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By: Alysse Dalessandro
Growing up as a fat kid, I was keenly aware that I was not inclined to athleticism. Gym class consistently brought down my otherwise stellar GPA. I didn’t particularly seek out adventure but as a Girl Scout, I often found myself there. I have very fond memories of my smaller friends cheering me on as finished a tough hike or reached the top of a rock climbing wall. I was never the fastest or the most graceful but I always finished and in the process, I challenged not only what others thought a body like mine could do, but also what I thought I could do.
I didn’t know when I would have the chance to whitewater raft or go caving again so I took on every opportunity. I decided I was going to do it even if it scared me. I learned from an early age that I didn’t have to be the best, I just had to do it. This is a lesson I have carried with me into adulthood. In the past two years, I have pursued my passion for travel and push myself out of my comfort zones like I was a kid again.
I zip lined through the forest in Belize. I went horseback riding in California’s San Pasqual Valley and most recently, I jumped from the top deck of a yacht into the blue waters surrounding Sicily’s Salina Island. In each of these instances, I was scared. I was conscious of how much someone looking at my body would decide I couldn’t do it. Instead of allowing other’s assumptions to become my limitations, I pushed through the fears. I stepped off the zipline platform. I swung my leg onto the saddle. I jumped off the boat. And I survived.
Traveling with others who were smaller than me taught me that I had to advocate for myself. I set my own pace. I accepted additional help from guides. And most importantly through the process, I didn’t shame my body for what it couldn’t do, instead, I applauded it.