I will tip that boat! And 5 More Plus Sized Travel Fears
“Do one thing that scares you each day” has been a motto of mine since I saw my first Lululemon bag. Little did I know that going traveling solo as a plus size woman would have me confronting fears so often, I’d stock up enough points for years to come.
My “Secret” Fears
I will let you in on a secret… when people tell me I’m so brave for traveling solo, the first retort from the b*tch in my brain is “Ha! If you only you knew.” The truth is, I’m scared all the time. Almost every day I am confronted with a new situation that brings out a fear, usually ones I didn’t even know I had. My brain is annoyingly FULL of unconscious, limiting beliefs about what I’m capable of due to my size.
The key is refusing to let it stop me. I’m having a ton of fun busting most of those myths and fears. I suppose now would be a good time to admit I also get a kick out of proving people wrong, even when the person I’m proving wrong is myself.
My most recent epiphany around this came when I asked myself – what did I really fear? If “____” happened, what would be the worst thing? The only answer I could think of (besides injury) was embarrassment. That immediately settled a lot of arguments about whether I should try something or not.
I made the choice early on that no matter what happens if I am embarrassed because of something weight related, it will be worth it. I wouldn’t trade my time here in SE Asia even if it meant tipping the next 10 boats.
Now that my psychological assessment is complete…here is my list of 6 fears I have traveling solo as a plus size woman in SE Asia.
1. I will tip the boat
Imagine having to ease yourself off a pier, down onto a tiny board, walk across said flimsy board, and then basically leap into a long tail boat. When I saw this was how I needed to get into the shuttle boat to my hostel on Koh Rong Samleon, I almost turned around.
I hate having to climb onto boats in the BEST of circumstances. I was convinced I would either break the board or tip the boat. Given the look shared between the two Cambodians helping, I don’t think I was alone with this fear.
Thank goodness for my friends on that trip. I handed them all my valuables and got myself to the front of the line. I was going first, so if I tipped it, I’d be the only one who was wet. They laughed at me, but I was dead serious. Turns out, I was fine. I made it to my seat with only slightly shaky knees. And I would go on to have the most fun ever at Mad Monkey. Another fat myth busted. Hell yeah.
2. I’ll flip the bunk bed
After long tail boats, my next biggest fear is those damn dorm bunk beds. Every time I check into a new hostel, I cross my fingers when I ask “is there a bottom bunk available?” I’d rather have bed bugs than haul myself up a tiny ladder. Well, maybe not, but it’s close.
And to be clear, I know I am strong enough to lift myself up. It’s my brain that has come up with 5 different ways for me to break the bed as I’m climbing it. Plus, what if I have to pee in the middle of the night? At the very least I’d be waking up the person in the bottom bunk.
In the first month of my travels, I was miraculously always given the bottom bunk. Then I injured myself in Pai, Thailand and all the sudden I couldn’t physically climb the ladder. That’s when I got to say “need a bottom bunk due to knee injury” and be absolutely guilt free. As it’s been 6 weeks since my fall, I’ve told myself I get one more week of using this excuse. That’s when the true test of my courage will be. There is some part of me that says it’s ridiculous to think that I’d flip an entire bunk bed, but I can’t help what my brain fears. I’ll keep you posted on this one.
3. I won’t fit
Bus seats, plane seats, scooters, aisles, chairs.. basically any time I have to put my ass somewhere new, I feel this ripple of fear that I won’t fit and everyone will laugh at me as I do the Fat Girl Walk of Shame. This has yet to happen. Sometimes it’s a tight fit, yes, sometimes I need to use my trusty seat belt extender, but I make it work.
Due to these fears, I always pick my seats strategically. Window seat closest to the front of the plane. Single seat on the bus, if possible. Thank goodness for Asia’s love of buses with 1 single and 1 double per row. Also, the best thing about being the fattest girl on the bus, people don’t want to be squished beside you either, which means I’ll often get the whole row to myself! Score!
4. I will break the chair
Ok, this did happen once. I was sitting on a metal chair in a bar in Thailand when all the sudden the legs gave way and I was going ass over tea kettle, mortified.
Everyone was great about it and the staff brought me a new chair within seconds. I downed 3 drinks in the next 10 minutes and the whole thing seemed a lot more funny after that. I will say this though, the new chair felt perfectly strong, so I’m pretty sure the old one was on its last legs anyway. (Ahh, the puns)
Moral of the story, yes, I judge restaurants based on their chairs. Those tiny things in Hanoi that looked like they’d fit maybe one of my cheeks? Hell no, I will pay $2 more next door. Or.. take away please because you have the best trip advisor reviews and I’m sure it will taste just as delicious in the very solid, already tested chair at my hostel.
5. It won’t fit and I will look terrible
Getting a dress tailor made in Hoi An was an experience I will never forget, and one I’m so glad to have. That doesn’t mean it was easy.
Like a lot of woman, going shopping has never been fun or carefree for me. The severe lack of cute plus size clothing in Canada doesn’t help my situation. Needless to say, going to a tailor in Hoi An and saying “2 dresses, please” was the scariest thing I’d done all week. I half expected her to laugh me out of the store or ask for double. Imagine my surprise when I bargained her down to half price!
Then the day of my final fitting arrived. I took a deep breath, stepped out of the fitting room and turned to the mirror, expecting the usual tirade of insults my brain would throw my way. Instead, for the first time ever, my brain was quiet. It was as stunned as I was. I looked GOOD. More than that, I was HOT. Getting things tailor made to fit your body is amazing. Worth every damn penny.
6. They think I look hideous
As someone who is at least twice the size of the biggest local, I get a lot of stares. Strangers ask “how many kilos” at least twice a week. I spoke about this at length in a previous post. At first, I hated it. I’d tense up, ignoring the question and felt humiliated when any friends I was with looked equally embarrassed. Then I started to realize that they didn’t mean anything by it. They were being curious, not judgemental.
In comparison, people in North America are taught that the word fat is synonymous with lazy and disgusting. As size is still a very taboo subject, no one would dare ask someone’s weight outside of a Weight Watchers meeting. My response to growing up in a society that perpetuates fat shaming and stigma had been to build a wall that I called “confidence.”
Traveling revealed that – shocker – this wasn’t me actually loving my body. I was still doing all the judging from behind my wall. Seeing this has opened up a whole new world for me. As each stranger chips away at my wall, something new and even more beautiful begins to emerge.
Now when asked, I laugh, saying “it’ll shock you too much!” and carry on with my day. While I still think my weight is none of their business, it’s equally unimportant what their opinion of my body is. Even if they do think it’s ugly, that says more about them than me. It actually says more about the society we live in, but that topic is worth its own blog post!
A life full of fears is a life well lived.
Airing out my 6 biggest fears feels surprisingly liberating. Although admitting these does make me feel slightly ridiculous, I know I can’t be the only person to have these thoughts.
Bottom line: the fear isn’t going anywhere. Refuse let your fears stop you from doing what you want. Most of my fears are weight related, but every traveler has them. Travel is about experiencing new cultures and busting through fears. Every time I’m terrified and act anyway, a new person emerges on the other side.