I learned how to cut my own hair while traveling

I don’t know about you but I had a weekly (if not, monthly) beauty date when I was living a normal life back home.

Like normal people, I had frequent visits to the salon to have my hair done, manicure, pedicure, foot spa, and all those girly stuff women needed in order to look neat.

I recently had a salon date with my mother (that she paid for, of course) and I realised I haven’t done this in a while.

So much that I don’t know how to sit on the salon chair anymore let alone sit still while the hairdresser was cutting my hair. I hated it because for a time, I lived a life without going to this place.

Seriously, you need to learn how to cut your own hair while traveling long-term.

Not just your hair but also doing your nails, waxing your legs and armpits and every dreadful beauty regimen a woman needs. 

When you are out there, you will not have the chance to have the beauty lifestyle you have back home. It’s just one of the least important things you’ll think about. It’s not a priority if you are traveling for an indefinite period of time.

My being adventurous is not just about seeing new places and eating exotic food. It also consists of experimenting that’s why I call my journey experiential learning.

Growing up, I did cut my hair in different styles. I was itching to get a new look every once in a while not just because I worked in fashion but the better explanation for it is I cannot keep still.

I always feel the need to do something new, in the same manner that I constantly feel that I have to move.

The constant need for change.

When I left home, the grooming part never crossed my mind. “I am going to travel the world. What’s more to think about?” I said to myself. Time passed.

My hair grew long. I am blessed with very thick hair (something I inherited from my mother) and while I am thankful for it, it did not help in my travels. I needed to do something about it.

Language barrier

The grooming need emerged when I was in Marrakech, Morocco. When it comes to our physicality, we tend to go to people we trust.

How in the world can I do that if I am in a country where I don’t speak the language nor do I know anyone who can help me look for the best groomer in town? I tried my luck and Googled.

About 15 minutes away from my hostel stood a mini shopping centre. Google said the best salon in the city is located there so I went.

The name of the salon was in Arabic so I did not bother to find out what it is. The thing about traveling in Africa is that, it’s difficult to find a multi-national salon that rings a bell.

Entering the salon and getting my hair done was from my own ability to jump into the unknown, hoping to be successful in the end.

A dude stood and murmured something in Arabic. “I doonnnn’t speak Arraaabbiiccc.” 

I said while circling my hands doing a sign language that I am not even sure about. I positioned my fingers like scissors and said, “cut” while going through my hair.

He pointed to the chair and did not even ask what kind of haircut I wanted. He just started grabbing his stuff. I tried to stop him but I kept praying a woman will come out of nowhere and do the job.

I was really terrified. I felt like he was going to shave my head. Just when he was about to strike, I excused myself and said I was running late for a meeting and I had to go.

I stormed out of the place. Confused but relieved. I kept the long hair until I reached Brasil after three months.

Welcome to the life of a solo female traveler who cuts her own hair

The long hair had to go. To be honest, I did not try to go to a salon in Brasil even if I was living with a fellow woman. I am sure she can translate for me but I just had the urge to do it by myself to achieve what I wanted.

At least I did not blame anyone for my actions. That was good enough for me. I grabbed a pair of scissors from my housemate’s office drawer (God, office scissors, not even a legit pair!), faced the mirror, bowed my head down, tied my hair and started cutting the ends.

My Couchsurfing host was looking at me like she thinks I am crazy. I was afraid I would tangle my hair but I still did it. It was uneven, very short than usual but I can still tie it.

That was the most important part for me. When in doubt, my mantra was: put some red lipstick, your wayfarers on and tie your hair up. It’s safeIt will make you look decent.

From then on, every time my hair grew, I did it by myself because I already knew how to do it. It’s also cost effective most especially if you are moving from one country to another.

I did it by the beach, at the staff dorm, in my hostel, anywhere that I felt comfortable in, I did it for the next 3 years of traveling. I maintained having a short hair because it was just easy to deal with it. 

The different reactions from people

“You’re so brave.” a girl from my hostel in Uruguay told me. She said she will never dare cut her own hair and will prefer to just wait until her backpacking spree is over.

If I waited until mine was over, my hair would’ve grown up to my toes and I can never deal with that. Ever.

Some guys said, “You look like you have a character with the short hair. But I like long better.” Thank you, mate. But I did not cut my hair for you. This is for me.

Well, I did not say that aloud. I just find it staggering that people actually care if your hair is long or short.

And the funniest thing? I had girl suitors because they thought I was a lesbian. Why in the world will you incorporate short hair with gender?

Oh, people from all over the world really have their own perceptions on certain things.

Having a haircut in another country is easy.

I am not making it complicated or dramatic. You can easily go to a salon (not in Africa!) and say you need a haircut. That’s it. But mind you, I met some men travelers who struggled, too.

One of my guy friends got a haircut when we were in Belize and he got crazy on the barber. Another friend of mine ended up shaving his head in Peru because the haircut did not work. Again, language barrier.

Yeah, it’s easy. I just prefer to do it on my own because I like challenges. They make me feel alive. I even had a deep undercut in San Jose, Uruguay for my 26th birthday!

The best part was when some of my girl friends learned that I cut my own hair, they trusted me with their hair instead of going to the salon!

I could’ve opened my own parlour when I was in Argentina. Everyone looked at me like I was a the Goddess of the scissors. I love that I was able to discover something I didn’t think I would ever do.

What’s your worse grooming experience abroad? How do you go about having a haircut while traveling? I’d like to hear your thoughts! Share it on the comment box below!

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  1. Miss Trisha please help me to experience being world traveller. I am very interested of what you are doing to try something new and be myself.

  2. Hey! Love your site – I’ve travelled SE Asia a ton but Central and South America is definitely on my list 🙂 Is that tattoo permanent or just new? Don’t remember seeing other pictures of it before. Looks sick

  3. I am that some men traveller that you are talking about, I have problems trusting the hairdresser or barber when I was in China, I rather come back to Singapore to get my hair done.

  4. Hi Trisha,

    I would pretty much do the same as you. My hairdresser is my friend too and I don’t trust my hair on any other person. If I didn’t get a haircut on her, I wouldn’t trust my hair to someone who can’t even speak the same language. Can you imagine the hair disaster? Great post!


  5. Ha! I love this post – I’ve been a traveler for 8 years and whittled my salon visits to once (or twice per year). However this year – only about a month ago – I decided I would just give my hair a trim(!) I’ve never really liked going to the hairdresser so I’m not sure why it took me so long to do it and although I have a full time job with good pay I just didn’t feel like parting with $100 for a trim! (Hairdressers are expensive in Aus!) It’s so liberating – and I agree – everyone should learn to cut their own hair!

  6. Mine isn’t so bad, I usually just have it straight and I just have it trimmed. I want to be more adventurous with the hair though but everytime I go to the parlor, they just tell me ” Well, your hair is so nice. Leave it as it is”. That should be a good thing I guess.

  7. Here’s a confession– moving to the Philippines turned me into a very spoiled princess. At least in terms of beauty services that you mentioned above. Everything is waaaay cheaper that it’s hard not to go on a routine instead of doing it myself like I did back home. I do struggle with haircuts here though because they never seem to listen to what I want– so maybe, just maybe, I should learn how to cut my own hair too! I have friends who cut their own hair and it is definitely seems like a liberating skill.

  8. Yup, I started cutting my own hair when I started traveling 2.5 years ago. I also stopped covering my grey hair, and I actually love them. 🙂

  9. Haha what a fun post:-). I avoided getting my hair cut last year by visiting a salon the week before I left for a 5 month trip and than tying my hair in a pony tail the rest of our trip… And way back in 2008 when I got back from living in Barcelona for 6 months my hairdresser looked at me in horror and asked what the %^*&% I had done to my hear. Turns out showering with chlorinated water for 6 months kind of ruins your hair. I left the salon with short hair that day… So anyway, I agree with you that maintaining a proper haircut when traveling or being abroad is no easy feat!

  10. My mom used to cut my hair – and hers too. and yes. she did that perfectly. I am sure that many people in your situation would do the same. Sure, not everyone can do it as good as you – you look simply great – but that’s a different story. And yes, you don’t do it for others, but for yourself. 😀

  11. I remember cutting my classmate’s hair in school, it was great fun. I don’t think I would trust anyone I can’t communicate to with my hair in case I end up bald, cutting your own is a good solution for a frequent traveler. I would be up for it!

  12. I would never try to cut my own hair! I can do makeup and I can do complicated stuff on my nails. Hair and eyebrows I won’t touch. Unless I want to completely ruin my look 😀

    I agree with you, it’s not that hard to get a haircut abroad. I remember going for a cut in Turkey (Oludeniz) and it was quite fun. The technique was so different from what I was used to

  13. I tried to trim my full fringe a few times and it did not go well! My hairdresser told me to stop. I go regularly when I’m back home and don’t travel full-time so I can always fit it in between trips. I love your courage at doing this yourself

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