Travel Hack: The Homemade Haircut

I’ve been gathering packing tips from some of our fellow digital nomads for my brand new ebook on packing (I wrote a book! weeeee!). One my favorite tips is

“A beard is easier to carry than a razor and shaving cream. Cheaper too.”

 Chris “I’ll let you know when I’m dead” Kahn
nomad entrepreneur, bearded man

Though Chris enjoys being a wild hairy man as he traverses the world, I do not. Mostly because I am not a man and don’t have a beard, but also because I just can’t handle having long wavy locks while I’m in tropical climates, so I keep my hair short and I cut it myself. Though this means carrying some extra stuff, it’s totally worth it to me.

All I carry with me in order to have free haircuts, spoken in English, whenever I want, is a pair of cat grooming shears, thinning shears, and a comb.


Yep, that’s right cat grooming shears.

I originally had regular normal people hair cutting shears, but the Guatemalan TSA plucked them from Mike’s bag and thew them in the trash. What was I going to do? sneak into the cockpit and give the pilots a quick trim? My argument in bad Spanish of “but they’re mine. And I like them” didn’t get me anywhere.

I was pretty disappointed about this because I thought my chances of replacing them were pretty slim. As it turns out, I was right. I couldn’t find any people grooming shears where we were in Nicaragua, but I could find cat grooming shears in the grocery store. Who knew? The cat grooming shears were an accidental upgrade because they have rounded-off points — making Mike less afraid of my being so close to his face with sharp things.

So yes, we cut our own hair. And it really isn’t that hard. I had minimal hair cutting experience before last fall, but I went for it anyway. This is what I have learned over the course of a year of haircuts.

haircut1It is easier to cut Mike’s hair before it gets too long.
This is why: I can simply follow the current style by trimming off an equal amount all around. If we’ve waited until an inch or more needs to come off, it takes me a little longer because I have to reconstruct the style. This takes more skill — and in my case, more guesswork and hoping for the best.

Wearing only underwear means you won’t have pokey hairs all in your clothing.
Why bother with getting your clothes or a towel all hairy so that we have to wash them when we can just brush ourselves off and then hop in the ocean or the shower?

Close the windows, turn off the fans, or just go outside.
Hair can get everyplace pretty quickly as soon as a breeze rolls in. So to expedite our cleanup, we reduce our opportunities for breeze. I also keep a broom handy so I don’t step on the fallen hair, and then track it all around. Mostly, we just go outside when possible.

Even with short hair, you don’t need a hand mirror to cut the hair in the back.
It sounds a little crazy, but you can do this by feel. When cutting my own hair, I just run my fingers through my hair to sense when I’ve got everything cut to the appropriate length. But I do prefer having at least one mirror for the front view.

Don’t worry, it will grow back.
Every single time I cut Mike’s hair, he starts by saying, “well, it will grow back.” What a lovely pep talk, eh? Though honestly, he hasn’t been disappointed in a haircut yet. It has taken a little practice to get good at it, but over all it’s been just fine. So if you’ve been itching to give it a try, jump in, proceed with patience, but don’t be afraid. It will be okay. And if it’s not perfect, that’s okay too because it will grow back and you will get to practice again in a couple of weeks.

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