Why I’m interested in pooping around the world—and you should be, too

May 6, 2016 8 comments

Bodily functions are a taboo subject. No one usually wants to talk poop.

But I do.

I suffer from irritable bowl syndrome, which means that I am always sick to my stomach (read: constant diarrhea). Wherever we are in the world, I’m on the prowl for a toilet.

This has caused me to take careful note of the facilities.

Traveling is especially difficult with stomach issues. Aside from gambling each time you try a foreign cuisine, trains, planes and buses won’t wait for you to “finish up” in the bathroom.

But what if there is no restroom?

Me after a harrowing roadside diarrhea experience in a volcanic crater at 7,000ft.

I have had diarrhea roadside, hillside, you-name-it-side, because there wasn’t a toilet in sight.

According to a United Nations report, 2.5 billion people on this planet live without access to sanitation (toilets and the like).

As I’ve looked into this subject, it’s interesting to see what does count as sanitary, and just how differently people all over the world “do their business.”

Discovering differences in access to sanitation around the world has been fascinating—and has caused me to think about a basic issue that we should spend more time pondering as humans:

What’s the best toilet—for comfort, sanitation, and environment? What’s the best toilet for properly disposing of waste, to ensure the people in the community don’t get sick?

I may be more of an anomaly with my stomach issues in Western civilization, but world-wide, diarrhea is real issue. In 2015, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that every day, diarrhea kills 2,195 children.  The CDC reported that’s more than AIDS, malaria, and measles combined.

Serious cases of diarrhea can result from contracting cholera and dysentery, diseases that result from the ingestion of fecal contaminated food or water—often found in areas of the world where open defecation is an issue. The CDC has a helpful graphic explaining the various causes of diarrhea.

I have personally had dysentery. Picked ‘er up in Colombia—diarrhea, vomiting, fever. The whole shebang. The knowledge that the disease likely came from inadvertently ingesting shit is unsettling to say the least.

As we travel, I will make an effort to discuss sanitary facilities (or lack thereof) in other countries, and juxtapositions we observe.

And I want to hear from you: tell me in the comments about your experiences with unique bathrooms around the world.

If your story has to do with poop, I want to hear it.

Pooping around the world (1)

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I'm Sarah. I grew up in Montana, got my B.S. in finance, and now reside in Washington, DC. I'm one of the Fish from the travel blog, Two Fish Traveling. I LOVE squirrel monkeys. And crocodiles. And fireworks.

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8 Comments on "Why I’m interested in pooping around the world—and you should be, too"

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Mica Prazak
The proper pooping technique is definitely worthy of discussion. I always inform people travelling to certain areas of the world that nearly 1/2 the world’s population doesn’t even use toilet paper. And in India, a country I traveled around for 2 months it is by cultural choice. Literally, in most of India, minus the swanky hotels, you clean your bum in the toilet with one hand and a bucket of water. The other hand is used for eating, writing, greeting people, everything else. It is crazy how many people plan trips to India and never realize that this is the… Read more »
Lee Martin

Thanks for sharing! Probably the most memorable part of my trip to Nepal was hanging onto a tree on a fairly steep mountainside after being struck by the call of nature (I suppose I was warned to not eat the street vendor soup…). Then upon reaching the top there was an outhouse that made me glad I was called to doodoo while surrounded by trees and a nice breeze. Poon Hill does have a nice view though. Worth it.


Hey Lee! Thanks for sharing your story. Funny that one of your most memorable moments involved this subject (Sarah is better at the poop euphemisms than I am). I really want to go to Nepal at some point, and I will be careful about eating the soup.

What’s your brother Joe up to? I haven’t seen him on Facebook in years (I assume he deleted his account), so I don’t know how to keep up with.

Lee Martin

Hey you two, I was in Nepal for almost a month and got to see a couple sweet temples and walk around a lot of cool places.

Joseph is in Idaho with his wife and two kids now. He hasn’t had Facebook for a while, but I’ll forward your blog to him 🙂

I’ll have to try and follow your footsteps on some of these adventures 🙂


Wife and two kids? Wow. Please say hi for me.

How difficult is it to get around Nepal? Did you hike and camp? That’s what I would picture doing there, but I imagine it’s not exactly easy to just head off into the mountains and pitch a tent.