(Photo courtesy of @colinmccannphoto)
So there I was, sprawled across my hotel bed, sand still chafing in places sand shouldn’t be, connecting to that drug called Internet, after having driven hundreds of kilometers on gravel roads from our campground in Sossusvlei to Luderitz in Namibia, debating whether or not to post a photo of myself on my Instagram feed.
I had only been “gramming” for a few months, but already I was learning the do’s and don’ts of #bloggerlife. eg: do try to be consistent in your aesthetic, don’t post that funny thing you saw in your main feed, save it for your “story”, etc.
I was learning something else, though, even if it was on a subconscious level. I was learning that luxury, travel, adventure, and experience were only for the “beautiful people”. It seemed that everywhere I looked on Instagram, only the young, only the fit, only the classically beautiful (and sadly, quite often only the white) were out there having the time of their lives.
All of this learning became clear as I debated my body’s role on my blog and in my feed. The questions I had to ask myself were not easy.
What if people see me and stop caring about my blog/feed because I’m not a 22yo backpacking blonde bikini babe?
Who is this blog/feed for?
What message am I sending?
What message do I WANT to send?
What if no one ever wants to host/sponsor me once they see what I look like?
What would life be like if I was no longer visually anonymous?
Is it better for my blog to have me in it or just my adventures?
If I’m in it, should I only post photos that show me in the best light, from strategic angles, etc?
Where the hell did my confidence go?!?
My exhausted self put forth a number of arguments for and against, but finally, I decided. It came down to pretty much one statement.
This is my world, too!
If I don’t post photos of my adventures that include my body, it’s almost like I’m saying my body isn’t worthy of having adventures.
I would rather send the message that while what I do may benefit from a variety of privileges, being a bikini model on a gap year is not a prerequisite for living a full life, gaining interesting experiences, filling a passport, pushing your physical limits, expanding your comfort zone, or enjoying yourself, wherever you go.
If that’s not what my readers/followers want to see, then there are plenty of other blogs/feeds out there that might suit them better. I’ll be ok, whatever my numbers.
I’m still going to have adventures. I’m still telling my travel stories from my perspective. Most of my photos will be from my eyes, through my camera, but now and then I’ll step out from behind it and let someone else snap a few shots that reveal the sort of fun a body like mine can have.
If that makes potential hosts/sponsors draw back, let them go. If they don’t want my body seen with their product, they don’t want money from consumers like me, and they should, because my demographic is big (pun accepted).
So, I posted the photo.
It didn’t take long to get a reaction. Everyone was congratulating me for the personal accomplishment. No one was cutting me down. I don’t think I lost any followers over it. In fact, I think I gained a few!
I took my confidence back and used the hashtag #womenwhoexplore because I knew they were looking for stories to feature and I was feeling cocky and proud of myself for persevering on that big pile of sand.
On their feed, I saw a repost from @fatgirlshiking that really resonated with my newfound ethos that I belong in view, doing what I do. So I tagged them, too.
Suddenly, this whole community of #unlikelyhikers opened up and accepted me! @AllWomenHikers featured my photo and story. One hashtag leads to another and now I see that I am not alone in this quest to be represented in the pictures that inspire and motivate me.
I am not defined by a hashtag, and at first I was uncomfortable with the labels. I don’t know if I’d otherwise call myself #fat, #unlikely, #girl, or even #hiker. But, that’s a discussion for another post, and this is the method of the medium. This is how I found a community, a sense of belonging and worth, and inspiration. There is a whole spectrum of people out there, living it up, and they are not hiding themselves out of the frame.
And so I have taken the first step. I posted a photo of myself. A photo that isn’t about objectification, but about activity, adventure, and accomplishment. And there’s beauty in that, and the landscape.
You’ll be seeing me.