A man surveys a quaint mexican town, there are bathroom signs everywhere

The New Normal: Foreign Travel After Treatment

My wife and I recently spent a few days in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, visiting friends who moved there several years ago. We loved everything about the city: the art, music, food, people, the nearly five-hundred-year-old history and architecture, even the bumpy stone-paved streets.

But eighteen months past robotic surgery, and still dealing with some incontinence, I was slightly anxious about easy access to bathrooms, a consideration that has become part of my “new normal” when traveling, especially, in this case, out of the United States.

Traveling with incontinence

I packed the number of lightweight shields I thought I would need for the entire trip and then added a few more just in case. Walking is the preferred method of transportation in San Miguel. We booked a two-and-a-half hour walking tour of the city center on our first full day, so I wore a shield when we left the house for the half-mile walk to our meeting place in the main square and added two extras to my daypack.

Finding someone else who understands

A volunteer for the non-profit that hosted the tour met us and we found a bench in the beautiful garden in the middle of the square as we waited for our guide and the other tourists who had signed up. Not shy about voicing my needs, I asked the volunteer if there would be any bathroom breaks, adding the importance of that question as one gets older. His reply was perfect: “I know exactly what you mean, especially if you’ve had prostate cancer, as I have.”

What are the odds? Well, there’s a large population of senior expatriates in San Miguel, so better than I might have expected. He assured me that there would be at least one planned stop, and then he pointed out where I could find a public restroom in the recesses of a courtyard behind the chamber of commerce. Knowing it was there eased my mind for the rest of our stay.

Never pass up a bathroom

Our tour was great. We learned more than we could possibly remember about San Miguel, the center of the Revolution that started in 1810 and resulted in independence from Spain. Ignacio Allende, the city’s namesake, is the great hero of the revolt.

Including a walking tour of a 1500-year-old Otomi pyramid near the Canada de la Virgen, we walked over 25 miles in four days, most of them on those bumpy streets. Fatigue increases my level of incontinence in the afternoon if I’m active, so I make sure to take advantage of restrooms when they’re available. Or, as a friend of mine likes to say, “Never pass up the opportunity to take a leak.”

Be prepared and speak up

Self-advocacy is an important aspect of good living, even more so as one ages and deals with health issues not obvious to a casual observer. I hope that my incontinence will continue to improve, but in the meantime, I’ll be prepared, speak up, and never fear doing the things I love to do, traveling being high on the list.

Next May we’re going to Paris. Où se trouvent les toilettes?

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