mars has an alternative for you: air. It’s free, it’s plentiful and it’s easy to utilize while multi-tasking. You can do almost anything while simultaneously air drying your hair (answer emails; eat a taco; wash the sewage off your clothes — the opportunities are endless). The fact that it makes your head look like a swamp of mangrove roots seems like a fair tradeoff.

Comb it. Buy a plastic comb that is small enough and brown enough to get left behind at every room you stay in. When you inevitably find it missing, make due with a couple takeout forks. Oh, you think you’re too good to comb your hair with a fork? Tell that to THE LITTLE MERMAID.

Put it up. OK, so it doesn’t look amazing. It’s fine, just put it behind your head — that way even if you do come across a mirror, you won’t know what’s happening back there. Hair bands are great, but so are pencils, 17 bobby pins or, in a pinch, shredded palm leaves.


I don’t know, just bite them when they’re too long. What is this, the Four Seasons?

14 thoughts on “My very serious guide to the nomadic beauty routine

  1. I’m no big expert on beauty routines, but I have to believe that this particular post will become the world’s most widely quoted and highly respected source of wisdom on dealing with those challenges we all feel after we venture into a large quantity of sewage. I have learned a lot from your previous posts, but I really feel like this one contains a lot of information that I can use.

  2. Thanks for doing this so we don’t have to. I have a great story about driving 13 hours from Moldova through Romania and into Bulgaria with a case of, well, intestinal distress. Distastrous travel is great material. Thanks for writing about it.

    1. Everytime something really bad happens to me or I know something will be really bad I pause and think …. “that’s a good story, though.” This is what newspapers did to me.

  3. So interesting!! Makes me appreciate my easy access to warm showers and makeup and blowdryer and hairdryer. I actually wondered about cold showers and shaving your legs. I’d hate to go too long without shaving mine. Yikes!

  4. I scream in the shower, but that’s because I have a 2 year old.

    I’ll get you a Norwex cloth. You basically don’t have to wash it more than once every couple of weeks (unless, you clean up poo) and it doesn’t require soap…you just let it air dry.

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