Being Overweight and Traveling

My name is Kelly, and I am overweight-that was not easy to say, and this post was not easy to write. I’m embarrassed about my weight, I don’t ever talk about it to my friends, and I try and avoid the subject with my family. Why? Because I am ashamed I can’t fix this aspect of my life. I do not want to write an entire post about what I’ve experienced being overweight and traveling.

But, I feel the need to present my experiences on this much-avoided topic, because I know I am not the only one who feels this way. And, I want to encourage others, no matter what their size, to travel.

Overweight and traveling Girl standing in front of the Louve

Traveling is my passion.

But, being overweight and traveling presents a lot of unique challenges and emotions. On one hand, you are traveling, growing, learning more about world, meeting amazing people, learning about history, admiring the beauty around you, and immersing yourself in another culture.

But, you’re also learning about yourself, and self-examination is never easy. It’s not easy to be the biggest one in your tour group, lagging behind others in physical activities, worried about cramped quarters, or whether that cute foreign guy will even look at you.

I’ve experienced a range of emotions while being fat and traveling. Some more difficult and harder to control than others.

Overweight and traveling  girl in front of Berlin wall

Stories about Being Overweight and Traveling

I remember living in Rome. My three-week Europe trip had turned into a three-month trip; my clothes were falling apart, and no matter how many stores I went to, I could not find anything in my size.

I would spend hours in different stores searching for something, anything, that was big enough for me. And afterwards, I would drive home and cry in clothes that were littered with holes and sweat stains. I felt disgusted with myself.

Overweight and traveling girl standing in front of the Coliseum

On buses and trains and planes around the world, I huddle in my seat, fearful of moving too much and upsetting the person sitting next to me, leaning all the way over to one side so I would not impede on my neighbor’s seat space. I was constantly on alert, constantly telling myself you’re fat, you’re fat, you’re fat. It was so uncomfortable; I was so ashamed.

Visiting numerous bars and clubs, going out to dinner, and watching some cute guy’s eyes graze right past me, and onto a skinnier girl who wore those gorgeous dresses that I would never be able to pull off. I felt invisible, worthless. I wouldn’t go out drinking with my beautiful, skinny friends, because even though I was happy for them getting attention from all of these hot, foreign guys, I wanted some as well. I’m young I thought, I want to make out with some Italian guy, or dance with that Spanish guy.

Being fat and traveling is hard. Traveling is physically exhausting. When I travel, I find myself tired from walking, needing to sit down or take a lot more rest stops than my peers. Is it this hard for everyone? Sometimes, I would sit out of an activity because it was too challenging. Hike that mountain? No way. Not with all those people watching me. Judging me. I became a slave to what others thought about me and my weight.

My Thoughts and Suggestions

Being overweight and traveling is hard because my passion in life is one that requires me to be physically active, always moving and exploring, subjecting my body to uncomfortable transportation, new food, constantly shifting routine, engaging with new people, the list goes on. And don’t get me wrong, I love traveling. But, I feel restricted in the places that I can go, the things I can do, and the amount of time I can spend in new places.

Nevertheless, I do not believe in giving up on your passions. 

Overweight and traveling girl in front of a mosque in Istanbul

So, my weight makes traveling hard. But, I do not have a disability. I do not have food allergies. I do not have severe anxiety. And there are people, who have these things, that still travel, and still love it, because it is their passion.

And when you love something as much as I love traveling, things like weight and self-image, and fear and feeling inadequate, and not feeling beautiful or confident, all those things fade into the background.

Because when I travel, I feel truly alive; I feel that when I am somewhere traveling, exploring some new place, that I am exactly where I am supposed to be.

So, for all of you who are scared of traveling because of your weight, or because of a plethora of other reasons, let me offer you some advice…

#1 Just travel.

Overweight and traveling girl in Iceland

If you have even the smallest inkling to see a new place, do it. If you want to visit a new country, go. Do not let fear hold you back. I am scared every time I go somewhere new, or meet someone new. I’m scared of unknown situations, but I do it anyway.

Don’t be scared of going at your own pace. If you can only walk for an hour at a time before needing a rest, then walk for an hour, find a café, order a coffee, and people watch until you feel rested. Or, go back to your hotel and take a nap. Rest in a park, or on a beach.

Never feel like you’re not doing enough. This is your trip. There is no right way or wrong way to travel. Just do it.

#2 Know your limits.

 Girl in Krakow, Poland

In New Zealand, I didn’t go on a 7-hour hike because I knew I wouldn’t be able to keep up with the group. I didn’t go on a guided tour of New Zealand where I would be hiking or doing something equally strenuous every day, I picked a tour with a lot of options, that allowed me to tailor my tour to what I wanted to do. Choose a country, choose a tour, choose activities that fit your level of fitness and your desires.

#3 Stop caring about what others think.

Girl in the Blue Lagoon in Iceland

This one is a tough one, because we all care what others think. But remember, you are traveling for you. For you to grow and experience something new, the people who you see are on their own journey. They care about you less than you think. And, if someone does say something or does something that upsets you, remember, they’re the ones who have to live with themselves. Don’t ever let someone else’s words or actions dictate how you are going to live your own life.

#4 And last, but certainly not least, learn to love yourself.

Girl standing on a hill in Athens

Stop the negative talk. Embrace all of the good things about yourself, embrace your shortcomings, embrace your imperfections.

When I start to get upset about my weight when I travel, I always stop, and take time to look around me, at the beautiful mountains, at amazing architecture, at whatever is around me at the time, I take a deep breath, and I practice being thankful for who I am, for where I am, and for what I am doing.

Is anything holding you back from traveling or pursuing your dream?

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  1. Wow, I am so impressed by the courage that it took to write this. It is so relatable for me as I have been an overweight traveler as well. Thank you for sharing your story!

    • Aw, thank you so much! Yes, it’s not something that a lot of people talk about, but its made an impact in my travels throughout my life.

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