I will not be the first person to tell you that in order to live a life of full-time travel, I had to make sacrifices. Everyone who has ever decided to travel for an extended period of time has had to give up something in pursuit of that dream—whether it’s cutting out daily trips to Starbucks or selling your car or your house—it’s no secret that people give up a lot in their pursuit to see the world.

But I might just be the first person to admit that one of the hardest things I relinquished in the face of our travel dreams was my hair. Specifically, my short hair.

It sounds like such a trivial, superficial thing, I know. I mean, is my vanity on par with, say, rehoming your pets or leaving behind the security of a job and a regular paycheck? (Both things that we also did, by the way.) Obviously not. And surely there aren’t any rules that prohibit women with close-cropped hair from getting on a plane.

All of this is true.  And yet, as someone who has rocked just about every hairstyle imaginable from (regrettable) rockabilly mullets to banged bobs to perky little pixies, I knew that as much as I preferred having short hair accented with bright red highlights, there was no way I could maintain that kind of style on the road. Even removing color fade from the equation, in order to upkeep any kind of short style, I’d be committing myself to packing hair styling products, a straightening iron AND a hair dryer, and I would need to find myself in a stylist’s chair once every 6 – 8 weeks. Given how much drama just ordering food in Japan caused during our first few weeks of traveling, I knew that as fun and flirty as I find short hair to be, it would also require a level of maintenance and add a dimension of stress (could I really trust random hairdressers with perhaps no grasp of English to cut my hair?) that just wasn’t compatible with the trip we were taking.

P1010274_edit
IMG_2840_edit

So I decided to grow it out. I had had long hair before, but usually that was the result of laziness or the stubborn pursuit of a goal (for instance, wanting to wear my hair in an elaborate “up do” for prom). Although there are women who default to long hair for most of their lives, I am not one of them. Inevitably I get fed up with having long hair—it’s so heavy and hot, it takes hours to dry, my hair resolutely refuses to hold a curl and I can barely braid it so I never do anything fun with it when it’s long—and in a moment of wild abandon, cut it short.

Not so this time. I let the fire-engine red strands fade to burnt copper then to blond and final to albino white. I weathered months of awkward “inbetween” lengths where it looked like a chia pet grew atop my head as my pixie slowly morphed into a chin-length bob. My hair inched towards a nondescript-but-benign shoulder-length style. I was being practical and tamped down on my rebellious streak that dared me to cut it all off as style apathy set in—every time I looked in the mirror and felt frustrated or bored, I remembered that every inch of hair was a sign of my commitment to our goal.

I don’t pretend that something as simple and impermanent as hair could ever define me, or anyone else for that matter, and I had always thought I had a pretty healthy, balanced approach to my own hair: no matter what happens, it keeps on growing, so have fun with it and don’t be afraid to try something new. It wasn’t until I grew my hair out, sacrificing personality for practicality, that I realized how much joy having a fun haircut brought me, how much of myself was reflected in those daring, playful cuts. When my hair reached my shoulders and could easily be pulled back into a ponytail, I could look at myself in the mirror and feel I looked generically pretty. However, I didn’t really feel like me. It always felt like this was something I was doing for the trip.

Sometime in 2010
Steph, sometime in 2010

Despite what this post might lead you to believe, my life really doesn’t revolve around the outside of my head (the inside is another matter entirely…), and I ultimately accepted and grew accustomed to my long locks. When we finally left for Japan with just a travel hairdryer in tow, I knew my sacrifice had been worth it. Sure my hair was forgettable, but it was also easy to do exactly that: forget about it. It never looked awkward or weird, even if I let it air dry, and there was little easier than putting it up in a ponytail. Moreover, I could go months without getting it cut, and on the two occasions where I did step into salon (once in Borneo, the other in Chiang Mai, Thailand), even with the general Asian tendency toward glam beauty queen blowouts, I was comforted knowing their questionable styling would wash out with my next shower, but the simple trimming of a few inches seemed to be foolproof.

Just like a real Thai girl
Just like a real Thai girl

For the most part, my thesis that long hair is optimal for traveling has proved true, but there have still been moments when I have desperately pined for a close crop. Standing ankle deep in shower water because my hair has plugged the drain—again—and emptying bottles of shampoo faster than a wino downs a bottle of moonshine, aren’t much fun. Dealing with my hair when diving is always nightmarish as my mask inevitably gets tangled in it, causing yelps of pain whenever I rip it (and some follicles) off during surface intervals. I don’t like how after a certain length, no matter how fastidiously I condition, the ends get so dry they resemble stalks of wheat that knot and get caught in my brush… a sure sign I am due for a trim. But overall, these little inconveniences have seemed worth the tradeoff and whenever I find myself saying how much I wish I could have a sassy short hair cut, I remember all the perks and snap myself back in line.

Hair ahoy!
Hair ahoy!

I always promised myself that even though I could never foresee a day where I was excited to return home from our travels and slide back into our old lives that I would make the best of that eventuality by doing the one thing for myself that I felt traveling had kept me from: I would cut off all my hair and celebrate the next chapter of my life with a cute fun haircut.

When Tony & I found out a few weeks ago that this return home would take place this summer, it’s safe to say I was thrown for a loop. It wasn’t unexpected, but I still didn’t look forward to it. Even though I knew this moment was coming, I woke up every morning hoping it never would, wishing that the kind of magic exists in the world that if you want something bad enough, you get it. I love my life so much right now and there is still so much of the world that I want to see, still so many adventures I need to have. I am loathe to give up what we’ve created, and if I’m being truthful, after two years of learning to go after the things I want and finding the value in choosing and prioritizing happiness, I’m more reluctant to forsake traveling now than I’ve ever been. I like feeling like I can create joy in my life, that any limits holding me back are ones of my own making, not anyone else’s, so I can tear them down when the time is right. Before we got the call from home, I looked to the future and though I didn’t know the exact path that would take me to it, I knew it was a happy one.

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Then, all of a sudden, it felt like everything—our trip, my happiness, my potential, my true life—was being cut short.

I was miserable and shaken for days, spiraling into panic attacks and bouts of bleak despair. I felt out of control.

Ultimately, I’m a survivor and a fighter and even if it takes me a while to get back up from the mat, no matter the beating, I always do. Through my grief, I started to look for positive fallout from this quake, like the tentative tendrils of grass that poke out amongst the ruins of a collapsed building.  Having a deadline to this trip forced us to re-evaluate our priorities for the next few months; we’ve become so comfortable here in Asia, maybe a little too comfortable, even perhaps sliding towards complacency. We had been drifting as though we had all the time in the world, but suddenly, a clock was ticking and time was running out and there was still a whole lot of world waiting. Knowing this period is ending prompted us to refocus and helped us decide that we need to get back out there and continue exploring. We’ll have time enough soon to sit inside in front of our computers and try to make money, but with time ever diminishing, every second is infinitely precious now. So we decided that after we head to Laos (our first new country of 2014!), rather than returning to an old favorite, we’ll head to Sri Lanka instead and hopefully discover a new one. After that? Well, you’ll just have to wait and see.

The impending end of our journey was a reminder not to push aside the things we really want because to pursue them and make them real might be difficult, inconvenient or scary. Maybe it was this that caused me to pick up the phone and make a hair appointment at one of Saigon’s top salons. Or maybe I was just tired of waking up in the morning to find a thick rug of my own hair scattered across the floor, as though I’d been undergoing nocturnal chemotherapy. You decide.

Regardless, I decided, why wait until I am back in Toronto to cut my hair? Why not herald the start of a new chapter right here and now. Armed with a photo, walking into the salon, I swelled with excitement. “This haircut is me taking back control,” I thought. “It’s actually cool how symbolic it is: getting cut short can actually be a good thing.”

Sitting down with the stylist, I showed him the picture I had found while browsing online, explaining that I was open to removing some length but that I didn’t want to go too short.

“I travel a lot,” I said. “Like, all the time. And I travel really light, so I don’t have any products or a straightening iron, just a hairdryer. And when my hair gets too short, one side gets this weird wave and flips out. So don’t go above my chin at the most. Oh, and I might not get another hair cut for months, so I need something that doesn’t need much upkeep and will grow out gracefully.”

The stylist assured me he understood and would give me a cut that made me look better than the picture. Nothing to worry about. So, I sat back and let him get to work

He gathered my hair into a thick rope and scissored through it. I smiled as a huge weight was lifted from my shoulders. Literally.

Alas, my elation was short lived. As more and more of my hair fell to the floor, stirrings of unease began to flutter in my stomach. I’ve had enough haircuts to know that even a great one doesn’t always look promising in the middle of the process, so I pushed my concerns away and tried to remain optimistic. But the more he cut, the worse I felt.

Mere hours before the haircut
Mere hours before the haircut

I tried to remind myself that everything I was seeing could be wonky styling and that maybe after I got home and did it myself, I’d like it more. Then I shifted to thinking that even if it wasn’t my favorite haircut of all time, it would still be ok. Eventually I got to the point where I was reminding myself that it was only hair and would grow out, that this wasn’t permanent. Finally, I found myself wavering between giving myself a pep talk that even if this wasn’t the haircut I had anticipated, I could still rock it like it was intentional, and wondering whether it was worth it to cause a scene and refuse to pay.

As I sat in the chair and stewed, trying not to let my anxiety bleed on to my face, I wondered what throwing a fit would accomplish. My hair was way shorter than I had requested, but there wasn’t really anything that could be done about that now, except to wait for it to grow.

When the stylist finally stopped his ministrations, he whipped out a hair straightener and began yanking it through my hair. He pointed out that I just needed to pack a little one because my hair has a body wave and this would help tame it. A little bit of product would keep it sleek all day. He had tried to cut it chin length like I had said, but my hair is so thick, he thought the only thing to be done was go shorter. Also, he had cut the sides slightly asymmetrically, to make it more playful. In essence, I looked nothing like the photo I had shown him, and he had incorporated all of the things that I had very clearly said I did NOT want into the style.

In a fog of shock, I quickly thanked him and squirmed on the spot while Tony paid. I darted outside to our motorbike and, in response to Tony’s question about what I thought of my new look, voice quavering, I blurted, “I HATE it. But it will grow out, right?”

Sad Steph
Oh my. Look at that face. That’s not a happy face.

And then I burst into tears.

Let me get one thing straight: in my entire life, I have only cried about my hair once. I think I was 12 and my dad had taken me to a SuperCuts, where the person there proceeded to also cut my hair asymmetrically (though that was unintentional). I actually think that this, along with a few other less than flattering haircuts, conditioned me to be rather blasé about my hair since all I could do was wait for it to grow out and try again. I liked getting my hair cut short because it was a dare that always undid itself in a few months. I would routinely scoff and throw shade about the girls on America’s Next Top Model who would bawl their eyes out and throw hissy fits about having their hair cut.  Didn’t they know short hair was fun?

Now I was one of them.

We made it about a block on our motorcycle before my weeping forced Tony to pull over and try to comfort me. He assured me it really wasn’t bad, and tried to take a picture to prove it to me. I took one look at it and doubled my sobbing.

I was a little distraught.

Tony asked me what I wanted to do—did I want to go back and get them to fix it (“The only way to fix it will be to cut it into a full blown pixie!” I cried “And that will just make it harder to maintain.”) or to ask for a refund? I was torn because although I hated my haircut, I also knew that getting back our $20 (which is peanuts, I know, but actually a lot of money for a haircut here in Saigon) wouldn’t really make the situation any better. Still, I was so upset that Tony insisted we go back and said he would request the refund.

Coward that I am, I waited outside while Tony went in to explain the situation. Within seconds, my erstwhile stylist—accompanied by the owner of the salon—had rushed out the door to find out what was the problem. What followed was a largely unproductive he-said-she-said in which I said all the things I did not like about my haircut, and he tried to deny responsibility. I was in shock because I had never seen my hair so short before. Not true, I countered, I have had it much shorter before. He couldn’t read my mind. Fair enough, I allowed, except I had shown him a picture so that he didn’t have to. I was supposed to have an open mind and wanted something fun… and everyone has a different definition of fun! Also true, I said, except I was very clear about what I did not want and he managed to ignore all of that. And the bottom line was that I hated my hair.

The end result was that they gave me my money back and said that I should take a few days and adjust. If I still wanted them to do something about it, I could come back and they would fix it when my emotions weren’t so heightened.

We got home, I looked in the mirror, and burst into sobs once more.

I covered up all of the mirrors, like a Jew sitting shiva for her hair, all the while negatively comparing myself to a host of celebrities.

“ I look like Edward Furlong from Terminator 2!” I wailed. “I have the haircut of a 13-year-old boy. From the ‘90s!”

Cue the hysterical sobbing.

An hour later: “I look like Gwyneth Paltrow from Sliding Doors! It’s so ‘90s!”

More crying.

Finally: “I look like Julie Andrews in The Sound of Music! I look like a nun fleeing the Nazis… in the ‘90s.”

And still the tears did not stop.

For days I avoided mirrors and prayed we didn’t run into anyone we knew, refusing to make eye contact with our landlady (despite her excitement over the cut) and meekly hanging my head in shame. I felt so awkward and uncomfortable. I lamented that, for the next few months, I could not be in any of our photos because I didn’t want there to be any evidence of this follicular catastrophe. When I did peek at my hair, hot tears leaked across my cheeks as I declared how much I hated it.

Not so bad
It’s not so bad…

Eventually, I was able to look at myself in the mirror, short-haired but still a stranger, and acknowledge that even though I didn’t love it, maybe my hair wasn’t quite so dire.

It’s been about a week since the debacle and I still don’t love my hair, but I’ve accepted it for what it is. What else can I do? The truth is, sometimes you take a risk and it doesn’t pan out but fails spectacularly instead. Sometimes things get cut short and it sucks. Sometimes it’s your hair, sometimes it’s your trip. Sometimes all you can do is wait for a bad situation to get better. The key is to never stop believing that it will.

I hope that come the summer, my hair and the future both look better. But for now, all I can do is wait.

Written by: Stephenie Harrison


In another life, I moved from Toronto, Canada to Nashville, TN to pursue my doctoral degree in Psychology. That chapter of my life is now finished, but I did earn the right to demand you call me Dr. Steph (though I respond just as well to plain old Steph). I am an avid reader whose book collection is rivaled only by my many pairs of cute shoes. I also like to knit, hold impromptu karaoke parties, and try new and unusual foods. Generally not all at the same time. I also really love to learn languages, which may explain why I took 3 years of Latin in highschool. I'm turning over a new leaf, so instead of looking forward, I'm going to work on enjoying the present, so the country I'm most looking forward to is whichever one we're in right now!

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Read comments (61)

  1. March 10, 2014 at 12:44 pm
    Mar. 10, '14

    Aw, Steph!! That sucks (both getting a haircut that you hate, and having to put an expiration date on your trip). I HATE getting haircuts because I always hate them, and I keep my hair really, really long so it inevitably ends up with me not cutting it for a year or two, having it be totally destroyed, and then asking for a trim and getting four inches cut off. I could never rock short hair in the tropics…I’m so hot and sweaty 24/7 that my fine hair would just be greasy and plastered to my face. I think your haircut is cute, but it’s a big change and I bet you’ll get used to it soon 🙂
    Rika | Cubicle Throwdown recently posted..Roatan Rent: What $400/month Gets You

    • March 11, 2014 at 9:39 am
      Mar. 11, '14

      Yes, the less than ideal haircut paired with the end of our trip has definitely been a sobering one-two punch of suckitude. It has not been a happy week here at 20YH headquarters, but I suppose the upside to this is that things can only get better, right?

      I dunno, maybe this will teach me to be less vain? Truthfully, I really love having short hair, especially in hot weather. I just wish that this story had a different ending… it was supposed to be triumphant, dammit!

  2. March 10, 2014 at 1:15 pm
    Mar. 10, '14

    Oh My Lord – you’ve read my post about getting my hair cut by a ladyboy in Malaysia, right? Your story is basically identical to mine. I’m still scarred from my ordeal. So much so, that I refuse to have my hair cut anywhere that I don’t know now, which means that I’m left with unruly, thick, long hair that desperately needs cutting. I honestly could have written this post myself. And I’m so glad that there’s someone else who has talked about this. Honestly, my main thought about having a home base again is being able to get my hair cut and coloured. I love travelling, but I’ve hated how my hair’s looked this last couple of years. I love the pixie cut pics at the top – that style definitely suits you!
    Julia recently posted..Chile, Corners and Colorado: Route 66 Road Trip (Part 2)

    • March 11, 2014 at 9:40 am
      Mar. 11, '14

      You know, I was thinking about you when I wrote this post, knowing I was not alone in this pain and shame! In fact, remembering how disastrous your hair ordeal was, this is why when I was thinking of doing something a little more risky than a trim that I specifically researched the top expat salons in the city. I should have realized when I went into the salon and literally everyone else there was a diplomat’s wife getting a blowout and nothing more that I was in trouble…

  3. March 10, 2014 at 5:48 pm
    Mar. 10, '14

    Aw girlfriend – your haircut – ANY haircut is purely incidental. With that smile, you could be BALD and look FANTASTIC!
    Dyanne@TravelnLass recently posted..A Peek at Casa de TravelnLass in Cuenca, Ecuador

    • March 11, 2014 at 9:41 am
      Mar. 11, '14

      Funny you should say that because in one of my more dramatic moments, I moaned to Tony that I should have just shaved my head! But thank you for the sweet compliment!

  4. March 10, 2014 at 6:36 pm
    Mar. 10, '14

    Oh Steph!! I want to tell you how cute it is, how your expectations vs reality are really the problem, and how my dad always said the difference between a good haircut and a bad haircut is only 10 days, but I know there is no solace once a girl decides her hair looks terrible – your face in those pictures tell the tale. My traveling hair tale is both opposite and similar to yours…my hair actually got shorter and shorter as we travelled – it is more unruly the longer it is and so I just kept cutting it shorter (it remains today in a pixie cut that I love)…I successfully home-coloured it regularly while we travelled until Saigon (also) where the box of brown hair colour resulted in a black, black, black shade that only required black lipstick for me to be declared goth as I am normally a fair skinned, brown haired, blue eyed gal. I, too, avoided those we knew and waited for it to grow out – it was a sticky, hair coating, formula that did not fade and did not leave my head until cut off. At least it will grow and will evolve into a funny tale although the scars of finding a hair stylist may persist for some time. I really do think it’s cute 🙂
    Gillian recently posted..Where Will We Stay While Cycle Touring Europe?

    • March 11, 2014 at 9:43 am
      Mar. 11, '14

      Gillian, I remember reading about your hair dye ordeal in Vietnam and I think that was part of what made me realize that hair maintenance during LT travel could actually be a bit horrendous. I had actually been toying with the thought of putting some color back in my hair this time, but now I’m obviously glad I didn’t. Oh that this country should follicularly fail the two of us!

  5. March 10, 2014 at 7:39 pm
    Mar. 10, '14

    This is the first blog post I’ve read on here, and I can totally relate! I have curly hair and so I’ve been the victim of a few pretty awful haircuts. It’s demoralizing, for sure. But that’s life, eh? It’ll grow back (which of course is not news to you). 🙂
    Lisa from Lulu’s Big Adventure recently posted..Demystifying Schizophrenia

    • March 11, 2014 at 9:45 am
      Mar. 11, '14

      Oooph, I really feel for you curly-haired ladies. Some of my best friends have had springy curls and I know how much they struggle finding cuts that flatter. Since most people in Asia just have stick straight hair, I’m pretty sure no one would know what to do with you here (and I’m sure that’s why my relatively mild “body wave” confounded them).

  6. Laura
    March 10, 2014 at 10:26 pm
    Mar. 10, '14

    You almost made me cry with that picture of you on the street. I think we’ve all had one (or two) of those experiences (mine involved a guy cutting my fringe before I even had a chance to take off my glasses! Or did I tell you about the perm incident?). I’m the first to yell at the models who have post-haircut meltdowns but I obsessed over my hair after each cut…

    Are you really coming home this summer? (can I say a little woohoo, even though you guys might not be thrilled!)

    • March 11, 2014 at 9:48 am
      Mar. 11, '14

      Ah L’Ell, I know you totally understand where I’m coming from, and of course I remember the infamous “perm incident”. And I also know that you also grew out your hair when you were doing your RTW trip even though you tend to stay short as well… Why couldn’t I just wait a few more months and do this when we were back in Toronto? (Actually, I totally know why: I figured this would be waaaaaay cheaper, which it was, but now I’m paying in so many other ways…)

      And yes, you read that right: we really are coming home this summer. We are mostly not looking forward to it at all EXCEPT of course that it means we get to see you and other friends (and our dogs). 😀 Details to follow, but look for us sometime in June/July.

  7. March 11, 2014 at 5:05 am
    Mar. 11, '14

    Well, I don’t think it looks so bad. In fact, I kinda like it. Well, minus the tears.

    I too love to have short hair and I keep looking at old photos on Facebook (damn you Facebook for reminding me how CUTE I can be) and wishing for a lovely cut again. Sigh. But I am waiting until we get home because my hair is ridiculously difficult to cut properly. And in the meantime I’m finding new, creative ways to deal with my growing (curly) bangs.
    Carmel recently posted..SPELLBOUND

    • March 11, 2014 at 9:52 am
      Mar. 11, '14

      It’s the weirdest haircut in the world, honestly. I think I will have to pick up some styling goop or something, because it literally looks different every time I look at it and half the time doesn’t really look like the picture at the bottom of this post. I was perhaps unprepared for what I looked like with short hair and that may have played a role in my emotions more than I allowed initially, but now I disapassionately hate my hair, if such a thing is possible. I don’t love it, but I’m resigned and I guess it could be worse.

      I would suggest getting your hair cut in Australia, since they could probably be trusted, but I’m sure you’d have to take out a mortgage our something in order to afford one… 😉

  8. March 11, 2014 at 5:45 am
    Mar. 11, '14

    I think your hair looks cute, but I know the feeling….I have a friend that doesn’t cut her hair before she travels so she can get it cut wherever she goes. Half the time it’s a debacle, but for some reason, she loves this little event…
    Corinne recently posted..Singapore Airport and Why It’s So Awesome!

    • March 11, 2014 at 9:54 am
      Mar. 11, '14

      Thanks for the vote of confidence, Corinne. I am not exactly coming around to my new ‘do, but it doesn’t make me cry anymore and if this is the worst thing I have to cry about (it’s not really, which is probably part of the problem) then I don’t have it too bad. At least it made for an interesting blog post, right?

  9. March 11, 2014 at 6:08 am
    Mar. 11, '14

    I know that probably my words won’t make any difference, but I like your hair and smiley face in the last picture, I personally think you look more radiant and gives you a younger look (I’m not implying you are old!). This reminds me that I desperately need an haircut too considering last time I had one was in September 2012. On another note, I see you guys decided to make it back home in the summer, in that case make the MOST of your remaining months of travelling before you’ll be back out there for more adventures, because if you go back it doesn’t mean it’s the end of travelling, right?
    Franca recently posted..Travelling Apart For The First Time

    • March 11, 2014 at 10:08 am
      Mar. 11, '14

      Actually, your words made me feel loads better, so thank you for saying such nice things! I actually felt like this haircut made me look a lot older, but you are not the only one to have insisted otherwise, so maybe I really do have a crazy skewed perspective of myself.

      And yes, we definitely will be making the most of the remaining time we have out here on the road. No matter what, going home this summer will not be the end of our travels forever (we know we love it too much to stop when there’s still so much to see), but it will be more than just a short pitstop/visit as we carry on as we have. There will be some big changes, and we’re not entirely sure what they all are just yet… but when we do, we’ll be sure to share them!

  10. March 11, 2014 at 7:11 am
    Mar. 11, '14

    Arrrghhhhh the holiday hair cut – nerve wracking to say the least! But I think you look good! I know it’s not what you wanted, but I think you rock it well 🙂
    Tim | UrbanDuniya recently posted..The Raingarden and the Melbourne Food and Wine Festival

    • March 11, 2014 at 10:08 am
      Mar. 11, '14

      Thanks, Tim! You’re right that it’s not what I asked for/wanted, but sometimes that’s the way things go. Now all I can do is, as you say, rock it!

  11. March 11, 2014 at 7:49 am
    Mar. 11, '14

    I got a hair cut in Laos and watched as she cut straight across the bottom. Bluntest cut of my life. Oh the horrors of hair cuts in Asia!

    Looks adorable on you girl! Not everyone can rock short hair but you do it very well <3
    Kristin Addis recently posted..Tips From the Banker: The Real Cost of Travel in Vietnam

    • March 11, 2014 at 10:10 am
      Mar. 11, '14

      Ha! That makes me think of when I went in for a trim in Borneo and the guy asked me if I wanted a “V” or a “U” shape to it. I had no idea what he was talking about… I guess unfortunate Asian haircuts are just one of the rites of passage that every LT traveler goes through!

      And thanks for the kind words about the new look. With each day that passes, I get more used to it and even if I can’t imagine ever wanting this haircut ever again, at least I no longer burst into tears and hide in the shadows. 🙂

  12. March 11, 2014 at 8:29 am
    Mar. 11, '14

    Oh, Steph. I can totally relate to these feelings. Getting my haircut is something I always look forward to and I know the sinking feeling when it doesn’t turn out how you wanted. If it is any consolation, I still think you look great and if you ever need an English-speaking stylist in Tokyo, I know an awesome one!
    Jessica – Notes of Nomads recently posted..3.11 Three Years On: Why We’ll Never Stop Caring

    • March 11, 2014 at 10:12 am
      Mar. 11, '14

      Thank you for the kind words, Jessica. It sounds like there are many others out there who have experienced the disappointment of a haircut gone wrong. I know this style isn’t especially hideous or anything, it’s just really not what I wanted/expected at all. I may be scared of Asian hairstylists for life, but if I ever find the courage and am in Tokyo, I’ll certainly let you know!

  13. March 11, 2014 at 9:46 am
    Mar. 11, '14

    OMG.. this hit so close to home, yet in a different way. I started to go prematurely grey in my early 20’s so colored my hair for years. When we decided to hit the road longterm I knew there was no way I could keep up my every 3-4 week root upkeep so cut it very short (slightly shorter than your new do) and colored it as blond as I could (I’m naturally a medium-dark brunette – lol, or I was originally.. I may have lost track over the years). The grow out was TERRIBLE and the majority of our year long journey I had an odd half dirty blond on the bottom/ half grey growout on top. I did keep it quite short the entire trip, mostly for ease but also to reduce some of the terrible color combo but I will never forget the stylist in Bangkok who cut it and kept saying “and color” every three minutes. Yes, it looked terrible but I figured, what the hell, I’m on the road and don’t know anyone here. Good luck. I am sure it will get better in time and.. it really doesn’t look bad!
    Rhonda recently posted..Holiday in Goa

    • March 11, 2014 at 10:15 am
      Mar. 11, '14

      I have a friend who actually started going grey in HIGHSCHOOL, so while I have been fortunate thus far, I do feel for you. I have vowed that when I do start to go grey, I’m going to just start dying my hair insane colors. 🙂

      I admit, I was less concerned about what strangers would think of my hair (having enough sense to realize that they would in fact think nothing about it!) but was very distraught at the thought of this being documented in photos. I have a little more perspective now, given that I not just shared two pictures of my new cut online where literally anyone can see them, but I look like such a weepy freak in that immediate aftermath shot. No one can ever accuse me of truly being vain, that’s for sure!

  14. March 11, 2014 at 2:13 pm
    Mar. 11, '14

    I really don’t think it’s bad at all! I like the cute new look a lot actually. Kudos for you for posting the teary-eyed photo of you. I don’t think I would be brave enough to do that! I do understand where you are coming from though. I’ve never had a short haircut because I’m way too protective of my long locks. They are getting a little too long at the moment, but I’m hesitant to get it cut until I find someone I can trust! I look forward to following your travels over the next few months before you head home- I’m sure you’re going to live them up, and then I’m sure you’ll be on the road again in no time! 🙂
    Casey @ A Cruising Couple recently posted..What Adventure Travel Means to Us

    • March 11, 2014 at 11:10 pm
      Mar. 11, '14

      Ha! Well, let let it never be said I am vain or that I do not suffer for my art, right? 😉 I’ve got enough space and perspective now that the sad photo of me just makes me laugh because it is so pathetic.

      Thanks for the vote of support and we are certainly going to do our best to squeeze the most out of these remaining months out here on the road. And of course, we’ll be sure to share every step (and misstep) along the way!

  15. March 11, 2014 at 2:22 pm
    Mar. 11, '14

    Hi Steph, I can totally relate to those moments of anxiety and anger, sitting in an unfamiliar stylist’s chair, realizing you’re not getting the cut you wanted, even after showing a photo and describing what you don’t want! I had that same experience last year, a day before a job interview, no less! Needless to say, I shed a few tears that day too and learned an important lesson – no haircuts right before an interview! Anyway, I think you look great with that cut 🙂
    Sam recently posted..On Fear and Exploring Life

    • March 11, 2014 at 11:13 pm
      Mar. 11, '14

      Ah yes, that is an excellent life lesson to learn. I made sure to get my hair cut about a week before my actual wedding (even though I wasn’t changing the style or my stylist) just so that I had some time to let it look a little more natural and be completely comfortable with it. Not quite a job interview, but given it’s been memorialized in photographs, I’m glad I made the choice I did.

  16. March 11, 2014 at 3:04 pm
    Mar. 11, '14

    Steph, I have to be honest…when I saw that first picture of you crying with your new haircut I couldn’t understand…let me just say from a stranger’s standpoint, it is actually really cute! But it seems like you’ve got that kind of hair that really looks good however it is cut. Sorry, I know that probably doesn’t help to say, but it’s the truth! Last week my boyfriend needed a haircut here in La Paz, Bolivia and we happened upon a salon school where he could get one for free…this is something I DO NOT recommend attempting in South America. We had to shave it when he got home! Fortunately it’s a little easier for guys. I missed something I think…have you written about why your trip was cut short?!
    Rochelle Comeaux recently posted..Finding our way in Sorata

    • March 11, 2014 at 11:17 pm
      Mar. 11, '14

      It is so much easier for men isn’t it? Even if they do result to shaving their heads no one bats an eye! Tony has had a few cuts on this trip that he wasn’t exactly thrilled with, but honestly, no one noticed except for him. I know it’s the same with me, and I am getting used to it. It doesn’t even really look like that last photo most of the time (that was right before I washed it for the first time post-cut and so it had still known the effects of a straightening iron), but it’s fine.

      Oh, and no, you didn’t really miss anything. In one of our recent posts about the Traveler’s Dilemma, I mentioned that we would have to return home this summer, but I haven’t delved into it too much beyond that at this point. Don’t worry, I’ll write about it soon(ish)!

  17. March 11, 2014 at 5:38 pm
    Mar. 11, '14

    I think you are so incredibly brave for even having your hair cut while halfway around the world! I was far too afraid and ended up coming home with an overgrown mane resembling Cousin It from the Adams family. Although you aren’t happy with your hair I think it looks really great – I only wish mine would behave so well in front of a camera.

    On another note I couldn’t believe it when I read you are coming home! I can relate to that panicky, sinking feeling brought on by a ticking clock only too well. Have a great time over these next few months! I can’t wait to read all about it!
    Calli recently posted..Edinburgh Runs Through My Veins

    • March 11, 2014 at 11:20 pm
      Mar. 11, '14

      I think it is a woman’s lot in life to forever be envious of everyone else’s hair. Stylists always tell me how beautiful my hair is and how lucky I am for it to be so thick and healthy, but I always wish it were thinner and wispier… I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve gone into salons with a picture of some blonde girl only to have my stylist tell me that my hair just won’t behave that way.

      And yes, we will definitely be spending some time in dear old Canada this summer. Obviously I need to write more in detail about that on the site soon… clearly people want/need more details!

  18. March 11, 2014 at 6:30 pm
    Mar. 11, '14

    Aw! Your sad face picture!! Hopefully the acceptance with said ‘do can grow into a love, or there can be some tweaking or styling that can help you feel better! While it may not be the cat’s meow, at least you aren’t rocking some weirdo mullet/bo-ho hobo/rats nest, right? (Like you said it could be worse…)
    Emily recently posted..Can You Do the Chan Chan?

    • March 11, 2014 at 11:22 pm
      Mar. 11, '14

      I am becoming more inured to the cut each and every day, but before we leave HCMC I might see if I can pick up a travel straightening iron or, at the very least, a little bit of product that might help me style it a bit more to my liking. And yes, it could definitely be worse—it’s not like this is super hideous or anything, I just don’t LOVE it, ya know?

  19. March 11, 2014 at 8:55 pm
    Mar. 11, '14

    I got my hair cut in Argentina and it was okay…except the hairdresser almost strangled with the apron. Since then I’ve just gotten my boyfriend to cut my hair. So I can have short hair and travel AND not pay money! And it doesn’t look nearly as bad as you’re probably thinking…hahaha.
    Syd recently posted..View From My Nomad Office: Wellington, New Zealand

    • March 11, 2014 at 11:24 pm
      Mar. 11, '14

      I am always lamenting to Tony that I wish his arsenal of creative skills included haircuts! When I had bangs, he would trim those for me, but that’s about it!

  20. March 11, 2014 at 10:47 pm
    Mar. 11, '14

    Oh, Steph. I think you’re being too hard on yourself. You look gorgeous with with the new cu! It frames your face beautifully. I guess it takes a white to get use to it. I hope you get use to it bed it really looks lovely on you:)

  21. March 12, 2014 at 2:33 am
    Mar. 12, '14

    Brent had a similar experience trying to get his haircut in Thailand. He took a photo to the barber, who barely glanced at the picture and then nodded quickly and told him he could do it. Brent ended up with this weird cut that was super short everywhere with a poof at the front – with Brent’s curly hair, he looked like some strange 50’s-pompadour-cartoon-character. He took it pretty well, but it’s made us both nervous about future hair cuts (especially in Asia). Although sometimes it just takes a few days with what seems like a bad cut to figure out how to rock it :).

    • March 13, 2014 at 9:47 pm
      Mar. 13, '14

      I always thought men’s hair was pretty foolproof, but I guess even they get unlucky every now and then. I have had enough time with the hair now that I am largely apathetic to it — I have some clips and bobby pins that I can use to change it up, but I think the ideal would really be a straightening iron, which I don’t have and am not going to purchase on the road. There are definitely some parts that are wonky, but I’ll just have to wait for it to grow out, I guess! Having hair this short hasn’t really turned out to be too much of a pain BUT I don’t think I’d want to have to deal with getting it cut every 6 weeks or so to maintain it!

  22. March 12, 2014 at 5:50 am
    Mar. 12, '14

    I’m so sorry about your traumatic haircut experience, though it really doesn’t look bad! The first time I got my hair cut in Germany, I spoke pretty much no German, so I typed some things into my translating app and showed the lady. She giggled, probably because the translation was awkward, and went to work. In the end, the cut wasn’t horrible, though not great, but my real issue was with how quickly she did everything. I’m used to hairdressers who take their time to make sure each section is just how it should be, and I usually end up sitting there for about an hour. This took less than 30 minutes from the time she started washing my hair to the time I was paying. I almost cried at the cash register. Luckily I have found someone better here.

    Did I miss the reason why you’re cutting your trip short?
    Ali recently posted..Railay, Thailand in Photos

    • March 14, 2014 at 12:06 am
      Mar. 14, '14

      My haircut wound up actually taking a really long time, so I certainly can’t fault them on that front. But, I do know what you mean about really speedy service being a bit disconcerting: we just went to a dentist yesterday for a checkup & cleaning and we were both in and out in under 30 minutes. I was really unsettled by how fast they went—I assumed that they had to have missed something and not been very thorough, especially when they said neither of us had cavities. So I made Tony take us to another dentist for a second opinion… they confirmed exactly what the first dentist had said, which eased my mind, but I’m so used to leaving dentist offices in North America bleeding and having taken at least an hour for that “privilege”. Now I’m starting to wonder whether it’s not the west that is the problem!

  23. March 12, 2014 at 10:51 am
    Mar. 12, '14

    Steph, you are absolutely adorable! And I can totally feel your pain. Freshman year in college I wanted a drastic change and tried to describe to the stylist the asymmetrical bob I wanted a la Victoria Beckham. But what they gave me instead was the stuff of nightmares and I cried for weeks on end. It looked like a bowl cut, except the front was up above my ears and the back was a little longer (think mushroom cap and stem). I now wear my hair long so I don’t have to deal with bad cuts, but inevitably I usually hate my hair anyway. The older I get, the deeper my body wave becomes and the humidity in Asia generally made it look like I had a giant cloud around my head. Thus, I wear it up most of the time. I always like the way my face looks in photos when my hair is up, so I should probably just get a pixie cut and be done with it. But the body wave and my lack of styling talent would probably be disastrous!
    Heather recently posted..The Best Meals We Ate in Shanghai

    • March 14, 2014 at 12:26 am
      Mar. 14, '14

      I definitely had shades of mushroom going on here at first, which certainly didn’t help matters! I will say that a straightening iron can really cure all manner of sins and knowing what I do now about how we travel and how I pack, I think I will probably bring it along in the future, especially if I keep my hair on the short side. I mean, so many people say not to bring a hair dryer, but I ignored that and brought a travel-size one and have never regretted it. Even if it went months without use, I have used it enough (especially now!) that I’m so glad I brought it; plus it’s teeny so it’s not like it takes up much space or is very heavy.

  24. March 12, 2014 at 3:51 pm
    Mar. 12, '14

    Oh I’ve so been there. When I returned from Australia in 2004 I went for haircut, they cut it so short that I looked like a teenage boy from the 90’s with curly curtains. I cried. A lot. The next day I had it all cut off to a few inches long and embraced the world of straighteners.

    Before travelling I had to embrace my natural state and learn to tame the very curly hair. Although I still have to travel with 2 hair products, at least I managed to break my straightener addiction.

    Oh and as our internet is so slow here when i first read this it wouldn’t load the pictures. I have to say I now I’ve seen them, I think it looks really nice. I like it.
    Kellie recently posted..Losing it! The intensity of solitude.

    • March 14, 2014 at 12:29 am
      Mar. 14, '14

      If I didn’t know how much I would regret it in a few weeks, I would have had them change this into a full-blown pixie (though I didn’t really trust them to keep cutting at that point)… It’s certainly what I would have done if I were at home. What I wouldn’t give for my hair straightener now, though! Even if I didn’t use it all the time, it would still be nice to have the option, you know?

      But thank you for the support and I’m glad everyone else seems to think I’m making a fuss out of nothing! 🙂

  25. March 12, 2014 at 3:58 pm
    Mar. 12, '14

    If you need any advice on what to do with your haircut, send me an email. I used to be a pretty awesome hairdresser so I know a few tricks!
    The picture of you just before the haircut is SO good. Maybe not the right moment to tell you but you look amazing in that picture; The teary picture almost made me cry or book a ticket to HCMC to give you a big hug. You really look like you needed one. As a former hairdresser I have to say, based on what I can see on the pictures, the haircut really does suit you.
    Looking forward to reading more about your summer plans!
    Angela recently posted..Through Our Eyes // 12

    • March 14, 2014 at 1:49 am
      Mar. 14, '14

      Thanks, Angela! I really like that pre-photo haircut of myself as well, so you aren’t saying something that I wasn’t already thinking! That said, I do think short hair suits me as well, I just wish it wasn’t precisely this style—it’s not nearly so sleek and streamlined as the last photo makes it look as I was still benefiting from the stylist’s straightening iron at that point. It’s not as terrible as I first thought, though there are some funky bits… I’m getting used to it!

  26. March 14, 2014 at 1:47 am
    Mar. 14, '14

    Awwww you poor thing! That photo of you crying made me want to give you a hug. I too have had a haircut in South East Asia and had it turn out the complete opposite of what I asked for. It does grow out though! I promise. 🙂
    Karyn @ Not Done Travelling recently posted..New Friends In Nakavu Village

    • March 14, 2014 at 3:33 am
      Mar. 14, '14

      Thank you, Karyn. I’m sorry to hear that you’ve also experienced the trauma of a haircut gone wrong in Asia… it does seem like there are a few of us in this club, doesn’t it? But as you say, it’s only hair and it will grow out and I can try again. 🙂

  27. March 14, 2014 at 5:37 pm
    Mar. 14, '14

    Awww Steph! While that picture of you crying is absolutely heartbreaking, (sending internet hugs to past-you right away!), I have to say that you can pull off both long and short hair awesomely. And you look radiant on your last picture!

    I’m definitely of the “hair grows back” mentality, but I think it is almost unavoidable that, at least once in our life, we experience some hairy disappointment. It happened to me a few years back. It was mid-trimester in the last year of my undergrad degree and I was crumbling under papers and studying. I hadn’t slept in about 30 hours and my hair was constantly in my face, and it felt like a huge stress factor on top of everything, so I decided “Oh hey I’ll just give myself a haircut! It’s just hair! It doesn’t have to be super glamourous!” And then, instead of cutting my bangs one inch shorter, I cut them to one inch total length. It was horrible, especially because I have a crazy loop in my bangs so they stood on the top of my head like a crazed peacock. I cried lots. It’s sort of funny to think about now, but oh wow did I cry! I think all the anxiety I was feeling about school work went through these tears.

    Anyway, I am sorry to hear about your trip coming to an end this summer. I hope you guys will make the most amazing time of the coming months 🙂
    kay recently posted..Review : Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J. K. Rowling

    • March 16, 2014 at 1:17 am
      Mar. 16, '14

      Oh no! Juggling school stress with a (self-inflicted) bad hair cut must have been the worst. I’m glad that I was able to just curl up into a ball and pity myself for a couple of days, licking my wounds, until I finally got over it.

  28. March 15, 2014 at 5:16 am
    Mar. 15, '14

    I think your new cut is fine Steph but still, I’m sorry you’re not keen on it and that your trip has been cut short too. Still, I’m sure you guys will make the most of the next few months and figure out a way to get back out on road – and your hair will indeed grow back. I found all your photos really fascinating by the way, you really do suit shorter hair! I haven’t had my hair cut at all during this last year of travel and it’s now longer than it has ever been before; I definitely need to get at least a trim when we’re back in Thailand!
    Amy recently posted..Border Crossings and Bribes

    • March 16, 2014 at 1:23 am
      Mar. 16, '14

      I really think that part of my excessive disappointment with my haircut had to do with the fact that it was compounding my sadness over our trip being cut short… two crap things that I really can’t do anything about but just accept. I’m doing much better with my haircut these days (still don’t love it, but it’s fine), however I’m still struggling with the end of our trip. I’m not sure I’ll ever really come to terms with it, honestly, but I am definitely determined to enjoy these last few months that we’ve got, that is for sure!

  29. March 16, 2014 at 5:49 am
    Mar. 16, '14

    Oh, it’s never a great feeling, to get a bad haircut! I’ve had to trust hairdressers all over the world and there is always that little moment of panic at the start, especially when you can’t communicate properly. I go grey so quickly (like, every 4 weeks) and I hate trusting hairdressers I don’t know with colouring my hair, but what can you do?
    Caitlyn recently posted..Believing the hype of Bled

    • March 20, 2014 at 7:42 pm
      Mar. 20, '14

      I’ve definitely had those moments where you just throw up your hands and say “I relinquish all power and am just hoping this will turn out as I hoped” many times on this journey, but this was the first time it has happened with my hair while traveling. I actually can’t remember the very last time I had a haircut I violently hated quite so much, but as you say, what can you do?

  30. March 24, 2014 at 7:49 pm
    Mar. 24, '14

    Oh no! I have had suboptimal haircuts before but none I really hated. Such is the risk with short hair – you can’t really go back. (Said as someone whose preferred style is a just-above-the-shoulders bob and is scared everytime she gets into the hairdresser’s chair.)

    Like the others, I don’t think it looks that bad but I can totally understand that it looks different all the time. It’ll settle in, you’ll find a style you can live with and it will grow out. Are you into hats/headbands/anything like that?
    eemusings recently posted..Three things that stoke my travel itch

    • March 25, 2014 at 7:25 pm
      Mar. 25, '14

      Yes, that’s the thing with short hair—if they cut it and it’s not short enough, it can be fixed, but once you go too short, there’s nothing that can be done except to wait it out.

      I have one headband that I have been using to try to tame my hair on especially bad hair days, but no real hats that I can use as a crutch at the moment.

  31. July 28, 2014 at 12:20 pm
    Jul. 28, '14

    Hey confident woman, you really have a perspective. I think this blog post is in a rare category of connecting hairstyles to travels. I hope you keep traveling and set up such amazing posts. I liked your style, and I think you look gorgeous in any hair especially with the peppy bright red streaks.
    santhosh recently posted..Toddler Boy Haircuts for your Little Darling Prince

    • July 29, 2014 at 2:15 pm
      Jul. 29, '14

      Thanks for the kind words, Santhosh. I do miss my peppy red streaks—if only they weren’t so hard to maintain on the road!

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