You saw that sparkling picture on Instagram. Your friend came back from her trip and raved about the food, the margaritas, and those postcard-stunning views. You’ve dreamed of traveling there since you were a kid but… That particular destination involves wearing a bikini? IN PUBLIC? And shorts? And see-through caftans? And sleeveless everything? Uh, hard pass.
How many times have you considered a weekend road trip, an afternoon hike, or a red eye flight to an exotic location, but you didn’t book it because of how your body looks?
The internet is full of heartbreaking statistics about how many women think “I hate my body” at least once a day. And as much of a bummer as that internal monologue is all on its own, it leads to more sad statistics that say that women are more likely to cancel plans, skip out on job interviews, and avoid travel and outdoor activities, all because of how we feel about our bodies.
I’ve written about how my feelings about my body have changed and evolved since entering my thirties. While I’d like to say that this is just a natural consequence of aging, I know it’s more than that. After I turned 30, something called Instagram happened and I feel like it changed everything. I’ve always had a pretty healthy, secure, relationship with my body, but even I sometimes feel “less than” compared to the plethora of perfectly tanned, buff, influencers that can be found posing in exotic locations with Rapunzel like locks and washboard abs. While I try and disengage from media that makes me feel bad, when I was researching my recent trips to Mexico and Jamaica, I found myself scrolling through these kinds of photos and wondering if I was fit enough/cool enough to visit these locations.
(SPOILER ALERT: we’re ALL hot enough/cool enough do anything we want.)
I can’t be the only person who feels this way, so I reached out to my friend Annika Martins, who’s a Body & Visibility Coach for women entrepreneurs (and also travels 4-8 months a year), and asked her to chime in. Over to her…
** Hey, Skinny Dip hunnies! Annika here. Simone and Joe the Intern are my favorite taco-noshin’ crew, so I’m thrilled to give some love to their community.
Here are 5 tips on how you can travel NOW, instead of waiting until your body changes to feel good about yourself (hint: that never works):
Start small and low-key.
Even though I grew up on a Caribbean island, I was so ashamed of my bigger body that I avoided the beach like the plague (despite craving the ocean daily). As an adult, I worked hard at finding true confidence in a swimsuit, and one of the things that helped was starting off gently, with secluded local spots and then quieter, low-traffic travel destinations.
Go during the low-season. Stay at a more mellow resort or an even more private AirBnb.
Those first few times wearing a swimsuit or shorts in public were a BIG deal, so instead of adding to my anxiety by strutting onto a crowded beach, I started somewhere small and low-key. This gave me the mental space to get comfortable with something that had previously been terrifying, and it allowed me to remember the real reason I wanted to wear the swimsuit in the first place: the water on my skin, the sun on my face, the wind in my hair, and that powdery soft sand between my toes.
Get your mind right BEFOREHAND.
How we feel about our bodies has very little to do with our actual bodies – it’s entirely about what we think of our bodies, so doing some inner work before your trip is key.
Empowering affirmations. Mantras that soothe. Take a non-permanent marker or post-it notes to write encouraging words on your hotel room bathroom mirror.
Most important of all: Prepare a mini-script of things you want to tell yourself if / when you start to feel insecure or panicky. Trying to uplift yourself when you’re overwhelmed and anxious becomes so much easier if you’ve prepared a few bullet points beforehand so you’re not scrambling to come up with healthy self-talk on the spot.
DON’T GO (yet).
There’s a time for pushing beyond our comfort zone and there’s a time for acknowledging that we’re forcing something that truly doesn’t feel right yet (and that’s a guaranteed way to have a crappy travel experience), so if a trip feels entirely out of the cards right now, ask yourself this:
What’s the best & closest possibility?
Instead of getting on the plane or booking that camel trek right this second, how can you experience a small piece of that travel adventure NOW?
Is it having dinner at an Indian restaurant that brings out belly dancers after dessert? Or scrolling through Pinterest pics of your dream destination and visualizing yourself there? Or maybe it’s going to a local pool when no one’s there, or a secluded park to ‘practice’ wearing your vacation-wear?
Choose the best and closest possibility, and then another, and another, until you’re ready to plunk down your passport for the adventure of a lifetime!
Annika Martins runs The Embody Collective – a body image & visibility program for women who want to show up more fully in their body, professional life, relationships, everything. Find her on Instagram or check out her Embody program here.