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Rant: Self-Image and Travel

Self-Image and Travel

When I’m lucky enough to travel, I try to remove myself far from my daily life and immerse myself into a world of possibilities instead. 

Travel helps me forget problems plaguing me at home. I’m not saying ignore personal challenges or run away from everything you perceive as problematic in your life; however, travel provides great opportunities to distance yourself from common stresses that pick and poke at you, on the job and at home.

I’m far too good at forgetting my problems when I travel. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve gone on trips, yet was uncertain about whether or not I had a teaching job waiting for me back in the United States. Thoughts of resumes, uncomfortable interviews, and reference letters were always shelved in some dusty corner of my brain as I grabbed life by the horns and threw myself into bustling city streets and jaw-dropping national parks.

However I can’t forget one problem. It’s plagued me since childhood and unfortunately joins me on my travels: my weight.

Self-image and Travel

Mmmm, eating in Paris.

My weight simply drives me insane. I hate the number, I hate how big it makes my thighs, and I hate that it makes me worry so much.

Now I know weight and body image are VERY touchy subjects especially for women, because let’s be honest for five seconds: we’re the main target of a multi-million diet industry and are often told our bodies are never good enough for anyone, even ourselves.

I’ve been overweight all my life. From a health point-of-view, I know I need to shed pounds for my overall health. Diabetes and heart disease both run rampant in my family. The good news is I’ve been much better about addressing my issues with food since I’ve gotten older and matured quite a bit. If my doctor mentions I need to lose weight, I don’t snap defensively at him and instead ask for advice on ways to lose said-weight in a healthy, steady manner. Despite perpetual “out of shapeness” frustrating me, I’ve been 35 pounds below my heaviest weight for close to 5 years now. It’s a never ending process.

Yet it’s hard for me to stay encouraged when images of perfectly slim people bombard me in advertisements, especially ones related to the “worlds of travel and backpacking.” These slim objects of envy make it look so easy and simple to stay fit, even though I’ve no clue about other people’s work out routines, eating habits, or metabolism.

Self-image and Travel

Still not skinny.

The “travel world” isn’t exempt from the Beauty Standard presented to us by the Western media.

Do a google search of “female traveler,” and then check out the pictures on your computer screen. All young. All white. All pretty. And all skinny. Now I fall into the “white” and “young” categories, and I’d like to think I’m cute (haha, subjective, but my face is gorgeous, sorry), but the “skinny” part? Ehhh, not so much. Maybe if I pose a certain way and you squint.

Images, such the pictures found via google, isolate me. Occasionally, I feel like an “outsider” on the backpacker trail. Granted, I don’t experience these tense feelings all the time, but they happen often enough to annoy me – especially because other travelers have always been super welcoming and don’t seem to care about a random number measured on a cheap American scale purchased from Khol’s.

A lot of the negativity only exists in my own head. I want to emphasize being overweight is never an excuse not to travel.

But my insecurities still take a toll on me.

Self-image and Travel

One day I’ll feel confident enough to wear a cute bikini at the beach.

I want to be brutally honest in this post, so I’ll admit another uncool habit of mine: my miserable emotions creep over into the blogging world too.

Yes, I’m sure that bit of knowledge will win me friends and admirers!

Anyway I read as much as I can in this niche. As a holder of a Masters Degree in English Lit, I pride myself on my abilities to research in order to improve my skills, so why would blogging be excluded from that? I probably spend more time on other blogs than I do tweaking my own website.

While my research has been helpful, I hate admitting that there have been moments when my eyes roll far back into my head. Why?  Because so-and-so, cute and skinny, has only blogged a little longer than me and has double the amount of social media fans.

I find myself feeling incredible jealousy toward these bloggers and vloggers, because my mind immediately decides “they have so many fans only because they’re pretty and skinny.”

Terrible, right? Terrible for many reasons. I’m truly ashamed of myself for turning into a cartoonish stereotype: The High School Mean Girl.

Self-image and Travel

Looking chic on a Czech street.

My jealousy is unfair.

I don’t know how long this other blogger worked on her website. I don’t know about the hours or money that went into creating an aesthetically pleasing layout or building an audience on a specialized instagram account. My envious attitude belittles not only other women, pits me against other women, but clouds my judgment on my own efforts and what I can do to improve my blog.

Jealousy, especially “weight jealousy,” is absolute poison. From this day onward, I want to make the following promises to my readers and (more importantly) to myself:

  1. Stop believing other travelers only care about weight. While Google paints a single and exclusive image for “the female traveler,” the real world is far more diverse and I have experienced said-diversity first hand in hostels and on tours. I’ve met old and young travelers, large and small travelers, travelers of all races and sexual orientations. Everyone is welcome to roam our planet, not only skinny and/or athletic people.
  2. Stop mentally attacking other women. I’m smart enough NEVER to leave trollish comments on blogs. Hell, Blond Wayfarer has a strict “no abusive comment” policy. But mentally bringing down other female bloggers because of their body type is disgusting. How am I better than “fat shamers?” I’m not! So, yeah, I don’t want to join the “woman vs. woman” brigade and instead applaud other women’s achievements in the blogging world.
  3. Focus on what I can conceivably do to improve myself. Bemoaning my weight doesn’t lead to tangible results. Instead I want to push on my energy into becoming a healthier and happier person. I want to spend more time making improvements to my blog to build a stronger audience so my tales of travel go further on the internet. Maybe instead of lounging on the sofa watching House Hunters International, I could participate in a travel chat on twitter or go for a jog.

WISH ME LUCK.

Do you ever experience strong feelings of jealousy? Do you have problems relating to self-image and travel? How do you cope with them? Do you have any reasonable advice for me? Again, thank you for reading and supporting Blond Wayfarer. Make sure to subscribe to my mailing list before you leave!

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5 Responses to Rant: Self-Image and Travel

  1. Emma October 4, 2015 at 2:04 am #

    I’ve thought the same thing about young and beautiful female travel bloggers and I do think that the blogger’s appearance plays a part in their popularity. Blogs are personal peeks into the lives of others and travel blogs especially allow us to live vicariously through the people who run them and so we tend to read about the bloggers we want to be like. Yes, it’s shallow, but they also need the language skills to keep people coming back.

    • Rachel Elizabeth October 4, 2015 at 8:53 am #

      I agree with everything you’ve said here!

      I’ll be honest and admit I’ve followed blogs strictly based on the writer’s appearance (living vicariously and all that) or more often, the appearance of his/her website. There are also really, really, really terrible blogs that are fantastic at marketing themselves and have tons of subscribers as a result. But at the end of the day, I think it’s strong content that keeps a reader sticking around for good.

      Thanks for visiting!

  2. Stacey May 3, 2016 at 7:12 pm #

    I’m glad I’m not the only one that has secretly had these thoughts about other bloggers. I try not to but I guess it is natural for people to compare themselves to others in all the ways they aren’t perfectly happy about themselves. I’ve always been the “smart” one amongst my friends, and while in the long run I know that a brain outlasts a cute figure it doesn’t make me stop wanting one. But hey, maybe some bloggers look at the “brainy” bloggers and think “I wish people would read more of my articles instead of just liking all the pics of me in a bikini”. I guess we never really know what others are thinking about their own insecurities.
    At the end of the day I do wish I was smaller but really more than that, I hope I can maintain my health to enjoy traveling for as long as possible. And to not be completed winded and dying from walking up all those beautiful bell towers out there. 🙂

  3. Megan October 19, 2016 at 10:29 am #

    Good Luck! I traveled when I was young, and it changed the way I saw myself. I had always been self conscious about my weight as well as nearly everything else about myself (I was certain that people were only nice to be to be polite). Then when I traveled I met people who enjoyed my company, all over the world! They weren’t just being polite they were CHOOSING to spend time with ME. I haven’t had body image or self-esteem issues for the last 12 years because of this. Sure, I occasionally get down about my weight and other various attributes, but it’s no longer constant.
    I feel lucky that I was able to do my adventures in a time pre vlogging and blogging. I was able to do my thing without any preconceived notion as to what it should look or feel like. I didn’t have anyone to impress, no “followers” or sponsors.

  4. Ioanna April 8, 2017 at 12:18 pm #

    I’m with you, Sister! I”m not much overweight, but I’m not the bikini-style travel bloggers, either. I’m lucky that my niche (hiking/camping) doesn’t require chick clothing and fashionista secret skills, b/c I don’t have any. I can be in the same clothing in every pic from a month-long vacation and all ultra-light hikers will understand me. Still – I also have been struggling with accepting my body the way it is. And here, hiking helps. Because I know that I am a bad-ass hiking solo at 40 yo, carrying this heavy backpack of mine. I want to kiss my big thighs for where they carried me… I am proud of my muscles and all that my body can do.

    I decided early on to put myself in the photos – not to be shy about it, no matter I’m in unwashed clothing, with no make-up and my hair was unwashed for a week at that moment. That’s what a hiker looks like. Being 40 also means I’ve had more years devoted to work on myself, acceptance (including fat-acceptance) and appreciation of myself. I also have enough knowledge in basic health issues, that I know being overweight does not automatically mean unhealthy, same as being skinny/slim or even fit-looking do not automatically mean healthy.

    I join you in the mental work of not judging each other, no matter what.
    and I wish you luck 🙂

    warm regards,
    Ioanna – A Woman Afoot

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