What’s on the back of your toilet?

| July 28, 2009 | 28 Comments

Kathryn and I have been searching for—among other things—the single best question to ask in an interview of other bloggers. We were seeking a question that described the aspects of a blogger’s character as seen in their personal space! Our goal, of course, was to create a ‘one-question interview’—a question that could stand alone and pierce through the veneer of generalizations! Today, we think that we might have found it:

“What’s on the back of your toilet?”

After removing our tongues from our cheeks, Kathryn and I thought about it further. It’s a great question, it’s revelatory and there’s no wrong answer! The answers run the gamut—from consummate packrats like Kathryn and I to minimalists like Jason & Aracely and encompass disparate geographies, spanning bathrooms from Hoboken, New Jersey to Manila, Philippines. Tastes run from the utilitarian to the exquisitely decorated!

So join us for a minute, sit back and learn a little bit more about a few of the bloggers that comprise a small corner of the travel blogosphere! You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, and you’ll learn!

1. Keith Jenkins @ Velvet Escape

keithjenkinstoilet Whats on the back of your toilet?

What’s on the back of your toilet, Keith?

When asked to contribute to TwoRTW’s one-question interview: “What’s sitting on the back of your toilet?”, I scratched my temple and thought, “Emm… but there’s nothing there worth talking about”. I got out of my chair and walked to the toilet. I opened the door and there they were! How could I forget them?! My cheerful family of tortoises!

I was on my ‘Maya route’ journey through Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras and Belize. I remember arriving in the town of San Cristobal de las Casas in the Mexican province of Chiapas. It was a hot day and I was exhausted, after the long bus ride from the Mayan city of Palenque, but this colourful town intrigued me. San Cristobal’s Spanish colonial architecture, with the cathedral and Convento de Santo Domingo as the crown jewels, was absolutely stunning. There was a market just off the main square which sold a plethora of Indian handicraft. I saw many colourful wood and stone carvings, ornaments and garments which would’ve made unique souvenirs but I knew it was going to be too much to lug around three countries. I was about to leave the market empty-handed when I spotted them: the brightly-coloured tortoises with their bobbing heads. Perfect! I got myself a family of four, in green and red, and arranged them on the back of my toilet when I returned home. Since then, their smiley faces greet me every day.

Keith Jenkins is a 30-something based in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. Travel and writing are his biggest passions, and he has traveled extensively across 60-plus countries on six continents. The experience he’s gained from traveling are priceless. You can read more about his adventures on his blog, Velvet Escapes.

2. Dave & Deb @ ThePlanetD

daveanddebstoilet Whats on the back of your toilet?

What’s on the back of your toilet, Dave & Deb?

When Dave and I travel, we tend to go to places that are developing and off the beaten path just a little bit. Unfortunately, the toilets are often not the greatest in more remote areas of the world. We tend to forget this when we are at home. We romanticize travel and forget all of the negative aspects like the toilets that are so bad that they scare the crap literally right back into you. We have mastered the squat toilet, we have gone in community latrines, we have frequented outhouses and we have muscled up the courage to enter those roadside toilets where buses stop on occasion. I guess that is why we take great care in making our bathrooms at home so comfortable and inviting.

I love to put out scented candles and display statues and I obsess about keeping my toilets clean until they sparkle.

When Daniel sent us an email asking what was on the back of our toilet, I thought it was a brilliant question. On the road the talk of toilets and bowel movements is quite common.

So what is on the back of our toilet? A vase that was given to me from an actor that I did make-up on during my first movie containing long sticks of incense arranged in a bed of rocks.

Beside the vase is a trio of candleholders that I bought at my one and only candle party I have ever attended.

I also wanted to include the vase that I have right beside my toilet, it stands on a pillar and it was the last item that we bought before leaving Bangkok.

And that is what is on the back of our toilet.

Dave and Deb are an adventure couple from Canada. Together they have traveled to over 30 countries on 5 continents. Follow their journeys at ThePlanetD blog as they hike, bike, dive, trek and climb their way around the globe. Join them on twitter @theplanetd

3. Ren Robles @ So Not Lost!

renstoilet Whats on the back of your toilet?

What’s on the back of your toilet, Ren?

As you can see, the back of our toilet has a bunch of the usual bathroom supplies, like extra shampoo, mouthwash, or facial wash. There’s also a little hand towel, which probably isn’t positioned well, but it’s always been there. Plus, in typical Filipino fashion, there are assorted dippers (or, as we call them, “tabo”), which are normally used to pour water over your you-know-what. And of course, there’s a stack of reading material (mostly newspapers) ready.

Ren Robles, a 26-year-old theater actor and travel nut, is the blogger beind “So Not Lost!“. Ren isn’t quite as well-traveled as other travel bloggers, but he’s trying to catch up… and fast! Ren was bitten by the travel bug when he and his family went to Hong Kong last May 2008 and from that point on, his curiosity of other countries (and the subsequent wanderlust) grew.

4. Kathryn & Daniel @ Two Go Round-The-World

danstoilet Whats on the back of your toilet?

What’s on the back of your toilet, Kathryn & Daniel?

The frame on the left holds a handpainted elephant on silk, which we picked up while in India. Painting on silk instead of canvas has a long history in India, as was explained to us. It flourished during the 17–19th century under Mughal rule, and is mostly practiced in Rajasthan. We picked it up from a kindly proprieter nearby the Hotel Diggi Palace (a great place to stay) while in Jaipur. It is now proudly and prominently displayed to our guests in our ‘powder room’. We also ply them with the aforementioned trivia every chance we get!

Also on the back of our toilet—a couple of catalogs. Namely, the latest from Mountain Equipment Co-op, which is similar to REI in the US, and the 2009 catalog from Giant Bikes—we’re both fairly new but avid mountain bikers (we recently bought ourselves a pair of Giant Rincons—our review is here).

On top of both of those is a copy of Maarten Troost’s Lost on Planet China: The Strange and True Story of One Man’s Attempt to Understand the World’s Most Mystifying Nation. We’ve just started into it, but thus far Mr Troost is doing an excellent job of capturing the first impressions of a foreigner in Beijing. His observations are peppered with gems like: “If I hadn’t begun to regard the queue as a forum for physical sport, it is quite likely that I would still [in China] today, for lining up [there] is not for the meek”. It’s great bathroom reading!

Kathryn and Daniel are planning, preparing and packing for a year-long RTW trip set to depart Toronto, Canada in July 2011.

5. Tammie Dooley @ Solo Road Trip

What’s on the back of your toilet, Tammie?

What’s on the back of my toilet? You mean in addition to dust? Well, I can tell you there’s more than there should be. After this I’m doing some house cleaning. There’s a box of Kleenex. The kind with the aloe lotion infused so it’s cushy on your nose. We have quite a bit of heat and humidity in Northeast Oklahoma and while the trees grow large and the grass is green much of the year, an infinitesimal amount of stuff is flying about seeking out noses. There’s a scented candle “clean cotton”, I believe. And then the books. One in particular has been there so long it’s earned squatter’s rights. LOL! Don’t you love it when you’re writing along and this happens – a zing of satisfaction surges through and you consider that maybe, just maybe, you really are a writer. It’s fleeting. Where was I? Oh, yes. I’m glad for this exercise because I’ve been looking everywhere for this book. “How Stuff Works” and “The Real Wild West” (the book that’s been “missing”) indicate I’m a geek and a fan of the American wild west. You’ve tricked us! What began as an innocent exercise is really a personality test. The geek in me just has one question: Did I pass?!

Tammie Dooley is a traveler, writer and photographer for whom the open road frequently summons. To her, adventurous solo road trips are a staple and a curiosity. Based in the US Midwest, Tammie worked in the financial services industry for 18 years before embarking on a new life as a freelance writer and photographer. She keeps us all entertained via her blog, Solo Road Trip

6. Jason & Aracely @ Two Backpackers

What’s on the back of your toilet, Jason & Aracely?

Not much. On the back our toilet in our only bathroom is a box of tissues and a can of air freshener spray. It is a bathroom after all, and we know what the air freshener is for. There does exist a connection between the simplicity of the toilet shelf and the simplicity of our home. We rent a 2nd floor one bedroom apartment in the crowded city of Hoboken, NJ. Our dwelling is simple looking with its bland apartment off-white paint and minimal decoration. We chose to focus our time and energy in maintaining a fun and lively social life. After two years of living in this apartment, our mattress still sits directly on our bedroom floor without a box spring and we love the fact that it does. It reminds us to care less about what we accumulate and more about living.

Jason Castellani and Aracely Santos are the bloggers behind TwoBackpackers. Jason and Aracely both find greater joy being outdoors, learning about the world and lending a helping hand. They are embarking on a round-the-world trip to follow true passion and also contribute to create a better world.

7. Anil Polat @ foXnoMad

anilstoilet Whats on the back of your toilet?

What’s on the back of your toilet, Anil?

I don’t actually have anything sitting on the back of my toilet but I do have something in the back of my toilet that helps the planet we travel around. That jar, filled with water saves 36 ounces of water from being flushed every time my wife and I use the bathroom. The average household flushes 5 times per person per day. This little trick saves around 1,026 gallons per year which is not only good for the environment but saves me a little bit of money too for my travel fund as well. The best part is that it takes 10 seconds to set up and doesn’t need anything else after that.

Anil Polat is the blogger behind foXnoMad where he writes about his life of traveling and tricks he picked up along the way so his readers can share in his tips to travel smarter.

8. Christopher Hartman @ Escape the Shell

christoilet Whats on the back of your toilet?

What’s on the back of your toilet, Chris?

Men face the toilet when peeing yet women face away from it. Men are also more prone to accidents, putting anything on or near the toilet in potential jeopardy. As much as possible I prefer to keep the back of the toilet free of fragile items, heirlooms or other objects that I might not be willing to part with if say, I lost my balance and accidently knocked them into the pool. The centerpiece is a simple vase adorned with some of that mini bamboo stuff that seems to be for sale everywhere these days (personally I think it’s tacky). On either side of that are two candle holders purchased at an uber exotic store called Ross. Under the candle holders however are coasters purchased in Cairo. They are from an amazing bookstore called Diwan, which is in Zamalek just under the 26th of July overpass. The coasters depict Arabic poems, each with an English translation. One of the coasters reads

“Hand in pockets, and feeling quite elated I walk in a strange place, but I am not alienated. Alone but not lonely I find myself waking here. Not sure if I am going further or getting near…”

To the left of the décor is a mirror purchased in Istanbul, which aside from its origin it is quite un-interesting. To the right is another candle holder, which itself is indistinct if not for the bracelet adorning it, a gift from my mother.

Chris Hartman has been working nearly full time for 12 years and when not doing that, tries to spend as much time as possible traveling to as many places as he can. Orienting his priorities around traveling has allowed him to visit over 34 different countries on 5 continents.

31DaysBook 216x300 Whats on the back of your toilet?

This posting was inspired by Darren Rowse’s 31 Days to Build a Better Bloga downloadable e-book designed to help you revitalize your blog by giving you 31 tasks that will all help to improve! Darren’s book essentially provides one action or activity to do per day for a 31 day period—and a lesson around why it should be done. Today’s ‘list post’ was the second activity from the work book, the first was our post on building a better travel blog. We’ve been working through the activities that Darren has suggested and will include a note whenever a post is inspired by his program. For anyone who hasn’t checked out Darren Rowse’s eBook already, we highly recommend it. In addition to providing substantive recommendations on how to improve your blog, there is an excellent community built around his methods.Highly recommended—check it out here.

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Category: Dan's Blog

About the Author ()

For nearly ten years now, Daniel of Two Go Round-The-World has explored how travel captures our imagination and engages our deepest emotions. One half of the duo that maintains the widely read Two Go Round-The-World blog, Daniel treats his subjects not only as works of art but also as symbols of the cultural and political forces that inspire them. His latest book, The Physics of Flocking, gathers his favourite writing featured over the past two years on Two Go Round-The-World in columns like 'Looking Back' and 'The Whole Picture'—along with new reflections.

Comments (28)

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  1. Melvin says:

    Very cool!

    Great topic! Nothing more to add… speechless!



    • Daniel says:

      Thanks, Melvin! Had fun doing it, too. Feel very fortunate to have met so many people so soon after starting up a new venture. It’s really a great community!

    • Daniel says:

      Oh and Melvin — I hadn’t realized I neglected to add your blog to our links page; so I’ve taken care of the oversight! Thanks again for the comment and for dropping by!

  2. Beverly says:

    Funny post, and a bit of a coincidence – I checked into a hotel here in Granada, Nicaragua last night and a picture behind the toilet caught my eye. It’s framed, looks like it was created with one of those needlecraft kits and reads: “May the road rise up to greet you and the wind be ever at your back.” I think that’s a great message for travel bloggers on the go!

    • Daniel says:

      Hi Beverly! Thanks for dropping in! Oh, Nicaragua! Am jealous. Just checked out your blog, too. Great pics. Just added you to out blogroll, so we can keep abreast of your new posts. Thanks!

  3. Jason says:

    Had no idea it would amount to such an interesting post. Great idea guys!

    • Daniel says:

      Thanks, Jason. But the credit should go to you guys for flinging open your bathroom doors and letting us all have a peak into your private lives!

  4. Well this is just a BLAST! Some funny stuff here. Thank you Daniel and Kathryn for an interesting, lively, humorous post. Great idea. And to Ren Robles — I look at what it takes to be a traveler much the same as what it takes to be a collector. How many things do you have to collect of something to be a collector? Two. How many trips does it take to be a traveler? Two. Maybe even one. Maybe even NONE – only desire. I live by the belief I can travel with a trip to the grocery store. LOL Go Ren!!

    • Ren says:

      Haha, thanks Tammie! My wanderlust for the first half of the year was sated thanks to my Southeast Asian trip, as well as my family’s trip to Bacolod and Dumaguete (here in the Philippines). And all of my friends call me a traveler anyway, so, heck, why not!

  5. Andy Jarosz says:

    Excellent! Finally we get the dirt on these guys!

  6. chris says:

    Great post as always and thanks for letting me contribute. :)

    • Daniel says:

      Chris, I love the coasters you referenced in your post—wish I had the space to put the full picture. They are really neat. The passage is awesome.

  7. Ren says:

    This was a great and fascinating entry, and gives me ideas on what I should be doing at the back of my toilet… I don’t know if it’s a cultural thing that makes the back of my toilet the most utilitarian out of everyone’s, LOL.

  8. Chesshirecat says:

    What a novel question. What’s on the back of your toilet?

    At first, I couldn’t figure out the gimmick…then I realized there isn’t one…they really want to know what we keep on the backs of our porcelain behemoths….

    Depending on which bathroom we attend…you might find a porcelain doll wearing a knitted skirt that stretches over a roll of TP. It was my grandmothers…when she passed, it was my Mom’s…now I’m my Mom’s caretaker, and it sits in my bathroom…I think it belongs to me now… I’ve hidden a bag of septic tank “bugs” inside a knitted duck who shares the pedestal with our southern belle…the duck is also my mother’s…she sits in a silver wire basket, and was knitted to hold little scented soaps and the like…

    Now I have three bathrooms in this house…so I’ll stop here…it could get rather long.

    • Daniel says:

      Hey Chessie—my parents have a similar doll whose dress stretches over a roll of paper. It was give to them by my grandmother (who passed away a number of years ago) and is notable for the fact that it in no way matches the rest of the decor. They hold onto it, of course, because it was my grandmother’s!

  9. Jen Laceda says:

    I’m sort of a voyeur. I like looking into people’s windows and looking at their furniture and how they’re arranged. I like to imagine the lives of the people who live in there. And I always do this little exercise when I travel. So, this post really makes me smile. It gives me a glimpse into the “underbelly” (pun intended) of others.

    And by the way, I laughed my head off with Ren’s “tabo” or wash bucket. That’s very common in Filipino washrooms. When we do business no. 2, Filipinos generally want to wash with water first before wiping with toilet paper :)

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