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The ULTIMATE Plus Size Travel Guide!!!                     by Iesha Coppin

The ULTIMATE Plus Size Travel Guide!!! by Iesha Coppin

Travel – “the movement of people between relatively distant geographical locations;” a vaguely broad textbook definition. In the grand scheme of things traveling doesn’t require a meaning; it doesn’t have one because it’s all about the journey. For many, traveling is a mapped out analog of places, people, and activities to unfold – for others, it’s an unknown voyage meandering their truths, dares, and fears. 

Traveling is many things, but it is not defined or categorized by size, weight or any cookie cutter byline. To travel plus-size can be seen as a taboo subject, but why? Truth or myth, we divulge the ins and outs of traveling while plus-size speaking to several women who do it on the regular! Thus we came up with this diverse group of worldly travelers and here they share their wisdom, knowledge, and understandings.

Alysse Dalessandro

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Which airlines are most plus-size friendly and why?

 I don’t think any airline is truly friendly to larger bodied people but there are some that are better than others. Southwest’s Customer of Size policy, which provides a complimentary additional seat based on need and availability, makes it the most plus size friendly in my opinion. Their seats feel smaller to me than other airlines so being able to get an extra seat for no additional charge is a huge relief. Though I have never had any problems when I have asked for it, I know from others that this policy is not perfect. Internationally, I flew recently on Meridiana to Italy. The flight attendant noticed how squished I was and without me asking, moved me to the back of the plane where I could have two seats. On the way back, I was able to move my seat to the back of the plane and have an additional seat prior to boarding for no additional fee.

How do you determine your choice in selecting airlines?

As a person with limited means to travel, I mainly select airlines based on cost. I find the seats on budget airlines like Spirit and Frontier to actually be larger, though not more comfortable, than seats on American or United.

Airline seating can lead to extreme tension and apprehension for many plus-size travels, how would you amend these concerns and address the issue?

I think a customer of size policy like Southwest has across airlines would be a great start. It would be even better if this policy was made more well known so that customers knew to ask for it. It would also be great if we addressed the stigma that society has against fat people. I think the real discomfort from flying doesn’t just come from the physical discomfort of the small seats but from the stares, glares and sometimes spoken judgments from other passengers and airline employees.

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Which countries have you visited are most plus-size friendly?

I have traveled most outside the country to Italy. Southern Italy is more plus size friendly than the north. In Europe in general, hotel rooms are smaller than what we may be used to in the US. It’s always a good idea to check into bed size and shower size prior to booking if you can. I also went zip-lining in Belize and I found the people there to be super plus size friendly.

Have you ever felt in danger while traveling?

Not related to my size, no.

Do you have any tips and tricks regarding the most travel-friendly attire? What are your most fashionable, yet comfortable go-to outfits?

My absolute favorite thing to wear traveling is cropped joggers from Lorette. I have probably worn them on like 80% of my travel days this year and I travel 1-3 times a month.

What are your top travel essentials?

Comfortable shoes, sunscreen, gold hoop earrings, and  ChafeZone are among my essentials. I wrote about it here!

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Solo travel can be seen as a taboo subject among many. How do you handle this issue and can you describe some of your experiences?

I have never taken a solo trip for leisure before but I do travel solo for work. I think when you’re alone, it’s important to be able to assert your boundaries and advocate for yourself.

What advice would you give a first-time plus-size traveler dealing with anxiety?

I think traveling with a person that you can count on to be there for you is really important when you have anxiety.

Road trips, railroad passage, flights, or cruises which have you done and which would you recommend?

I have traveled on road trips, railroad passage, flights, and cruises. I have done it all! I think it all depends on what you like, what you want to do and what’s in your budget. I don’t ever feel like my size limits what I want to do, it just makes me more mindful of how I have to navigate whatever I am doing.

 

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What has been your biggest reward from traveling?

Traveling is one of my biggest passions in life. Seeing the world, though I still have a lot to see, has opened my heart and mind not only to other people but also to myself. I have really learned to see myself differently though travel. I have gone horseback riding, hiking in Joshua Tree, zip-lining in Belize and swam in the Mediterranean sea in a bikini with no regrets. Travel has shown me that my body is capable of anything as long as I do things on my own terms and advocate for myself along the way.

Inquiring minds want to know, where are you off to next and what destinations are you waiting to check off your bucket-list?

I have a trip coming up for my birthday next month and I will be going on a cruise to the Bahamas. After that, I have another Italy trip planned for Fall of 2018. I am currently working on learning Italian and I hope to be conversational by then. I actually keep a long list of places that I want to visit. In the US, I need to get to New Orleans, Seattle, and Portland. Those have been at the top of my list! Outside the US, I have an open invitation from a blogger in Brazil to visit and I plan on taking her up on that. It’s on my goal list to do a shoot in London or Paris in 2018 so I'm speaking those into existence. Long term, I really want to visit Australia, India, Thailand, Dubai, Portugal, Argentina,  Iceland and so many more!

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Which airlines are most plus-size friendly and why?

I tend to be a fan of WestJet. Their seats tend to be a decent size, and their seat belts give a lot of room. I travel to the Caribbean a lot, and I tend to stay away from the charter airplanes. A lot of times I feel as though I'm sitting on top of the person next to me!

How do you determine your choice in selecting airlines?

To be honest, I don't ever choose destinations based on airlines. I choose based on price. I'll fly strapped to the wing of the plane if it was cheap enough!! lol, I roll with whatever airline flies to my destinations. I've personally never had a major issue with any airline.

Airline seating can lead to extreme tension and apprehension for many plus-size travelers, how would you amend these concerns and address the issue?

I cannot stress enough how important checking in online 24 hours before your flight is. I've set my alarm a few times to make sure I'm one of the first people to check in. That way I'll get dibs on the best seats. I used to always choose the emergency seats since it usually offers more room. However the airlines have caught on, and now charge a lot for those seats. If you can afford it, great. If money really isn't an issue, I'd suggest upgrading to business class as well, which offers more room.

The age-old question of aisle seat vs. window seat, which do you prefer? Are there any particular requirements to sit in either seat?

I'm a fan of the aisle seat. I feel like I have a little more room, and I can even stretch my legs out in the aisle if I need to. The window seat is great for long flights that I know I'll want to catch some sleep on. My head rolls a little less when I fall asleep at the window! lol... The only inconvenience is when you have to use the washroom and the person next to you has to get up to let you out.

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The world’s first plus-size hotel opened in Eleuthera, what are your thoughts on this? What would you suggest to hotel owners to make their hotels more welcoming to guests who are plus size?

I think it's a great idea if you are a plus sized person, who doesn't feel comfortable at conventional hotels. I'm all about feeling your best. If that's what makes you confident, then do it. For me personally, I'd rather be at a general hotel breaking down stereotypes of what a plus size woman looks like. Rocking my two-piece swimsuit, while people stare in admiration, or watch them become uncomfortable.

Abundant Travel and BBW (Big Beautiful Women) are specialized travel agents known for making travel arrangements for plus-size travelers. Have you used specialized travel agents as an option or would you recommend this feature to first-time travelers?

I've never used these services, but I think it's a great idea if you want to be surrounded by other people who look like you and appreciate you. Again, I like to break down stereotypes. I like to do things that typically a plus size woman wouldn't do to prove that it can be done. I've zip-lined through the rain forest in Costa Rica. I did water yoga in Hawaii. I've gone to a nude resort in Jamaica. None of these activities were customized for plus sized people. But I did it anyway. I want to inspire other women to just do it. Who cares who's watching. You're not there to make them happy, you're there to live your best life and enjoy it to the fullest.

Which countries have you visited are most plus-size friendly?

Definitely the Caribbean! Plus size women are celebrated there. I would even say Jamaica specifically. I love it there...I've been there 4 times already this year.

Have you ever felt in danger while traveling?

In terms of places that I've traveled to; no I've never felt in danger. Because I travel solo, I'm very aware of my surroundings. I do my best to make it back to my accommodations before nightfall. I book tours with reputable companies. I just generally use common sense. If I go to a club, I limit my drinking so I don't become drunk. I don't leave my drinks unattended. A solo traveler always has to be aware of what's happening around them. You really can't be as carefree as you'd be if you were surrounded by friends.

I think the one time that I was a little scared was when I landed in Jamaica one day before a Hurricane was set to hit. When I arrived at my hotel, they were boarding up the windows and explaining the evacuations plans. I'm thinking to myself 'what did I get myself involved in???' lol Luckily for me, there was only a twister in the far off distance that never hit land, so everything turned out ok! Phew!

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Do you have any tips and tricks regarding the most travel-friendly attire? What are your most fashionable, yet comfortable go-to outfits?

I love flowing maxi dresses. They can either be dressed up in some cute sandals or dressed down in flip flops or sneakers. They're great if you have your swimsuit underneath, and you want to quickly take it off and go for a swim. They are also great if there is no washroom around, and you need to quickly find somewhere to relieve yourself! lol

What are your top travel essentials?

Sunglasses- I never leave home without them. How else can I 'people watch' without them noticing? lol, I visited a nude resort a few months ago, and my sunglasses were a lifesaver!

Comfortable flat shoes- I like to explore a lot when traveling, so flat shoes are an essential item.

A camera- Well you gotta do it up for the gram! If there's no picture of it....did it really happen??? lol

A swimsuit or swimsuits- If you're anything like me; I pack a swimsuit per day! And make sure to always pack one in your carry-on luggage in case your checked luggage gets lost.

Solo travel can be seen as a taboo subject among many. How do you handle this issue and can you describe some of your experiences?

Solo travel is really only taboo with my mom. She can't understand why I'd want to travel by myself across the world. I love it. I do what I want when I want. I wake up when I want, I pick whatever restaurant I want.....Most people admire it when I tell them that I travel solo. They wish they could do it themselves. I keep telling them, you can do it by yourself. You'll have to get used to eating alone and trying to book tours alone. But if you are friendly, generally people gravitate to you when you're solo. They want to talk to you and look out for you. I've only had great experiences. It can get lonely sometimes. Sometimes it would be nice to have a friend to laugh with or take pictures for you. But you get used to it after a while. I've learned to travel with a tripod so I can take my own pics!

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What advice would you give a first-time plus-size traveler dealing with anxiety?

I would say to just do whatever makes you comfortable. There's no fun to be had if you're doing something that causes you anxiety. Fear now, that's a little different. I would say to challenge yourself. It's normal to have little butterflies in your stomach before you try something new. Anxiety, however, that's totally different. If you don't want to go to a restaurant and eat by yourself, don't. If you don't want to dive off of a cliff like everyone else, then don't. Just do what makes you feel comfortable. You don't have to do everything on your first trip. It gets easier. By trip number two or three, you'll be like an old pro just jumping out of planes for fun. Just be easy on yourself. You have nothing to prove to anyone.

Road trips, railroad passage, flights, or cruises which have you done and which would you recommend?

I would pick a fight any day over a road trip. I just don't have the patience for road trips. I'm that 'Are we there yet?' type of person. I will get on your nerves on a car ride. A flight, however, brings me joy. If you ever want to see me at my happiest, put me in front of a computer to research flights. That is definitely my happy place. I've never done a cruise, but a Mediterranean cruise is for sure on my bucket list. Also the train ride across Canada to see the Rockies, I think would be cool.

What has been your biggest reward from traveling?

My biggest reward is having other women whom I've inspired, call me their hero. Wherever I travel, I always like to try something fun, adventurous or daring. Something that most people have thought about but didn't have the courage to try. So I'll be the guinea pig and try it. When I blog about it afterward,  women are inspired to travel or to wear a 2 piece swimsuit. They'll leave me messages that I'm their hero. I'm honored by it. I just want all women to feel good about themselves, regardless of what size they are.

Inquiring minds want to know, where are you off to next and what destinations are you waiting to check off your bucket-list?

I believe my next trip will be to Dubai in January and I am super excited. I've just created my 2018 bucket list and I'm thinking I want to check out Thailand, Antigua, Iceland, and Europe and maybe try a cruise for the first time. Quite frankly, I'll go wherever the wind blows me.

What advice would you give a first-time plus-size traveler dealing with anxiety?

I would say to just do whatever makes you comfortable. There's no fun to be had if you're doing something that causes you anxiety. Fear now, that's a little different. I would say to challenge yourself. It's normal to have little butterflies in your stomach before you try something new. Anxiety, however, that's totally different. If you don't want to go to a restaurant and eat by yourself, don't. If you don't want to dive off of a cliff like everyone else, then don't. Just do what makes you feel comfortable. You don't have to do everything on your first trip. It gets easier. By trip number two or three, you'll be like an old pro just jumping out of planes for fun. Just be easy on yourself. You have nothing to prove to anyone.

Road trips, railroad passage, flights, or cruises which have you done and which would you recommend?

I would pick a fight any day over a road trip. I just don't have the patience for road trips. I'm that 'Are we there yet?' type of person. I will get on your nerves on a car ride. A flight, however, brings me joy. If you ever want to see me at my happiest, put me in front of a computer to research flights. That is definitely my happy place. I've never done a cruise, but a Mediterranean cruise is for sure on my bucket list. Also the train ride across Canada to see the Rockies, I think would be cool.

What has been your biggest reward from traveling?

My biggest reward is having other women whom I've inspired, call me their hero. Wherever I travel, I always like to try something fun, adventurous or daring. Something that most people have thought about but didn't have the courage to try. So I'll be the guinea pig and try it. When I blog about it afterward,  women are inspired to travel or to wear a 2 piece swimsuit. They'll leave me messages that I'm their hero. I'm honored by it. I just want all women to feel good about themselves, regardless of what size they are.

Inquiring minds want to know, where are you off to next and what destinations are you waiting to check off your bucket-list?

I believe my next trip will be to Dubai in January and I am super excited. I've just created my 2018 bucket list and I'm thinking I want to check out Thailand, Antigua, Iceland, and Europe and maybe try a cruise for the first time. Quite frankly, I'll go wherever the wind blows me.

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Which airlines are most plus-size friendly and why?

They are not plus-size friendly, they just have larger seats. Some years ago I would have said Emirates but with the new A380, the seats are smaller than on the older planes.

How do you determine your choice in selecting airlines?

The cheapest return ticket.

Airline seating can lead to extreme tension and apprehension for many plus-size travels, how would you amend these concerns and address the issue?

Do not panic until you have tried your seat.

The age-old question of aisle seat vs. window seat, which do you prefer? Are there any particular requirements to sit in either seat?

Aisle always as I like to walk around and hate to ask people to move for me. Walking should be mandatory for most of us or wear special garments to keep your legs from blowing up too much!!!

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The world’s first plus-size hotel opened in Eleuthera, what are your thoughts on this? What would you suggest to hotel owners to make their hotels more welcoming to guests who are plus size?

I was shocked first and wondered why but after reading some testimonials on Facebook, why not if that allows people to feel better while on vacation… I do not like club or resorts anyway, I am more a “road-trip and motel or hotel” kind of girl. Or rent cottages or anything else as far as possible from too many people.

Abundant Travel and BBW (Big Beautiful Women) are specialized travel agents known for making travel arrangements for plus-size travelers. Have you used specialized travel agents as an option or would you recommend this feature to first-time travelers?

Not for me as I organize my own trips usually but having some very large friends I know some people do need special arrangements (like the size of the bathroom or toilets if they are separate).

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Which countries have you visited are most plus-size friendly?

The USA J which is funny as many Americans told me they find Europe friendlier.

Have you ever felt in danger while traveling?

Nope, never. I have some good common sense and common safety rules like do not go to restaurants alone when it is very late, or do not wander in the woods alone or even in some areas when the sun is falling, etc. but I would act the same way in Paris.

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Do you have any tips and tricks regarding the most travel-friendly attire?

What are your most fashionable, yet comfortable go-to outfits? Long flowing dresses if it is warm (and shrug if you visit a church or any religious places if they do not have sleeves); sneakers, t-shirts, and cotton pant if I walk a lot. I do not care much about fashion when I am visiting, to tell the truth.

What are your top travel essentials?

My essentials will change with the destination: for example, sunscreen is an absolute must-have for the Maldives as well as my goggles, 3 bathing suits and my underwater camera while that would be ridiculous to go to Ireland.  I always bring my spare glasses and some antibiotics though.

Solo travel can be seen as a taboo subject among many. How do you handle this issue and can you describe some of your experiences?

I have traveled way more often solo than with friends and I do not mind. When I want to travel I just go. If I find friends to go with me okay, and if not, okay too. I did not even know it was taboo. Strange, for some, but – taboo????

What advice would you give a first-time plus-size traveler dealing with anxiety?

 Imagine all the beautiful things you are going to see, or the fun things you are going to do and the wonderful memories you will bring back.

Road trips, railroad passage, flights, or cruises which have you done and which would you recommend?

I have done all but the railroad passage. All are fun and different. I have done a cruise on the Nile and the boats are “human-sized” as opposed to those huge boats with thousands of people that I will never do. It was fun and a wonderful way to go from one place to another; very restful too.

I have done many road trips in Europe and Northern America, and I loved it. I have spent weeks on some islands in the Maldives swimming hours each day and I loved it. I have done some trips with groups and guides and mostly liked it. It all depends on the destination and what you like to do and see.

What has been your biggest reward from traveling?

Memories, tons of memories and thousands of photos.

Inquiring minds want to know, where are you off to next and what destinations are you waiting to check off your bucket-list?

I have road trips planned all over Europe for now but I miss the USA very much (surely the South West next time). I would love to drive through Europe to the delta of the Danube in Romania or drive to the North of Norway via Germany, Denmark, and Sweden, and come back by Finland, Latvia, and co. I love South American and Asia too; never been to the Pacific area.

It will be faster to give you the very short list of the countries I do not want to visit…

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Which airlines are most plus-size friendly and why?

I haven't flown too many different airlines (I usually just use whichever one has the cheapest fare), but no matter which one I fly, I'm right at the cusp of flowing over into someone else's seat.

How do you determine your choice in selecting airlines?

It literally all has to do with the price of the flight. I am a budget traveler to the extreme and if I can get a cheap flight to make my adventures not cost as much, then that's what I do. This means I fly Norwegian, JetBlue, Ryan Air, EasyJet and all the inexpensive airlines much more than anything else.

Airline seating can lead to extreme tension and apprehension for many plus-size travelers, how would you amend these concerns and address the issue?

Thankfully, no one has said anything to me yet and I'm not quite sure how I'll respond, but I do know I have as much right to fly as a smaller person, so I hope they take this into consideration before speaking to me.

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The age-old question of aisle seat vs. window seat, which do you prefer? Are there any particular requirements to sit in either seat?

I often choose an aisle seat so I have some flexibility in shifting myself over to the edge as much as possible to avoid any awkwardness. I learned there's a secret maneuver you can do to make the outer armrest raise up. It involves reaching under it to find a tab and then hoping it'll raise up. It doesn't work on every plane, but when it does, it gives me a few extra inches to work with. The aisle seat also allows me to get up easier to relieve the person next to me of too much squeeze time.

The world’s first plus-size hotel opened in Eleuthera, what are your thoughts on this? What would you suggest to hotel owners to make their hotels more welcoming to guests who are plus size?

As someone who is a woman of color, I am kind of sick of any attempts to "other" me in the world, so a plus-size hotel seems kind of like a new "othering" experience that doesn't seem to help as much as it will hurt. If people have a reason to "other" plus-size people, that's fuel to the fire for a bitter person who likes to complain. I think all hotels should embrace the idea of making beds stronger and encouraging guest to feel confident about themselves. Although, these are also things the world, in general, should be doing, sadly haven't yet. But I won't knock a person for trying this hotel and I'm glad at least one place is taking an initiative to make plus-size people feel comfortable.

Abundant Travel and BBW (Big Beautiful Women) are specialized travel agents known for making travel arrangements for plus-size travelers. Have you used specialized travel agents as an option or would you recommend this feature to first-time travelers?

I don't prefer to use agents because I am a very independent traveler who likes to set up her own adventures. I think if you're a plus-size person who has never traveled and is nervous about how to go about it, then by all means, use a service like this. However, planning trips on your own has never been easier and a simple Google search can help you save tons of money and answer all your questions.

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Which countries have you visited are most plus-size friendly?

Much of Europe has a large plus-size population, so I think they take this into consideration when creating things. People are also less likely to stare or make fun in Europe, especially in the U.K.

Have you ever felt in danger while traveling?

I like to think I'm pretty strong and brave, so I often don't feel unsafe while traveling and try to make good choices as to where I spend time. However, as a woman, I am still always nervous about the actions of men and I have experienced some harassment that was very scary, but thankfully escapable.

Do you have any tips and tricks regarding the most travel-friendly attire? What are your most fashionable, yet comfortable go-to outfits?

I'm pretty fashion-forward and like to look cute while I travel, which may be the opposite of comfortable sometimes. But at the end of the day, the most important things are wearing comfy shoes and making sure my thighs don't get the dreaded chub-rub. I don't wear heels, but I don't like the look of sneakers, so I usually wear some sort of boot or flats to walk around all day. I make sure I wear jeans or tights to avoid painful thigh chafing. A cute skirt paired with a top and knee-high boots is what I usually wear when traveling unless the weather doesn't permit that. Because I'm a plus-size girl, I like to make sure I look as good as possible to avoid making people think I'm lazy due to my weight.

What are your top travel essentials?

I have to have my camera with me when I travel. I can't go anywhere without it or else I feel naked. I have a Wi-Fi emitter that I also carry so I can use the map on my phone and not get lost. I work in social media, so I always have my 11-inch MacBook Air with me which is tiny enough to carry around, but powerful enough to get work done. A cute backpack to hold this all in is also important to me.

Solo travel can be seen as a taboo subject among many. How do you handle this issue and can you describe some of your experiences?

I love to solo travel. It's hard to find a good travel partner who won't annoy you, and so far my boyfriend is the only person I can travel with who I don't want to kill. Unfortunately, he can't always go with me on trips so I go alone. I don't like to wait for people to finally be able to go somewhere, so I book a flight and just go without them. I am very independent and headstrong, so I am happy to go around at my own pace and live my best life in whatever country I go to. It can end up being a bit lonely sometimes, but you learn a lot about yourself when you have time to reflect alone. Some of my favorite travel memories are when I was on my own and just stumbled upon a place and could photograph it at my own leisure or just enjoy the moment without having someone else there to invade my space. And some people are surprised I travel alone, especially as a woman, but I really could care less what they think. It's 2017! Outdated ideas of travel need to go out the window.

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What advice would you give a first-time plus-size traveler dealing with anxiety?

Just know that you're deciding to travel because you want to see the world and whatever you're worried about, whether it be about the flight or people staring, it's not the end of the world and you will be alright. The feeling of experiencing something new far outweighs the negative moments that happen on the way. I have anxiety as well, but I decided at a point that I can't let the opinions of others sway my life and I have since tried to make my time on earth as exciting as possible and ignore the haters. The flight will be over before you know it, the rude strangers who pass you will never see you again. You will survive this.

Road trips, railroad passage, flights, or cruises which have you done and which would you recommend?

I love traveling by train. It's so wonderful to rush along the track and see all the beautiful sights around you. Road trips can be fun, but you have to find the right person to go with or else it can be a nightmare. After all this time, I still have a fear of flying and wish there were other options for long-haul trips. I haven't done a cruise and have never been interested in boat travel ever since I saw "Titanic" as a child.

 What has been your biggest reward from traveling?

Seeing new parts of the world is imperative to opening your mind and giving you a perspective you wouldn't get back at home. I am the person I am today because of my travels. If I had just been stuck in my small hometown my whole life, I may have some toxic beliefs that wouldn't have gone away due to my upbringing. But the moment I was able to go abroad for the first time, I learned so much about the world, have met wonderful people, photographed beautiful places and seen incredible things.

Inquiring minds want to know, where are you off to next and what destinations are you waiting to check off your bucket-list?

I'm heading to the Pacific Northwest for the holidays, which is where I'm originally from, but I love to go back and explore new places I haven't been in Washington, Oregon, and British Columbia. I am going to Egypt in January, which has been a lifelong goal of mine. I'll be spending three weeks in Europe in February going to London, the Faroe Islands, Copenhagen, Malmo, Bucharest, Budapest, and Prague. And my bucket list is much too long, but some places I'm dying to get to soon are New Zealand, Cape Town, Cartegena, Cinque Terre, and the Isle of Skye.l

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Most are ok, but there are a few bad seeds aren't there that have horribly tight seats. I always check out the seat width and pitch for specific flights and aircraft on Seatguru.com.

How do you determine your choice in selecting airlines?

Most times, my flights are booked for me by whoever is inviting me to visit. That's a problem sometimes. I'll try to steer them in the right direction. I like Air Canada or Westjet, the two major airlines in Canada

Airline seating can lead to extreme tension and apprehension for many plus-size travelers, how would you amend these concerns and address the issue?

Do your homework and look at sites like Seatguru.com. Also, bring your own seatbelt extender if you need one. Some flight attendants are very good at doing a discreet handoff, while others are horrible!

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The age-old question of aisle seat vs. window seat, which do you prefer? Are there any particular requirements to sit in either seat?

I like the aisle because I get uncomfortable sitting for a long time so I'll go and stretch. And on some aircraft, the aisle-side armrest goes up, which gives you some extra space.

The world’s first plus-size hotel opened in Eleuthera, what are your thoughts on this? What would you suggest to hotel owners to make their hotels more welcoming to guests who are plus size?

It sounds promising. I think they need to have some obese travelers of varying weights to go through the hotel and check it out. Are the bathroom stalls roomy in public areas? Are there arm less chairs in the restaurant? Are there extra-large bathrobes available? Are the towels large enough to accommodate bigger bodies? Those are the kinds of issues that need to be addressed.

Abundant Travel and BBW (Big Beautiful Women) are specialized travel agents known for making travel arrangements for plus-size travelers. Have you used specialized travel agents as an option or would you recommend this feature to first-time travelers? 

I haven't used one of these types of agencies before, but I'm glad they are an option for larger travelers who need extra assistance in making sure their entire journey is size friendly.

Which countries have you visited are most plus-size friendly?

In Africa, I'm treated like a goddess! In Kenya, I had a Masaii chief propose marriage so I could be wife number three. I politely declined.

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Have you ever felt in danger while traveling? 

I've been followed a number of times. Paris has quite a few immigrants from Africa and they tend to be chubby chasers. I've had to approach strangers and ask if I could walk with them for a while after explaining that I was being followed. People are understanding and very gracious to a single female traveler.

Do you have any tips and tricks regarding the most travel-friendly attire? What are your most fashionable, yet comfortable go-to outfits?

I wear jeans most of the time but they have some Spandex in them to make them comfier. I dress in layers with long sweaters and tops that cover more "problem" areas. I always have a pretty shawl with me to wrap around my neck or to throw over my shoulders when I'm chilly. Dress for comfort! I also tend to stick to a wardrobe with lots of black and white pieces. Don't pack anything that needs to be ironed.

What are your top travel essentials?

Certainly, a well-stocked toiletry kit is essential. I have OTC meds for minor ailments like queasy stomach, allergies, and headaches. I also pack a clothespin that I use to clip curtain panels together. I like a dark room for sleeping and sometimes you get an annoying slit between the two panels that allow light to stream in come morning. I swear by Body Glide products that can be used to ward off blisters or chaffing on various areas of your body due to a lot of walking. It glides on like a solid deodorant.

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Solo travel can be seen as a taboo subject among many. How do you handle this issue and can you describe some of your experiences? 

I've travelled quite a bit on my own and it has been fine for the most part. I've had some scary experiences with overly aggressive men, but I'm good at dodging them. I don't see solo travel as taboo at all. It's a wonderful thing to be able to guide your journeys as you see fit. It's not for everyone. You have to be ok with eating alone in a restaurant, for example. You also have to be able to think quickly on your feet and say no to any situation that might put you at risk -- even small. I do find when you are alone you tend to meet locals easier. I'll start a conversation by asking a question about finding a restaurant or a local attraction. Great friendships form this way. Be open, yet cautious.

What advice would you give a first-time plus-size traveler dealing with anxiety?

Depends on the cause of the anxiety. If it's because of the solo travel experience itself, I'd suggest going slow and start with a short solo trip and see how it goes. Keep a diary to track your experiences and feelings. If it's about air travel, I'd research flights carefully and choose flights in large planes or choose times that are less busy, which means you can get an empty seat next to you.

Road trips, railroad passage, flights, or cruises which have you done and which would you recommend?

I've done all. I'd recommend any of them. I'm not a fan of big ship cruising. There are just way too many people. I much prefer river cruising which are more intimate and less focused on herd travel. Road trips are the ultimate since you can point your car in any way you like and there's plenty of space.

What has been your biggest reward from traveling?

Meeting and interacting with local people is always rewarding. You learn quickly that we often have the same goals in mind when it comes to what we want out of life. I really love learning and with travel, there's plenty of that!

Inquiring minds want to know, where are you off to next and what destinations are you waiting to check off your bucket-list?

I'm taking a wee break since I've been on the road constantly for the last month, but I'll be exploring more of Canada next, likely heading back to British Columbia. Canada is a very welcoming country. It is proudly diverse and multicultural. It welcomes everyone, from larger travelers to members of the LGBT community and non-white visitors.

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Which airlines are most plus-size friendly and why?

My larger-bodied friends all swear by Southwest and I have had nothing but pleasant experiences with them. If you need two seats to fly comfortably, they will refund you the price of one after your trip, amazing!

How do you determine your choice in selecting airlines?

I honestly don't have many issues with accommodations since I am a smaller fat but I always want to support the airlines that are mostly fat friendly if possible.

Airline seating can lead to extreme tension and apprehension for many plus-size travelers, how would you amend these concerns and address the issue?

I would say brace yourself, prepare for the worst and hope for the best. There are many lovely in-flight attendants who want to help so don't hesitate to ask. If you are harassed, speak out. Tweet it. Post it. The community has your back and you are not alone even while flying solo.

The age-old question of aisle seat vs. window seat, which do you prefer? Are there any particular requirements to sit in either seat?

I take window because people have to get up to let even a small person out, so they can get up to let me out too. Plus, I like being snuggling into a corner instead of my arm getting bumped by a cart in the aisle.

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The worlds first plus-size hotel opened in Eleuthera, what are your thoughts on this? What would you suggest to hotel owners to make their hotels more welcoming to guests who are plus size?

That's amazing! And OMG where do I begin--big comfy beds I don't need a ladder to get into, a bathtub I can actually submerge myself in, MANDATORY bidets in every room. Sign me up. 

Abundant Travel and BBW (Big Beautiful Women) are specialized travel agents known for making travel arrangements for plus-size travelers. Have you used specialized travel agents as an option or would you recommend this feature to first-time travelers? 

I haven't used those services but I would love to!

Which countries have you visited are most plus-size friendly?

I found Iceland to be pretty fat friendly. You have to get completely naked in a communal shower in order to use the hot springs and no one batted an eye at me. I also saw many other fat tourists having a great time.

Have you ever felt in danger while traveling?

No, but I have also yet to travel alone.

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Do you have any tips and tricks regarding the most travel-friendly attire? What are your most fashionable, yet comfortable go-to outfits?

I stick to separates because they give you the most mileage. I am a sneakers, jeans, and t-shirt kind of traveler. But I make sure each piece has visual interest so I can still create Insta-worthy looks.

What are your top travel essentials?

Face primer, dry shampoo, bralettes, extra hair ties, extra contacts

Solo travel can be seen as a taboo subject among many. How do you handle this issue and can you describe some of your experiences?

I've traveled domestically by myself and have fortunately never had an issue. As women, we are already conditioned to be on guard and aware of our surroundings. There is a risk is everything but we don't let that stand in the way of living our lives to the fullest.

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What advice would you give a first-time plus-size traveler dealing with anxiety? 

If you can bring a friend, I think it helps a lot. Someone who is aware of the sources of your anxiety and sensitive to it. Sometimes we need someone to help advocate for us and there is nothing wrong with that.

Road trips, railroad passage, flights, or cruises which have you done and which would you recommend?

I've done cruises and flights and I actually love both. I cruised with Norwegian and had a wonderful experience. Cruising can seem a bit dated and cheesy but that's part of the fun.

What has been your biggest reward from traveling? 

Seeing the northern lights in Iceland. Once in a lifetime experience.

Inquiring minds want to know, where are you off to next and what destinations are you waiting to check off your bucket-list?

I'm dying to go to Berlin. The plus size scene is POPPING there.

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Which airlines are most plus-size friendly and why?

I have flown with a variety of airlines, including Delta, Hawaiian, Southwest, Virgin Atlantic, Jet-Blue, Frontier, Spirit, Alaskan, United Express, SAS, etc.

In my experience, Alaskan and United Express were the least plus-size friendly due to the overall size of the aisles and seats.

One great tip I recently learned is that Spirit airline have first-class sized seats available for a minimal additional fee. It was the first time I had flown that all anxiety went out the window and I had room to spare!

How do you determine your choice in selecting airlines?

Destination sometimes limits which airlines are available; however, I typically narrow down my choice by flight schedule and seating availability.  If I am unable to confirm a pre-assigned seat, I will likely move onto a different carrier. 

Airline seating can lead to extreme tension and apprehension for many plus-size travelers, how would you amend these concerns and address the issue?

There are a few things that will help ease the anxiety associated with flying.

- Purchase a personal seatbelt extension. Most airlines, except Southwest, utilize the Type A seatbelt. 

- Approach the airline staff about 15 mins prior to boarding, when you notice they are not particularly busy and ask if they might have a seat with an empty next to it. Often times, the airline leaves the back row open for families or additional seating for the crew and may offer it up to you if you are polite.

- Take advantage of pre-boarding, which is for families, people with disabilities or people who need additional time to board. This will allow you a few extra minutes to determine if your extension is necessary and get settled into your seat before the plane fills up.

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The age-old question of aisle seat vs. window seat, which do you prefer?

Are there any particular requirements to sit in either seat?

 As much as I love having the window to rest my head against during a long flight, the aisle seat is the most forgiving.  Both chair arms are movable and the arm on the aisle can be lifted during the flight, just not during take-off or landing. Typically, the front row in each section of the plant does not have movable arms, but rather full metal sides and should be avoided if you are above a size 22.  Another benefit of sitting on the aisle is that your upper body will have more space and you will find once you’re up in the air, it’s much more relaxing.

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The world’s first plus-size hotel opened in Eleuthera, what are your thoughts on this? What would you suggest to hotel owners to make their hotels more welcoming to guests who are plus size?

I think, in theory, a plus-size hotel is a great idea. I’m not sure how practical or sustainable it is long-term.

It took me many years to be fairly comfortable in my own skin, so I understand the apprehension of sauntering down to a pool or beach full of tight, toned, bodies and subjecting yourself to judgment.

 The bottom line is that if staying at a hotel that specifically caters to guests who are plus size will help someone who would otherwise avoid going on vacation go, then MISSION ACCOMPLISHED!

My suggestion to the owners of the hotel would be to offer as many of the same amenities offered at a non-niche hotel but tailored to the specific needs of their guests. DO offer stand-up paddle boards, jet skis, and other water sports. DO provide morning yoga and fitness opportunities. DO ensure that the bathrobes, and bathtubs, fit a variety of sizes. DON’T turn this into an all-inclusive version of fat camp. The idea behind it was thoughtful, but the owners must work hard to keep up a valued reputation.

Abundant Travel and BBW (Big Beautiful Women) are specialized travel agents known for making travel arrangements for plus-size travelers. Have you used specialized travel agents as an option or would you recommend this feature to first-time travelers?

 Unfortunately, I do not have experience utilizing any type of travel agent, as I have managed to map out my own adventures with hours and hours of research.  First-time travelers, especially those that are apprehensive, would greatly benefit from working with a knowledgeable team who specialize in designing a vacation that is a great fit for them. I would encourage everyone to get out and see the world- It has an amazing effect on your mental and physical wellness!

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Which countries have you visited are most plus-size friendly?

I found that the United Kingdom and Aruba were the most plus-size friendly places I’ve visited. Aruba, as an island destination, was surprisingly accommodating to larger travelers. A large percentage of the visitors are from the U.S. and come in all shapes and sizes. The United Kingdom was not restricting in any way. I found the trains seating to be plenty big and most restaurant seating was sufficient.

 The people in both Aruba and United Kingdom seemed to be accepting of my size and my presence.

Have you ever felt in danger while traveling?

Jamaica was the first place that I have felt unsafe while traveling. The general rule of thumb when visiting a place like Jamaica is to remain on the resort property; however, there were several instances while on the resort that I was in a position that could have taken a turn for the worse. Sad to say, these situations occurred as a result of being a plus-size woman.

Do you have any tips and tricks regarding the most travel-friendly attire? What are your most fashionable, yet comfortable go-to outfits?

A maxi-dress that is wrinkle-resistant is an excellent choice for the plane ride. Bring along a cardigan or scarf to take away the chill, once you’re in the air, and you’re set!

We always have this grandiose idea of how we will look while on vacation as we explore, but the reality is that those 3-inch heels never leave the hotel room. I spent years over-packing and have learned that a few basic essentials are key. The rest of it is just added weight. A pair of comfortable jeans, a tailored tee, and a nice blazer is a great fit for multiple settings. Ballet flats are also an ideal alternative to sneakers and will keep your outfits looking more feminine while allowing you to walk miles and miles.

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What are your top travel essentials?

Adapters and chargers, galore! I have a special pouch that holds charging cords and adapters for the country in which I will be traveling. I have a wristlet that houses a rechargeable battery pack and it has saved me multiple times. 

Another must-have is high-quality lotion and a lot of water. The climate changes everywhere you go and it is important to keep your skin hydrated. The hotel offers lotion, but often times it’s not of great quality and is full of perfumes that dry your skin out.

Solo travel can be seen as a taboo subject among many. How do you handle this issue and can you describe some of your experiences?

Admittedly, traveling solo has become my preference. In the beginning, I was a bit apprehensive about traveling alone.  After learning that my friends and family didn’t share the same desire to wander, I realized that I was never going to see the world if I didn’t take the leap and go. 

My first solo trip was to New York City. Baby Steps… I went alone and had no agenda. I ended up meeting two of the loveliest girls on the shuttle to the train station and we ended up exploring the city together for two days. It turned out to be an amazing experience.

The next solo trip was to Sweden. What a shock to my system. It was my first time visiting a country where the primary language was not English. I took about 30 minutes to gather my thoughts outside of the airport before navigating the taxi line where the drivers were fully prepared to fist fight for the next fare. Learning the train system in a city you’ve never been to can be intimidating, but I figured, at worst, I would end up going to the wrong place and that I might see something interesting!

My ultimate solo trip was to the United Kingdom. I had received some potentially bad news from my doctor and decided I was going to get away for a while. I booked the airline ticket, locked in a hotel for my arrival and my departure dates, and the rest would be determined on the fly! I found myself on a bus to the middle of nowhere, hoping there was a taxi waiting on the other end to take me to a nearby hotel. I traveled even further to have a Boudoir photo shoot with the most incredible photographer that I had seen on Instagram (@laceandpearlboudoir). She was on holiday, but when she learned I had come from the U.S. she agreed to see me. This experience turned out to be the most liberating and empowering thing I had done to date. I crossed paths with people who have become my life-long friends and although it was intimidating, at first, I would do it a hundred times over.

What advice would you give a first-time plus-size traveler dealing with anxiety?

Just go! Take that leap and buy a ticket. The worst thing that can happen is you end up sleeping in and having room service in bed while looking out over a beautiful city.

Road trips, railroad passage, flights, or cruises which have you done and which would you recommend?

Those who know me well know that I never shy away from a good road trip. Even on the weekends, I will dedicate some time to take the scenic route to wherever I need to go. There’s just something about greenery and a body of water that bring peace to a person.

Traveling by rail is great for a person who likes to daydream, listen to music, or read. It helps if you have plenty of time and aren’t in hurry to get to where you are going. 

Flying can be intimidating for all of the reasons mentioned in this travel guide; however, it’s the most efficient when the time is short.

What has been your biggest reward from traveling?

The biggest reward from traveling is the people in which I have crossed paths with. I am generally timid by nature, but I have managed to meet some of the most unique and interesting people during my travels. I’ve had whirlwind romances and I’ve also made friends for life. The rewards are endless if you just take a chance.

Inquiring minds want to know, where are you off to next and what destinations are you waiting to check off your bucket-list?

With another week or so of vacation burning a hole in my pocket, I’m planning to take a trip back to the U.K. There are quite a few quaint little towns that I would yet to explore. The people take great pride in their family culture and working hard for what they have.  

My bucket list includes visiting Finland to experience Northern Lights.  At Kakslauttanen, you sleep in a glass igloo and stare up at the colorful dancing lights while they put on a performance. During the day, you can fill your time on a Reindeer-drawn sled with a picnic lunch, ride horses or snowmobiles, or go ice fishing.  Such a nice break from reality! (http://www.kakslauttanen.fi/). 

Another place topping my must-see list is Zermatt, Switzerland. It is perfectly positioned beneath some of Switzerland’s highest mountains, allowing for breath-taking views. This is the ultimate place to go to cozy up by a fire and relax. 

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Which airlines are most plus-size friendly and why?

My best experience to this day remains Qatar Airways. I never had so much room in Economy in my whole life! Also, Lufthansa has decent space for plus-sized travelers on their long-haul flights, from a few recent experiences.

How do you determine your choice in selecting airlines?

If all the prices are similar, regardless of airlines, I tend to go for airlines I have previously flown with. I’m all about getting out of my comfort zone, but seat size and personal space is not something I like to gamble with!!

Airline seating can lead to extreme tension and apprehension for many plus-size travelers, how would you amend these concerns and address the issue?

Prepare yourself. Mentally I mean. It can be traumatizing to have to deal with someone who is not tolerant of people of large sizes. But you have to remember that the seats are too small for almost EVERYONE. So no, it’s not just you. And laugh about it.

Be “physically” ready too. Wear comfortable, non-bulky, clothes that allow full freedom of movement. You can’t move with a huge parka on and winter boots! And, let’s be honest, you have more chances of spilling over onto the next seat with that kind of clothes on. And you lose your capacity to move around and benefit from all the space that does belong to you. I recently realized that by wearing the smallest, most flexible shoes I owned while flying, I felt I gained a little wiggle room.

In all cases, it never hurts to ask the ground staff of the airport if there is a place where you could sit next to an empty seat. I do it sometimes. I feel it’s a matter of courtesy for the airline to at least look into it. Courtesy toward you, but also the other passengers and their own staff. It doesn’t cost a thing and it could make everyone’s life much better, at least for the duration of the flight!

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 The age-old question of aisle seat vs. window seat, which do you prefer? Are there any particular requirements to sit in either seat?

I’m “team window”! I’d rather squeeze myself toward the airplane body’s side/window than against another passenger… But I think that there are as many valid opinions as there are travelers! From many discussions and experience, people who are curvier on the “bottom” (thighs, hips, etc.) often prefer the aisle when, on the other hand, travelers like me who have broad shoulders and/or a more generous upper body, well we usually feel more comfortable window-side.

The world's first plus-size hotel opened in Eleuthera, what are your thoughts on this? What would you suggest to hotel owners to make their hotels more welcoming to guests who are plus size?

To have some actual plus-size people involved in their project! Too often, it feels that other people decide what should be OK for us, bigger people. (Like clothing…) Catering to plus-size people is more than just making everything bigger.

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Abundant Travel and BBW (Big Beautiful Women) are specialized travel agents known for making travel arrangements for plus-size travelers. Have you used specialized travel agents as an option or would you recommend this feature to first-time travelers?

I have never used agency services, to be honest. Regular or "plus-size" oriented. I’m dreaming of organizing groups with others travelers like me though!

I am familiar with Abundant Travel; the plus-size travel resources are quite limited at the moment and we quickly get to know the different people involved in this industry! Tony, the owner, is a great guy. If I had to recommend an agency, I would definitely recommend his... He’s well aware of both the travel industry and the needs of his clients.

Which countries have you visited are most plus-size friendly?

The USA. I sometimes forget that I’m plus-size when I’m there! But that is no surprise, right?

My experience in Latin America (Peru, Guatemala, Salvador, Mexico) have been quite positive too, I have to say. Though they are developing countries, I expected a lesser level of “adaptation”. I was wrong. I didn’t experience more “discomfort” there than in some European countries, for example.

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 Have you ever felt in danger while traveling?

Of course. I think danger is an essential part of traveling. You know, the whole “adventure” thing!  It’s just important to remember the difference between “perceived” danger and “actual” danger. But “perceived” danger is crucial! It’s that gut feeling that tells you what to do/not to do. Who to trust. As a solo traveler, especially as a solo female traveler, it’s essential to be aware and alert to these details…

It’s when you lose your capacity to see/feel potential danger (even if you may perceive it wrong), that is when you risk becoming reckless. And many times (not always though), it’s when you become reckless that bad stuff happens to you.

Do you have any tips and tricks regarding the most travel-friendly attire? What are your most fashionable, yet comfortable go-to outfits?

I wear lots of leggings (capris, long or short style) and tunics/dresses when I’m away. To me, this is the quintessential travel outfit! It’s easy to dress up (or down) if needed. It’s comfortable and it packs small. Versatility is the key, especially when you are a backpacker. I avoid busy prints since they make it harder to mix and match your clothes together.

Oh, and linen… it’s really cute and comfortable and all, but for me, it’s a no. Always wrinkled, takes forever to dry, it’s not very compact either… It goes against all my packing principles, haha!

What are your top travel essentials?

Anti-chafing shorts, packing cubes and solid toiletries! That way, you can pack everything you need in a carry-on friendly backpack and move around quite efficiently...

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Solo travel can be seen as a taboo subject among many. How do you handle this issue and can you describe some of your experiences?

Traveling whenever you feel like it. Going wherever you choose, for as long as you want. Not having to rely on anyone to schedule your vacations. Doesn’t this sound like total freedom?

I work too hard for my vacation days and to save money to have to compromise on everything and not live an adventure the way I want to live up to!

I am such a fierce advocate of solo travel that...after 11 years of marriage, I have never traveled with my husband!

What advice would you give a first-time plus-size traveler dealing with anxiety?

Start small! You don’t have to go to the other side of the world for a first trip! Go somewhere where you speak - or at least understand! - the language. A place that isn’t known for being unsafe. (There is danger everywhere, don’t get me wrong! But at least, avoid parts of the world where the climate - the weather, or the social climate) is less threatening. Then, slowly increase the dose of “adventure” until you reach your desired level!

Road trips, railroad passage, flights, or cruises which have you done and which would you recommend?

Road trips in good company can be absolutely amazing. I did that once, in the southwest of the US (New Mexico & Arizona). My friend Julie, a convertible Mustang and I; and some 700 miles of desert landscape road. This was epic!

I love a good train ride. There is something kind of romantic about trains. Maybe because many trains haven’t changed that much over the past century or so… And it’s slower. You get to see the landscape. Cross small villages. Zig-zag through mountains. It’s by far the most enjoyable transport (to me anyway)!

I see flights as means to an end. To cover lots of ground that would be hard to travel efficiently otherwise. You do get some nice views, for the low altitude parts, but considering all the struggles of being a plus-size flyer... it’s not my favorite.

I haven’t been on a cruise yet. I’d have to find one that suits my need. I’m afraid of getting tired of my cabin!

What has been your biggest reward from traveling?

The new people I met on the way. Some have materialized into real, strong friendships. Not only do they add to the excitement of traveling, but they also helped me develop a new way to look at things, at life in general. New people, new experiences, different opinions and points of view. I was exposed to so many new things through everyone I connected with on my different trips… it very rewarding.

Inquiring minds want to know, where are you off to next and what destinations are you waiting to check off your bucket-list?

I’m heading out to Alaska, next July, for a wedding! Two fellow backpacker friends I met in Guatemala are getting married and I am thrilled that I will be there for the event. I also have plans for Spain in the making.

Ultimately, Nepal, Egypt, and Vietnam are on my bucket list and I can’t wait to go back to India!

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Live a life of wanderlust - filled with endless adventures, risk, and chances. Your travels are not to be dictated by a number on a scale or how others perceive you. Travel because you want to; you crave to; and ultimately, it creates a sense of joy, purpose, and pleasure for you.

Let us know where you’re venturing to in 2018! If you have any tips that may be of help, please do mention in the COMMENTS section as we would love to hear from you. Stay curious; keep exploring the world’s wonders!

 

Interview with Rhapsody Arajo by Velvet d'Amour

Interview with Rhapsody Arajo by Velvet d'Amour

Rising YouTube Star LOEY LANE    Interviewed by Iesha Coppin

Rising YouTube Star LOEY LANE Interviewed by Iesha Coppin

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