Pooping Your Pants on the Road

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Want to know what the biggest bonding topic on the backpacker trail is? Do you really? I don’t know if you can handle it….

Oh fine, it’s poop.

Stop blushing. Everyone does it. Why can’t we talk about it! Well, after a few rum and cokes and a couple weeks on the road, talking about bowel movements becomes a lot easier for travelers.

Everyone has an embarrassing bathroom (or a missed bathroom, in my case) moment. What good comes from not talking about it? You stew in your own self-pity thinking you’re the only one that something like that has ever happened to. You get depressed or PTSD from the “incident”. That’s not healthy in an already stressful situation that travel is at times.

I’ve made some great friends by swapping embarrassing poop/bathroom stories, I really think it brings people closer together. Just to prove that sharing is caring, here’s my story of **spoiler alert** pooping my pants:

It was a couple years ago; I was in Vietnam.

I have Celiac disease and should stay far away from gluten for a plethora of reasons. But, in Hoi An they have these fried wonton-meets-nachos concoction that I threw caution to the wind for. I kept trying to convince myself they were gluten free. They weren’t. As the days went on, I started having a strong urge for the potty every morning bright and early. But once I darted out of my bed and to the bathroom the rest of the day was smooth sailing, so I really wasn’t too alarmed.

Well, one day in HCMC my friend and I were staying in a dorm with 6 other gals. The urge woke me up bright and early and I went straight to the restroom (why do they even call it a restroom, anyways), only to find it occupied by one of the other ladies of the room. I realized she was showering and remembered she didn’t speak English.

I lightly knocked on the door a couple times with barely a response. I sat back down on my bed hoping to wait it out. .00002 seconds later I determined that was not an option and bolted to the elevator to get to the common room bathroom (I was on the 4th floor).

As the elevator pinged the floors up to me, my condition rapidly degraded. Sweating was hitting my in full force. To the stairs I went.

Well, you can probably see where this is going, I made it maybe one floor before, op, um, well, I shit my pants. By pants I mean little sleep shorts.

So there I was, standing on the stairs at 6am of a bustling hostel with shit about to run down my legs. I forged on to the common room bathroom.

THANK GOD the common room was empty at that ungodly hour. I barricaded myself in the bathroom only to be met with a bum gun and no paper products at all. Looking back now, I should have been hysterically crying at this point but I think the sheer shock of it all kept me calm and able to think rationally.

I finished my business, buried my undergarments in the deep depths of the 2 inch tall garbage can (sorry housekeeping….) and hosed myself off with the bum gun.

I marched my ass back to my dorm room to find that the wretched shrew of a bathroom hog (I’m sure she was lovely), was out of the bathroom and I immediately scrubbed every ounce of embarrassment and self-pity off in the shower until I felt like I couldn’t get any cleaner. Then I promptly started a bonfire on the 4th floor to burn my favorite sleep shorts… or buried them in yet another teeny garbage can because fire is frowned upon indoors.

I cried myself back to sleep for a few hours.

Now, when my friend and I woke up for the day, I was faced with a decision: to tell her or to not tell her. Because of my digestive disease/problems, I have grown to be pretty open about my potty times and feelings so OBVIOUSLY I told her. It was like a movie, there was that moment of awkward silence where the two characters stare at each other with dramatic music in the background. I was either going to break down sobbing or laughing, I chose laughter.

We rolled around on the floor laughing at how ridiculous it was, then, I almost shit myself again so that stopped abruptly.

For the rest of the trip, I had a bit of PTSD. Every time I even had the thought of needing to poop, I was like a soldier on a mission to find the nearest restroom. Remember the don’t touch the floor game as a kid? I went around like that with bathrooms, I always had to know where my next bathroom stop could be at any given time. And don’t even get me started about wet wipes, I had them in every pocket at all times, I slept with a pack next to my pillow.

And because I shared my experience with my friend, we were able to laugh about all my neuroticisms the rest of the trip.

I’m laughing just writing this. I think this blog post is going to make my mom proud.

Now because of this story, I’ve been able to out poop story plenty of travelers on the road. It puts me in an elite club. Again, a club my mom should be proud of. Sure, everyone goes to HCMC in Vietnam and eats pho but how many shit their pants!!?

Now, go forth! Share your travel potty woes with your fellow travelers! I’ll never forget the girl who pooped herself while running in remote Cambodia, or the guy had to find a plastic bag to go in on the side of the highway.

Article by

Megan is a girl that shouldn’t travel. She’s gluten free, allergic to everything else, falls off motorcycles, poops her pants, gets bit by stray dogs and yet she’s still been traveling the world. She's the co-founder and editor of Why Wait. Read More About Megan here.
  1. Hahaha thanks for sharing, Megan! It’s definitely important to be able to be open about those natural things that happen to everyone. I’m generally a very open person – at least I thought I was, until I realised I had absolutely never mentioned pooping of any kind around my boyfriend. Thankfully I’ve loosened up (pun NOT intended) on our road trip, and we can finally openly discuss the stories that naturally come from bush-poopin’

    • Anytime Phoebe! It can be so stressful not talking about it! So many people don’t talk to their significant other about it and it makes the whole situation worse! Any boyfriend I’ve had or will have needs to be comfortable with potty talk, it’s a requirement.

  2. Thanks for this post. I have a pretty sensitive digestive system and many a time have I found myself running to the toilet only to find someone’s in there. Luckily I haven’t had any ‘incident’s’ just yet but I think sometimes sh*t really does happen, and it;s better to laugh about it and move on than dwell on it and upset yourself.

  3. Fun story. It’s why I like to get a room with a toilet all the time and a toilet that works all the time. As when I need to go I need to go and its my moment of solace, if I want to spend a long time I want to spend a long time :-).

    BTW, Diapers work really well if you know you can’t always hold it… And the clean up is much better than in your underwear.

  4. I can sympathize this is a fear on longer trip – I’m lactose intolerant and have a small window to find a bathroom if my food has butter, milk, cream in it which no one can ever verify overseas. I ask about bathroom stops on day tours, at attractions, etc to avoid problems and always carry packets of tissues

    • OH yeah, tours and hikes and what not always make me nervous! You never know what the conditions will be like! Spending the night on top of a volcano was fun 😉

    • Glad I could share and provide a laugh! I still laugh at it to this day! And I totally sent this article to my parents and told them to be proud of the work I publish!

  5. Claudia says:

    I have plenty of poop stories. Whenever I travel, I set my alarm clock on rough estimates about poop time. I know roughly how long it’s going to take me after breakfast to need a toilet, and make sure I leave myself plenty of time to use one before leaving. So if normal people wake up, shower, eat breakfast and leave, I wake up, eat breakfast, use the toilet and then shower – and leave. Not so easy when in a tour group with tight timings as it sometimes happens.

    I once caught worms – either from biting my very dirty nails, or eating unwashed lettuce, or who knows. And it took me two poop-in-my-pants incidents before finally deciding to have some tests run and eventually take medications for that. The only good thing about it is that it happened while at home so I could easily fix it.

    When I was in Colombia, a combination of lactose intolerance (I never thought the cheese would make me sick, till it did) and some food poisoning meant that I could hardly hold myself. I remember taking a shower once, getting out and well… I pooped all over myself and on the floor. I had to clean EVERYTHING. And disinfect everything with a spray that I was thankfully carrying!!

    • Yikes Claudia!! Food poisoning is the worst! I’ve had some extremely low points battling bouts of that on the road. It’s awful because you know you did it to yourself! Here’s hoping it’s all behind you now! (no pun intended!)

  6. Ohmigoodness, I don’t know how you didn’t cry! You’re so right, anyone who’s traveler for more than a week definitely has a poop story; and, those who claim they don’t are just lying. When we moved to Madrid earlier this year, I was struck down by traveler’s diarrhea for the first 10 days. It was unpleasant and exhausting, but it’s now one of my best stories.

  7. What a fantastic post – thank you so much for sharing and you’re not alone!! Whenever I travel with anyone, one of the first pacts we make is never to pass a loo! And I always carry paper & wipes etc that have come in very handy over the years!! Happy poop free travel!!! :o)

    • Here! Here! If only you could get rid of needing to poop during certain trips! And I totally agree, travel buddies need to be each other’s advocates right down to finding them a bathroom on the fly!

  8. This post has made my day! As a fellow celiac I can completely sympathise with you. I am leaving in July to travel and this sort of thing has been playing on my mind so much the closer July comes! The first part of my travels is in Vietnam too so I know to avoid the (deliciously sounding) wonton-nacho combo! Thank you for sharing your story, you not only made me laugh but also reassured me that I am not alone in this!

    Happy gluten free travels! 🙂

    • Asia actually wound up being one of the easiest places I traveled to with Celiac! Do your research, though, ahead of time! Jodi @ LegalNomads.com has a TOOOON of info on Gluten free in Vietnam (and many other destinations) that I used! And I am hoping to get more detailing info on my own blog soon! So many people on the road have food intolerances, allergies, or preferences and more and more locals, I feel, are getting used to travelers asking questions about ingredients and what not!

  9. Frankie says:

    This is hilarious!

    It’s so true that you share more with your dorm mates than you do your closest friends from home!

  10. Amanda Yoder says:

    This is a great story, thanks for being brave enough to share it! It happened to me between work and home once and once going from my house to my car, but I can’t imagine in a hostel! Much like you, I have celiac, and am allergic to everything, but LOVE to travel–so I’m inspired by your travels and writings!

  11. I really laughed with your story and I like your way to see things with positive thoughts because things like that happen to every one

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