Disclaimer: I hate the word Fat, it is such an ugly word, but it made for a catchy title rather than Plus size travel, so sue me. I am not going to put a size or a figure down to be classed as fat, I am simply large and in charge.
Just a heads up, I am the healthiest I have ever been, so don’t go worrying about me kids. Seriously, I was a vegetarian for like a month not long ago. Plus size travel is something that is rarely spoken about or seen online, so I am going to shed some light on my own experiences.
Let me start this off by clarifying what this post is all about. I wanted to write down what it was like for me, a plus size gal, travelling the world. The issue of body confidence has been an ongoing battle throughout the past few years, especially when I began travelling. After all I’ve spent the past few years in nothing but a bikini.
There have been a few things I have come to realise and learnt throughout my journey around the world and I wanted to write them down in case this helps someone else.
This is in not me fishing for compliments, neither is this my X Factor Sob-Story-Audition-Piece. This is just me and my thoughts and how I maintain a healthy mental state.
Recently our pictures on Instagram got featured on a travel account which has 1.8 million followers. This was amazing exposure for us, and our blog and we gained a lot of followers. With this new following, came the good and bad.
I started to read through the comments, and while some of them were kinda mean about me and Olly, I noticed a few girls saying things like “this girl looks so healthy” or “finally not a typical anorexic girl on Instagram”. It got me thinking about putting in words what it’s actually like to travel as a plus size girl/ Plus size travel. As well as finding the courage to take photos of myself daily.
The way I see my relationship with my body confidence is like a marriage. You have to work at a marriage, you have your ups and your downs. I must work at my ‘marriage‘ with myself as it doesn’t always stay consistent. It’s not something I can do once and be done with, it is a work in progress.
This might not be true for everyone, but when I don’t feel confident in myself, my appearance is all I can think about. When I walk past a window I’m looking at my reflection for flaws. When I’m walking down streets in Asia I am waiting for someone to say something negative. I would avoid local kids because they can be the meanest.
I was constantly waiting for something to be said, and in the few occasions something did happen, I was mortified. Constantly setting my expectations so low so I wouldn’t be disappointed, was no way to live. One way to overcome this was for me to say these kind of ideas out loud, because most the time people would tell me that I was being ridiculous. And then I realised this wasn’t healthy thinking.
Having negative thoughts not only affected my confidence, it started to make me missing out on experiences. People I met in hostels would suggest going to do hikes or activities and I would automatically decline. I didn’t want to embarrass myself in front of them because of how unfit I thought I was or how much I would sweat. Watching from the sidelines wishing I could join in.
I soon realised that everyone sweats in Asia, it is unstoppable so I shouldn’t be self-conscious about that. Olly often encourages me to do things I wouldn’t normally do. He pushes me to do activities with him and it turns out I can do them. Not only can I do them but I have so much fun! I once managed to scale a rock wall, climb under barbed wire fence and then hike up a mountain to a look out, all because he believed in me. That day was incredible and I was over the moon with myself.
The same thing happened every time I wore a bikini. I would assume everyone around me was staring thinking ‘why is she wearing that’ and it killed me. My answer to that was sunglasses. If I had sunglasses on, I would look at people in the face and around me and I realised it was like watching a scary movie. If you look away or hide, you’re imagining things a lot worse than they actually are, you’ve just got to look up and realise you’re not scared. That, and literally no one is looking at you.
Before I went away travelling in 2015 I knew that the people I would meet would judge me firstly on what I looked like. I know this is a shallow thought, but I’m guilty of being shallow from time to time. To overcome this first hurdle of travelling as a plus size gal, I did what any sane person would do, I went on Tinder dates.
I swiped for guys I wouldn’t consider my type but I wanted to open myself up to different kinds of people, especially as I was about to head to Asia on my own. This also forced me to be more comfortable with people judging me on my looks. As a result, I got more and more confident as time went on.
This new found confidence worked wonders for the first few months of travelling. I really didn’t care standing next to the skinny girls on the boat party because I was so confident and loud. I found people gravitated towards me. That all came crashing down one night in Australia when I was hanging out with some guys and one of them decided to tell me how hideous and fat I was.
This broke me and I phoned my best friend crying wanting to come home. She reminded me that when she first met me at Uni, I was the most confident person she had ever met. She has an annoying habit of always being right and she said:
“This trip is for you and no one else, listen the only reason I don’t get upset so much about you not being home, is because this is the best thing you’ve ever done for yourself.”
She was right, shock. And it reminded me how great it was to be confident. Her words forever stick in my mind when I’m feeling crap. I even saved these words on my phone to read whenever I’m having a down day.
Getting back in a bikini again was hard. People would often ask me if I was going to take my dress off at the beach or if I was going to come for a swim and I would say no. I would sit there hating myself and cover up as much as possible. At this point of travelling I had ran out of money and didn’t have much in the way of a healthy diet. In a strange turn of events I actually got very ill and ended up in hospital which saw me bedridden for a few weeks.
This gave me a lot of time to reflect on travelling and made me miss home. It made me realise how confident I had been in the first place to not care at all and enjoy myself as much as possible. Another brilliant outcome from the surgery was the painkillers, which sent me a bit loopy. It was these painkillers I took which lead to me meeting the love of my life, Olly.
Plus Size Travel – Meeting Olly
One day I needed a ride to the hospital, while heavily under the influence of drugs (prescribed don’t worry), I decided to walk up to the new guy washing the hostels van and ask him to do it topless. I even ended up suggesting parts he’d missed. He just laughed and thought I was crazy, which I kinda was at the time. I demanded a lift and jumped in, not caring at all what I looked like (I had flowers in my hair) and started dancing in the van.
A few days later I remembered what I had said to him and laughed it off. We hung out a lot and I always thought he was out of my league because he was beautiful! Because I thought we were just friends, I didn’t try and impress him. Neither did I care what I looked like around him. It wasn’t until he kissed me for the first time, standing on a table in a nightclub (classy I know) that I realised he liked me.
Having someone see me in a bikini all day everyday and still like me, was huge for me. It was this moment I realised I really shouldn’t care what I look like, because if I’m happy and confident, that is more attractive to the kind of guy I want to end up with.
Going Home Was My Lowest Point
Jumping to when we got home from our first year travelling, is when my marriage to my self hit a low point. I was back surrounded by reality, unhealthy food and free alcohol at work. My self esteem hit a new low and I was in a very dark place for a while. I knew that the only person who could change this was me, so I decided to do something about it.
I started working out 4 times a week, cut back on the drinking and prepped my lunch everyday. This became my therapy and I was a woman on a mission to be happy within myself. We also had just booked flights back to the Philippines, which meant being in a bikini every day once again.
The Start of @UnexploredFootsteps
I never took photos of myself while travelling and this was the hardest thing to overcome. Me and Olly wanted to start our Instagram but we had two every different visions in mind. I wanted it to be amazing photos without people in them, he wanted us in the photos. This was probably the hardest thing for me to overcome because I hated my photo being taken.
I thought it was easier for the slim girls to take photos because they can stand next to a waterfall and be done. In my head it was more like, ‘right, hold my arm there but not too close to my body so my arm looks huge. Point my toes like this so my legs look longer, cross my legs to reduce the size of one, tilt my head up so no double chin. Definitely don’t smile because my teeth look big, oh and don’t forget to turn your body or stand behind Olly’. Taking photos wasn’t enjoyable when I had these unhealthy thoughts. The second I let go, and didn’t care, it became enjoyable and I looked forward to taking photos.
Travel Couple Goals
Having a travel related instagram is tough because there are hundreds of ‘Travel Couple’ accounts out there. These accounts sold a dream of the perfect couples that are incredibly fit, wearing amazing clothes and have unreal tans. It was easy to compare myself to the girls I see in the filtered photos with the incredible figures. I honestly thought our pictures weren’t getting likes because I didn’t look like those girls and questioned if anyone would even want to see our photos. I needed to stop seeking validation based on what I looked like.
The reason we started our account was to share our journey and help others. I didn’t need to look like those girls to accomplish this because we were already doing just that. I don’t have expensive clothes and the perfect hair but as long as I felt that I looked good, I felt confident enough. We are a couple, we do travel and this is us being real!
Shameless Plug, Check out how we travel as a couple and don’t kill one another.
The more I took photos, the more I got over this fear. I have even started to smile in photos now, which is a huge deal for any Cliffin woman. I stopped thinking that people would see our photos and think ‘oh god she’s big’. Now I hope they think ‘oh wow she’s happy’. When we are old and grey I won’t be picking apart my flaws. Instead I want to see how happy I was.
Positive Impacts Of Social Media
Rarely you find positive articles about the effects of social media. Recently it was released that the folks over at Instagram were trialling hiding users likes on their photos. This is an attempt to reduce the negative impact its platform has. Although I believe too much social media is unhealthy, I do think the positives get overlooked.
I recently posted a photo and celebrated I had lost a stone and a half while travelling. The response I had from complete strangers was overwhelming. This little community we have built is so supportive and it’s wonderful. The photos I post get so much love and support from people I have never met, more so than people I’ve known for years. It is honestly an incredible feeling. This isn’t what you hear about from strangers on the web.
Plus Size Travel – Stranger Danger
Speaking of strangers, I happened to meet a very good friend through instagram while travelling. Her name is Roisin and she’s also an instagram queen. She doesn’t actually know this but she is a huge part of me believing I am beautiful the way I am. She is the cheerleader everyone needs in their life.
I tried on many outfits with her, using my usual phrase of ‘is this a skinny girls outfit I’m trying to pull off?’ And she shouted at me which set me straight. She constantly reminds me that I look great. The first compliment I got from her, I was wearing a bikini standing next to her, she’s drop dead gorgeous but I was tipsy so it was alright. It meant so much to me and now that bikini is my favourite to wear. Purely because she convinced me I look great!
Olly is one of the reasons I am so confident these days. Not only is he supportive, he also takes the time to help me understand nutrition and exercise. Making time for exercise while travelling, really helps my mental state. Once we have been for a run, I feel so much better for it, mentally and physically. I have never ran in my life but while we are travelling, it is the easiest thing to maintain. We try to run at least twice a week, even if its just to get out of the hostel. It’s my healthy balance while travelling and not able to eat as healthy as I’d like to.
The comments I have received lately are incredible. I have learnt to love myself in a way I didn’t expect to. It takes constant work, this my marriage to myself but I think I’m getting better at it. I hope that this helps anyone that can relate to any of it. It doesn’t matter one bit what you look like, if you go travelling you will have the best time of your life. You will see new places, meet different people that have the same interests and that is what really matters.
Just an UPDATE – This photo is in a bloody travel magazine. Plus size travel for the win!
If you have sat here and read through the whole of my Plus Size Travel Blog, then bravo, have a cookie for me!
Milly I have just read this all the way through and struggled to keep a dry eye! I hate that you’ve felt like this in the past but SO glad you’ve been strong enough to fight those shitty demons in your mind. You look absolutely amazing, and I’m not just saying this! Your figure is perfect and you have the tiniest waist!
Fully feel you with the Instagram stuff.. I’ve felt the same too. But what I’ve learned is that people on Instagram are attracted to your confidence and happiness!
Like you said, when you’re older and looking back on memories, you’ll love yourself for being so happy and not giving a crap – but if you look back and see how miserable you was, you will regret everything, and there’s not time-tuner for that.
We are all put in our chosen bodies for life, in all different shapes and sizes, and there’s nothing we can do to change that – all we can do is accept it and own what our mama’s gave us! Of course, people can lose weight, but I know first hand that it’s not always that easy. I’ll lose a stone, then eat one McDonald’s and that stone will go straight back on!! Luke is gobsmacked at how much my weight fluctuates lol
So just own your body and smile, and be that happy and loud magnet that everyone is attracted to! P.s big ups Olly and Roisin for making you feel like a queeeeeeeen xx
Firstly, thank you for taking the time to read my article. I couldn’t agree more, confidence attracts all the good stuff in life! Thank you so much for this comment. It really does mean the world to me to hear such positive words from you. Hope you have a wonderful weekend 🙂 xx
You already know how incredibly proud of you I am but I’m now also so impressed with your bravery and honesty.
I so hope that this post gets the enormous credit is deserves.
loads of love
Thank you Dad, the only thing I have ever wanted was to make your proud x
Just read this again after however long ago it was posted and damn I’m so proud of you ❤️ Grateful to call you a life long friend Milly! Love you x
I’m very grateful to have you in my life, cheerleader 📣 ♥️ xxx