When I think of stereotypical travellers/backpackers/crusties/whatever you want to call them, the person I imagine is tanned, skinny, dreadlocked, with bells around their ankles and wearing too much tie-dye. I believe they are usually found on the well beaten path of South East Asia, which is probably something to do with the abundance of full moon, half moon, black moon, no moon and any excuse to party parties. The feature I'm going to focus on in this article, is the 'skinny'.
A typical diet for a local in, say, Thailand, is three meals a day, usually consisting of steamed rice, vegetables, with grilled fish and/or meat of some kind. They supplement their diet with regular snacks such as soup, papaya salad and chicken feet. Being a tropical country, they also have access to fruits such as pineapples, mangos, dragon fruit, durians and bananas, literally at the side of the road. Die hard travellers would consider it blasphemy to go travelling and eat anything other than the local fare, and I suspect, this is why they usually stay so slim. That, plus, it's a lot cheaper. Whatever the reason behind it is, the truth remains; I will never look that good in harem pants. Yes, that's right, this article really is about my self esteem issues.
I'm on holiday, a once in a lifetime experience if you will, so why am I writing about my vanity? Well, this is actually quite new for me. I usually write about normal travel related subjects, like the weather in Bangkok, or the cost of bicycle hire in Melaka. But just because I'm on the other side of the world, doesn't mean my girl-worries have gone away. In fact, spending a lot of time posing for pictures, in a bikini, or chatting to beautiful, exotic women has only made me more aware of my delicate ego.
Before you say it, yes , I know! I'm in a less developed country than my own, I'm meant to be focusing on others, not myself...and most of the time, I am! Honest! But when I look in that mirror and see my growing paunch, I can't help but think, god damn you travelling! What have you done to me? I've not been able to find a relative statistic, but there are definitely lots of people who are planning to travel, are travelling or just like to read about it, so it may be self indulgent but I think this subject deserves a little attention.
Let me start by explaining my weight gain... Sometimes, travelling can be boring. I won't go into details, as that's another subject for another day, but on days that I just don't feel like being cultured or touristy, I have a lot of spare time on my hands. Being young and British, I (more often than not) spend that time drinking, smoking and eating far more than I should. I can't eat street food all day, or worse, be a vegetarian...or even worse, a vegan! It doesn't matter what country I'm in, I like beer, and I like pizza. And I really like cheesecake. This, plus the fact that I have only one or two meals a day, which any nutritionist will tell you is bound to result in weight gain, means that travelling has made me fat.
Perhaps I spent too long working in the fashion industry, and it's altered my perception of what fat, thin or healthy really is. In fact, I worked as a model booker in a London model agency, so I was constantly surrounded by the golden brown, waif like creatures that I so long to be. Thanks to the low temperatures England is used to, I could wear layers and easily hide my fluctuating weight back home, but it's not so easy in a bikini, and there's only so much sucking in I can do. Why not work out, you say? Because a gym membership is not in my budget and I'm not going for a run in 40 degree heat and 80% humidity. Also, I didn't pack my nikes.
To make it worse, travelling (even with a partner) can be very lonely, and there are times when I seek the comfort that I can't get from nearby friends, family or a permanent home. Usually that comfort comes from food, and/or drinking, which can also serve as a ice breaker between myself and the potential friends I wish for.
So, what's the conclusion? As a girl that loves pudding way too much, I can't and won't diet. I downloaded an app that logs my calories, but it didn't help, because it doesn't actually stop me consuming them. I try to eat a lot of fruit, but apparently sugar is bad for you. I drink spirits instead of beer, but being that drunk ain't cool either. As I said before, exercise isn't really an option, I'm already far too sweaty. So, that leaves me with get over it, right? Right. The further I distance myself from the world of models and measurements, the less bothered I become. I know I've moaned and whined my way through this article, but that's because I think a lot of girls will relate to those feelings. I'll always get a little envious when I see girls on the beach with bodies like barbie, but I am also thankful for what I have.
I may be carrying a little extra weight home with me, but I'll also have experiences that wouldn't have happened if I hadn't gone travelling and got a little bit fat.