This has the potential to become my new favorite news story of the month:
Could there be a worse combination than the love of travel and the possession of a small bladder?
On a recent evening I stood startled in the corner of a Laos loo pondering this very question. A cockroach the size of a house slipper had taken up a resolute position between me and the means of my relief, and so the answer that occurred to me was an emphatic "no." This is a terrible combination, equaled in horribleness only by the love of travel in tropical countries and the fear of creatures for which the word "scuttle" most accurately describes the way they move.
It was during a family road trip to Disneyland that my mother first dubbed me "thimble bladder." It was a two-day drive and the needs of my digestive system demanded that the full crew—Mom, Dad, two sisters, a truck and camper—come to a halt at the nearest toilet every half hour or so. I was 10 years old and perhaps the first non-sanitation-department employee ever to visit all 224 public rest areas between Idaho and California.
Little has changed since that prophetic journey except that these days the facilities I frequent tend to lack the comforting familiarity of the American pit stops of my youth. My husband, Richie, and I have spent the past 13 months on an epic global journey during which the dueling influences of a hyperactive waste management system and an incurable case of wanderlust have elevated me to the title of International Commode Connoisseur.
We visited 21 different countries and hundreds—perhaps thousands—of foreign restrooms. Yes, mistakes have been made. And yes, hard lessons have been learned. Still, I've waved my pale moon above the very maw of hell and come back with nothing more than toilet paper stuck to my shoe.