No, it wasn’t some crazy Britney Spears stunt or a moment of weakness when losing my mind. It most certainly was not because I thought it was a cute look for me or that I was sick of having long hair. And it was not because I needed some kind of dramatic change in my life. Well, I needed some dramatic change, but chopping off all my hair was not the answer to satisfy that desire. However, hopping on a plane to move to South America for an open-ended trip filled with spontaneity and adventure, living out of a backpack, most certainly was. And this is why I made the decision to take the hair that I had spent over a decade of my life growing out all the way down to my belly-button and chop it off into a crew cut.
As much as I absolutely loved my hair and the beautiful ringlets that formed naturally at the bottom, I have traveled with my long hair before and it was quite the challenge. When you’re backpacking and being put in situations where you cannot shower for multiple days at a time, having hair that goes from lovely natural, curls immediately to dreads is obviously not ideal. Day one is always fine, but day two and three’s side braid that gets turned into day four’s awkward and nasty bun sitting on top of my head in one giant knot, made for the most inconvenient traveling. Not to mention the weight of the products and devices necessary to keep my hair looking decent and styled once in a while added into a backpack already overflowing with things I need to survive relatively comfortably. Even just the minor subtraction of the large amounts of hair conditioner and detangler that was imperative to my travels in Southeast Asia, Australia, and New Zealand have already made this traveling experience just that much easier and my backpack just that much lighter. Sitting and trying to comb out layers and layers of dreads and knots that have turned your hair into one massive mess with pounds of conditioner in the shower after four days of not showering is not a pleasant experience. It is also super time consuming, requires a large amount of relatively expensive and toxic hair products and a lot of hair comes out in the process. Now add in the straightener and blow dryer I had required to be able to go out in public and all the little hair clips and hair ties that were always a total day-ruiner to lose or break while traveling and embarking on adventures, and cutting off all my hair was beginning to look more and more appealing. Because if you are not a person with long hair, then it may be hard to understand the pain and annoyance that losing your last hair tie can cause when you’re attempting to climb up a mountain in 100 degree weather or trying to keep your hair contained after exposing it to salt water while scuba diving 30 meters deep. And when improvising proves impossible, hair ties can make or break an overall experience. But it was more or less the showering situations I had come across while traveling that really pushed me to make the cut. Sometimes I wasn’t able to shower at all or had to use a water bottle or a cup to wash my entire body with. And having curly, frizzy hair all the way down the length of my back does not prove easy with a small cup of water being poured over your head. Time was also an issue. My showers frequently lasted a minimum of 15-20 minutes because of all the maintenance my hair required and I envied my short-haired friends that took 5 minute showers. When you’re backpacking and staying at either hostels where you’re sharing a shower space or even just couchsurfing on a generous stranger’s couch, time is of the essence and taking a quicker shower can make even the smallest difference when trying to respect the space you’re sharing with others. In addition to be considerate of others, saving water is of course a huge passion of mine and any minutes I can save myself in the shower is beneficial to the world at large.
And now here I am, a few days after cutting off all my hair, still trying to convince myself it was the best decision for the backpacking adventure I have just started. It has already proved itself to be much more convenient, despite the fact that I still feel like I’m looking at a complete stranger in the mirror. It may not be the best look for me and I obviously miss the long hair which I loved so dearly, but if traveling has taught me anything, it’s that sacrifices have to be made sometimes. If I wanted to go through what I had gone through the last time around just to look cuter when I happened to be around a shower, blow dyer, straightener, and mirror, then I could have suffered the other days spent in transit, on a farm with no bathroom or running water, or sleeping in a tent hiking the Torres Del Paine. But it seemed silly to put looks over convenience. It took guts and I may have teared up a little watching my hair being hacked off, but I know I won’t regret it next week when I’m living on a farm in the middle of nowhere, using a water bottle to wash the mud out of my hair. In fact, I will probably thank myself for being so brave, even if I may not look all that cute pulling weeds out of the ground or constructing adobe buildings out of mud.