How This Solo Traveler Improved Her Body Image With a One-Way Plane Ticket

A few years ago, I had a startling moment on my quest for the elusive six pack abs. I wanted a six pack for no other reason than I thought it looked good, and I was unwittingly harming my mind and body to get them. So, with the help of a friend, I began a fitness routine that helped me reset with a healthier lifestyle.
I began to play with different ways of eating. I thought paleo would be the answer, then I tried a plant based diet. I turned to whichever new craze was sweeping the interwebs. I also had started to sacrifice sleep for my workouts.
Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t slaving away in the gym – my workouts were only 30 minutes each day. But even on days when I knew 30 minutes of extra sleep would be more beneficial, I ignored it and got to sweating.
I kept this up until I made myself incredibly sick and my body forced me to take a break.

Then, I turned to yoga.

Once I was almost back to complete health, I turned to yoga to help my mind and body heal. I found balance and shifted my mentality to being grateful for whatever form my body took with a proper balance of healthy eating and exercise.

Here’s How Travel Has Increased My Body Image

It was about a year after my illness that I embarked on six months of travel through South America. I am approximately three months in, and I’ve noticed a mental shift taking place in how I view my body. Here’s how travel has impacted my body image.

How I look is no longer a major part of my day

In my apartment, I had a huge full-length mirror that I loved not only for making my apartment look bigger, but also for a good post workout selfie. Each time I walked by that mirror I’d just check myself out. In the restroom at work I’d lift up my shirt for a mid-day ab check. Thinking back, I could’ve spent all that time analyzing my body for travel planning instead!
Since I’m staying in hostels, I haven’t seen a full length mirror in the last three months. I no longer have the “luxury” of spending extra time in front of the mirror because other guests in the hostel need to use the facilities as well.
Instead of looking in the mirror, I feel how my clothes are fitting. After all, everything needs to fit well and make me feel comfortable in the limited space I have in my backpack. Thankfully, I’ve only donated one pair of hiking pants that I never really liked in the first place since my journey began. Everything else still fits quite nicely!

The reasons I workout have changed

Back then, I knew exercise would positively impact many areas of my life. However, that isn’t what got me out of bed at 5:30am in the middle of winter to workout! It was that vision of me, rockin’ a six pack in my bikini.
But not anymore.
My energy level is now the top priority for my workouts. I generally feel much better after a good sweat, and it helps alleviate travel stress. I also want to make sure my body is prepped for the rigors of travel. My yoga practice helps alleviate tight hips and low back pain after long bus trips.
My strength routine has helped me complete the difficult, 26-mile trek to Machu Picchu. And simply having the strength to put my backpack in the overhead storage without hurting myself or others makes me feel badass. Do I still want to look strong and sexy in a bikini? Hell yes – but that strength now comes from confidence and the experiences I can share with new friends.


I eat all of the things, and don’t worry about it

Before travel, I experimented with many different fad diets. I tried grain free, dairy free, plant based, paleo. I started traveling just as the keto craze kicked off, otherwise I probably would’ve tried that too.
I fully understand that what we put in our bodies is incredibly important. However, just like with my workouts, my intention behind why I ate a certain way was skin deep at best.
I made a conscious decision before I got on my one-way flight to let that need to analyze what I eat go. Sure, I do my best to make wise choices and to get veggies in when I can. But I knew that during my travel I’d want to the amazing local dishes. Not only did this lead to some memorable meals, but I also had no food guilt about it.
Eating local cuisine is an excellent way, and my favorite way, to get to know a new culture. It’s obvious the connection with locally-sourced ingredients isn’t a trend elsewhere, it’s simply a way of life. So I know that, while I may be going a bit nuts with eating all of the things, they’re usually sourced from the freshest ingredients.

I don’t play the comparison game

In the States, I felt certain societal pressures for my body to look a certain way. I was certainly caught up in that, following my fair share of fitspo-type Instagram pages. I have since made the excellent decision to unfollow the majority of these accounts.
My travel to South America has shown me beautiful, confident women of all shapes and sizes. These women rock whatever clothes they decide to wear with a palpable self-confidence. They’ve taught me, whether they realize it or not, that my body is more than how it looks – it’s how I carry myself.

The Takeaway? My Body is Amazing!

I am amazed by my body and how it adapts to new challenges. After a month of teaching and practicing yoga consistently in Ecuador, I was finally able to rest on my elbows in Lizard Lunge.
My body carried me along the trek to Machu Picchu where I pushed my it to what I thought was its limit on Day 4 of the trek. Yet, on Day 5 when I was stubborn enough to hike Machu Picchu mountain, my body succeeded in getting me to the top for a stunning view.
My body also tells me what it needs, if I’m quiet long enough to listen. Sometimes this means skipping a “must see” tour that starts at 3 a.m. for a few more hours of sleep. Sometimes this means a few more glasses of water after that second Pisco Sour.
I have a newfound confidence and respect for my body that has absolutely nothing to do with its appearance. With unpredictable days, sometimes erratic sleep schedules, and unusual foods, I do my best to take care of it so it can carry me safely through this experience. I’m excited to see what else there is to learn about how I can appreciate my body.

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Travel is often a life-changing experience, but it can also be fairly stressful both physically and mentally. Here are 5 benefits of yoga for travel.
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Katie Minahan

Katie Minahan is a 30 something who recently quit her job to pursue a passion for travel and wellness. In this exploration she decided to dig deeper into her yoga practice, embarking on a 200 level teacher training with hopes of teaching yoga on the road.

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