Cold Showers from Hell 35

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I suppose there aren’t any cold showers in hell, now that I think about it, but regardless, I hate cold showers. Hate. Hate.

Before I first started on my RTW overland trip in December of 2008, I couldn’t remember the last time I took an intentionally cold shower. Like anyone else, occasionally the hot water would run out during a shower, but the solution was always to just yelp loudly, exit immediately, and resume when the hot water came back.

outdoor shower head with water

Chance of showers by jurvetson, on Flickr

Then came my travels in the Third World. In Central America, during the early part of my trip, when I would complain about cold showers to the younger kids staying at the hostels I was at, they universally told me, “don’t worry, you will get used to it.” To which I replied, “I am 42 years old and no, I am not going to get used to it.”

Chalk one up for older and wiser, because almost two years later, I hate cold showers as much as I did before.

There are minor exceptions. After five days in the Sudanese desert in 110+ degree heat, the cold shower I took in Wadi Halfa, before hopping on the ferry to Egypt, was pure bliss.  There aren’t many more examples of happiness I have gotten from a cold shower.

But I have been accused by more than a few of being too negative on this website, so I give you…. the reasons that cold showers are wonderful, good for you, and just chock full of pleasure:

(1) Sometimes a hot shower is derived by an electrical shower head, commonly referred to as a ‘widow maker.’ Cold shower means no electrocution.

electric shower head latin america called widow maker

Cold shower = no electrocution

(2)  You don’t need to turn the shower on and wait for the water to warm up to the right temperature — just turn it on and jump right in.

(3)  Someone can flush the toilet in your bathroom and it won’t mean scalding hot water for you.

(4)  Easier to hide sexual frustration.  Instead of saying, “I need to go take a cold shower,” you can just say “I need to go take a shower.”

(5)  Shampoos work better in cold water.  Well, not really.  I made that up, but I did find a guide on ‘how to properly shampoo your hair’ which researching — and it did mention to rinse with icy cold water. Plus, it just made me chuckle that someone did a how-to guide for washing your hair.

(6) Because cold showers are annoying and painful…. they are shorter.  So you end up using less water and helping the environment.

(7)  How often do you get to use the word “bracing” appropriately?

(8)  No need to worry about your hostel or hotel running out of hot water or having to take one of the first showers of the day to get a good, hot one.

(9)  No steam on the bathroom mirror when you finish your cold shower.


(10)  Cold shower thoughts can keep your mind clear to deal with fembots.  (50 seconds in or so)

and finally (11) James Bond says that cold showers are good for you.  And if they are good enough for James Bond, they should be good enough for any of us.

But I still think they suck.

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About Michael Hodson

I’m an attorney that took off on my birthday in December of 2008 to circumnavigate the globe without ever getting on an airplane. After 16 months, 6 continents and 44 countries, I made it all the way back home. Right now, I am back on the road writing about it all.

35 thoughts on “Cold Showers from Hell

  • Ayngelina

    I got used to them in Central America, but they weren`t cold, more like room temperature. Plus it was so hot outside it was fine. But here in South America unless it`s hot, and it often isn`t, I`ll choose a hostel because of its hot water.

    • Michael Hodson Post author

      but what if one hostel has free wifi and a cold shower and one has no internet and a hot shower? Decisions, decisions!

  • Ira

    I must admit I have yet to come across cold showers on my travels, but that’s because I haven’t darted outside Europe and USA just yet.

    However, where I live (south of Russia) in the summer we have at least two weeks each year when they turn hot water off for ‘maintenance’. This year it was all of 5 times though, not 2 weeks each time, but we had a grand total of more than a month without normal showers. So although the south of Russia is very hot in the summer, about 90-100F, only the brave actually do take cold showers. Other people boil water in kettles or casseroles, then mix it with cold water in buckets and pour it on themselves in the bathtub.

    Ohh… the fun of it!

    There’s of course always an option of purchasing a water heater… but who would want to miss out on the fun part?!

    • Michael Hodson Post author

      the funny thing as I was reading this, Ira… was thinking to myself… 2 weeks. Yea, I could do 2 weeks without a shower. Sad that is the first option I came up with, instead of warming up the water. Maybe I have been traveling too long!

  • Kelsey

    I often would rather take no shower at all than a cold shower. Baby wipes are your friend!

    I’ll be honest: the one aspect of spending 6 months on horseback in Mongolia that gives me any pause whatsoever is the fact that 99% of my bathing will be done in rivers or buckets in someone’s yurt. In a warm country, this would be fine, but we’re talking about Mongolia here.

    • Michael Hodson Post author

      Yea, don’t know what to tell you on that one. I have done some camping and outdoor stuff and showered that way. The good side of it is (if during the summer), you are normally pretty hot and sweaty, which compensates somewhat, somewhat for the cold. The down side…. wild rivers are usually REALLY cold. Did just a couple weeks in the New Mexico mountains. One shower a week was all I could handle. Good luck!

      • Kelsey

        I don’t mind bathing in rivers when it’s warm, but the daytime temps will mostly be ranging from 30F-60F during most of my trip!

  • Annie

    I laughed out loud, so that’s a good thing huh? 🙂

    But I hated my cold showers in the middle of winter at the hostel in Rome, didn’t seem fair that even at 8am there was no hot water left. My solution was night showers but I imagine that doesn’t always solve the problem.

    • Michael Hodson Post author

      Whooo hoooo! I like making people laugh. Well, I like making people laugh at stuff I write sometimes. Not laugh at me. You get the point. 😉

  • Conner

    Michael – I second that emotion. Cold showers SUCK. SUCK.

    And I HATE, HATE them too.

    Ive lived 9 years in Havana without hot water and have not accustomed myself to the evilness of cold showers. Anyone who extols their curative/positive properties obviously has the option to switch on the hot when they want (or at least occasionally).

    For those who think you don’t need a hot shower in the Caribbean has never spent a 7 degree celsius night in Havana. In these cases we heat up water on the stove, fill a bucket and cup by cup pour that heated goodness over us (which is only a partial solution since the goosebumps are already raised before you can get the next cupful over your head).

    You can feel my pain at

    • Michael Hodson Post author

      O my. I just shivered even thinking about that. Thanks for the link, I will roll over there and feel your pain. Then take a hot shower.

  • Phil

    Number 4 is huge. The other day I woke up half naked with an erection on the bed closest to the door in a ten bed dorm. Sucks.

    Here’s another one: hot water is bad for a hangover. Your blood vessels constrict and it can actually make a headache much worse. Even though it feels awful, cold water shower after a night of drinking is a good idea.

    b well, phil

    • Michael Hodson Post author

      You are too damn funny. Stop posting comments that are funnier than the original content I threw up there 😉

  • Rachel

    Cold showers are from hell! I try to keep the water to a minimum — washing in this order: feet, calves, thighs, forearms, upper arms, hair & face (bending forward so as not to get the cold water on my back), front torso and lady bits, back. I’ve convinced myself that washing in this order makes the cold shower less horrible.

    Thanks for the post!

    • Michael Hodson Post author

      I love that you have an exact method for dealing with them. And frankly, you wash a lot more than I do… perhaps even more than I do in a hot shower.

  • Jaime

    I couldn’t stop laughing while reading this and also thinking HOLY SHIT thats going to be me in a while. I don’t know if Im gonna be able to handle that. I hate the cold and I sure as hell hate cold showers. Should I start practicing at home??? Maybe take a cold shower once a week…

    • Michael Hodson Post author

      Practice. Now that is an interesting concept. I wouldn’t worry about it — you are young enough to handle it. It is us old frackers that can’t manage to deal.

  • Andi

    Ugh, I HATE them too! They always happen to me when I’ve just finished shaving 1 leg but have 1 left to do. Grrrrrr!!!

  • Becky

    So with you on this one. We’re visiting my inlaws in Mexico right now and I HATE the fact the showers are in the least bit cold… It doesn’t help that the temps get down to 32-34 F at night and everything is cement/tile with no heat. Can’t wait to get home to my bathroom with heated floors and tons of warm water. Makes me sound like a stupid American to say that though.

  • Mikeachim

    Hell, I always hated the frequency that James Bond has cold showers in the books. Nothing screamed “woman-hating sadist” more than that. Well, apart from the woman-hating and the sadism. But it was a *very* close third.

    I applaud your scientific rigour in this post. It’s madness, but it’s thorough-well-referenced madness. There’s sober academic work that’s of lesser quality. Well done that man.

    Also, Phil’s point about hangover cures is a good one. Because it happens like this:

    1) You’re drunk.
    2) You step into a cold shower.
    3) You experience a moment of supreme life-threatening agony.
    4) Your brain has two choices: either sober up to the point that you can rationalise away the pain so you can grit your teeth and pretend it’s good for you – or completely shut down.

    So either

    (a) you sober up
    (b) you die.

    Either way, your hangover ceases to trouble you.

    100% successful.

  • Kelly

    I have read that rinsing your hair with cold water causes it to close up and appear shinier.

    That being said, I HATE cold showers too! And I’m not even traveling – just living in a country with a very tenuous grasp of modern plumbing.

    My water is heated by gas. Guess what happens if I run out of gas in the middle of my shower?!

    That, and my water heater is in my (unheated) kitchen. So if I don’t like the temperature of my shower while I’m in it, I get to tiptoe, dripping wet and nude, trying not to slip on the slick tile floor, out to my freezing-in-winter kitchen full of windows to adjust it, then head back to the bathroom to check the new temperature. Repeat as necessary. Fun times!!

  • Amanda

    *Shudder.* I’m getting cold just reading about cold showers.

    I’m almost always cold (why do I live in Ohio again? I forget), so warm showers and then blow-drying my hair with my dryer set on “hot” is often the best part of my day.

    I agree with Andi — the worst is when you run out of hot water when you have only one leg shaved! Then you have to fight with goosebumps, and I usually lose, coming away with knicks and cuts. Dumb cold water.

  • Erica

    Funny thing, a few hours ago I was talking to Shaun about how much I am going to miss hot showers. I like them hot. Like, please make me lobster red and open every pore in my body HOT. It is the way I de-stress.

  • Cheryl

    Awesome post and really really funny. You’re absolutely right, cold showers do suck! 🙂

    I too am not a fan of cold showers and had my fair share of them while traveling through South America. The only cold one I ever enjoyed was on my last night camping along the Inca Trail. After a few days of sweating and hiking, I needed one. The stall was gross, the water was cold, the rented towels I had procured were the size of hand towels. Yet it felt like the best shower of my life.

    Look forward to reading of your posts.

  • Scott

    I once literally received a brain freeze from a cold shower at the infamous (in a good way) Balmer’s Herberge in Interlaken during November. Shuddering just thinking of it. It didn’t get in the way of a fun time though! While the showers where you have to keep pushing the button to get water may be frustrating at times, I will take them anyday if that means more hot water.


  • Merav | AllWays NZ Rental Cars

    LOL! I totally agree with you. Cold showers suck. I would rather go with no shower at all. Even when temp is hot I still fancy my tea cup temp shower. And with the great invention of solar showers when travelling in hot third world countries (or even in NZ ;-)) you can take the hot shower with you where ever you go.

  • Jill - Jack and Jill Travel The World

    I HATE cold showers! I think I’d rather not shower — or if Jack starts complaining of my greasy existence I’d use my jetboil or a stove to heat some water so at the very least I’d have lukewarm water. And even then, I’d probably use a washcloth to wash off the grime as opposed to simply pour it all over me.

    Even during days of backpacking in the summer, I don’t think I enjoyed the cold rinse I took in rivers and streams. Ugh…

  • Brooke vs. the World

    I LOATHE cold showers. I went a month without hot water in Kyrgyzstan, and even though it was warm outside, the water came out ICY. *cringe*

  • Fida

    If you take a cold shower right before you step into a hot bath….pure bliss…just in case you miss the hot Sudanese climate 😉

  • Dave and Deb

    In my opinion there is nothing worse than freezing your ass off in a cold shower. Unless of course you are in Sudan and you have been riding your bike for 10 hours through the desert and have not had any kind of shower for 6 days. Here I made an exception 🙂

  • TLC_Designs @ Passport2Design

    HAHA I can definitely relate 😉

    I am currently living in Panama but planning 6 weeks of touring through Central America next month and I am not looking forward to the lack of hot water…

    Although, I should be used to it by now, since I don’t have any hot water where I live (and haven’t for the past month).

    I must admit it helps to wake me up in the morning, but I have to limit showering to once a day since a cold shower before bed sucks mucho!

    Thanks for the chuckle – your list is hilarious. I’m so happy I found your blog through Landropers. I’ll be back soon 😉

    *Tania @

  • Grace Lewis

    When I was little my older sister read somewhere that cold baths and ferocious scrubbing was good for you. She masked little sister torture under the guise of improving blood flow. 25+ years later, I still hate it. I had to wear a shirt in the bath in Croatia once just so I could stay warm enough to shave my legs.

    I think a distinction should be made between showers in a warm climate where hot water isn’t available and showers the temperature of glacial run-off. One is moderately bearable and the other makes me angry at the world and leaves me with a sore jaw from clenching my chattering teeth.

    Thanks for looking on the bright side of cold showers. This was really amusing and I am always happy for another way to protect myself from fembots.

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