When setting out for full time travel nearly two years ago, we thought we had covered our new lives from nearly every angle. We did research on keeping our house vs renting it or just flat out selling it. We considered selling the house and getting a small apartment and renting for some income. We thought about travel insurance, what to do with our car, how to get mail, how to sign and send documents and how to get refills on key prescription drugs. We even gave great consideration on how to pack for long term travel. (hint: layers & lightly!)
And it's this last consideration that lead me to NOT pack the hand held beard and all purpose hair trimmer that created one aspect of full time travel that we hadn't really considered before. The Haircut.
Now, I don't have a lot of hair, but the hair I do have is kept short. Really short. If I take off my hat and I have a ridgeline or if I wake up in the morning with a pillow smudge, it's time to get it cut. And by my count I've gotten my haircut in 17 different countries now.
There are people who are actively in pursuit of visiting every country in the world. This is foolish. Whatever for? To fill your passport? To say that you spent an evening or a meal in every country? Come on. You don't know those places at all. In fact, you built a strategy to visit what I like to call "border dense" regions where you can hop in a car and drive in a circle and tick off a bunch of countries in a day.
But we like to travel slowly. We don't like jet lag and avoid it at all costs. We tend to stay in a place for 1-3 months if we can help it. Which is how I've managed to get my haircut in 17 (and counting) countries.
I'm certainly not on a mission to get my haircut in every country we visit. That would just be silly. I don't plan or delay getting a haircut when I need one just to get it cut in another country. Nor do I have proof of any of these haircuts (other than my short short hair and two years on the road).
So what have I learned after getting my haircut in 17 different countries? Well let me tell you!
1. Almost without exception, the barber is not a dying breed around the world. It's a craft that is taken seriously and these folks are respected in their communities.
2. The barbers are almost always men, and almost always getting on in years. This is a good thing. They have experience and know how to handle the tools of their trade. Although I did pass up a shave in Turkey where the dude was a little too shaky for my liking.
3. Sometimes a haircut also comes with a head or shoulder massage, which was the case in Armenia. She also kept feeding me cherries which were in season at the time.
4. No language is required for a simple haircut like mine. A few gestures and a buzzing noise generally suffices. The only tricky part was when I walked into a salon that was only for women and only by appointment. She managed to squeeze me in.
5. Generally haircuts around the world are pretty cheap, but it's best to agree to a price upfront. Sometimes there are extras added in that you may not want. In Vietnam it is practice to get your ears cleaned out with a long metal rod. I had also read that there is some "eye cleaning" as well, but I managed to avoid that part, thankfully.
6. It's best not to do any research online. You'll likely find a barber in your general travels about the town or countryside. Just keep your eyes open and use your senses. If you are open to a unique experience you can't get at home, by all means, try to get your haircut in a foreign country!
Tell us. Do you travel slow enough to need your hair cut? Have you had a travel hair emergency? What aspects of full time travel did you fail to anticipate?