WHOA plus, Peru, and the Beginning of More Plus Size Adventures
I’m sure I talk about it way too often but I just can’t stress enough how much the Curvy Kili Crew means to me. It’s like finally finding your “people”, the little slice of society that you connect most with, and being an active participant in that community instead of just a bystander. It’s been a life changing year for me and I have a feeling that things are only going to get better from here.
This plus size only trek was only intended to be a one-time event. I thought we’d be lucky to even fill the group. But little did I know that there were A LOT more people who were interested than I thought, people just like me who want to adventure with other fat folks. So what do you do?
Make more adventures of course!
Allison and Danielle, the founders of WHOA Travel, have learned SO MUCH about plus size adventuring from our group. And it’s great that there’s a company like them who’s actually willing to listen! Over the last year we’ve been working together to figure out every possible aspect of this trip that might need tweaking for our group.
For example, the Rongai gate is a few hours away from the town we’re staying in. Most hikers who do the Rongai trail leave their hotel in the morning, get to the gate around lunchtime and start hiking to the first camp in the afternoon. Our group is getting there the night before, staying the night in some cottages right next to the gate and starting out first thing in the morning. That means we have the trail all to ourselves for a few hours and we’ve got that extra time to enjoy a more leisurely pace (at least for the first day!).
It’s little details like this that will make WHOA’s newest division, WHOA plus, so amazing. They’re adventures that are still going to be challenging but in a fat positive, weight neutral atmosphere with activities that don’t have size restrictions (think paragliding, zip lines, etc). And of course all the little WHOA touches like dance parties and female empowerment. It’s everything I ever wanted in an adventure trip!! And it feels so great to be a part of the creation of that.
So where’s the first WHOA plus adventure going to be?
Peru holds a very special place in my heart. At the age of 26 it was my first international trip. Brandon and I spent a month volunteering there in Cusco, he for 3 weeks and I for 5 weeks. Even though it’s been 11 years I still remember what it was like walking the cobblestone streets of Cusco, eating lomo saltado at least once a week, and taking combi rides to the outskirts of the city where our after school center was located.
But there’s another reason why this WHOA Peru adventure will be significant for me. There was an incident in Peru that was one of the reasons why I chose to climb Mount Kilimanjaro in the first place.
During our volunteer trip the non-profit organization we were traveling with took our group to Machu Picchu for the weekend. Our fellow volunteers were young kids, most of them college age or on a gap year. They were energetic and adventurous and suggested that we all hike to the top of Machu Picchu mountain.
This isn’t the iconic mountain you see in all the Machu Picchu photographs. That’s Huayna Picchu. This is the ugly mountain that’s behind your head when you’re taking a photo of Huayna Picchu. But its elevation gain was no joke, somewhere around 2,400 ft. Feeling the peer pressure I agreed to go.
It freaking sucked. The air was hot and humid and the trail was steep. I only made it about a third of the way up before I called it quits. My husband, who was carrying someone else’s belongings in his pack, went ahead without me.
It was an event that seemed so small but had such a great impact on me. The feeling of being the slowest, fattest hiker, turning around just because I couldn’t keep up instead of going at my own pace. And when I decided that I was ready to challenge myself like that again, I chose to do it on Kilimanjaro.
So now I get to come back to where it all started, to hike the Salkantay trek all the way to Machu Picchu and to do it while leading a group of plus size women! The place that was once the source of a very negative memory for me will now have the chance to be replaced with a hundred more positive memories as I get to experience this again with a different mindset and a more supportive group of people.
I can’t wait to see what the future holds for WHOA plus and for plus size travel in general. I’m optimistic that outdoor retailers and tour companies will start to see the demand for more size inclusivity and will start making changes if we put ourselves out there and show them that fat folks are just as outdoorsy and adventurous as everybody else. Here’s to Peru 2019!!