Home » If you’re waiting to lose 50 lbs before you go on your dream trip, read this

If you’re waiting to lose 50 lbs before you go on your dream trip, read this

written by Carla Powell June 19, 2019
plus size travel


I can’t believe I need to write this.

When Intrepid Travel asked me if I’d write an article about being an overweight woman that travels, I had no idea what to say. The reason being that it is such a non-issue to me. But I have since seen the need. And it has nothing to do with the overweight people of the world, it has everything to do with the ones judging them.

Here’s the short and sweet pep talk for my fluffy friends. You know yourself best. You know if you can climb that mountain or kayak that gorge. You know if you can ride that bike across Vietnam or zipline above the canopy in Costa Rica. If you want to do something, and weight or fitness is getting in the way, you know what you have to do. But, if you are healthy and strong, no matter what your size – then DO THE THING.

plus size travel

Day 1 of the Inca Trail

I honestly think that the road blocks to travel for overweight people have less to do with the person, and more to do with the insidious peanut gallery of judgy people that excel in making assumptions about people.

It’s an epidemic. One that is not saved for fat folks. If you look ‘different’ than some arbitrary standard then you are ‘lesser than’. Shout out to skin pigment, height and age – which also take a beating – and mean n.o.t.h.i.n.g. in terms of abilities.

Every time one of my blogs gets posted, I can be guaranteed to see comments about my size. Intrepid is pretty speedy at taking down that nonsense, but I catch a few. “You need to lose weight so that you can travel more.” Weight has never got in the way of me travelling to the last 35 countries. “This would be better if she would lose weight.” What would be better? What do you mean, random stranger?


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Exploring Bolivia with my Intrepid group

Probably the crème de la crème insult was, “There’s nothing beautiful or inspirational about a morbidly obese whale (aka lazy woman) hiking. It’s a negative role model. Stop promoting this. Shame on you.” This was posted under an article I wrote about hiking the 4-day Inca Trail trek to Machu Picchu.

Let me tell you about that trek. It’s hard. It’s 45km, over three summits, the highest being over 4200M. It can not be done without strong legs and good lungs. I never sat down once on the hike except for lunch and when I got to camp. I had a huge smile on my face the whole time because it was mind-blowingly beautiful and fun to hike. I was the heaviest person on the mountain.


Machu Picchu hiking PeruOn the first day of the hike, I saw lots of 120 lbs people turn around. One that was heading back looked me dead in the eye and said, “You’ll never make it.” On day 2, I saw a woman crying and asked her what was up. She said that she didn’t know why it was so hard because she did 2 hours on the stair master every day at the gym. On day 3, I saw two porters taking shifts carrying a petite woman the rest of the way to camp because she couldn’t do it. I, however, was absolutely fine and walked through the Sun Gate on day 4 under my own power. Size meant nothing.


Yet, I’m certain that if my cyber-bully had seen an article about a thin person that failed at completing the Inca Trail, he would have had nothing to say. But I succeeded and he unleashed. How dare this ‘lazy woman’ contradict the stereotypes that he holds dear! What if other fat people thought that they could leave the house and be part of the world? Armageddon!

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Loving Namibia with Intrepid Travel

It’s easy for me to let this stuff go. I was pretty lucky to escape most of the bullying going through school due to my ‘be-friends-with-everyone’ strategy. But junior high was a nightmare because two individuals made it their daily mission to let me know that my size made me unworthy and unlovable. And then they spent the rest of their time making sure that all my fellow classmates were in agreement.

I hated school. I hated walking the gauntlet across the playground, feeling the cruel words stab at my sides as I scurried, head down, towards my class. And, ya know, this abuse may have taught me to hide inside my own 4 walls forever, but, I had a mom and dad that thought that I was smart and funny, beautiful and interesting. I would come home from school and tell them about what the others had said, and mom would say, “Carla, it’s none of your business what people think of you.”

I could tell that my dad would be crushed, because he adored me, and he couldn’t understand why anyone would say such hurtful things to anyone, let alone his daughter. But he told me, “those people are broken, they have sad lives and they need you to have a sad life too to make themselves feel better.”

Nothing’s changed. There are always going to be broken people seeking to tarnish your sparkle, but they are a serious minority. I think it’s absolute lunacy for someone to dedicate part of their day to tearing down someone. What a waste of their one precious life.

I wouldn’t say that I’m totally immune to the venom, more confused by it really. Seriously, why is anyone paying attention to anyone else’s pant size? I’m here to search for meaning and purpose in my life; to become better and wiser and more authentic.

And so, I ignore, and explore.

plus size travel

High up in Tibet

Me and my big butt have coasted through the Okavango in a mokoro, hiked up and over mountains in Romania, hiked to the Monastery in Petra, canoed to see giant river otters in the Amazon, weaved my way through the underground cities in Goreme, white-water rafted down the Kicking Horse and, most recently, danced for 10 hours through the streets of Rio for Carneval.


The world is a phenomenal place that needs you. It needs you to experience its hills and valleys, rivers and oceans, latitudes and platitudes. Your eyes need to gaze upon African sunsets and the endless expanse of silky deserts. Your lips need to taste French wine and eat food in the country of its origin.

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Nothing beats travel

And most of all, you need to meet the people we share this planet with. I guarantee you, most of the planet doesn’t care that you have big thighs…because it’s full of interested, good humans.

And we all know, good humans can not be found by sight, but by action and deed.

Let me be the momma that you have been waiting for and listen up. Don’t let the broken people break you. And especially don’t let the opinions of a stranger that knows nothing of your spirit dictate your path in life. Hold your head high and claim your space.

This Earth is a perfect fit – for you.

It’s time to stop making excuses and start travelling. Check out Intrepid’s top destinations for inspiration.

(All images courtesy of Carla Powell.)

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Deirdre January 14, 2020 - 7:49 am

I love this article! You’re AWESOME & what wonderful advice! Keep on trekking Sister! Please feel free to reach out if you’re ever looking for a travel buddy. ✈️

Anonymous January 3, 2020 - 4:42 am

Carla you are an inspiration. I loved your story on hiking the Inca Trail. I just booked the Inca trail a month ago and am doing it in October 2020. I have been a bit worried if I can do it, but you have given me the confidence to just take one step at a time. I am in my 60’s, have an artificial knee and carry some extra pounds. When I do treks with Intrepid groups, I see the judgement in people’s eyes. I march on and live the life I want. Do I want to be skinnier? Of course. Do I wish I had started younger? Of course. But I will not waste the remaining years I have, waiting for the perfect moment because the perfect time to do what you want is now. Carla you will be on my mind as I climb the Inca trails and your story will help me through the tough moments.

Meredith B January 3, 2020 - 3:11 am

What an incredible article written by an even more incredible woman! I am so inspired by Carla: her confidence, her tenacity, and her amazing journey.

So much of where I want to go in life has been conditional on (a) losing a LOT of weight; and (b) finding a travel companion to share the experience. Thank you, Carla, for being my “momma” and reminding me that neither are necessary to enjoy travel and make the most of this one and only life we’re given!

No more excuses—ready or not, Morocco, here I come!

Denise January 3, 2020 - 3:05 am

Thank you for this well written article. I am also fluffy, but in good shape. On one trip I hiked up a mountain (took about four hours) with no advance preparation beyond my normal life. most of the group rode Donkeys up (stirrups hurt my knees, so I don’t like riding animals). My group applauded the other hiker and I when we reached the top – turns out we weren’t just trying to keep pace with donkeys – we were also hiking at altitude.
After hiking back down, a group member who had stayed behind said that he could’ve made the hike up the mountain if I did. This was a thin man who used walking poles to make it across the room on flat ground, which would cause him to be out of breath. My donkey- riding friends assured him a lot of them couldn’t have done the hike without the donkey.
Keep travelling – it’s awesome!

Karen January 3, 2020 - 2:24 am

Brilliant post and thank you!! Wonderful encouragement for so many not only for self confidence but not to be afraid to get out and see the world on your own.

Mike January 3, 2020 - 2:04 am

Way to go! I am 68 yrs old and carry extra weight- I did the 4 day Inca Trail and added a day to do Huyana Picchu— I spend 3 days hiking around Cusco to acclimate- I Just booked my next trek; longer and higher
Keep on trekking

Jo Squires December 18, 2019 - 7:24 pm

Thank you for this. I was getting so worried about my trip in Feb , feeling i can’t really go unless I lose weight. This has given me a real boist & inspired me to go for it (& try to be kinder to myself!)

Belinda Nixon October 7, 2019 - 4:05 pm

This is a gorgeous and inspiring article, thanks so much for writing it because it is helping a lot of people 🙂

Rebecca August 10, 2019 - 4:50 am

I am so glad I clicked on this article today. I’m heading to peru in just under a month and have been desperately trying to lose weight and up the cardio before I get there. I have been on hikes before where I am the overweight asthmatic lagging at the back and my biggest fear is holding people back. I’ve been so looking forward to this trip (I booked it last October), but there’s been a niggling fear in the back of my mind that I wouldn’t be able to keep up on the inca trail, or that I’d have to turn back. So thank you. Thank you for your words and your story. But mostly, thank you for the confidence you have given me to get on the trail and kick its arse!

Carla Powell August 15, 2019 - 9:28 pm

Anyone can climb a mountain one step at a time. I implemented 2 strategies: I never say down during to day (except for our lunch break and when we got to camp in the evening) because as soon as you do, your muscles shut down; and, I wouldn’t stop for more than 30 seconds. Even if I just took 10 more steps, I kept moving. The trail is glorious glorious glorious. Go slow…acclimatize slow…drink it all in…it’s your hike…nobody else’s…don’t pay attention to the others. You will all spread out at your own pace and you’ll find yourself hiking with other groups and being cheered on by other tour leaders. You’re all in it with the same goal. Have such a great adventure!! (And drink more water than humanly possible — it’s the #1 way to battle altitude sickness).

Dee July 7, 2019 - 6:24 pm

Brought me to tears! I love reading your posts. Your almost living my dream for me. I’ve been waiting for years to the live the life I want, which is to travel. Don’t really have friends and the hubby isn’t t too interested at this point, and of course there’s always the kids who can put a spanner in the works. Out of the trips you have done that you could recommend going solo for an overweight, anxiety ridden woman who is desperate to take off and live.

Carla Powell July 12, 2019 - 9:26 pm

Aw Dee! Time to get on it! It may help to know that I have only ever travelled solo…to 35 countries now…and have had the most glorious experiences. All you need to do is try it once and you’ll be hooked. I can’t pick for you, but, choose a country that you have always yearned to see – a place that, if you never make it there, you will feel sad to have missed it. Then check out some trips. Intrepid is great because they make sure your transportation and accommodations are looked after, give you free time to explore what interests you, and there are like-minded folks on the trip that you will be able to play with. My advice is always get a roomie instead of a single supplement — then you will have a partner on crime, a supper date, a person to chill your nerves. I’m still friends with roomies from my trips from decades ago. If foreign travel is super scary for ya — maybe try Europe — if a bunch of 18 year olds can negotiate their way around there on gap years, you should be able to also. Good luck! Let me know what you choose!

Heidi July 7, 2019 - 11:38 am

Great article!!! Keep “sparkling” and I agree – those who make nasty comments are the broken ones ❤️

Nancy July 5, 2019 - 12:38 pm

Good for you. You inspire me. I am 65 years young and just a bit overweight. I get the “can you travel by yourself? What if you get sick? Do you have the stamina?” Well, I did 3 weeks by myself in Ireland without a car and did just fine. I drove from Florida to Maine alone and did just fine (I’m about to do it again.) I’m planning a trip to Rome alone and as far as I’m concerned, I’ll do just fine. People judge you by your age, weight, sex, etc. Your parent’s advice is wise. It’s their problem. Plan wisely. Know yourself. Aand keep traveling. You are an inspiration to many. Happy trails.

Cheryl Leaman July 5, 2019 - 7:54 am

This is beautifully written truth. I hiked part of the Inca Trail three years and 20 pounds lighter ago. It is a killer hike and is all about determination and grit. Your words have empowered me to not let my weight gain keep me from having amazing adventures. Heck. I love to join you sometime! Shine on strong lady. Shine on!

Jas July 5, 2019 - 7:27 am

I needed this article so badly right now – I’ve been trying to lose weight to make hiking easier but it just won’t budge and I’ve been so disheartened, but now I see my focus is misplaced and I just need to go for it. Thank you, from the bottom of my heart!

Laura July 5, 2019 - 6:29 am

Love this! I hiked in the Canadian Rockies and loved seeing the shocked looks on my fellow travelers faces when I kept up with them easily. Keep it up Carla!

Jasmin July 5, 2019 - 12:08 am

Inspiring! And all truth!

The world needs us and nomads needs the world in all sizes!

Linda Freed July 4, 2019 - 9:41 pm

My last hiking trip was ruined because no one wanted to be slower than the old lady. Once I decided to drop out, the group slowed down considerably. I was told that one woman had to stop for breath every few steps. The guide admitted that we had gotten to the first gate much faster than normal.

Jeanette Polley July 4, 2019 - 9:38 pm

I’m right there with you, Carla. 100kgs, 65 countries, 800 monastery stairs and I’m
off again tomorrow. Bring it on!

Jayne Taal July 4, 2019 - 6:04 pm

I just fell in love with Carla . Traveller Legend I’ll be following your travels from now on . I’m almost 60 short over wait with blotch skin . and that’s not stopping me . 10 countries this year . ✈️

Debbie July 4, 2019 - 4:51 pm

Great article Carla. I travel a bit and have been on 5 Intrepid trips of varying lengths. I’m bigger than you and I don’t let anything stop me. I think it’s about fitness not size. Before every trip I increase my walking and exercise so that I can do everything I want to do. The only time I ever felt a bit out of place was in far western China – I was big and with red hair – I am in so many photos on Chinese walls. Best trip ever was 3 different trips with intrepid to India Vietnam and Cambodia on 3 months away and I lost 12 kgs purely with walking and carrying a backpack and eating differently.

Alison July 2, 2019 - 11:15 am

Wonderful article. I love you so much.

Ms. Andrews June 25, 2019 - 9:29 am

You’re an INSPIRATION to us all. You’re living proof to NEVER judge a book by its cover nor set limits on anyone that a thick, squeezably soft individuals deserve pity , to be discounted or seen as 2nd best. Largely due to many with warped perceptions of beauty and strength. WAKE UP PEOPLE – Strength, Endurance and Stamina comes in many forms. Continue doing you and being a the true diamond among lumps of coals!

Robin June 23, 2019 - 12:02 pm

THANK YOU for your article. Very timely for me! I have been thinking about doing the ‘hiking the Inca Trail’ journey, but felt I needed to drop about 30 lbs to make the trip. On my last Intrepid trip to Peru, the two fittest people were the first to fall ill because of the altitude and I did perfectly fine at all points during the journey. I’m definitely considering this journey and not letting weight get in the way!

Carla Powell June 28, 2019 - 10:38 pm

It was my experience that those that had a bit of extra weight on them did really well. I think it’s because we have fuel to burn and its hard to eat all the calories needed in the day, especially because high altitude causes bloating and loss of appetite. We also carry more water in us…and water is the #1 way to fight altitude sickness. So, who knows, those 30 lbs may work for ya, not against ya.

Sharilyn June 22, 2019 - 7:59 pm

All adolescents should read this! The world is a big place; there’s room for everyone. Celebrate the differences! Carla rocks!

Mabel June 21, 2019 - 2:57 am

Carla and Lazy don’t belong in the same sentence. you should follow in this ladies footprints for a day and see who wins out. It would be Carla. Love you. Can’t wait for your visit

John June 22, 2019 - 12:18 am

Dam the was well said and broken was right on the nose people need to listen not look they need to learn not criticize well written thank you

Louise June 21, 2019 - 12:04 am

Absolutely true and amazingly well written. Loved this! If we all looked the same and wanted the same things-what a boring world it would be. Carla is an inspiration and a wonderful writer !

Elizabeth June 20, 2019 - 7:37 pm

As always, inspired writing, wit and wisdom. More, please. More travel, more sharing, more from you, the nomad.

Lois JacksonBurns June 20, 2019 - 6:35 pm

Carla!!! You have always been beautiful fun from the first time a met you. Loved you lik mine own. We had fun and always admired your smile your outlook on life and saw you grow into one amazing young lady. Always positive no matter the circumstance.
You are very articulate in your writing like your mom. And both parents were proud of you and even more if they could see all your accomplishments and the person you have become.
Keep doing what you love and I will always follow you as you continue on your journey in life I would have loved to been on some of those trips with you personally. But now I will follow you in your travels in your writings
Love you Happy travels!!!!

Angela Sprecco June 20, 2019 - 1:23 pm

Loved this article! It made me tear up as I’ve waited a lot of my life to start “living” when I get in shape… I finally started just living my life and it is fantastic! You are an inspiration in so many ways, Carla! I love your spirit and love of people and travel. The world needs more amazing people like you in it!

Carla Powell June 28, 2019 - 10:34 pm

We are not afforded enough time on the planet to waste it wishing for different bodies. Perfect moments can happen in the ones we are given…no matter what society tells us. I’m so happy you’ve chosen to take your ‘shape’ out in to the world.

Amanda June 20, 2019 - 6:51 am

Lovely! I watched a super fit looking 25 year old guy bag it on day one of crossing the Pyrenees, while my fluffy 40 year old butt hiked up and over. So keep going!


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