Vagabond Shopping Girls: Ancestor Inspired Bathing

A high plains drifter shows us how it is done. Maybe skip the cigar though. Clint Eastwood classic.
A high plains drifter shows us how it is done. Maybe skip the cigar though. Clint Eastwood classic.
B for Bath.
B for Bath.

Continuing with our gypsy wagon lifestyle exploration, today’s post focuses on how Shopping Girl vagabonds living on the road can have bathing facilities that are legitimately doable, effective, and private in their own vans.

 

A number of traveling Shopping Girls have already figured out that they can shower at sundry facilities including via memberships in the YMCA/YWCA. For Shopping Girls who are staying in one area for a while, a great way to have access to showers, along with lots of other useful facilities such as the gym, library, lounges, and cafeteria, is to enroll in an inexpensive (and maybe free!) course at the local community college. You can even enroll in an online course and, as a college member for that quarter or semester, you still have student privileges. (Note this will also snag you a college student identification card, great for lots of discounts especially for travel-related goods and services.)

 

Privacy can be a problem using public bathing facilities.
Privacy can be a problem using public bathing facilities.

Shower facilities are also to be found at places like rest stops, truck stops, gym franchises, or local gyms offering day passes.

 

Super-easy to stash for travel, you do not even need a bottle of shampoo to wash your hair.
Super-easy to stash for travel, you do not even need a bottle of shampoo to wash your hair.

Many vagabond Shopping Girls have also learned that one can stay perfectly clean without using a shower. Indeed, in some countries, showering is considered a ludicrous waste of water, and other more ecologically conservative methods are relied upon. A Shopping Girl can stay clean while traveling by taking advantage of products designed for this purpose. Most of which are variants of wet wipes, often in a larger, easier to use size, and frequently marketed at stores that sell goods for disabled people. Campers and backpackers are familiar with bottled products available for cleansing and even shampooing one’s hair without the need of water.

 

These are all viable options, and a Shopping Girl gypsy living the van lifestyle can avail herself of these methods at times, depending on circumstances. However, keep in mind that people have been figuring out how to bathe on the road and with little space or gear for centuries. If your ancestors could do it, so can you!

 

Moses did it, so can you.
Moses did it, so can you.

Most Shopping Girl gypsies who live a vagabond lifestyle probably would love to have the option of a real, private, and comfortable bathing space right inside their gypsy wagons.

 

Although the labels have been changed since his death, they still feature much of Dr. Bronner's iconic commentary. Label from Dr. Bronner's Magic Soap, Peppermint.
Although the labels have been changed since his death, they still feature much of Dr. Bronner’s iconic commentary. Label from Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soap, Peppermint.

Let’s begin with a simple option, easy to do in your van, compact, and requiring very little in the way of water or soap. Nevertheless, this method has been proven highly effective and suitable for people all over the world, over the course of decades. It relies upon a particular product, known as Dr. Bronner’s Magic liquid soap.

 

Dr. Bronner products in a variety of scents, bottle sizes, and bar soaps...generally, the liquid soap in bottles is best for multi-purpose use.
Dr. Bronner products in a variety of scents, bottle sizes, and bar soaps…generally, the liquid soap in bottles is best for multi-purpose use.

Dr. Bronner’s soap is one of the most useful products a Shopping Girl can have in her home or gypsy wagon. Truly a multi-use product, Dr. Bronner’s soap can be used for all bodily cleansing needs (including shampooing and brushing your teeth). Even better, it’s a stellar product for all types of other cleaning needs. Because it is utterly safe, environmentally nonhazardous, and ethically produced, it’s wonderful for babies, people with sensitive skin, and pets. It cleans your skin without any harsh, drying effects.  Dr. Bronner developed what is probably the most user-friendly method of bathing out there:

 

Dr. Bronner with his magic potion. Does this guy look hip or what? Photo via MotherJones.com.
Dr. Bronner with his magic potion. Does this guy look hip or what? Photo via MotherJones.com.

Put one or two cups of water into a container. Add a small squirt of Dr. Bronner’s liquid soap and swirl it with the water. Dip a bandana, washcloth, sponge, or what you like into the water, wring it out, and then scrub your face well with it. Continue in this fashion, re-wetting the cloth, wringing it out, and scrubbing your body, working your way downward to your feet. That’s it! Since the soap is nontoxic and won’t harm the environment, you can simply dump the used water outside (although it’s thoughtful and wise not to dump used water near a potable water resource). This method is commonly used around the world by people who lack access to lots of water, it works, and it won’t make a mess of your van.

 

You do not need much to enjoy it.
You do not need much to enjoy it.

While just one bottle of Dr. Bronner’s soap is all you need, it can be worth taking up the small amount of extra space required to have several of the different options on hand. Besides the variety of pleasant scents, each offers additional benefits. For instance, Peppermint is refrigerant, which means the soap will provide a noticeable cooling effect upon the skin, which is great for hot weather. Eucalyptus has the opposite effect, being warming, and provides a means to help clear your sinuses and make you more comfortable if you have a cold or the flu. The plain, Unscented option can be used as-is, or add scent to your liking with essential oils. The iconic cylindrical bottles feature colorful labels overflowing with inspirational mottos that Dr. Bronner felt would help people to live happier, more ethical lives. Whatever you think of the commentary on the labels, the positive motivation behind it comes through, making the bits of wisdom a positive mind re-set when revisited in the morning bleary-eyed and dull-minded, or after a stressful day dealing with traffic or other hassles.

 

Moving on from the Bronner method, a sort of cheat approach to refresh yourself between baths embraces a method common in “Ye Olde Dayf” (that is, the really old days, in Old English). Toilette Water is a cologne-like product that is lightly scented. The formulas were traditionally based upon ingredients, including essential oils, known for providing natural cleansing and purifying effects. While Post-Modern Shopping Girls refer to this type of a product as a Body Splash, the modern versions are often merely designed to provide a light fragrance boost, without any refreshing or cleansing effect.

Jean Nate ad from the 1980s featuring Kathy Lee Gifford. Photo via LikeSuccess.com.
Jean Nate ad from the 1980s featuring Kathy Lee Gifford. Photo via LikeSuccess.com.

 

Shopping Girls have learned over several decades that a classic Toilette Water known as Jean Nate does an awesome job of providing a rapid and effective refresh between baths. Typically found for sale in drug stores, truly huge bottles of this handy splash can be obtained. A companion body powder is also available, packaged in a pretty yellow powder box that has great reusability appeal for stashing your stuff. While not intended as a substitute for bathing, Jean Nate really works when splashed all over to give you a quick cleanse. It contains a lot of alcohol and, combined with the citrus and cinnamon scent, doesn’t just cover up body odor. The scent is fairly neutral and, while noticeable, does not over-power most people. Men seem to be quite fond of the scent as well.

Demonstration of use. Or she intends to drink it. Not sure.... Ad from 1967 via Pinterest.
Demonstration of use. Or she intends to drink it. Not sure…. Ad from 1967 via Pinterest.

 

Having mentioned the Jean Nate body powder, we would also like to alert vagabond Shopping Girls to another must-have product known as Snake Brand Prickly Heat Body Powder. A little harder to find, although usually available on Amazon, it’s worth the hunt. What makes this body powder special? It has a potent skin-cooling refrigerant quality that will cool you off noticeably immediately, and keep you feeling cooler for a surprisingly long time. If you travel anywhere that is hot and humid, this product will quickly become a necessary part of your kit. It is also very comforting and helpful for rashes, bites, fungal infections, sprinkled inside of your shoes, and the like. Wondering why the strange brand name? It’s an Asian-made product from Taiwan, referencing the fact that reptiles are cold-blooded.

 

It comes in several varieties, but the Red Roses canister is the Classic stuff.
It comes in several varieties, but the Red Roses canister is the Classic stuff.

So, handy options and tips all, but what about Shopping Girls who want to be able to take a real shower or bath, privately, built right into their gypsy wagons? Yes you can, and it isn’t even particularly problematic to do so. You can even combine this with your toilet “facilities” to create what is essentially a real bathroom in your van.

 

Something like this Iris Weathertight model, which has a gasket seal, handy for other uses as well.
Something like this Iris Weathertight model, which has a gasket seal, handy for other uses as well.

To begin, you will likely want to obtain a common, plastic storage bin with a lid. These come in various sizes, so you can suit your own space and needs. This bin will serve as your “tub” enclosure and, when not in use and with lid in place, a counter, seat, footstool, or surface to place a basket or whatever else you like.

 

Further, if you use a bucket toilet or porta-potty that will fit, you can store it in the bin, where it can also become a shower seat and stool for shaving your legs etc. (see the prior post for a review of these options).

 

Have you ever wondered how people bathed in the old days, especially when they were traveling, or when they didn’t have bathrooms or running water in their homes? The method was simple but effective, and you can use this same method right inside your van.

 

She cannot fly, but at least she can bathe in her gypsy wagon.
She cannot fly, but at least she can bathe in her gypsy wagon.
Pick a design that works for defining your outside space too. Make a privacy wall or Sun shade when needed.
Pick a design that works for defining your outside space too. Make a privacy wall or Sun shade when needed.

Strange as it may sound, you’ll stand in your bin “tub” wearing an oversized rain poncho or something similar. The poncho serves as a “shower curtain” and should be sized large and long enough to hang inside the bin (controlling any leaks) and provide elbow room for you to maneuver under the poncho for washing. Your head will stay above the bathing area during this process (wash your face and hair separately). If the poncho approach seems cumbersome, jeryrig a plastic shower curtain so that you can tie it up to some hooks on the van ceiling, or suspend some type of ring, such as a Hula-Hoop toy or PVC circle, and affix the shower curtain to that. Put a small amount of water in your bin, sit on your bucket-toilet-as-shower-seat, and wash away. Empty the bin by dumping it, scooping out the water with a cup, syphoning it out with a simple hose and hand-pump, or if you want to get fancier, rig a fountain or aquarium pump up, or even create a drain hole in the van (not really necessary unless you want a set-up that allows you to use truly a lot of water).

 

If you cannot think of multiple uses for an LED light-up Hula Hoop, feel shame.
If you cannot think of multiple uses for an LED light-up Hula Hoop, feel shame.
Wide variety of options in these little hand operated pressure sprayers.
Wide variety of options in these little hand operated pressure sprayers.

If you want a shower sprayer effect, an easy way to do that is with an inexpensive, hand-pumped pressure sprayer. These can be handy to have for other uses, so if you have space in the van to store it (like inside your tub bin), then why not? The water pressure won’t be fabulous, but it will function effectively. You can also use your portable bidet bottle as a shower-type rinser.

 

If you happen to be particularly dirty, having spent the day riding motocross or wrestling bears, and don’t like the idea of rinsing yourself with the dirty water, then just do two (or three) successive wash-offs, dumping the dirty water out as you go. By the way, skunk wrestling will likely require that you bathe in canned or bottled tomato juice, in which case you’ll be glad you have this bin available, but may wish to use it outdoors, with your pop-up privacy shelter.

 

Nomads go back thousands of years, and they figured out ways to bathe with less gear and options than we have now. Be creative and adaptable in setting up the useful van bathroom that works for you. The privacy and option to wash whenever you want and wherever you are is worth it for your physical and emotional health.

 

Oh, I almost forgot. Two kittens holding paws as they nap. Just because.
Oh, I almost forgot. Two kittens holding paws as they nap. Just because.

Tomorrow, we’ll look at keeping other things, like your clothing, clean while you ramble the world in your gypsy wagons.

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