Plus-size travelers are not always treated kindly when they travel, and you can see that pretty often with new stories about airlines charging travelers of a certain size for an extra seat (despite the airlines' continuously shrinking seats) or other passengers and travelers shaming people for their weight on planes or tours.
So it's great to hear that one tour company is empowering plus-size women to take on the world through a tour space just for them. Called the Curvy Kili Crew, this plus-size women's group is a part of WHOA Travel, a women's adventure company, and they're proving that the world is yours to explore, no matter your size.
WHOA Travel founders Allison Fleece & Danielle Thornton were approached by Christa Singleton, a self-identified plus-size hiker and traveler, to lead a group of 20 women on a hike of Mt. Kilimanjaro, Africa's highest mountain.
"After two WHOA adventures (Kilimanjaro and Everest Base Camp) Christa Singleton, as a plus size hiker, realized there weren't women who looked like her out on the trail. In 2017, Christa got the inspiration to make the outdoors more accessible and comfortable for plus-size women. When Christa came to us with the idea to do the first ever plus-size Kilimanjaro adventure (aka Curvy Kili Crew) we immediately said, 'YES!'" said Fleece.
From here, WHOA Travel created WHOA Plus, a division that "aims to inspire women to get outdoors and take on adventures at any size."
However, there's more to plus-size adventure travel than just bringing these women together.
As Fleece explained, "Our goal is to address the challenges many plus size women face when it comes to adventuring, from finding gear, activities without weight restrictions, pacing and things that many overlook like finding sleeping bags and backpacks. WHOA Plus aims to address those challenges through its carefully tailored itineraries and by bringing together a community of like-bodied women to inspire and support each other throughout their adventure."
From March 2-10, the Curvy Kili Crew gathered in Africa and hiked Mt. Kilimanjaro.
When speaking of the climb, Christa Singleton said, "The hike was TOUGH and only 2 of our group reached the summit of Gilman's Point. The effects of altitude were the most intimidating, and unfortunately, those were things that were beyond our control. But everyone powered through those moments and kept going."
She added, "I noticed that many of the crew members realized how strong they truly are, despite having such a difficult climb. They stayed positive through every single obstacle they faced and I hope they recognize how amazing they are."
While reaching the top of Mt. Kilimanjaro was a goal for all of these women, for Curvy Kili Crew member Eve Bogdanove, the best part to the entire trip was the "affinity with other fat women."
She explained, "It has always been important to me to see and feel representation of fat bodies especially fat women's bodies in a positive frame. So being part of Curvy Kili Crew has been deeply affirming especially as the oldest member."
"If only I had had the kind of affirmation these young women have had growing up! The world is changing. Attitudes are changing."
Singleton echoed Bogdanove by saying, "Traveling with other plus-size women creates a space where you're free to celebrate your body, unapologetically, and to be able to relate to another person's experiences in the way that average sized people aren't really able to do."
"For me, seeing other plus size women step outside their comfort zones and push themselves to reach their goal was really inspiring."
And that's exactly what WHOA wants. "We've always believed in the power of women coming together for a common purpose-this ethos has been at the center of WHOA since our foundation," Fleece said.
"It's also the intangible things that make WHOA Plus and Curvy Kili Crew special. It's about finding plus size gear that fits, not just clothing but sleeping bags, daypacks and a host of other items. It's about sharing training plans for strenuous adventures that doesn't include a focus on weight loss or dieting. But most importantly it's about bonding with other women who know what it's like to move around in a larger body," she added.
The Curvy Kili Crew is hitting the peaks again to hike Machu Picchu from July 7-15, 2019, and then back to Kilimanjaro February 8-16, 2020.
While you can book a spot on these WHOA Plus trips now, Bogdanove and Singleton say you shouldn't wait to explore the world.
"Don't wait to do adventure until you are the size or shape you or others think it should be. Don't focus on what I can't do. Focus on what you can do and do it now, and enjoy what your body can do!" Bogdanove said.
Singleton agrees: "There's a whole world worth exploring, no matter your size. Don't wait to buy that swimsuit or book that plane ticket. Get out there and be an inspiration to others!"
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