‘Travel light, whatever your size.’ That’s the motto of Edith Bernier, the plus-sized backpacker – blogger and author of the newly released e-book: The Ultimate Guide to Plus-Size Backpacking. Edith believes that travel, and backpacking in particular (her favourite form of travel), is much more accessible to plus-size individuals than many seem to think.
She seeks to inspire and empower potential travelers who may have something holding them back from trying new, and potentially scary things. She has travelled to over 14 countries, including Mexico, Yucatán, El Salvador, India, England, Scotland, and Austria with Guatemala and Poland being her favourites so far.
We spoke with Edith last week about her new e-book and her experiences travelling the world.
Q: Congratulations on your new travel guide. What made you decide to write it?
A: The story behind the blog which finally lead to the book is that, I remember at some point I was preparing for my very first long trip to India in 2012, and I was chatting with a friend and she is short. She’s five feet tall and 90 pounds, and she looks at me and she says, “Well you know, when I went to Southeast Asia, I only had a carry on.” And I looked at her – and I’m five feet eight inches, and back then I was easily size 24, I was over 300 pounds. So I looked at her and I said: “I love you so much honey, but carry on luggage is not proportional to size and weight. So your underwear is this big,” and I make a very, very small gesture, and I said, “and my underwear is this big. My underwear are the size of your tank tops, so obviously I cannot travel the same way that you are.”
Q: What kind of things can people expect to find in your guide?
A: Well, it’s a backpacking guide, so obviously there’s a lot of focus on packing, and packing efficiently, because it’s essential if you want to travel light. And it’s even more important if you’re a plus-sized person…and not only clothing. I also think about packing the right tools, the right gear, the little things that can help you, that can make it or break it sometimes.
So you’ve got a collection of travel tips, some advice, anecdotes, and basically the idea is to prepare people as much as possible, so they can get ready to face all those pesky little annoyances…like comments that people can just say about you out there in the open, or like being ready to face the lack of plus-sized resources when you’re away.
Q: I also read about some of the obstacles you have faced, such as something so simple as the size of a standard towel. In the particular passage that I was reading on your blog you had modified a travel towel by Velcro-ing two together, Do you have any other examples of everyday items that you’ve had to modify while travelling?
A: I didn’t modify that much because I was lucky enough to find stuff that ended up fitting my needs, but you know, equipment-wise, whatever needs to be worn around the waist or the hips or the body, it’s pretty much always a problem. Whether it’s a backpack, the belt on your backpack or the waistband – if you want to keep your stuff close, the straps and the belt, they never go around…or activity wise – for example, you go for water sports and they say ‘yeah we provide you with all the equipment’ – make sure they have it in your size because you could be seriously disappointed.
You have to be kind of creative when it comes to transportation also, and I’m talking from airplanes to rickshaws, everything is either very small or very packed, so you know, the biggest modification I did was to my behaviour and to my level of comfort with unwanted physical contact.
Q: What’s the overarching message that you want your readers to take away?
A: I want to share a positive message, I want to share an empowering message to any plus-sized travellers and to all plus-sized people who could consider travelling or are not considering backpacking or travelling because they don’t think it’s for them – it’s for everyone. It can be a bit more complicated to travel because your body isn’t so-called ‘standard’ but with a little planning you can do pretty much whatever you want, and you can travel light whatever your size. I just want people to be inspired and kick in doors that maybe are not even closed to them but they’ve never dared even trying to open them.
Give it a shot, give it a try, it’s much easier than you think and it’s much more accessible than you think.