When the perception of our body image tints our travel experience
Traveling is such a beautiful life experience that enriches us like no one else by making us discover other cultures, gastronomy, religions and landscapes. However, several elements can sometimes negatively tint our project. It can be external elements such as bad weather or the arrival of a global pandemic or it can also be more internal elements such as bickering with our travel companion or experiencing an anxiety attack .
My concerns about my body image that affected my travels
I remember my first backpacking trip in 2014 to Costa Rica. I was excited to take my first trip with an experienced friend who was going to show me everything I needed to know about backpacking. At the same time, I was going through a very difficult time personally due to significant weight concerns. So while I was busy with my preparations and should have been excited and feverish about my first trip, I instead spent a lot of time worrying about what I would do when I got to the beach to camouflage my body. I clearly remember the first time we went to a beach near Manuel Antonio. The landscape was splendid, I felt free. Nevertheless, I also remember putting my arms around my belly to hide it in the photo since it made me anxious. I managed every photo taken before we shared them to make sure that none were shared that showed parts of my body that I didn’t like.
As well to say that I never really benefited 100% from the extraordinary moments that I lived. Then, when I traveled to Asia for the first time in 2016, at that time I had a weight that I did not mind in the photos. On the other hand, rather than highlighting all the enrichment that travel brought me, such as the discovery of a new culture, I was internally delighted to lose weight because I walked a lot while traveling. Here again, despite the beauty that I discovered through my steps, sneaky thoughts invaded me concerning my body image.
How to reduce the impact of body image concerns while traveling?
I had to take a moment to reflect on my situation so that the rest of my long journey would not be negatively tainted by these concerns about my body image and so that I could fully benefit from this experience of a lifetime that represented a journey of a year around the world. What could I do to reduce the impact of these concerns on my travel experience and in my daily life as well? Here is what I came up with from my reflection.
Be kind to yourself
As said before, we are surrounded by various messages dictating to us what is acceptable or not in terms of body image. Personally, I grew up with very specific beauty standards that had to be met to be considered beautiful and attractive, whereas these standards are only attainable by a minority of people. So it can be normal for us to have body image concerns while traveling.. I lectured myself a lot about having thoughts about my weight during my travels and I felt guilty that they weren’t all centered on what I discovered while traveling. Unfortunately, this lack of benevolence towards myself only increased my feeling of inefficiency. So I learned to let these thoughts about my body image come, even in the context of travel, without hitting myself on the head.
Control his reaction to our thoughts
Then I learned to downplay my concerns about my body image while traveling.Thus, I accept having these kinds of thoughts, even in the context of travel, but I do not give them as much importance as for the thoughts oriented towards the discoveries that I make while traveling for example. A friend from work gave me, several years ago, a list of helpful beliefs that provide support and restore control. For example, one of these was that controlling one’s emotions increases the control we have over the situation. So, although I can’t stop my negative thoughts about my body image, I have control over my emotions in response to them. I can therefore choose to let these negative concerns come, to accept that I have them, but also to choose that they do not tarnish my experience as a traveler by letting them invade me with sadness or shame.
Control what can be controlled
I also realized that certain elements can come temporarily to help us regain control over the situation. For example, for my long trip of a year, I had brought few clothes and especially pieces that dried well, breathed well and were effective in the context of travel. Might as well say that I had few flirty, figure-flattering clothes that could have helped me feel better about myself. So I made the decision at that time, despite my tight budget as a traveler, to buy myself a few pieces of clothing that were less suitable for a long trip, but which highlighted my figure and gave me a feeling of welfare. This simple gesture has drastically reduced the impact of my concerns about my body image while traveling. Another simple way was to get myself a cream to reduce the impact of thigh friction when walking. The simple fact of always having irritations in the thighs after our days of walking to visit made me sad and ashamed. With this cream, I have therefore drastically reduced the negative emotions experienced by this problem.