May 31 Pamela MacNaughtan

Confessions Of An Overweight Female Traveller

I always debate about whether or not I should write about my weight. It’s not that I think people will leave nasty body shaming comments, which I’m sure a few would, it’s more about the fact that I hate talking about it.

And that is the problem, nobody talks about it.

I know I’m not the only overweight traveller, but it feels as though I am. I’m sure others feel the same way.

Travelling when you’re overweight presents a few extra challenges. I remember chatting online about my first trip to Asia, I was worried about what I should be packing, and everyone kept telling me to go really light because I could buy things cheaper in Asia. It was good advice, given the fact they had no idea I was overweight, and that their advice would not be relevant. Have you visited a market in Southeast Asia and tried to buy clothing as an overweight woman with ginormous boobs? Talk about mission impossible!

For the most part travelling as an overweight person is no different than travelling as a skinny person (I would imagine), except for the fact that when I sit on those tiny plastic stools in Asia I pray silently that I won’t break one. I haven’t, in case your wondering. When I eat, I put a lot of thought into it. I don’t buy a ton of food, I don’t want to be ‘the fat girl with all the food’ that everyone whispers about.

Truth is, I cannot eat a ton of food in one sitting. Which seems to confuse people. The moment I walk into a market or restaurant, they assume I will eat a lot of food. Some of them get quite excited, sticking out their arms to mimic my weight and then giving me a dish heaping with food, which I will never be able to eat. It confuses the hell out of them. In their minds I should be able to eat a lot. It’s a difficult situation to be in as it is summits considered to be very rude if you do not eat everything that is placed in front of you. I cannot tell you how many nights I have laid in bed, moaning in pain, because I ate too much that day. All in an effort to be gracious and polite. Thankfully street food in Southeast Asia is cheap and delicious, and I don’t eat in many restaurants. It’s the only way to control my portions.

While eating out is always interesting, I tend to be more uncomfortable on travel days, especially if I’m flying. I see the occasional looks of concern when someone thinks they are sitting beside me. I’m sure it’s because they think that my girth will somehow smother them in their sleep. What they don’t realize is that I am more worried than they are because I know that if someone is beside me I will have to spend the entire flight trying to squish myself into the side of the plane. I have huge boobs, my arms automatically stick out, and to try and counter that I will bear-hug myself for 3+ hours, to the point of my arms falling asleep.

Feeling uncomfortable sitting beside an overweight person, chances are they are just as, if not more, uncomfortable as you.

I have actually changed seats to be at the very back of a plane if I know a middle seat or an entire row is empty, and not just because of the whole squishing myself into the side of the plane thing, there is also the challenge of eating. Cause when you put a tray table down and you cannot see the food unless you squish your boobs flat, there is a problem. I usually say I’m not hungry. Then there are the flights when the attendants don’t ask passengers to put their seat up during the meal, and they try to give me a tray, and I look at them like they are crazy, and they get confused because they don’t understand big girl/ big boob problems. Love those flights.

One day I will take the tray, place it on my boobs, and eat from it to make my point.

Buses are not as bad, as long as the seats are not too small, and nobody is beside me. Boats are fine until someone tries to force me to wear a lifejacket, which almost chokes me to death because the boobs are too big. It’s a frightening scene, and I will avoid small boat excursions for this reason. The boat taxis in Bangkok are a great transportation option, but I’ve learned that getting into them is a lot easier than getting out. Good times to be had there.

I walk a lot when I travel, and not just because of the awkward way in which I climb into tuk tuks in Asia. I really enjoy walking, and I always have my camera on me in case I want to snap a couple photos, or incase my back gets really sore and the pain is so bad that I have to stop walking but I don’t want anyone to know I’m in pain so I pretend to take a photo. Yeah, I have done that so many times. I’ve also used maps, or pretended to receive a text message that I absolutely must read right away. For some lame reason I think nobody will notice my beat red face or the fact that I’m practically panting. Have I mentioned I hate hostels with stairs for this very reason? I’ve tried the photo/cell phone trick to take a break from climbing stairs. Sad, but true.

My selfies are always a headshot. I almost never allow someone to take my photo unless they understand that it has to be taken so my boobs are not in the picture (they make my head look real small). I’d love to do videos, but I’m nervous about showing more of myself. It sounds ridiculous, I know, but there is always a bit of fear about showing too much.

Although I am almost ready to kick that fear in the ass.

I could stay home, work, and try to go to the gym to get in shape, but that’s not what I want. I don’t want to refrain from doing what I love because of my weight. I’ve had friends tell me in the past that my weight would keep me from being a traveller, and I proved them wrong. I don’t want to be overweight for the rest of my life, I have every intention of getting in shape and becoming healthier, but for now, I am accepting that this is who I am, and trying to be more open about it online.

About the Author

Pamela MacNaughtan I'm a travel writer and photographer who specializes in bespoke travel experiences. I write about boutique, savvy and cultural travel. My writing has been featured in Outpost Magazine, Travel + Escape, and UP! Magazine.

Comments (92)

  1. Pam, I love that you are so open in sharing your own experience and are living life to the fullest. Nothing should hold you back from going after what you love and you are clearly doing just that. Well done. Great piece.

    • Thanks, Warren. At this point I don’t see the sense in hiding the truth. Saves from getting shocked looks when people actually meet me in person. LOL

  2. I just wanted to send you a note of love. I was overweight most of life – it’s just been the last few years that I’ve been in the “normal weight” category BUT I wear a hijab when I travel. So essentially I just swapped one thing for the other. I’ve had people on planes ask to be moved because they’re afraid of me. I try not to talk to people because I can see how uncomfortable it makes them – and don’t worry no one ever starts up a conversation with me on their own. I’m often completely ignored whether that is in a shop or walking down the street. I truly wish more people in this world would just see people for who they are as a person instead of making assumptions. xoxox

    • Beautifully said Amanda, and thank-you! I too wish we could all be more open with one another. There is so much we could learn, if we broke down the walls and just talked openly.

  3. Pam. A sincere and powerful piece. Thank you for opening up and encouraging a dialogue. I hope this helps another traveller who perhaps feels alone and misunderstood. Again, thank you for this. We all got something we’re nervous to write about, kudos for being a brave one! Love, Brock

    • Thank-you Brock. I don’t know why I get so nervous. Now to get over my issues with shooting and sharing videos! Oy, that one will be tough. Miss your face! xo

  4. Hey Pam,

    I’m so glad you decided to share. Between what you wrote and what Amanda wrote above, my overwhelming feeling is anger. It is considerate of both of you to try to accomodate others, but ultimately they suck for putting you in a position that you feel you have to worry about their needs over yours.

    And you’re right. We talk about weight all the time, but rarely do we talk about it as honestly as you have here.

    • It’s weird because at this point, I do things without realizing it at times. I don’t sit and fret about life, but I do little things like the fake photos when my back pain is too much, or checking my cellphone when I’m climbing a lot of stairs and need to take a break for 30 seconds. It’s part of life in general, not specific to travel, but I find that by travelling certain things are highlighted more.

      There is a Chinese stall at a food court that I went to and they piled on so much food that I had three days worth of meals. I’m tempted to do an experiment, sending a skinny friend to buy the same meal and then comparing our plates.

  5. Michelle

    Great read, very inspiring. I travel all over the world and have tried to be conscious of my weight because I feel it holds me back from some things (totally agree with the portion control out of respect to the local culture). This just reminds me to be comfortable with your body because you only get one body and one life so you might as well spend it while experiencing the most glorious, crazy and humbling situations out there. Well said and spoken like a true traveler! Take care


    • Thanks Michelle, and don’t let it hold you back. I have a rule when I travel; if I’m in a country like China where I know people stare (no matter what size you are) and point, and I wake up tired, I take a ‘me’ day. I stay in, read, write, skype with friends. But that’s only in China, in every other country I put on my sunglass, and start walking. I can’t understand the language, so I just assume everyone is talking about how awesome I am 😉

  6. Hi Pamela, I have a little insight into your weight issues. My daughter (28) was overweight for many years and a few years back she almost/did halve her weight. I am a fairly average weight but my girlfriend is extremely thin (like 45 kilo). It confuses the hell out of people because she can really pack the food away. She can eat far more than I can in one sitting (and she doesn’t throw it up afterward by the way). So you can see it is not only overweight people that get looks and assumptions made about their eating habits.

    • Thank, Jan. The eating portion wasn’t really the main message I wanted to convey with this post. There are so many issues in terms of eating for people of all shapes and sizes. This post was more of a general message about some of the challenges overweight travellers face. It’s something I don’t see a lot of online, and I hate that there are people who are afraid to travel because they are overweight.

  7. Nothing about travel is comfortable anymore. This is especially highlighted when one flies – the seats are simply not configured for adults of any size.

    I really enjoyed and appreciated your blog post. It reminded me of the time I went to Singapore and wanted to purchase a cheongsam. The local guide took me to a neighborhood where expats typically shopped because that was the only place she thought we could find my size. :-/

    • I remember the last time I lived in Bangkok, I needed a new bra. As a girl with rather large ‘girls’ I had to order it online and have it shipped to Bangkok. When it arrived, the label said “Made in Thailand”. It cost me $120! ha ha ha

  8. Cjor

    Thanks for opening up this topic. I admire your candor. The world needs more candor.
    How should I react when I’m traveling with a big person? On a plane or train, should I offer to keep the handrest up? Should I offer to change seats? Offer the use of my tray? Offer to help carry baggage? Offer some of my squirreled away food? Should I even bring it up?
    I never know what to do.

    • Honestly? Being friendly goes a long way. There is always a layer of nervousness, for both parties. I don’t know that you need to change seats, and we can generally carry our own bags. I think it’s about not feeling like you’re being judged. I’ve had some great flights where the person next to me was friendly and I didn’t feel as though I was making them uncomfortable.

      Whether we’re dealing with weight issues, or something else that makes us different, we are all still human beings. We all need to feel accepted and comfortable.

  9. I think people are always going to find something negative to say you, ad you can’t change that. Just last week, someone told me my laugh was weird.. and she said it like 10 times in row. I almost punched her in the face. I don’t mind my laugh.. if something is funny… should I not laugh because this one person thinks it’s weird? No.

    They are the one with the problem. Not you.

    And, you my dear, are beautiful.

  10. Thanks for sharing this piece. Remember that health and weight are two very different things–and you sound plenty healthy to me. Nourish yourself, move your body in ways that are joyful, get enough sleep, spend time with friends–these are the foundations of good health, not a number on the scale.


  11. Thank you for being a voice for those of us who struggle in a similar way but don’t feel comfortable or simply can’t talk about it. And thank you for reminding me – and everyone – that travel in the absence of kindness and communication is something that hurts so many people. We should never make assumptions about others and the best way to overcome many problems and awkwardness is just to chat with someone and get to know them.

  12. Ang

    Hi Pam,

    Thanks so much for sharing your story. You have a lot of courage to do that and I am glad you accept yourself for who you are. I think this post is very important because it gives hope to other girls/women out there that want to travel, but are afraid because they are going through something similar.

    It upset me that your friends told you that you can’t be a traveler because of your weight. They are not your true friends if they can say something so hurtful to you. If they are your real friends, they would encourage you. The travel bug has also bitten me and I am also over weight so I can relate. Your post is helpful to myself and I hope others see that it is okay to accept ourselves for who we are. We don’t have to nor need to impress anyone. We are the only ones that should matter at the end of the day.

    I found this post from the twenty-something travel blog and I just followed you! I am looking forward to reading more of your posts! Keep up the great work and happy travels!

    • Thanks Ang!

      I’ve travelled all over Asia, Europe, North America, and Europe. Weight should never keep anyone from travelling and experiencing the world. We may need to have a thicker skin at first, but the best way to go about things is to stay positive and not assume that locals are treating you differently. Most times they aren’t. It’s important for us to be comfortable in our own skin.

      Thanks for following, I hope you enjoy my future posts.

  13. Pam,
    I love you and everyone at Lub d loves you too.
    Miss you much. Hope you can be back in Asia again soon.

  14. Good for you for posting this! I think you are brave and an inspiration. It’s nice to hear about real problems from real people. There are so many bikini gorgeous travel bloggers out there it almost makes you think that you have to have a bikini body to A: be a successful blogger and B: Live the travel lifestyle. Of course that’s not true. I’ve even read about world travelers with mobility issues. Thanks for sharing your story and you have a new fan from me! I know nothing about you as I just clicked a link someone posted on fb to your article. I’m excited now to read more about your adventure and learn more about you! You are a role model! Good luck to you!

    • Hi Kristin,
      Thank-you. I can see how the onslaught of bikini bloggers can confusing. We live in a society that say you need to be skinny to be successful, which is crap. You need a personality and passion to be successful. In my opinion. And thanks for following along!

  15. Thanks for sharing! I’m glad to see that you are living your travel dreams and not letting self-consciousness stop you!

  16. Christina

    Thank you SO much for being raw and real! There is no reason to hold yourself back from anything your heart desires! And poo on those people who think there are such restrictions! Obstacles are meant to be overcome and the world is meant to be seen!
    And you are totally right, no one really talks about it… Which is a huge problem! We need more women talking about it and being honest! I love it! Thank you for the inspiration today!

  17. People will act tiresome for so many reasons – I love when we find confidence in ourselves to push on. LOVE THIS!!

  18. Alice

    I have travelled fat on all 7 continents and it has been a huge experience in my life. In Egypt, I got a ton of catcalls, whistles and offers of 10,000 camels. In Morocco, a little girl ran up and smacked my bum. But I wore a bikini in Hawaii and swam in the Nile, snorkeled the Great Barrier Reef and dipped my toes in the Aegean. I think the only thing I won’t do is Zipline, but that is more about my abject fear of falling than my weight. We are exceedingly lucky to live in the West, where food is abundant and obesity is common, rather than starving or food insecure like so much of the world. Travel should open our eyes to the World, not make us feel more insecure about who we are. I will continue to travel fat, as time and money allow!

  19. ari

    Great reading, it was awesome. You are very brave posting your thoughts. I too love to fly find myself holding back because of the issues of overweight. Thanks

  20. Pamela, I’ve lived in Thailand for 13 years, don’t have particularly huge boobs (36C so average-ish) and it’s still a nightmare to get bras here. Did the same as you. Bought a load of them last time I was back in the US. Yep, made in Thailand 🙂 They make them for the export market, but because most Thais girls are flat chested, they’re difficult to find here.

    And I can only imagine how difficult it would be buying clothing in Asia if you’re overweight. I’m a size 8-10, depending on how much food I’ve been eating lately :), and I still find it difficult sometimes to get clothing to fit in Bangkok, particularly shirts (it’s that boob versus no boobs issue again ).

    Still, good for you not letting being overweight stop you from doing what you want to do. Most people would. Oh and btw, not that you’re asking for weight loss tips :), but I have several friends who have gone on completely vegetarian diets (cut out the butter and milk as well) and the pounds have just peeled off. Just a thought if you ever decide you want to work on your weight. Otherwise…enjoy your life 🙂

  21. Amber

    I am just shy of 6foot tall and have an F cup. I have stopped myself from long flights for all of these reasons. I feel like a sardine in tin can when I duck to step onto a plane. My fear has never been of a plane crashing, but more the shame of not being petite in plane that was made for petite people. I am so so so glad I am not the only one that feels the anxiety of it all.

  22. Wanderlust212

    Thanks for this. I don’t blog and I’ve never spoken these concerned aloud but I share about 90% of them. At the top of my reasons to lose weight is the desire to travel more easily. Not health (my labs are great), not appearance, not romance (the menfolk love me). I just want to fit semi-comfortably in one of those ever shrinking airplane seats.

  23. CynthiaPrentice

    What a great read about such a sensitive subject. Having been overweight for most of my life, despite excessive dieting and excessive exercising, it has never stopped me from having a personality and passion in the things I do. Of course, during all that time, I dreamed of being slimmer, not think and certainly not stick thing, but just slimmer in order to be more comfortable. It took me to the age of fifty six to discover why I was the weight I was and that was due to a rare Adipose Disorder. The fat I was carrying wasa actually full of tumours which were becoming so painful that I was beginning to become disabled. There are many diseases which cause massive wieght gain which only becomes apparent later on in life – perhaps it will be your case? So, I am pleased I travelled when I could. Not as far as you but where I wanted to go to!! Please ignore the nasties in this world, by the time you get to my age, you realise that they are the ones with the problems and even today, though I have had some removed through major surgery because of the pain, I am still morbidly obese and will be that way till I die. But, for some reason my personality is still there and people see me and not the weight – except when I get on a plane – lol!!! Bon voyage!!

  24. Courtney

    This article caught my eye because I too am over weight and I will be traveling to Asia. Ive never been in a plane. And now I’m nervous but I want to be prepaired. I am 6ft 250lbs I am use to trying to take up less space. Asians tend to be smaller, the airline is an asian airline and what if the seat belt doesnt fit. These are things I didnt consider until now. And advise please. Its close to being a 24 hour flight and Ive never flown plus Im over wieght…. anxiety has officially kicked in

    • Thanks for commenting Courtney, and don’t be afraid! Most planes are very similar. Which airline are you flying with? The seatbelt should be fine, if it’s too tight and uncomfortable, you can always ask a flight attendant for an extension. Seat belt size varies per plane. I sometimes use one on really long flights to make myself more comfortable when on older planes, which typically have small seat belts. Don’t be afraid, you’ll be fine! As you’re tall as well, be sure to get up and walk around the plane.

      Where will you be travelling in Asia? I may have challenges at times, but I freaking love that region of the world!

    • Cordelia

      When I was 240lbs and 5 foot 7, I bought 2 seats flying to France. There was just no way I could sit in a normal seat and not have a good part of me on the people on either side of me. It was worth it to see France.

  25. April

    Yes, yes, a thousand times, yes! Every single one of your observations I have thought as I travel as a fat person (especially the boob/tray incidents)

  26. Shelby Solski

    OMG the fake taking a picture or reading a text to get a break from back pain so me!!! I will say one of the joys of being fat and older is I don’t give a rats ass if I huff and puff – hellloooo I’m fat!! Love you article! KEEP TRAVELLING 🙂

  27. Leilani

    Thank you for your article. I totally hear you about the airplanes and life jackets being both round and big chested. I also would say if you have any other “differences” besides being overweight it feels pretty overwhelming – overweight and disability, overweight and Person of Color, etc. I have severe dietary allergies which also seems to surprise people because I eat healthy (yea that blows minds away.) There’s so many places I’ve just written off because I can’t imagine what I would manage to eat there and not get sick from my allergies. Also I’m toxicant sensitive so I need to wear a pollution mask a lot of the time in public and in transit -that’s getting me over the feeling of being stared at. snorts.

    Also, people assume if you have pain or disability, it’s because you are overweight (not the other way around evar!) I have this walk I do in crowded places because I don’t like strangers jostling my boobs (so I don’t just bear hug myself on planes) I compress/squish while walking. I look like I’m about to do a Namaste prayer or some mini dive into the imaginary concert pool in front of me (as my arms close together and my palms are often together in a sort of prayer/chop position.) I bought my own flotation vest for kayaking locally because the vest/boob strangulation issue was troubling – it doesn’t help when I’m not at home though..

    All that aside, I still love hiking, kayaking, walking, and new food adventures (mostly my own cooking) and thanks for the travel inspiration. I have to peace and love of my beauty inside and out, I hope for the same for you and your journeys.

    • Good for you! It’s tough being different, important to have a thick skin, which can be very difficult at times. I’m comfortable with who I am, even though there are always challenges, but that is part of life.

  28. Jennifer

    Hi Pamela!
    I know exactly what you mean. I am a voluptuous woman and every time I consider any type of travel I get myself worked up.
    I appreciate you sharing your story. Bravo!!

  29. Trace

    I’m in tears as it read this, I’ve never been on a plane because I don’t want to be embarrassed. To get to work I have a long walk from my car to the building so I pretend to text or answer a fake call to stall when I need a little break all because I don’t want anyone to see the fat girl sweating. I hate the way the world looks at me I hate this life. I’m happy to see you enjoying yourself it lets me know it’s possible. Thank you so much.

    • Sometimes we have to pretend we don’t care what others think, or pretend they are jealous of our superb personalities and friendly natures 😉

  30. Pamela,

    Thank you so much for sharing in such an open and honest way. I’m a large woman and have experienced so much of what you’ve written about as I’ve traveled. In fact, just a year ago I wrote about it on my blog. I’m not a writer, just a regular chick who wanted to share a little about my perspective as a fat woman going through this thing called life. I attached the link below, the entry is “Never Judge a book by its cover, even a big one…”

    Thank you again for your wonderful writing!

  31. Heidi Sinderman

    Thanks for this post and reminding me I’m not alone. I know what you mean about doing things like the picture taking when you need a rest, without even thinking about it. I also have held myself tight in my seat, fearful my body would overwhelm the stranger next to me. Half of me doesn’t care; I’m an adult, it’s my body… The other half fears judgment of people and being mocked for who I am.
    Anyway, thanks again!

  32. adriana

    My husband and i are big, tall and big, and we LOVE to travel. The first thing came to my mind when i started to read was the effin’ seatbealt!
    I can still put it on – bearly, but what bother’s me most is that they don’t make ’em bigger! why? there’s a lot of big bodied people that travel. When we travel together we have to ask for the exit door seats, since we are also tall, so we need space for our legs and to strech, get up whenever we want.
    Good thing is that i dont even bother if someone looks at me if im fat, i look at them back, and take a good look at them from toes to head and roll my eyes. So they know i know how to stare at ppl too!
    So thanks for this lines you wrote, i hear you, it’s hard but remember the experience of traveling is what’s most important and the memories that remain 🙂 So keep enjoying traveling around and i hope we bump into each other some other time! 🙂

  33. Joyce T

    As a woman of size myself, ! can commiserate with pretty much all that described. Recently, I was laid off – interviews are hard enough just on their own – but try interviewing as an older, overweight woman. It is difficult. I applaud your courage to travel, I have become something of a recluse. In my own home I am not being judged and compared to all the beautiful skinny women. If I didn’t have to leave to go to work – I would probably never go out. Bless you for your confidence and honesty.

    • Joyce,
      Thank-you for taking the time to read and comment. There are definitely challenges, but at the end of the day it’s important to remind yourself that YOU are too fabulous to hide yourself away. You are most definitely not alone, just read the comments on this post! XO

  34. Allen

    Great post! You are officially awesome. Between work and my weight, I haven’t travelled in a little while — your story provides great encouragement to change that. Thank you!
    Looking forward to reading more of your adventures.

  35. I hear ya girl! I’m going to SE Asia this year, and am over-packing because I know NOTHING there will fit my boobs. Or my ass. Ever.

  36. Unique set of challenges that you are meeting bravely … best wishes in your future travels!

  37. Aaron

    Your great and a I absolutely admire how you don’t let some challenges get in the way of your dreams of travelling.

  38. Thank you for writing such a personal and brave post! I saw this on Yahoo travel and it has been my one of my favorite posts on there so far. Happy travels!

  39. Meg

    What a great piece, really open and sensitive. Thank you for sharing this!

  40. Hi Pam! How are you?
    I have just discovered your website through Kate. It’s funny because I have been playing with the idea of writing about this subject, but I didn’t really know how to tackle it. Yours is great, thank you. It’s a good way to convince people you can travel, despite the overweight.

    • Hi Lucie!
      I’m glad you enjoyed the article, as well as the interview I did with Kate. It’s so important to have more open dialogue about weight and travel. Too many people let fear hold them back, I’m hoping I can convince some to tell fear to f-off 😉

      • Hi Pam!
        Well after all, I was so inspired by your article and your story, that I decided to share my own. In French, no one tackled this subject and the response has been overwhelming. It’s so important to talk about it. So, I wanted to thank you and Kate for the inspiration. Keep it up!

        • Hi Lucie!
          OMG I am so proud of you! So glad you decided to write about your own story. It’s important to share, and to open up the conversation about travel and weight. Thank you so much for letting me know!

  41. Great article Pam! I completely understand your perspective on things. Ironically, I am still working on my own article regarding traveling as a ‘thick’ gal (its a young blog yet). The whole experience hit me hard when I was just in Asia this past winter. I was called the ‘fat one’ and such in different locations. At the time I had only recently come to the realization that I had gained 60 pounds since graduate school and was in a whole new bracket when it came to peoples perspective of me. Even my lady doctor made a comment about my weight in a jerk way; that was when it hit me hard about the reality. So of course I had minimal clothes that were Southeast-summer ready because of the fact that I didn’t not want to show my skin or clothes – dumb I know! I even shortened my years in the making trip to SE Asia because of my weight.Today, I have no shame in my game! The only concern I have now has nothing to do with what those on the outside perceive me as, but rather how my health is on the inside. And for those who have never packed 2 pairs of size 18 pants has never realized the space those things can take up! Ha! Thanks for the article!

    • Thanks for reading Mandi! I just checked out your blog, you’re off to a good start! Asia is definitely an interesting beast, although I have not had a lot of problems. I’m actually heading back there in September, yay! Good for you for having no shame!! Happy travels. xo

  42. This is a great read! Very inspirational. There have been many things that held me back from taking the first steps towards my future and finally I have dropped all doubts and fears and taken the steps I need to take to live the life I WANT* and know I deserve. Thank you Pam for sharing and being so open with this.

  43. Thanks for mentioning shopping in Southeast Asian markets. I recently tried to haggle on a size XL shirt on Khao San Road. That experience will probably scar me for years to come.

    • Yeah, I don’t even try to buy clothing in the markets now. I have bought those crazy Thai pants as they are quick to point out that they are very forgiving and will fit me. Ha ha ha

  44. Kirsten

    Thanks for sharing this! When I was travelling in Australia as a 19 year old with some girlfriends many years ago, I had a couple weight experiences that still make me cringe today. We were on a boat cruise (read:booze cruise) and in order to be a risk-taker and step out of my shell, I volunteered for one of the “games”. It turned out that it was a relay race where a guy had to piggy-back a girl to a marker and back. As soon as I volunteered, I knew something was up, as the games coordinator seemed to be trying to solve an uncomfortable problem. In his defense, he found the biggest, strongest male volunteer he could. So I decided to grin and bear it, hopped on my partner’s back and the race began. I thought for a moment things would turn out better than I had hoped and that we would finish the race unscathed. Unfortunately, as we made the last turn, the two of us experienced an epic wipe-out. No one was hurt (physically) but laughs were definitely had at my expense. Especially when it was discovered that the sole of my
    partner’s shoe tore completely off. A second incident on that same trip involved heading into a backpackers club and having some “gentleman” come up and give my upper arm a squeeze, and proceed to express to me how incredibly big my arms were (a part of my body that I’ve always been self-conscious about) and that he wanted to see me arm-wrestle. These were just two incidents of what was overall an amazing four-month trip, but both have stuck with me for over fifteen years and have definitely impacted how I react and behave in certain situations (there is almost nothing more uncomfortable than someone trying to literally pick me up). Thanks again for posting this because although travellers come in all shapes and sizes, rarely do you hear of the personal challenges some face.

    • Oh my, I can see why you still remember those moments! It can be uncomfortable at times, but I’m so glad you didn’t let those experiences ruin your time in Australia. That is always the danger, allowing uncomfortable situations to overshadow our good experiences while travelling.

  45. Asia

    Pam I just stumbled across this article and its amazing. Honestly. I can 100% relate to everything you wrote about. It sucks sometimes, being overweight (and having big boobs!)…especially travelling. But I love to travel and I’m never going to stop because of my weight. I just spent the last 6 months travelling in Asia, Australia and Europe and I surprised myself at how many of my initial concerns didn’t happen, but also many of them did. I often would find myself looking around a crowd of people and think, “wow I am the largest person here”. Or in Thailand when I was browsing through clothes they would say “big big” and point me in the right direction to larger female items, which more often than not were too small for me anyways. One situation in particular that really struck a nerve with me was a couple months ago. I went to Greece with 3 friends and when we arrived to Athens we discovered my bag did not make it. I immediately became very upset knowing that none of the other girls clothing would fit me. If it had have happened to any of them, it still would have been a bummer but at least they could borrowed some clean clothes for a day. Instead I had to walk around Athens the next day in black leggings and a grimy t shirt in 35 degree heat. However, regardless of all the times I would feel crappy about myself, I mostly ended up proving my doubts wrong and had the most amazing experiences. It gives me comfort to read about someone else who has shared all of these thoughts and struggles, and was bold enough to write about it. Thanks for sharing. 🙂

  46. Thanks for writing this. I’ve been nodding so hard at so many things you said. But yeah, I’d never let any of the issues stop me travelling. I’ve actually got enough confidence now that, when I get into a situation where my weight might be an issue, instead of cringing at the back, I’ll actually openly discuss it.

    I do have real issues with people (strangers) touching me and I found that happens a lot in some SE Asian countries, with people prodding and poking me. THB, it makes me not want to return there.

    • It can be challenging, the cultures in SE Asia can be so different. It’s one of the reasons why I love Asia, but I can also understand how it can rub others the wrong way, especially as an overweight traveler. We stick out enough as a foreigner, without adding weight to the mix.

  47. Cristina

    What an awesome article; I’m in that point of life where I’m ready to do something different, and trying to get rid of fears and insecurities to do so. One of my doubts about traveling (i’d love to go to Asia) is my weight, I’ve thought about how to find clothes there, and for how long would I be able to mantain my balance in a squatting bathroom… Reading this post, and in general about a person that has traveled and dealt with Overweight and hasn’t let it put a damper in her dreams is very encouraging…
    Thank you!

  48. Love this article- I too am an overweight traveler. I find it annoying every time I read someones advice for travel- particularly long term travel- and they say not to worry, you’ll be able to buy clothes on the road. Pack light because you can buy clothes anywhere. This has not been my experience at all. It is very difficult to find clothes in other countries for plus sized ladies and even if you do find something, you often have little or no choice and would have to settle for whatever will fit, even if it looks terrible. That doesn’t mean I need to over-pack to compensate, but it does mean that I have to be more careful of what my backup outfits are.

  49. Hey Pam! Great post, and yes, a lot of advice given by western travelers just isn’t useful. I’m 6’2 (187cm) and about 125kg (260lbs-ish). I’m told I “carry the weight well” and (thankfully) don’t have ginormous boobs to deal with, but I’m still much taller, rounder, wider and heavier than most people in Asia. Unlike you, I -have- broken those little plastic chairs. Some other random thoughts:

    – When I get on the back of a motorcycle taxi, it looks like Harry is giving a lift to Hagrid. I imagine many people are giggling. Also, my fare is usually 5 or 10b more expensive than anyone else’s.
    – I’ve lived in Thailand for 14 years and have only recently started to find shoes to fit my size 14 feet – and that’s a very rare occasion.Thank god for Amazon, otherwise I’d never be able to find clothes here.
    – When I ask someone to let me by, they usually move enough for an Asian to get by. I just stand there until they realize they have to move over more.
    – Many tables or desks I sit at are too low for my legs and I have to sit sort-of straight-legged in order to avoid raising the desk off the ground.

    It does come in handy sometimes though – Bangkokians love run into the train/elevator AS SOON as the doors open, and I get a perverse little thrill in simply walking forward and having them bounce off me. That’s one battle you’re not going to win, little man.

    Keep traveling!

  50. I can relate to much of what you said. Being big and tall it’s difficult to travel. Small airplane seats, little tiny seats are a nightmare. I rarely can find anything in my size thus all my clothes are sacred to me as I know they can’t easily be replaced. Finding shoes my size is a nightmare ( size 13 2E). My whole family is big and if you can believe it I’m one of the smallest people in my family (6’2 254 pounds). Thanks for sharing.

  51. Wow! I’m also overweight from South Africa; I’m a backpacker. The funny part I backpack alone I left home in year 2013 I’ve been in 10 countries.

  52. Selina

    Couldn’t have found a more comforting article to read, this was the first thing that came up when I typed “being a chubby traveller” in Google, I hope you don’t find this wholly offensive. I am much more than chubby, have J cup breasts and I’m going travelling to New Zealand. A country which openly won’t allow people over a certain BMI to migrate there. Although I’m VERY heavy (over 18 stone – I actually don’t look it) the main issue is the giant boobs not fitting into planes, lifejacket, hired wetsuits and generally threatening to escape during activities. The comment about your arms naturally sticking out really hit home. I want to join in the water activities but not sure how to cope with the wetsuit hire you have any link with that part of the world? Thanks again for your article, made me laugh.

  53. Rylan

    Oh my god.
    I’m traveling to sea literally in 20 days
    This gave me so much more confidence

    Ps – your beautiful, I idolize curves

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