Annette Richmond is fat. Annette Richmond loves to travel. Yes, these two truths can coexist.
In fact, Richmond built an entire movement on this foundation.
Richmond works remotely and spends most of the year traveling around the globe as a “digital nomad.” When we connected, she was in Thailand, one of her favorite destinations. Richmond will spend the next eight months in Southeast Asia, based out of Bangkok.
“Like many people, I thought I had to work a job I hated and scrimp and save for one or two vacations per year. I’ve learned that I create my own path,” she explains in an email interview. “After I received my first passport stamp, I was hooked!”
In January 2016, Richmond created the Fat Girls Traveling Instagram account.
As a travel blogger, Richmond writes about her adventures and takes stunning photos in exotic locales, hoping to get them cross-posted on popular Instagram travel accounts. But time after time, the only photos making the cut featured thin, white women. So Richmond launched Fat Girls Traveling, where she showcases photos of fat women travelers.
Followers are invited to tag the page to share their photos and stories. Richmond re-shares them to her 13,000 followers across Instagram and Facebook.
As her community grows, Richmond is branching out to host fat-positive events, including her first summer camp in 2018 for fat women, called Fat Camp, where guests can talk travel, take in the outdoors, play games, and eat great food in a judgment-free zone.
“I feel honored and humbled that what started out as a passion project has inspired so many women to travel the world,” she writes.
“… I know that the work I’m doing is challenging the status quo and not only opening up the minds and hearts of fat shamers. But opening up the world to so many fat people who are afraid to leave their comfort zones out of fear of being ridiculed.”
And like most women challenging the status quo, Richmond faces trolls on the regular.
Some people simply aren’t ready to see fat women as carefree and joyful. Some try to mask their contempt with disingenuous concern, she says. Richmond and other fat-positive voices call these people concern trolls.
“People that troll the interwebs spouting health and weight loss advice to people they don’t know and truly don’t care about it,” she writes. “People that if they were honest with themselves, would admit that seeing someone that’s fat and happy with themselves and with their bodies makes them uncomfortable.”
Richmond does her best to face the disdain with love and positivity, but she admits the abuse takes a toll.
“There have also been negatives, like cutting toxic people from my life. Calling out friends and family members who use abusive fatphobic language,” she writes. “It’s important that we remember to be kind to each other, because we’re all humans that bleed when cut and cry when feelings are hurt.”
But nothing will keep Richmond from doing what she loves — and encouraging others to do the same.
For anyone thinking about exploring the world, but concerned about their size, Richmond recommends traveling with vendors that support larger travelers. One airline, Southwest, even offers a second seat for free (you book and pay in advance, then get a refund). Purchasing your own seat belt extender may also ease anxiety around having a potentially embarrassing conversation with a flight attendant.
As for fear of sticking out upon arrival, it’s bound to happen — even to smaller travelers. Keep in mind that different cultures have different standards of beauty, and try to go with the flow.
“In Jamaica my body was embraced. In that culture curves are coveted,” Richmond writes. “It’s a different story in Asia, but for the most part I know that people here aren’t doing things to be cruel, they are intrigued by my size … ”
So if you’re thinking about traveling more — or just getting started — do what you can to make it a reality.
There’s a great, big world out there and we all deserve the opportunity to experience it.