We LOVE connecting and collaborating with Fat Girls Traveling members. Recently Kate from Detailed Journeys took over the Fat Girls Traveling Instagram Story and touched on the important topic of mental health while traveling. She shares a more in-depth look at her recent experience below.
Trigger Warning: Eating Disorders & Body Dysmorphia
In April 2019, I was on the trip of a lifetime with my partner of nearly 10 years, road-tripping through Croatia, Hungary, and Slovenia. I absolutely love to travel and am so happy to have found someone that enjoys it as much as I do to share in the adventures. Traveling is something we prioritize when it comes to time and money. I don’t think of traveling as an escape, but as a big part of my life, which is why I was shocked and saddened when my mental health decided to make a big impact on this fantastic trip.
It all started with the plane ride from Boston to Istanbul. The seats were designed so poorly, with the hinge for the tray table much lower than normal, so when I put it down, it didn’t lay flat over my thighs. Mind you, I am a US size 16/18 – which still has a privilege to typically fit in most brands and seats, etc., but I was miserable. Not only was it awkward eating my meals at an angle, but I had work to do and couldn’t physically open my laptop up to type, so I had to keep twisting into the aisle and moving every time a passenger or flight attendant walked by me.
[Photo taken after enjoying the Gellért Thermal Bath in Budapest,
unable to smile after such a lovely morning.]
After that, every little thing stood out to me. My brain was self-sabotaging and filling my head with negative thoughts, my self-confidence was non-existent. It was a struggle to smile. My Binge Eating Disorder and Body Dysmorphia were both rearing their ugly heads. I asked my partner to take a picture of me looking out over the Danube River while seated on a low wall. When I looked at them, all I could see were flaws: the way my clothing was catching, my rolls visible through the fabric, my legs supersized. My breath caught and finally the tears came.
I tried to continue though, because this must be a one off, something I’d laugh at later and think to myself “how did I get so focused on how I look instead of what I’m looking at?!”. My partner was amazing and said all the right things, he was so wonderful in the moment and throughout the trip while I dealt with this; supportive when I needed it, a sounding board when I just needed to vent, and real when I needed some reality.
[Photo taken in Ljubljana prior to talking with my therapist. I was so unhappy with the top I had on, so I was using my scarf to hide its true fit., as well as the angle of this selfie.]
Still, I realized I needed additional support, plus I didn’t want to put all of my emotions on him. I was lucky, and again privileged, to be able to contact my therapist from abroad. She reminded me where my negative thoughts come from, that I use them as a protection method to prevent myself from being vulnerable, and recommended that I set an intention to be in the moment and to respect myself while in a triggered state. Allowing these types of thoughts was only taking away from my own empowerment. I set my intention as she recommended and focused on checking negativity at the door (while also scheduling a formal appointment with her for my return).
[Photo taken post conversation with my therapist, full body and smiling]
One thing I allowed myself to do was to sleep in the next day. I had planned to get up early and take some sunrise photos, but I needed to focus on myself first. When I shared my story on the Fat Girls Traveling Instagram, this was something a couple of responses mentioned in regards to handling mental health while traveling: planning rest days/times. I think this is vital to any itinerary and as a travel consultant, I strive to find the right balance of rest and play when creating a trip for a client – so I need to remember to do the same for my own travels going forward!
Other things that FGT members said they do when respecting their mental health on the road included: face masks, planning their day out in advance, meditating, taking their medication(s), exercise, yoga, and journaling. I’ve also personally found that it helps to create my own online community by following strong, open-minded, respectful people on Instagram, and joining Facebook groups with similar ideals. I’ve listed some of my favorites at the bottom of this piece in case they help anyone else. Just remember that while social media is having a minor breakthrough regarding greater authenticity, there is still a lot of room to grow.
As you read through my story, please also take note of the photos I’ve chosen to share. There is a drastic difference between pre and post speaking to my therapist. I am hidden via selfie angles in the first two, then after my conversation with her, I am posing full bodied, in addition to having a bigger, more authentic smile. It is amazing how simply opening up about our truths can help with our mental health and it is why I am okay with sharing it with all of you. Mental Health Awareness has come a long way and one of the biggest changes in recent years has been the openness of many who struggle with it, sharing their journey and experiences. If you feel comfortable, I implore you all to do the same. Let’s work together to break down the societal barriers that prevent us from healing and even preventing many of the things that affect our mental health daily.
[Another full body shot post chat with my therapist]
(a community I’ve built for those living/traveling in the area)
Kick-ass people on Instagram: