Let’s not be coy here guys, it’s the 21st century and I’m pretty certain that most people will have some sort of holiday fling when they travel. Don’t expect us to resist the charms of someone on a beautiful tropical island. It’s so much more alluring than someone yelling into your ear in a sticky nightclub back home. But just because you’re away from home doesn’t mean you should throw caution to the wind. You still need to keep yourself safe.
Disclaimer: I’m not a doctor, health professional or sex therapist (except with my friends, after wine) and this is all just my opinion. Please ask someone that knows what they’re talking about if required! But if you’re going to get down and dirty away from home, then make sure you’re doing it right.
Context: I grew up in a town with the highest teen pregnancy rates in Western Europe and a midwife mother who cared for way too many 13-year-olds. As you can imagine, I’ve been informed of how not to get knocked up repeatedly since I first sprouted boobs. We had a family planning sized box of condoms in our bathroom, and I used to dish them out to the girls in my posh choir (I was one of 3 out of 50 not at a private school. Apparently private schools didn’t give out sex ed). I’m definitely not a doctor so don’t take the following as medical advice, but I do know quite a bit. My mum made sure of that.
Ladies, if hormonal contraception is your bag then make sure you’re settled on something before you go. There’s nothing worse than finding out that your new pill doesn’t agree with you or (like one of my lady friends) that you need your coil removing, stat, in a foreign country. Feeling like your reproductive system is messed up is a bad enough experience at home when you can visit your GP. Make sure you’ve been settled for a few months before you go.
If you are on the pill then make sure you have more than enough for your trip just in case you lose a packet. Always carry a few spares in your hand luggage in case your bag goes missing. Be very mindful of time differences and how that will affect that time you need to take your pill each day (some Progesterone only pills have to be taken within a 3 hour window each day). Carry alternative forms of contraception (see below) and be super careful if you get Bali belly, as vomiting and diarrhoea can stop it from working properly. Ditto antibiotics! So far I know of two unplanned pregnancies that have been a result of lost luggage and illness. Be careful!
Wrap it Up, people
I feel like this should go without saying but seriously – wear a freakin’ condom. It’s mildly terrifying how many mature and intelligent people have gambled their health away because turning down a shag when there was no prophylactic at hand seemed worth the risk. It’s not. Even if it’s someone you know. Especially not when it’s someone you don’t.
TMI time: I once told an ex who was complaining about my insistence that he wrap up first that he had the choice between wearing a condom or having a wank in the shower. I’d like to tell my 23-year-old self that if a dude is trying to wriggle his way out of wearing one then you should wriggle your way out of the situation. Because he’s probably teeming with STDs. People – if someone complains about practising safe sex then run away as fast as you can.
Bear in mind that it can be difficult or impossible to get condoms in some countries. Check ahead of time and travel with a hefty amount of stock. Keep them in a tin or toiletry bag where they won’t be damaged and can be kept cool.
Ladies – keep a stash in your handbag. Even if you don’t use one you might have a friend who will. Dudes – pop one in your wallet before you head out, but for the love of God don’t store it in there long term. Think about how ratty business cards get in there after a few weeks. Ew.
Just in case you hadn’t noticed – sex can often be about a lot more than just physical activity. One thing guaranteed to ruin a trip is heartbreak, so before you jump into bed with someone ask yourself if you’re both on the same page. If you really like someone but suspect they don’t feel the same then talk to them first. Fancy a shag with your cute dorm mate, but definitely don’t want anything more? Check that they’re okay with that.
Also, be careful who you pash in a nightclub. They might end up being your husband and temporarily derail your travel plans. I am speaking from experience.
Quite often it’s easy to imagine yourself as a different person when you travel. You might have a tan and some hippie bracelets, but that doesn’t mean you’ll start to enjoy casual sex when it made you feel horrible at home. The only thing worse than having a hangover and sex regret, is having a hangover and sex regret in a foreign country.
And once again this should go without saying – but if you’re about to hook up with someone who’s drunk when you’re not… Well, maybe don’t do that.
Staying in a dorm room and looking for somewhere sneaky to bump uglies? Well done you for being considerate to your room mates. But don’t forget to consider the local laws and customs. Some places might not mind some serious PDAs, whereas there are countries where public sex is not only considered extremely offensive – but also illegal. If you’re going to have your face splashed over the news don’t let it be because you got caught wth your pants down on a beach in Dubai. Your granny will not be proud.
Don’t be more reckless than you would be back home. Watch your drinks at all times (this applies to guys just as much as girls, anyone can have their drink spiked), make sure you’ve introduced Mr/Ms Right-now to your friends and if you feel uncomfortable in a situation then leave. Being abroad makes you even more vulnerable, even if you might feel the opposite.
There can often be a big trend of one-upmanship amongst travellers. “You had sex with a Swedish guy on a beach? Well I had sex with TWO Swedish guys on a beach under a full moon!” Always remember this – you don’t have to have sex. In our modern society we have more sexual choices than ever, and often people forget that one of these is to simply not have sex at all.
And always remember – if you can’t make good choices, then at least make safe ones.
Have I covered it all – or did I reveal too much? Let me know! I’d be interested in hearing your thoughts.