You wake up with a jolt, head pounding, eyes all gummed up, and a stranger snoring next to you. Then it dawns on you: This isn’t your bedroom and at some point in the near future, you’ll need to find your way home. Welcome to the walk of shame.
Well, there’s nothing shameful about it actually, but some morning-afters are better than others. Like when you’re not hungover and you have a vague idea of where you are in relation to your home and enough dough for a cab. But it doesn’t always play out like this, and if you’re on the road, the journey home is that little bit more difficult. There’s an unfamiliar city to navigate, not to mention a lack of your usual hangover-curing comfort food. You have a long, emotional journey ahead of you, there’s no doubt about it — so to help you on your way, here are 10 tips to surviving the morning after a one-night stand abroad.
1. Pack for tomorrow.
If you can’t rule out the possibility of an adult sleepover, then there are a few things you can bring along that’ll make the voyage home tomorrow a whole lot nicer.
Firstly, make sure you have some extra money on you for a taxi home and pop an Alka-Seltzer in your purse or wallet, just in case you have a hangover to deal with. It contains painkillers and protects the stomach lining from an acidic attack, which helps settle your gut. Chewable toothpaste or gum is another essential. The beauty of these minty miracles is that they’re tiny when taken out of the packet and widely available.
Talking about freshening up, bring face wipes. You can get travel-sized packets, or you can just remove a couple of regular-sized wipes from the main pack and wrap them up in a sandwich bag to keep them fresh. You can also get mini hairbrushes, toothbrushes, and concealer (not just for ladies!) so if you have room, pop it all in your handbag, backpack, or coat pocket. If you’re wearing heels and have space for a pair of rollable flats, bring them along too.
2. Clean your face.
Good morning! You’re going to want to clean your face. If you’re prepared, you have face wipes to freshen your visage and slough away most of last night’s eyeliner and sleep drool. If you don’t have anything, then it’s time to get creative. It may sound gross, but cooking oil, olive oil, coconut oil, or — in desperate times — butter all make good makeup removers and can clear away even the most stubborn waterproof mascara. They have the added bonus of being moisturizing, something that — if you had one too many tipples the night before — will help rehydrate your parched skin and add a glow to your complexion.
3. Freshen your breath.
Dehydration reduces your saliva production, which is an issue because your spit has antibacterial properties that keep your mouth healthy and smelling good. When you wake up, you’re naturally a little dehydrated, so you have what’s known as “morning breath.” Obviously, this phenomenon is a million times worse if you’ve been drinking.
One-night stands are primarily about having fun in the moment, and if you don’t talk to each other again that’s absolutely fine. If you do want to give your hookup a kiss goodbye, then make a good impression with minty breath. Ideally, your host’s bathroom is well-stocked with the essentials so if you’re brave enough to raid their medicine cabinet, “borrow” some mouthwash and/or squirt some toothpaste on your finger and give your mouth a good going-over. If that fails, citrus helps kill odor-causing bacteria so find a lemon or lime, slice a wedge out and suck on that for a minute or two.
4. Take a hot shower, and then a cold one.
This sounds awful, and trust us, it is. But there’s a scientific reason behind why you should subject yourself to a hot and cold dousing. The switch between the temperatures gets your circulation going, which helps your body process those toxins faster. Combine this with drinking plenty of water and you’ll shorten the length and severity of your hangover.
5. Fix your outfit.
Hobbling home in a sequin dress and skyscraper heels is a bold look first thing in the morning, and if you’re okay with the prying eyes, then more power to you. After all, no one really cares, and you don’t owe it to anyone to look a certain way on your walk home. That said, if you’re just not comfortable hitting the street in your nighttime getup, you may want to ask your hookup if you can borrow a sweater or tracksuit bottoms to see you home. Obviously, this is a no if you don’t plan on ever seeing them again, but if you kind of know each other, then they may oblige.
If you really can’t face the whole journey home in last night’s outfit (or need to make somewhat of a good impression on arrival), then pop into a local clothing shop and buy the cheapest, comfiest ensemble to change into. Thrift stores are a good option if you’re in Europe or the US. If you’re in Southeast Asia, then opt for the ubiquitous elephant pants and a tee, all of which you should be able to buy for around $10.
6. Make a graceful exit.
Oily face and lemon breath aside, you’ll probably want to make as dignified an exit as you can. You never know when you’ll bump into each other again and, if you’re following a well-trodden tourist trail, the chances you’ll cross paths are extremely high.
If they’re still slumbering, leave them a little note. Handwritten is preferable, but failing that, if you have an eyeliner handy you should be able to scribble “Thanks!” and your phone number (optional) on a napkin. In my experience, scrawling something onto the mirror in red lipstick may seem sweet at the time but is pretty terrifying for the recipient at first glance (and can be a pain to wash off), so avoid that medium. If there really are no writing materials available, make them a cup of tea and leave it by their side of the bed. It’s a small gesture that goes a long way.
7. Find out how to get home.
Not knowing where you are in a local city is bad enough, but the fear is all too real when you’re in a city where no one speaks your language, you can’t read the street signs, and your phone’s out of battery (or lost). Ideally, your hookup can give you directions, but if they’re still asleep and you need to leave, then flag a taxi driver down and see if they can take you back to your hotel. If you’re not sure where your hotel is or what it’s called, ask them to take you to a nearby landmark and find your way from there. If you still don’t know where you are in relation to your hotel, pop into an internet cafe or friendly hotel. Once you’ve found it, write it down on a piece of paper. If the country you’re in doesn’t use the Roman alphabet, politely ask the cafe owner or hotel employee to translate for you then either try a taxi again or wander around and ask as you go. You’ll get there eventually.
8. Choose salty soup and fizzy drinks.
Settle that stomach with some food. If you’re in Vietnam (or near a Vietnamese cafe), then a giant bowl of steaming pho will see you right. Soup is easy to digest, helps replenish lost electrolytes, and has those much-needed soul-soothing qualities. In the more likely event that you’re not near a soup or ramen outlet, opt for plain bread, fruit, cereal, or rice. While it’s tempting to dig into a fry-up, pizza, or pancakes when you’re tired or hungover, greasy, processed food is tough for your stomach to digest and will leave you feeling tired and bloated. Although if it’s the only thing available, then go for it — any food is better than no food.
You should also load up on fizzy drinks, which will help replace vital sugars (this is not the time for diet versions — choose the full-fat version). And remember, if you’re in a hot climate, drink extra liquids to replenish lost moisture, hungover or not.
9. Deal with the aftermath…later.
So you’ve lost your phone and wallet. Now what? Try to stay calm, and act as you would back home.
If you have the Find My iPhone (iOS) or Find My Device (Android) app installed, then log in when you’re next near a computer (you may need to pop into an internet cafe or a friendly hotel for this). Once you’ve found it, you can put a recovery plan in action. If it’s in a bar, then head straight there. If it’s in a residential address, only go over with a friend. Try not to lose your temper if someone answers the door and plays dumb, and don’t accept an invitation inside if they seem hostile — just call the police and let them handle things. It’s also a good idea to call your phone provider and insurance company to let them know the situation.
Things are a little trickier when trying to locate a purse, wallet, or passport. If you’re suffering from a hangover, wait until it has subsided a little, then visit every venue from the night before and ask in person — and be sure to leave your contact details behind the bar just in case your items turn up later on. You can also post a message to a local Facebook group to let people know you’re missing some valuables. Travelers are usually eager to help each other out, so get on the grapevine ASAP.
If you’ve lost your bank cards, then inform your bank so it can stop any fraudulent activity. You can do this free via Skype, which won’t charge you. Next, get in touch with friends or family back home and ask them to send you funds via Western Union. You can also PayPal money to a trusted fellow traveler and have them withdraw some cash for you. Finally, ask your bank to send you a new card and make sure it’s being delivered to an address you trust, such as your hotel or a local shop.
10. Own it.
You’re not the first person who’s ever done a walk of shame, and you won’t be the last. Make eye contact with the people you pass and keep your head held high. It’s only embarrassing if you make it awkward, so own it. There’s nothing wrong with having a great night out and no one should be shamed for having a one-night stand.