Before we started our life-changing trip in 2003, I used to shave twice a week with one of those fancy dual or triple blades thingies with a smooth result. I had no problems shaving and I liked the wet shaving system when I was introduced to the Gillette dual blade system. It suited me fine and there was never a need to take a look at the other systems.
We needed to simplify our life drastically and I was concerned about the availability of those fancy multi-bladed cartridges abroad, let alone the price of those things that had been starting to rise. So I had the brilliant idea to start shaving with a straight razor.
Only it wasn’t. Apart from the steep learning curve, lacking a big ass mirror and no knowledge of sharpening a straight razor made my shaving experiences one of the worst in my life yet. I think I tried for months to get into the system but eventually gave up and used up all my old multi-bladed Gillette cartridges instead.
Turkey & Pakistan – My Best Shaving Experiences
In Turkey barbershops are everywhere as well as affordable, so the first week in Istanbul I convinced myself to try out one of them. I was surprised with the affection and attention in those little back alley shops. On some occasions the barber was so focused on his work of giving a smooth shave and checking, again and again, his work by stroking up and down my face that I – and Karin-Marijke, who watched (and took pictures) – started thinking some of them might want more out of it than just shaving me.
Apart from Iran [I have no clue as to why but I couldn’t find any good place for a shave there], I had great experiences in the subcontinental barbershops. I enjoyed being groomed. It would cost next to nothing and sometimes included head massages, unlimited refills of tea, really smooth shaves and even some fired up cotton tricks to remove in-ear hair removal.
In South East Asia I was back on my own again, also because we were off the beaten track a lot. Being on the road 24/7 makes that we live our lives adapting constantly and improvising a lot. I shaved less and less. I would probably have grown a beard and had a trimmer if it weren’t for Karin-Marijke who particularly dislikes kissing me with a more-than-a-week old beard.
From Multi-Blade to Disposable Single Blades
Shaving with a multi-blade razor works perfectly if you shave on regular intervals. I didn’t and became more and more frustrated by the fact that those expensive multi-blade cartridges clogged all the time. Sometimes I got at it with toothpicks to try and clean the cartridges but most of the time I chucked them after a single use. Things changed for the better when I could find old-stock, single blade cartridges and eventually stocked up on those plastic yellow Big single-blade, throw-away razors. I was a content man again for many years.
But things change and as of late I have found it more and more difficult to find those single bladed plastic things. I have come to realize that they are now all dual-bladed. After a few shaves with those, I started to get frustrated again and told Karin-Marijke that I would grow my beard. I think that the thought of me with a beard brought back all sorts of negative memories for her form our “lovely” time at the La Paz workshop (renovation of the Land Cruiser) that she made it very clear to me that a full beard is a no-no.
What’s a guy supposed to do? During this discussion we were camping in Pedro’s workshop in Quito, Ecuador [read about it here] and he gave me one of these Chinese copies of the old Gillette Safety Razors in a nice box with a mirror inside. I shaved a few times with it and the overall feeling didn’t disappoint me. Especially a few days old beard. Easy to clean and the razor didn’t get clogged that easily.
I don’t know how old the blade was that came with it nor the quality of it so I set out to buy some more double edge razor blades. I needed to know how shaving felt with a new blade before I would announce once and for all my favorite overland shaving technique. At the local pharmacy in Peru I bought a packet of three Double Edge razor blades and I realized the Chinese blade that came with Pedro’s Safety Razor was as blunt as a wooden spatula. My shaving experience instantly rose one point on the happiness ladder.
The Perfect Overlanding Razor
To enhance the shaving experience even more now that I knew the Safety Razor was going to stay, I started looking for a heavy metal version. In Peru all I found on local markets were the cheaper Chinese plastic ones similar to Pedro’s model. So I was hoping to find a used one in one of the thrift stores or on a flee market in the Netherlands during our annual visit there.
I couldn’t find one but Karin-Marijke’s father, Jan, presented me with his Gillette TTO [Twist To Open] or butterfly which he had bought in 1970 when he made the crossing from the United States to the Netherlands by boat and he had been afraid he couldn’t use his electrical razor.
“I think I even have some shaving foam from that trip, see if you can use that,” he said.
He still had the Noxzema shaving cream from 1970! It magically still continues to function. How’s that for quality?
So there you have it. I found my perfect overlanding shaving technique with the Double-Edged Safety Razor. They are easy to clean and can handle tougher shaving tasks, such as longer facial hair, than modern multi-blade razors.
Which is your preferred way of shaving while on the road or on a long trip?