Why an ABC of plus-size travel? Because sometimes, like Tina Turner would say, “Y’ know, every now and then, I think you might like to hear something from us nice and easy”! Also because it could be an interesting gateway for you to sample and jump further into this blog’s content. Especially if you are a newcomer who is just discovering the universe of The Plus-Size Backpacker… The community built around a blog should never be taken for granted!
A for… Airplane
One of the most important concerns for plus-size travelers. Because many of us won’t be allowed to sit in emergency exit rows (see here). Or because of the constant fear of a finger-pointing, fat-shaming debacle hanging over our heads (see here). Though it’s easy to blame ourselves for not being “adapted” to this mean of transportation, it’s essential not to get into an anxiety-generating, guilt-tripping spiral.
B for… Boldness
Because you will need some to get out and just go and see the world as a big person. Especially as a big woman. Because we are born with 2 “strikes” already: first, because we’re women, second, because we’re fat. Backpacking and adventure seem to be reserved for thin women. I resent and deeply want to change that. Once and for all.
C for… Clothing
Because finding travel-adapted clothes in plus sizes is not an easy task. Luckily, this blog has its own Clothes & Gear section for that… (Now that I think of it… “Challenge”, would have worked too, haha!)
D for… Destination
Because where you go has a lot to do with your experience as a plus-size traveler. Your destination decides of how long you will spend in a plane / boat / train / etc. But if you go to a place where fat people are a rare, unusual sight, you could be in for some surprises… or some disagreements. (More at “R for… Reactions”.)
E for… Emergency Kit
F for… Footwear
Your feet are carrying you around all day. It is ESSENTIAL to invest in proper footwear. Exit crappy flip-flops and low-quality footwear. Though good, closed-toe shoes are warmer in hot destinations, your feet will thank you for being spared from so many potential injuries and discomfort worse than heat!
G for… Gear
Gear adapted to our larger bodies is a struggle that is way too real for plus-size travelers. The straps and overall ergonomy are hardly ready to our size. Again, the Clothes & Gear section might be of help, since this is where you will find, among other things, backpack reviews…
H for… Humour
One of your best tools when you’re the only big person around. Or when nearly nothing around you is “plus-size friendly”. A good sense of humour, a sincere smile and a sprinkle of self-mockery will not make all uncomfortable situations disappear, but it will certainly help to deal with them.
I for… Intuition
That applies to most travelers when away. But that is also incredibly important when it comes to choosing what goes into your luggage, since traveling light is even more of a challenge for us. If an outfit, shoes or anything else doesn’t “feel right” at home, it will most certainly not “feel right” on the other side of the world. Leave this stuff at home and use the freed space for something you won’t risk regretting!
J for… Jump
A first solo trip for a plus-size, female traveler can definitely be scary. But it’s worth making the jump. BUT… it’s also important to know yourself well and be honest when it comes to evaluating what you can / can’t do. Mostly to avoid unnecessary risk. But also to skip on disappointments that could hinder on your desire to undertake future adventures.
K for… Kissing Thighs
Chafing is yet another typical struggle of plus-size travelers. Especially among women. (More on this matter here.) But good news, I found a solution: anti-chafing shorts! A true blessing, especially for enthusiast hikers like me.
L for… Luggage
There is a reason why this blog’s motto is “Travel light. Whatever your size.” Because it’s hard…! But it’s also very much possible (more about this here). I now allow myself special bragging rights for successfully leaving for 2½-3 week trips (Poland, Peru and Bulgaria), on 3 different occasions, with just a carry-on luggage!
M for… Minimalistic
A logical choice to follow “luggage”, don’t you think? In order to be an efficient light packer, you have to think minimalistic. (And be aware of some warning signs…) Keep everything to the bare minimum. Avoid superfluous stuff. There are numerous good reasons to stick to the bare minimum, you know. Here are 10.
N for… New Economy
With newer airlines like Qatar Airways came the “new economy”. (Check out Emirates and Etihad too!) A dream for large passengers like us. They make travelling a little easier and comfortable… and less of a “self-conscious affair”! Though their routes are not yet going all across the globe, it could be worth paying a bit more to fly with these airlines, especially for long-haul flights (like the 12½ hours I flew between Montreal and Doha).
O for… Optimization
Optimize the space. The clothes and things you pack. Optimize your travel time (especially if cramped in a tiny bus or a “regular” economy seat!) Optimize the content of your carry on luggage. Heck, optimize your travel miles to get a seat / class upgrade! Optimization is a the heart of plus-size travel, especially when it comes to traveling light and/or cheap! (Also see “V for… Versatility”.)
P for… Planning
Planning is part of most travels. If you have specific activities in mind that could be affected by your size or weight, better plan early. You might need to book earlier to make sure you have your spot, or to give them extra time to find (or reserve) proper equipment, adapted to your body.
Q for… Questions
A big part of the planning is… asking questions. To avoid bad surprises and unnecessary disappointment. (Like when I went to Peru and wanted to fly over the Nazca lines…) To avoid end up waiting while everybody else does something you can’t do, whatever the reason (they are numerous: wrong equipment, seating, cramped infrastructure, etc.). Since most companies and services are now reachable by email or online… there are no excuses not to ask! (Also check out “W for… Weight Limit”.)
R for… Reactions
In some parts of the world, big bodies cause reactions. Possibly comments. Finger pointing. Giggles even. Just remember that it’s usually more the effect of the surprise than actual judgement. If you’re involved in the conversation, you have the right to say that you don’t feel comfortable with comments on your body. With the right attitude (see “Z for… Zen” below), there isn’t much that can be dealt with.
S for… Seats
Restaurant booth or chairs. Planes (of course) and most means of transportation (buses, trains, etc.). Rides in amusement parks. Most public places (theatres, planetarium, and many more). You will be reminded of the size of your behind quite regularly when you travel.
T for… Textile
Because the wrong fabric will wrinkle or take forever to dry. Or worse. Use all the space in your luggage. Your precious, limited space, because of your plus-size clothing. More help on that here.
U for… Ultimate Guide to Plus-Size Backpacking
V for… Versatility
Pack clothes and items that have multiple purposes, like a fouta, some Duct tape, good old floss or a common bandana, for example. Versatility is a key concept in light travel and it applies to travelers of all sizes.
W for… Weight Limit
In roller coasters and similar rides, for some extreme sports (i.e. elastic jump) or some flying activities (i.e. skydiving) but also for horseback riding, there can be a weight limit. Often, it’s for safety reasons. So do your research, and ask questions, When (still) in doubt, abstain. Most likely for your own good / safety.
X for… XOXO
As in “hugs and kisses”. As in “loving and taking care of yourself”. Treat yourself when you travel! It doesn’t have to be hard and tough and intense every day, you know. Rainy day? Turn it into a massage or spa day to revitalize your legs (if not your whole body)! Nothing like a resting day to be able to undertake new adventures afterwards!
Y for… YOLO
Y(ou) O(nly) L(ive) O(nce). So please don’t wait. Please don’t miss out on the beautiful places of the world because of the size of your body. The more we become visible and start to reclaim our (travel) space, the better chances we have at becoming a less / no longer neglected consumers by the travel industry. Be heard and be seen.
Z for… Zen
Because with the right attitude and enough zen, most misadventures will turn into great memories… or at the very least, some of the funniest travel stories you will ever have! When everything seems to go against you or your size, just remember to be zen. (Hint: this “mantra” should help with flying zen!) You have the right to be fat and unapologetic. You also have the right to want to see the world, no matter what your size it. True, the industry doesn’t seem really ready for people like us… yet. But who wants to wait? (I chose not to!)