Making a Seat at the Table | Plus Size Travelers Call for Inclusion in the Travel Industry
The Nomad’s Direction wouldn’t be possible without the inspiration we get from travelers around the globe. We’ve been big fans of Chantel Loura, founder of Voyaging Vagabond and her candid and honest take on traveling as a plus size women for a while, so we were SO excited when she said she would write a guest blog post for us. Enjoy!
I was a fat kid for as long as I can remember. Always the chubby kid, always the one second guessing herself.
“You can’t do this because of your size.”
“You can’t wear that because of your size.”
“You can’t be the best version of yourself because of your size.”
These were voices that lived in my head constantly. I carried them from childhood, right into adulthood. Yet, as years passed, something happened to the voices. They were there but my voice started to be louder. My slightly louder voice kept repeating the same thought.
“Wouldn’t a life of traveling around the world be something? Maybe I could even make a living doing it.”
How could I, a plus size woman, live out of a backpack and travel the world? Over and over again, my Instagram feed would refresh and I would see the same woman representing the travel industry. Skinny, blonde, flowy dress, sunhat, perfectly composed picture, all thrown together to create travel magic. I wanted that magic. I thought I had to live up to that girl in order to be considered a reputable force in the industry. Lose that weight, buy that ticket, great pose, repeat, brand success, easy.
I realized it wasn’t that easy. I repeatedly strived to be this version of what an ideal travel writer was. Once I was that same girl in that picture then I would be successful. Then I could satisfy all the voices. It was toxic and without realizing it I was self deprecating myself.
Then I realized “I can.”
Life on the road changed everything. Despite believing that maybe I can’t, I found myself at a point where I just went for it. My fabulous plus size self filled my small backpack, bought a plane ticket and forgot about a return ticket. Days of pushing boundaries became months and then I realized “I can.” It’s hard to tell yourself you can’t when you’re watching the sun rise over Machu Picchu or navigating the chaotic streets of night time Bangkok. I didn’t have to create experiences that were based off of anybody else when I was already creating ones that were my own as a plus size traveler.
So I stopped trying to change myself to fit one specific typecast and instead created a life that was authentic to me. I wrote about the things I knew best. What it meant to be a plus size woman overcoming every bit of self doubt that had been planted in my mind. What it meant to travel as a plus size women. Suddenly my voice was so loud, the negative ones disappeared and were replaced with an audience. Women who looked like me. Women who spent their lives fighting those negative voices and related on an intimate level to the messages of self-love, inclusion and empowerment I was shouting. Traveling as a plus size woman is a different kind of travel. Not every traveler has to worry about meeting weight limitations, being in the back of the hiking group, and prolonged stares. When you share those similar stories you suddenly realize you’re not alone. The journey to self love can be difficult and it can be lonely. Why not create a space to ensure others that they are not the only person going through a difficult time?
As if being plus size makes travel less glamorous
When I realized how many plus size travelers were craving my message I quickly noticed how we’re scarcely represented in the travel industry. As if being plus size makes travel less glamorous, the truth is the opposite. Repeatedly women are shown that thin, blonde girl under a waterfall and men are flooded with images of that tan, muscular man jumping off cliffs into blue oceans. So in a saturated industry overflowing with these influencers, plus size travelers are realizing that their seat at the table is waiting for them and the only way they’ll get to it is if they create it.
If I had seen one plus size traveler in a bikini on my feed 10 years ago maybe I wouldn’t have killed myself at the gym and with strict diets for months trying to be someone I wasn’t. I would have booked that ticket sooner and I wouldn’t have doubted and hated myself for nearly as long as I did. Representation can be a powerful thing and you don’t realize how desperately you need it until you start to see it happen.
So I decided to step up and make sure that I could be that representation for women who looked like me and took up my respective seat at the table. I could be a plus size woman and slay it in a two piece bikini on an exotic beach, or I could hike mountains and I could spend months on the road with just a backpack and a valid passport.
There is a way to start this change
There is a way to start this change. If as a community we can encourage people to travel the world, we should make sure that we inspire every single person. Not just reserve those travel dreams for one type of traveler. This requires being conscious of the type of travelers that we celebrate.
At this point, all travel brands, airlines, publications, marketing teams, tourism boards, and fellow writers need to adopt a mindset of travel inclusion. Every dinner at a hostel table looks like a United Nations meeting. Why aren’t we projecting that same beautiful blend in the industry to inspire future travelers? The travel community is filled with travelers of all colors, backgrounds, and sizes. It’s important as professionals that our industry is reflective of that.
If we adopt this consciousness then we become more helpful resources for travelers. We become the vessels for change, we become better travelers, and we become the voices of representation that drown out those negative, toxic voices. We can be the ones to teach all types of people that “they can.”
Chantel is a plus size travel writer and the founder of her travel blog, Voyaging Vagabond. A body positive advocate and a crusader for travel inclusion. Her journey towards self love has taken her all over the world where she spreads her messages of empowerment like confetti. She has been featured in works published by Matador Network, Refinery 29, Target and works with brands like Airbnb to create a space for plus size travelers.