Plus-size travel can be tricky. There’s the uncomfortable plane seats, the stress at trying to find appropriate travel gear that both fits and is flattering, and, of course, the worry over how you will be treated abroad. But while some countries have a reputation of being discriminatory towards plus-size travelers, there are others where the locals won’t care about your body shape or size. Places where you can eat what you please without fear of being judged. Even cultures where your curves will be celebrated. Based on my personal travel experiences, here are four countries that have allowed me to feel grateful for my curves.
Beach destinations are usually no-go zones for plus-size women afraid of being criticized and judged, but I found Croatia’s Dalmatian Coast to be incredibly welcoming. Croatia really seems to embrace the “every body is a beach body” mantra. My tankini felt more like a cover-up as every other woman around me, no matter their age or size, strutted their stuff in bikinis. I remember watching a voluptuous grandmother chasing her toddler grandson on the shores in a bright red bikini, and being amazed that nobody batted an eye; there were no prolonged stares or pointing fingers. It was just a grandmother playing with her grandson, and it was beautiful.
The Caribbean islands and South America are known to be accepting of curvaceous bodies. I haven’t explored much of that part of the world yet, but if it’s anything like my experience in the Dominican Republic, then I’m going to be treated like a queen when I do. Beach vendors, men in the hotel, and tour operators all fell at my feet as I walked by. I was called everything from “beautiful” to “goddess,” and even had a few marriage proposals. While the onslaught of attention got to be a bit much at times, I can’t deny that it was a big confidence booster.
Italy came as a surprise to me: the women there always look so polished and well dressed, and are often slender. I thought that I would stand out as an object of negative attention, especially in a country known for its food. But elegant Italian women don’t dine on kale salads; they indulge in creamy pastas, cheesy pizzas, large plates of fresh seafood. They dip hunks of fresh bread in rich olive oils and lick flavorful gelato cones as they walk down the streets. And so I joined them, throwing away my inhibitions about being the big girl eating carbs. Any worries of being judged for it flew out the proverbial window when a young Italian man got down on his knees and declared me the most beautiful woman he had ever seen as I stood eating gelato in front of the Chiesa di Ognissanti in Florence.
Asia was one of the places I was worried the most about travelling as a plus-size woman. I’ve heard horror stories about the way people get treated based on their size, and I’d had my fair share of “too big” comments when shopping around Thailand for harem-style elephant pants. Yet I experienced a different sort of gratitude towards my body when I visited the tailor shops of Hoi An. At first, I thought it would be like in the markets where everyone told me I needed “big size” or “more material,” but the tailors’ reactions to my body was completely different. My wide hips and busty chest were “sexy” and my curvy body became the subject of friendly jealous banter. So often, women can be the cruelest when it comes to body image, yet these tiny ladies showered me with compliments and went above and beyond in creating designs that would enhance my “super sexy” body. It was flattering to be envied for something that I am so often judged for.
These experiences reminded me that beauty ideals vary around the world. Embrace new cultures and experiences with confidence and a smile, you never know what experience you may have that will leave you feeling grateful for your curves.