What Bali Taught Me About Body Positivity

I just completed my first Workaway in Bali, Indonesia. If you’re unfamiliar with Workaway, it’s a website that connects hosts and volunteers so that in essence travelers work in exchange for accommodation. I was blessed with a wonderful host and co-volunteer that I really got on with. I didn’t know how much body positivity would play in this experience until I was there.

Plus Size Traveler in long red dress hugging two friends.My Bali Boo’s!

Each day I worked a few hours before heading downstairs for a delicious Balinese lunch. Mostly consisting of rice and vegetables, as my co is vegan. After a few more hours of work, we’d often head to the beach or swim in the river. It was always a family affair and I think that’s exactly what I needed.

After years of go, go, going I completely crashed while in Bali. It was the first time I’ve felt burnout to that extent. Not only have I been hustlin’ for the last two years to grow my brand and the Fat Girls Traveling Community. I’ve been traveling non-stop as a Digital Nomad.

I also took on the task of working on a state-level political campaign before I left the US. As a political newbie, I was completely out of my comfort zone and working outside my wheelhouse. Keeping track of the candidates’ schedule and finances were almost as difficult as remembering what all the acronyms stood for. PDWC anyone? But the most difficult part was the balancing act between the job I’d signed up for and my part-time position as a Fashion Stylist.

PA.jpgThe candidate and I!

It was nearly impossible to do both well, and my performance as a stylist suffered severely. Not to mention my role as a writer and leader of a community. I felt like I was floundering because I was. Suffocating under the immense pressure and responsibility that I had undertaken so nonchalantly.

I’m often juggling many things. During the summer I work full time at a summer camp. Whenever I travel I’m almost never on holiday because I have clients to style and work/writing deadlines. But I’ve always managed, so why would this be any different? Just lean into it, right?

Zingermans

The truth is, I had no clue what I was walking into with my political position. As the new kid on the block, I had A LOT to learn. That alone took up most of my bandwidth. But I had to push through and make due.

I got through it…gracefully? I’d say not. But I got to the other side and now I was off to see parts unknown. To explore beautiful Bali and write about it along the way. Except for my mind, body, and spirit weren’t having ANY of that!

I struggled to find inspiration, shit, I struggled to find motivation! All I wanted to do when I wasn’t volunteering or styling was Netflix and sleep. I felt extremely guilty. Here I was on a beautiful island having amazing experiences and making new friends and I couldn’t share it with YOU. Not because I didn’t want to, but I literally and physically couldn’t.

IMG_4793Aling-Aling Waterfall, Bali, Indonesia

Eventually, I realized that I needed to give myself permission to take a mental health break and focus on my self-care. As a body positivity advocate, I often talk about giving yourself the time and space to heal and deal. But I rarely take that advice when it comes to mental blocks. I usually talk myself into pushing through, but this time it just wasn’t an option.

I realized that I needed to start practicing what I preach and giving myself the space to heal mentally and emotionally from months of overworking and mental exhaustion.

One thing I’m extremely proud of is introducing my host to body positivity. Asia is not the most open-minded country when it comes to body diversity. So she’d been having a hard time dealing with the jabs and judgment from some of her family members and friends. After sharing some of my experiences and connecting on that level we went shopping!

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Photo: Ben Marshall

Pretty soon she was sporting crop tops and body con dresses confidently and killin’ it! We even had an impromptu photo shoot at a waterfall.

After letting my FGT Team know that I was going to step back and take a much-needed break. I felt free to just do me. This included weekend snorkeling trips and a week of yoga and meditation (more on that in a separate post). I was feeling like I was on top of my game again.

Plus size traveler meditating in Bali.

One of the last things on my itinerary was visiting a rice terrace and doing a photo shoot on one of those iconic Bali Swings. The rice terrace was breathtaking. Green, lush and muddy AF. I made the decision that the best swing for my shot was the one furthest away.

After walking through the mud, slipping on a stair and breaking a nail. We’d arrived! It was all gonna be worth it right? For that one epic shot with me swinging over the rice field, my printed maxi dress flowing behind me…

Plus size traveler in long printed black dress surrounded by the green of the Tegalalang Rice Terrace in Ubud, Bali.Tegalalang Rice Terrace, Ubud, Bali

But my dream shot never happened. Because the harness didn’t fit. My friends joined me on this adventure supporting my need to get the Instaworthy shot by trekking through the muddy paddies. In the end, the three of them were able to swing while I watched and cried.

I’ve done a lot of work and I’m happy to say that my first thoughts weren’t of self-hatred. It was frustration that the swing operator didn’t think about getting a harness that would fit bigger bodies as well. He apologized profusely and told me that maybe another swing had a different size harness. I told him it was ok and put my sunnies on as water fell from my eyes.

After the initial anger and frustration subsided I decided to start researching Bali Swings that are accessible for bigger bodies. And thanks to FGT I have receipts!

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FGT Member Rebecca Louise Harding at Uma Pakel Agro Tourism.

These Bali Swings hold up to 200kg or 440lbs.

My month-long journey in Bali helped heal me emotionally, physically, and spiritually. I learned to listen to my body. I showed myself that when something doesn’t fit my body that I no longer open the door of self-deprecation. I proved to myself that this Fat Girl can and does do yoga. Something that I’ve always said just wasn’t for me.

This trip to Bali was one of the most trying, exhausting but rewarding and rejuvenating experiences I’ve ever had. Have you ever dealt with burnout? What does your self-care routine consist of?

Bali + Body Positivity

4 thoughts

  1. Wow, you seriously have so much on your plate! I admire how you manage to handle all of it and are still able to take a step back and analyze a difficult situation to understand it better.
    I’m sorry you had that experience with the swings, but that’s why your presence is so needed.

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