We knew there would be many luxuries we would give up in place of seeing the world, when we set out on this adventure. Using the washroom was not one of them! Ridding one’s body of waste is merely a necessity, and should NOT be considered a luxury, right? Perhaps using a clean washroom could be considered a luxury, but a plain old rest stop – no way! I certainly didn’t expect to have to pay for this regular occurrence… paying to pee! How does one determine how much it will cost to pee? Do they give discounts for little bodies with less pee? What about if it is not pee…. do you pay double? Perhaps the fee is determined by the number of toilet tissue squares used. One ponders such things while seated upon the ‘pay as you go’ throne.
To many Europeans, paying to use a washroom is a common expense, but for Canadians, we had never heard of such a thing! Our first experience with pay toilets was in Iceland, next to a glacier. What a business; there weren’t many options in the middle of nowhere surrounded by ice and rock… so we reluctantly scrounged in our pockets for the correct change to feed the machine, and use the facilities. To our surprise, out popped a ticket. Not only did we have to pay to pee, we got a ticket as if it was a Broadway performance or something! During our travels we have had to pay anywhere from 20 pence (20 p to pee) to 1.50 euros – about 2 dollars Canadian. With four of us travelling together, trips to the loo could really rack up. Quite frankly, I hadn’t even considered them in our daily budget and had to add a whole new column to the Excel spreadsheet.
In Canada, you hear moms across the country, at every rest stop saying “I know you don’t think you have to go to the bathroom, but I want you to try anyway: it is a long drive.” In Europe, you pee with a purpose! You are not going into the WC ‘just to try’. So, as we continued to travel, giving our bladders a workout became part of our daily routines. We are now close to ‘camel’ rankings on our water rention!
Those of you that know Mark, know he is quite a bargain shopper and wants value for his buck. I was flabergasted to hear him return to the car, a little quicker than expected at one rest stop stating, ‘it is too expensive, I’ll just wait for the next one”. We were comparatively shopping for washrooms now, as if it was a major investment. He was thrilled in Germany, when we had to fork over 70 euro cents to use the facilities and in return received a coupon for cash off any purchase in the convenience store. Now that is value. We spent five minutes searching for something to buy that would not exceed the face value of the coupon. Do you feel my pain here people?
As we moved from country to country, we got to know the best places to use the facilities. Washrooms along the motorways were the most expensive. They were usually well maintained, clean and outfitted with a security guard. You got what you paid for there. Ensuring you pay your fees to use the washroom is big business, these security-guarded toilets were often equipped with automatic toilet seat cleaners. Again something new for us. Maybe that was why we were given the tickets; for the toilet seat cleaning show! I must admit, it was quite entertaining.
McDonalds restaurants were a little cheaper and occasionally free, but did not compare in cleanliness. Apparently everyone was hoping for a “free pee” there. We figured they would be a sure bet, but quickly opted to use them for their Internet services, and not their water closets. Train stations, subways and doing your business in a little cubby on the street in Amsterdam were options we avoided, but sometimes “when nature calls” you have got to go.
Mark’s favourite bank of toilets was located in Montmarte, Paris. A pair of hipster dudes were manning the organic composting toilets (using the word demonstration just didn’t quite sit right for this description J). We were sent into the wooden outhouses with a pot of woodchips to sprinkle into the hole afterwards. Thanks to this surpisingly pleasant experience, Mark picked up a pamphlet and I could see a composting toilet in my near future! I made the comment to Mark that most people associate Paris with love and romance and that he was at great risk of ruining Paris for me. The hipster dudes only requested a smile and a thanks on our departure, and I must admit a small part of me thought it was great to “pee for the trees”.
Zip lining ninety metres up in the treetops of South Africa certainly provided the most unique, (most desperate), pee break of the trip so far. Did I mention I was afraid of heights? Yeah, well the higher we went the more stressed I got, and the more desperate I became… to go! As I did the pee pee dance in my harness amongst the chameleons, Ally’s friend Lauren told me that I needed to strengthen my ‘splinter’, I’m pretty sure she meant sphincter. At any rate, I was thankful to repel to the ground midway through our treetop experience. Unfortunately my relief was short lived as I discovered that I had to pull myself back up to the platform to continue our adventure. If that didn’t strengthen my sphincter and every other part of my body, I don’t know what will!
Information on our African pee break experiences requires a warning of Parental Guidance Advised. In the effort to maintain our family rating on this blog, our experiences there have been ‘bleeped’ out! We are still trying to ‘bleep’ them out of our memories as well!
Australia and New Zealand were a lot like home, except occasionally the toilet was situated in a tiny little room all by itself. This I don’t really understand…so you do your business in the toilet ‘closet’, then you have to open the door and walk around the corner to the next room to wash your hands. This was fairly common, hmmmm, mind you it was a step up from the dunny out the back or the long drop toilets though. So I figured it best not to complain or ask questions as to reasoning for this design.
Our travels will continue and I know this will not be the last of our water closet experiences, but I’m fairly confident I won’t be writing about some of our future locations – did I mention we are headed to Asia next? Yikes! Perhaps I SHOULD add washrooms to my list of luxuries while travelling. At least here, we have toilets, seats and tissue. I’m fairly confident the future will not be so ‘luxurious’. Until then, I think I will add ‘splinter’ exercises to my workout routine, in preparation for the next pee pee dance.