When you haven’t showered for roughly 48 hours—because you’ve been busy traveling and bargaining with airlines to get you to your destination, but you end up sleeping in the airport café overnight anyway cause the airline screwed up, so you catch a charter flight out the next day—the one thing you dream about vividly, other than uninterrupted sleep, is a nice long shower.
But, when your destination is the BVI a few weeks after a category five storm—so there’s no power or water available—this nice long shower is not in the cards. This is when the good ole bucket bath is the key to feeling fresh and clean.
I’ve heard about the coveted bucket baths in my father’s nostalgic stories of his childhood growing up in the islands. Avid campers are also familiar with the lack of running water to bathe in, leaving them no choice other than to gather water from a nearby stream to wash up. However, this was my first experience with such a thing. I’m used to short showers in the islands to save precious water, but it was still a shower. Not a bucket. So this bath was uncharted territory. I must say, I rocked it.
As a first timer, I was given a full bucket to bathe with. Maybe a gallon or two of water. I didn’t even use half. To me, this was the greatest victory since I was told I could have another bucket if I wanted. I wanted to show my family I was up for the challenge.
Here’s how I did it:
1. Fill bucket with water collected in a cistern. This is generally rain water. Plenty to come by after a few hurricanes.
2. Take bucket to shower area. This makes it feel like it’s still a shower.
3. Peel layers of sweaty, airport-wrinkled clothing off.
4. Get into shower.
5. Wet and wash face with bucket water and soap.
6. Pour enough water over your head to wet hair and body.
7. Apply shampoo and lather through hair.
8. Apply soap/body wash and lather over body.
9. Pour enough water over body to rinse lather from hair and body. I would pour a little, then put it down and then run my hands through my hair to make sure it was all coming out. I’m sure this process is easier for people without long hair. I made about three pour/shake off rotations.
10. Dry off. Just like after a regular shower! This part is pretty self-explanatory, but it’s even more thrilling if the bath was with cold water and your towel is nice and warm.
11. Dress in clean clothes. There’s nothing quite like the refreshing feeling of a getting clean after desperately wanting a shower all day. Putting on clean clothes is icing on that cake.
After my bucket bath success, I was thrilled to tell my family about my triumph and hand back the bucket still half full. My father beemed with pride, my aunt was shocked I still felt clean, then rewarded the plants with what was left from my bath.
After all day in the hot sun, I’m already looking forward to my next bucket. It’s sure to be as glorious as the first.