The pitfalls of travel with ample assets
I wonder if anyone else has this problem. As one of the first girls in my class to develop breasts – you know, the noticeable kind – I have always been so self-conscious about the size of my chest, which insists on being huge no matter what I do to it. I’m sure there’s something to be said for the fact that women always want that which they don’t have. Other girls wish they had ample curves – girls like me dream of willowy limbs, wispy summer dresses, and playing sports without having your shoulders bleed from tight sports bras. I understand I’m stuck with what I've got, but my “containment” issues seem even more problematic when I’m looking at travel clothing and planning for long distance trips.
The disadvantages of having a large bust are endless when you travel. From a security point of view, you feel more conspicuous than ever and it feels so difficult to fade into the background when you want to slip by unnoticed. In a world where certain men look for any excuse to harass you, big boobs are a massive liability. Your best intentions when choosing attire can still result in a wardrobe malfunction, which can range from being just slightly embarrassing to being downright dangerous. Like bending over to grab a suitcase, having your shirt gap open, and putting your ample assets go on display for a roomful of men who now consider you a loose woman and, therefore, fair game.
It can be so difficult to find good quality travel clothing. It has been my experience that many travel companies limit their sizes, as travelers seem to be more slim and fit than the average member of the popular. Therefore, there are rarely extra-large sizes to accommodate an extra-large bust. Athletic-style tops with sweat wicking fabrics are always skin-tight and display every bulge. Blouses treated with permethrin and UV guard gap and pull at my chest, yet billow out everywhere else. Cute t-shirts look boxy and lightweight sweaters turn you into an unwitting sweater girl. Tank tops are a disaster. By the time you find one with straps thick enough to cover your massive bra straps and high enough to be moderately modest, you might as well be back in your shapeless cape.
I always wear large scarves when I travel and while I love the colors and they do help cover me up, scarves also add extra layers and bulges where you need them least. I never shop when I travel. Malls and shops are rife with disappointment even when I know the store and design. I can’t see how walking through that minefield in a new city will bring me any happiness.
Having a large bust makes you look ridiculous when you wear a backpack with a chest strap or a cross-body sling purse. It makes it impossible for find a life jacket or wet-suit that fits. I can never find a hostel towel big enough to wrap around my body properly when running through communal bathrooms. Food always falls on my shirt and gets stuck there. (I mean, I know I’m a messy eater, but come on!) I feel fat and awkward doing typical travel activities like going to the beach, hiking, and rafting. I hate how I look in pictures – especially when posing next to tiny fairy backpackers, with their cute spaghetti strap dresses and dainty bikini tops. And I’m always the wrong temperature. I boil and sweat when I layer extra tank tops for coverage on an already hot day. Or shiver and freeze because I feel so top-heavy and bulky when I wear a sweatshirt or sweater.
I’m trying to get more serious about getting in better shape but I know that I am going be a reverse triangle no matter what workouts I follow. In the meantime, I am on a constant mission to find the right brands and styles that suit me. I've been trying harder to follow my own rules about getting bras and shirts that fit:
I know there are a lot of big busted girls who just don’t care about this – they know they are gorgeous, they know they've got what so many envy, and they don’t mind if it occasionally goes on display. I love them and I wish I was them. They have the kind of freedom and confidence I thirst for.
This post isn't meant to imply that women should ever be ashamed of their bodies or try to conform into an empty shell in order to blend in. Rather, I’m just sharing what my own experience has been for me – shame, embarrassment, belittling, lonely, awkward- as well as offering practical tips for finding good support and coverage for those moments when you really need it – be it visiting a religious site in Europe or hiking around Haleakala.
As always, I welcome and encourage your comments. Have you ever felt self conscious about your appearance while traveling?
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