When you are a woman traveler, it’s almost impossible not to be a bit aware about body image. In the States, our culture is obsessed with it—it’s impossible to escape the constant bombardment of advertisements and diet trends. We have a very specific way we should look in America, and unless you are 5’9” and ninety pounds (neither of which many women are), you are going to fall short of expectations.
One of my favorite things about travel is that it opens up your mind and allows you to think in a new way. I love visiting new places and noticing different trends, and how alternative cultures see body image is definitely something that I have noticed on various journeys. I’ve enjoyed being in Reykjavik the past few days and seeing the variety of shapes and sizes women are here. There seems to be more of an acceptance of all types—whether you’re 5’9” or 5’2” and no matter what your number on the scale is.
I remember arriving in Greece and being amazed to see that the general definition of beauty was extremely different from the one we have in the States. I would categorize the majority of the women I saw there as “healthy”—and you could tell that they loved to eat. (According to the friend I made in Greece, Helen, the national pastime of the country is eating. Rightly so—everything I had there was incredibly delicious.) We’ve created almost an impossible ideal in America; even the women they use for modeling have been photo-shopped and caked in makeup so they are unrecognizable, and most are starving themselves or dieting.
As someone who has struggled with body image since teenager-hood, traveling has done more for me than offer comparisons between cultures. It’s also allowed me to realize that my 5’2” and slightly over ninety pounds (okay, definitely more than slightly) body is perfectly healthy and normal. I’ve started to love the fact that I am strong enough to climb mountains and that I don’t have to beat myself up for having another slice of perfect pizza in Venice.
No body is perfect, and every place and every person has a definition about what they think is the best. Iceland made me more aware of what my body allows me to do rather than what it looks like.
How about you? Has travel opened your eyes to body image? Made you more self-conscious?