I can remember exactly where it happened. I was half way up the Arc de Triomphe on my Paris city break, huffing and puffing with every step. My knuckles were white from the pressure of my grip on the hand rail, and my face damp with exertion. My heart beat hard and fast, right out of my chest and the lactic acid had built up so much in my thighs that I could barely lift my foot onto the next step.

I’m 34, I thought to myself. It shouldn’t be this hard.

I kept pushing, every movement becoming more impossible, ever so aware of the people behind me. I knew the view would be worth it. I’d had a rubbish time in Paris and I was hoping that this view would help me overcome it. Suddenly I could see some light. At last. At last.

But as I climbed the last few steps I realised I wasn’t at the top. Just a landing, a floor with some exhibits on. I could have cried right there. Tears pricked my now burning face. I was exhausted. I was embarrassed.

I flopped onto a welcome bench and assessed my options, few though they were. I cursed myself for that second croissant, for my inability to just stop eating and for my lack of fitness. There was no reason why I shouldn’t have been able to climb with ease. It was just my own laziness. As my breath started to return to normal, it was time to push off, up again into the clouds. I sucked in the stale air deeply. Here we go, I thought.

More determined now, I climbed the next set of steps. I clenched every muscle in my body and pushed up and onwards. At one point I realised I was holding my breath just to get through the pain and I let out a huge, audible and shameful sigh. At last I could see the sky.

As I took my first lungful of fresh air, looking out over Paris and on to the Eiffel Tower, I promised myself that next time would be different.

It never was.

Has your body shape ever defined your travel experiences? Here's why it shouldn't anymore.Click To Tweet

Body Shape and Travel

Beating myself up for being human

Whether it was climbing Petrin Tower in Prague or scaling Mount Vesuvius in Italy, every situation which has required some sort of physical exertion has been the same. I’ve started, determined to ascend with dignity hoping to enjoy the mere act of being there and of being part of it. But within minutes I’ve become a sweaty, exhausted mess, my inner monologue telling me it’s my fault, it didn’t have to be this way. Your fitness is your responsibility. I’ve lashed out on the side of a Volcano to my husband and taken teary, red faced selfies at the top of every place I’ve thrown myself up.

And it’s not just climbing. I’ve yelped in pain after a long day of walking around cities, and I’ve been left limp and lifeless after a weekend away, so unprepared was I for a basic level of exertion.

I’ve even promised myself that I’d eat healthily in the run up to some time away, only to arrive and spend the break constantly assessing my meals. I hit a particular low point in Italy when the internal battle around my gelato consumption was too much to bear.

Are you fucking kidding me? Gelato is awesome.

Body Shape and Travel

My body is ready

This time, I really have had enough. For the past two years I’ve been actively seeking out the world, one city break at a time and I’m fed up of the internal struggle around my body shape dictating what I do, how I feel and what I eat. Sure, climbing those stairs up to the top of the Arc de Triomphe wasn’t exactly easy for me, but I did it and I survived. No one died when I whipped off my shorts at the beach in Cuba and I really did enjoy that donut in Berlin. The second one was awesome too.

It’s so easy to become sucked in to the traveller aesthetic – whether that’s the chic city breaker, moving gazelle like through beautiful cobbled back streets without having to worry about chub rub or the bikini clad instagrams poolside in Bali. But that’s not the only type of traveller that exists, and it shouldn’t impact how we decide to experience our holidays either.

My body is just that – my body. And unless I’m going to forego underground tours, sunset viewpoints, city walks and aperitivo time, I’m going to have to make my peace with it. Whether it is out of shape, a bit battered or a little wheezy, this technically-obese-by-NHS-standards body has taken me to 10 countries in 18 months where I’ve scaled new heights, walked more steps, captained a boat and eaten a heck of a lot of gelato, and I’ve barely scratched the surface of what I’m planning to make it do (though we may hold off on that Everest climb for a bit – you get me?!).

Body Shape and Travel

I can’t say I’m fully cured of my internal body shaming when on holiday yet – that would be unrealistic, but I’m starting to realise that no one’s body shape should hold them back from the things they want to discover in the world. My lovely friend Beverley shared some pictures she took of me in Amsterdam, and my first thought was to cringe at the chins and the bum and the frumpiness and all those little things that literally no one gives a shit about except me. However, almost immediately my thoughts ticked over the memories of our amazing weekend away – all the walks and the chats and the updating our instagram stories uninterrupted (because bloggers gonna blog, you know?!) and somehow, the extra chin that in the last few years has planted itself firmly on my face faded into the distance.

So next time, it will be different. I’ll climb more towers, I’ll eat more gelato and I’ll whip off that body covering kaftan without feeling the warm heat of shame come over me. Because my body shape defines nothing about me, and it definitely doesn’t define how I’m going to experience travel.

And one day, I’m going to bloody conquer everest too.

**Many of the pictures included in this post were taken by the wonderful Beverley Reinemann from Pack Your Passport

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Travel Experiences | Travel Fitness | Travel Diet | Body Confidence

Travel Experiences | Travel Fitness | Travel Diet | Body Confidence
Travel Experiences | Travel Fitness | Travel Diet | Body Confidence

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  • Saint Facetious

    That was definitely a nice dose of positivity for the morning.

    I find myself often wishing I had a six-pack body, thinking it would make IG and blogging that much easier. But do we all really want to see yet another model strutting their stuff, or do we want to see people like you and me and everyone else connecting them to the world? So hats off to you.

    • Thanks so much! I much prefer to see the every day in my feeds – people loving and experiencing the world in a way that means something to them! Plus, if I was trying to keep up with my ab game, who would try all the brunches?! 😋

  • I loved this post. Obviously I always love reading about body positivity but I love reading about people’s specific elements of their body positivity journey. Because you’re so right, we only really see on top of travel blogger ruling instagram and (in my opinion) it’s completely dull!

    I’ve really struggled with body positivity throughout my life and it’s only now that I’m starting to love myself for the way that I am. x

    http://rhymeandribbons.com

    • Thank you so much – it can be so difficult not to get swept up into how we should look when so much of the aesthetic around us is the same thing. It’s highly unlikely I’ll ever post a bikini shot on Instagram, but very likely I’ll post one with a Burger poised at my lips!! And now, I’m pretty comfortable with that!

      All power to you for loving yourself! It’s the best weapon we have 😘

  • Amy

    Great post! I was big as a child and it’s left me with a huge sense of insecurity about my appearance that I haven’t been able to shake. The biggest problem for me is photos, because I almost never find one where I’m satisfied with how I look, so I just don’t take them. Then I get home from an amazing trip with a camera full of pictures of the view, but none of me in front of it and it makes me sad. I need to adopt your attitude more often and remember it’s about the experiences, not about how I look. It’s just a shame that the travel industry is so focused on perfect images of model-like girls in bikinis, when that’s such a small part of real-life, but it makes many more people feel inadequate.

    • It is hard to overlook things like that and I do understand, and I have moments like that all the time too. But the more of us that put our images out there, the more the industry will change for the better! 🙂

  • Charlie Elliott

    I love this post! Travel allows us to experience everything our own way, no limitations and no rules. You’re seeing the world regardless, and there is NOTHING that should stop you enjoying your holiday in your way.
    Cx
    charliedistracted.com

    • Thank you thank you! I agree, I don’t want to travel with limitations and rules, so I’m going to enjoy every step I take 🙂

  • Loved this post. I’ve been trying to lose weight/tone up/build stamina for an upcoming holiday that involves lots of walking and outdoorsy stuff, and have been getting frustrated by the fact that it doesn’t seem to have been working. But then knowing what I did when I was backpacking and that I barely exercised before I did that, I know I will be able to do it and that is more important than whether I get on the plane with a flat stomach. So I’m going to make a real effort not to think ‘oh why didn’t I go for extra runs/eat less chocolate’ when I’m doing that tough physical stuff or looking at the photos, and enjoy the experience for what it is.

    • It is all about enjoying the experience for what it is, and life is too short not to enjoy chocolate when you fancy it! 🙂

  • Great post, I’m sure many of us feel this way too. I give myself a hard time on a trip if I’m not walking as fast as the others in my group (which is often) or feeling out of breath after climbing a hill in the scorching heat when others seem perfectly chilled. Maybe we need to be kinder to ourselves and appreciate how well we travel.

    • I think I’d totally struggle on a group walking holiday so you are not alone. But agree we should be kinder to ourselves!

  • Julianna

    Great post Sam. It’s like you read my mind! Thank you for being so honest, I love your pieces and this one was really wonderful. Embrace yourself as you are and get on with being fabulous (and writing an equally fabulous blog).

    • Thank you SO much. I really appreciate your feedback, and it’s great to know other people can relate 🙂

      • Julianna

        A real pleasure. Keep up the great work 🙂

  • I can totally resonate with this post – I’m so relieved I’m not alone! I went to Pisa not too long ago, and walking up the steep steps of the tower of Pisa felt like the hardest thing for me. I felt so silly because there were people running past and walking with a smile on their face – whilst I was puffing away! But y’know what, I’ve enjoyed every experience I’ve ever had – and losing a couple of pounds in the hope of sweating less wont change the situation! Thank you for such an honest (and beautifully written as always) blog post! xxx

    Hannatalks

    • I totally chickened out of Pisa Tower! Go you! Thanks so much for the feedback and sharing – much love xxxx

  • Bravo! I can totally relate to everything in this post! We love to climb towers too and they’re exhausting and I curse myself the entire way. We’ve started a pretty strict diet since March to prepare for our honeymoon at the end of May (already over), but have continued the diet and work out. I was really thankful for it, having lost almost 15lbs by the time we went and having a bit more energy. I noticed when we were climbing the massive mountain in Kotor, Montenegro that I wasn’t huffing and puffing as much as normal (still a lot, but it was easier). It was then I was very proud of ourselves. But I still have feet issues after walking all day, and I know its because of my shoes, which are not the best for all day sightseeing. Nonetheless, on the entire honeymoon, I promised myself I could eat what I wanted, after all we worked so hard to. When we got home after 2 weeks, I hadn’t gained a single pound because we had walked 60 miles in 2 weeks! #FarawayFiles

    • That’s such a lovely positive outlook and story! Fair play to you! 🙂

  • ps. Stumbled

  • TraveLynn Family – Jenny

    Love this! What a fantastically honest post! Thank you for sharing. I always find that I lose so much weight on long term travel due to all the exercise and better eating. Then put it all back on again when I return to normality, only to curse myself the next time I go away travelling. #FarawayFiles

    • Thats such an interesting way of looking at things! I tend to lose way on hot beach holidays as I eat way less 🙂

  • What a great post – I can be very sedentary at home then suddenly expect to be able to climb to high places without breaking a sweat. Er no… and before a big trip, I usually make a last ditch attempt to lose a few pounds and shape up. But seeing the world is far more important to me than how I look as I do it.

    • Exactly this! I don’t want worry and panic to hold me back from experiences 🙂

  • I have to applaud you for writing this piece. It is refreshing to read real travel pieces.

    I have problems climbing towers, castles and viewpoints too. All sort of thoughts come to my mind when I am on those situations (and when I am sweating like hell). At the end, I make it and, in my heart, I know all the effort was worth it. The idea is to keep doing things even if they are not easy.

    The other thing to take into consideration is that tons of trips (at least in my case) are tiring. When I go to Europe, I walk 10 to 12 miles each day. Thing about it. How many miles do you add up in 5 or 7 days? Even a fit person will have problems with that (and I know a lot of fit people who do not want to travel because of the physical effort).

    Plus, we only see a side of those perfectly polished Instagram travel posts. The other day one of favorite Instagrammers posted a picture of herself in a flower field and on her caption she detailed how she was attacked by bugs because of the pictures.

    Just keep traveling and doing the things you enjoy! #FarawayFiles

    • Thank you SO much for the feedback and sharing your experiences. Trips are tiring – I did a 9 day trip in Italy and on day 9 climbed Vesuvius and was pooped!

  • I’ll take your ice cream, blue nail polish, your Parisian striped t-shirt and your leather jacket. Then, I’ll collect your memories because those are what really matter. N’est pas?

    • Haha – thank you so much. That ice cream was great 🙂

  • Bryna | Dotted Line Travels

    It’s so hard to put yourself in a mindset where you don’t care about what others think, but I think it’s great that you’re trying to not let that define you! I try to just thank my body for allowing me to still travel and explore the world and eat!

    • Exactly – my body puts up with a lot, and I’m grateful to it!

  • Esperanza

    Good for you for having a positive mind set! It’s so easy to be hard on yourself and slip into negativity and not always easy to see the positive.

    • It can be hard to be positive all the time, but its good to remind yourself every now and then!

  • Travelling is about getting the most out of what you do and whom you do it with, not how you look as you’re doing it. Continue to enjoy your travelling… Annette #FarawayFiles

  • Kathleen (Kat)

    I hardly travel to Europe but will be making a trip to Portugal in mid-Sept. Am not looking forward to walking up the steep roads and climbing up steps to get to the highest viewpoint but I guess I will have to for this “fear of missing out” haha. Here in Asia, I have never understood why temples have to be on top of the hill – it’s like the gods make you work hard before reaching nirvana! Just take it slow and easy knowing that the reward will be at the end…or rather at the top of the hill/viewpoint 🙂 #FarawayFiles

    • I love that – the gods want us to work before reaching nirvana!!! In Lisbon, I made extensive use of the trams and elevadors to get up to the high spots! 🙂

  • I agree – everything in balance. For me, a 5 mile walk = yummy gelato! 🙂

  • This is an amazing post! It actually gave me chills! I have so many unhealthy habits, not only when I travel but also in my day-to-day life. In the past I have given myself such a hard time for not eating a little less after I ordered almost everything on a Chinese menu or how I should do regular workout routines to get rid of the love handles, but then I realized that life is mean to be lived and although I do work on being a healthier me I try not to be so hard on myself for enjoying the things I love. Thanks for putting the article out there. Pinning it now! 🙂

  • Sabine @ The Travelling Chilli

    Interesting post, I never really thought of it. I guess that body shape should not hold anyone from travelling. But it might define the activities that you can do while travelling. I’m not very fit (I used to be, don’t know what happened :D) so I won’t go climbing mountains, because I will not enjoy it either. But I love to walk. I actually love to walk on flat areas. Anyway, it’s good to keep your goal. And who knows, maybe one day you’ll conquer Everest.

  • Ana Rozanova

    I really like your post and I can really relate to this internal body shaming feeling you are speaking about, even though not weight-wise in my case.
    Thanks for being brave and speaking up – those topics are not as easy to discuss as usual travels, I guess.

  • Eniko

    Thanks so much for writing this article. I used to didn’t feel comfortable being on pictures as I was too slim. Now I accepted myself and feel happy in my own body, being on pictures and experiencing as much as I can.

  • Nadeen

    Very inspiring post!! Good for you to not let anything stand in the way of following your goals and bucket lists to see the world. I’m sure you will get to Mt Everest! I can’t even imagine traveling to countries and not eating their signature foods. I have become really disappointed in all the “fashion model” travel pictures. Heels in Old Havana? No way. I want to see real people showing me how to travel the world!

  • I enjoyed reading this post….finally got to read something that is not the typical “10 things to do in xxx” post.” Thumbs u for writing such a personal post. I think travel is the ultimate to evidence that all the borders and limitations are in our heads.

  • I really liked your post, I can relate to this as non fitness person who loves to eat (yup gelato and aperitivo forever) Funny thing is even if I have to climb the 300 steps or go up to the hill, I can hardly breathe but I am just pushing myself because I LOVE views and is it always worth it. One thing I am not over with…to have made photos of myself (or even worse – share it on social media) so I have something to work on! 🙂

  • Kristine AARSHEIM

    I can totally relate to this. I love food more than I love working out, hence me being completely out of breath whenever I go somewhere to get a panoramic view, climb the stairs of a monument and walk up steep hills to see castles, ancient ruins or churches. What matters is, you see it. Despite being sweaty and out of breath. You still get there in the end 🙂 and who doesn’t love Gelato?!

  • First, never regret the second croissant haha I regret every croissant I didn’t eat in Paris! And this is a struggle we all face. I had a 6 year-old show me up while climbing Huayna Picchu in Peru lol, you’re on vacation, let people pass you if necessary and carry on being awesome! 🙂

  • I LOVE LOVE LOVE this post! I’ve felt the exact same thing, specifically when it has come to hiking and climbing trees and rocks and stuff. I’m happy to see you’ve come to terms with it. It’s something I’m still personally getting used to!

  • Honestly, I’m 34 and for me, it totally defines my experience. Either with hiking long trails or just wanting to look cute in a dress around town, I feel better and am able to do more when I’m physically fit. I had a baby 20 months ago and am still hanging out to extra weight and just don’t feel like myself. I started going for longer hikes and eating better so I don’t even have to think about if my body can make it up a hill or not. 🙂

  • Kelly Ann Duhigg

    Love the honesty and so relate. I actuallyused to have an eating disorder and have always struggled with body image. It has impacted my travels in that I would naturally stay away from anything involving abathing suit. But I relate so much and thank you for openning up the discussion. Thankfully, it has gotten better recently but that is only because of a lot of therapy. Much love.

  • Bravo! And how inspiring. You go girl! #FlyAwayFriday

  • I can relate to this post in so many ways, but the thing is to never regret any decision you have made! These are all stepping stones and learning experiences for all of us. Better to experience these things than to not at all and that’s what really matters!

  • Great honest post here. I can admit to self body-shaming many times on my travels. When I lived in Fiji, I learnt to make peace a bit more and stopped worrying about my curves. But now that I’m back in NZ, and surrounded by more media again, I feel the self-doubt creeping back in. The best thing I did was actually on our ski trip to Japan – we walked all over Tokyo and then had 7 days of intense skiing. I had so many layers on that I didn’t care about what I looked like, instead I became proud of the strength I gained over the week.

  • This speaks to me! I’ve never let my body stop myself from doing what I love. Great post.

  • Nuraini Arsad (Teja)

    Hmmm… body? Yes. Body shape? No. Obviously there will be things that can only be done at a certain level of conditioning and with a certain level of full function.

    I acquired my current water endurance and confidence because I wanted to do whale shark snorkelling surveys last year. It terrified me, that much swimming in the open ocean. But I did some work because I had signed up and didn’t want to waste it.

    At the moment I’m about to leave for a trek across Annapurna and I’m not at all sure about my hiking endurance, nor cold resistance (hot weather native!). Can’t do much about the latter aside from good clothing tech. Have kinda tried to do some hiking which is probably not enough. We’ll see. 🙂

    But body *shape*? No way… don’t! I’m not big but I’m not photogenic. So I still don’t take good photos usually. You just have to not dwell on that. We’re overly visual in an age of internet sharing. But there’s a lot more to the experience. I am contemplating taking audio of myself instead, because I suspect the ‘vocal language’ in my voice might be much more evocative and representative of my sensation at a place, than my image, which is overly standardised to a certain narrow aesthetic by now.

  • I simply love this post. I can so relate to it.. I have heard people say to me that i will not be able to trek because I am healthy! But I just love to prove them wrong by scaling heights after heights… Love the way we are and nothing could stop us from travelling and learning!!

  • Sarah Dean

    Love, love, love this post!

    My body shape and personal hang-ups about it absolutely define my travel experiences far more than they should (which is not at all). It’s particlarly bad when travelling with friends who are so much smaller than me (even though they all have their own demons).

    I hate travelling in summer or to hot destinations because I hate chub rub, showing my thighs (or even calves), having bare arms… I LOVE being in the water but hate being in a bathing suit around people so avoid it at all costs and never swim without shorts, which makes me feel 15 again…

    I constantly feel awkward and worry about what other people are seeing and thinking. I KNOW that realisticly most people aren’t looking/scoffing at my chunky thighs and if they are, they aren’t worth my time but it’s not so easy to remember that in the moment or not judge myself!

    I also hate photos of me so avoid them at all costs. But then later I’m sad like when there’s ONE photo of me from my amazing 30th birthday weekend in Hamburg and so very few with my family from my last trip back to Australia. Sigh.

    Finally, when I went skiing earlier this year I was really annoyed at how unfit I felt and how much harder it was than should have been climbing the steep stairs from our chalet every morning.

    This is all something I am very aware of and try to work on but it’s helpful to know other people feel this way too. 🙂

  • Untold Morsels

    Such an important message. I have a daughter and it would break my heart if she didnt do things because of how she felt she looked. Looking back on old photos you can also realise how harsh you were on yourself. Life is there to be lived. Carpe diem!

  • I love that travel has inspired you to new heights, literally! Keep on getting out there and trying whatever you feel like – and keep on Instagramming proudly.

  • Jenn Bcn

    I think that the problem is that the 90% of the people that are on instagram or very big bloggers are most of the time quite skinny. Let’s be honest, that is not a reality. They say yes, you will be on the road, and moving so much that you will get fit. Well, let me tell you that an occasional 4 day trip to whatever city I feel like will not compensate the 7h sitting of the rest of the month. Moreover, travelling is a full experience that includes food (one my fav parts tbh), and nothing will beat eating a piece of Black forest cake in Munich or an Ensaimada in Majorca. I think that unless the pressure from your body to quit is not stronger than your will to continue… you are good. And I think you are =)

  • Chloe Gibson

    I love that you’ve shown a different side to travellers and travelling too! It’s true that most bloggers are presented as skinny, fit and even toned. I have to admit I’m skinny and fairly fit but I still struggle with stopping comparing myself to other travel bloggers who make themselves look perfect when in reality it’s not the case! I love how honest this post is. Keep eating gelato and climbing mountains 💪🏼

  • I. Love. This. Post. SO. MUCH. I’m not a skinny girl at all and hate being in my photos. I always see those bikini shots and get angry at myself for not looking like that. But it’s SOO not true! Nothing should ever stop you from being happy and traveling everywhere! Thanks for joining Fly Away Friday – hope to see you again in a few days! xo

  • Janine Good

    I feel you and need to be happier with myself. I believe I gained weight when I moved to England (affectionately known as the Heathrow Injection) and am trying to fit into clothes that once fit like a glove. But travelling I have done so much that I didn’t let myself have regrets. good on you for writing this post! I hope to see you at Fly Away Friday this week 🙂 x

  • See, I walk a lot, whether I’m travelling or not, and I do like me a good hill (doesn’t mean climbing up a steep path doesn’t knacker me out, but that’s more age than body type!), so I’d consider myself to be in pretty good ‘shape’; fit and healthy.

    But.
    I do have issues in other ways to do with my body – pretty low self-confidence about the way I look in general means I tend to wear baggy clothes, I tend to face away from the camera on my rare selfies, and because I don’t meet certain ‘criteria’ in my body shape, I’ll never be one of those people with thousands of followers or someone with whom brands are going to use as the ‘face’ of their products.

    Am I okay with that? Well, most of the time …

    Nice ice cream 🙂 My downfall is chocolate. And beer. And chocolatey beer 🙂

  • Mmmmmmm gelato. I think that was one of the most amazing accidental discoveries when I was in Rome about 10 years ago! It’s amazing that you are able to travel to so many countries and see so many places. Ever since having children, and not having the body I used to have, I’ve realized that it doesn’t matter what others think of you.

  • Leah

    Thank you, thank you, thank you. I really needed to hear this today.

  • I love this very well said live the life you want do not let your body size define what you do..I have spent three years on the back of a motorbike going all over the place and I am definietly not what you would expect from a biker lol

  • Adventuresfromwhereyouwanttobe

    I love this post, on many occasions I have felt the same way, and I too don’t let it stop me from seeing all I want to see. Thanks for writing such an inspiring post.

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