Culture

The Unique Travel Problems That Come With Being Tall

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Let me start by saying, I love being tall. As a six-foot woman, I never even realised I was supposed to be embarrassed about my height until recently when that Tall Girl movie came out. Not even when my primary school teacher told me at 10 years old not to worry, because I’d stop growing soon.

Being tall is part of the reason I kicked arse at sports. It’s so handy to be tall in crowds so I can actually see what’s happening instead of being stuck in other people’s armpits. It makes me easy to find in a nightclub when I’m drunk and have wandered off from my friends (which yes, happens a lot). It means I can always reach the top shelf.

However, there is a flip side to being tall, and it mostly happens when shorter people are dicks about it. Not even ‘short’ people, by the way, just everyone who is shorter than ‘tall’.

Like when you’re trying to fit your legs into a seat, any seat.

I can’t even begin to count the number of times I’ve been given the stink eye on packed public transport all around the world because the only way I can fit into the seat (particularly buses) is on an angle.

I get that it’s annoying to have someone encroaching on your half of the seat, but I’m still at pains to take up as little space as possible. These buses were not made for people above average height, and I’m doing my best.

I also just think that it would be truly fair to assign aeroplane seats with extra legroom to the tallest passengers on the plane. Don’t make us pay extra just to have the exact same levels of comfort as all your other Economy passengers.

And don’t even get me started on catching a xe ôm in Vietnam only to have the very short driver trying to fit into gaps between cars where your knees simply won’t go.

Image: Reddit: @Sevzor / @Amerphose

Like when you’re simply existing at any type of show.

Oh yes, I know all you shorties are reading this being like “oh you think YOU’VE got it bad, try being a short person at show”. To this I counter, you can do things to be taller. I cannot make myself shorter.

Try being a tall person at a live gig, then you’ll have a whole new sympathy for Frankenstein when he was chased by people with pitchforks.

When you’re in the standing area, everyone who’s shorter than you seems to think they should automatically be let in front, even though EVERYONE is shorter than you and if you let them all in front you’d be standing right up the back. Even though you lined up for hours because it’s your favourite band. Even though you’ve never once tried to push your way further to the front or intentionally stepped in front of someone shorter than you. Even though you’re not wearing heels or hats or anything else to make yourself taller.

They’ll make that VERY clear too, but never by asking politely if you’d mind letting them stand in front. Instead, they’ll yell at you, threaten you with a lighter, bitch loudly to their friends, stick gum in your hair, follow you through the crowd even when you’ve moved away from them just to continue lecturing you for being a tall person in a crowd (even when you’re only 18 and they’re a middle-aged man). The list goes on, and it’s not pleasant.

Never mind that I’m usually there with at least one friend who barely clears five-foot (and who, I may add, have never once complained in a mosh pit). Apparently, we’re just supposed to split up.

The same thing happens when you’re in seating that isn’t angled properly. Just recently I travelled to Melbourne and got an amazing seat for Harry Potter. The Karen behind me let out a huge and pointed sigh every time I did the heinous act of… sitting up straight because my back ached from being hunched over.

Everyone loves to make jokes about the bad posture of tall people, but it’s not about self-esteem mates, it’s simply us trying to avoid a fight with every short and grumpy arsehole.

Shorter people, to you I say: suck it up. If you can’t see in crowds, book a seat. If you can’t see in seats, book the front row or bring a cushion. Don’t make your genetics my problem, I’m just out here trying to live.

Like when you’re travelling solo and trying to blend in.

The first advice you get when you start travelling solo is to blend into your surroundings as much as possible. As a six-foot woman even in Australia, I’ve never really ‘blended in’. As a six-foot white woman travelling continents like Asia and South America, the ‘blend in’ ship has well and truly sailed.

Not that I’ve ever had a problem yet. Instead of blending in, I’ve learnt to rely on looking really friendly and hoping that any scammers or people with ill-intent decide that I look too kind to mess with. I also have pretty good intuition so who knows if it’s one of these things or just luck that’s saved me so far.

Judging by the number of people in the aforementioned continents who have stopped me — the giant woman — to ask for photos though, I like to think it’s the friendly thing. And yes, I absolutely insisted on getting my own photos with all of them in return.

Teotihuacán outside Mexico City / Temple of Literature, Hanoi.

Like when your clothing takes up more space than your short friends.

Carry-on weight limits are also wildly unfair, as a single item of tall person clothing already weighs more than a single item of clothing belonging to somebody shorter.

I can easily fit what I need for a long weekend in a bag that fits the carry-on dimensions. If you weigh that same bag though, with the same number of outfits as a shorter person, mine will be over seven kilos and theirs will not. Which means I’m expected to pay more for my baggage, and they are not.

In short (pardon the pun), this is bullshit. Even just one of my shoes at size 10.5, is bloody huge. For this reason, I feel absolutely zero guilt when I use all these tricks to sneak more on the plane without paying for it.

Like when you literally can’t fit in the building.

Sure, Australia doesn’t always cater to the tallest among us, but other countries with a much lower average height don’t cater to tall people anywhere.

Yep, many Asian countries can be the worst for this, with staircases, doorways and clothing all being made for much, MUCH shorter people than myself. You’d better not lose your bag, because there won’t be anywhere selling a new outfit you can actually fit into.

Things get especially awkward when you need to use a toilet or change room and the walls barely reach your shoulders. Or try having a shower when the nozzle is only chest height.

Like when you always have to take the group selfie.

Ok, I’ll admit this one is less of a problem and more of an annoyance, but my lanky arms mean that everyone decides I have to take the group selfie, even if I’ve only just met them.

No one wants to be the big face at the front of those photos, especially not every single bloody time. No one. Buy a selfie stick.

I mean, there’s also just the pain of trying not to look awkward when you’re a lot taller than everyone else in the photo, but that’s its own thing.

See? None of these photos are cute. Fox Lake, Alberta CA / Bogotá, Colombia

Bottom line, I understand that being short must be a pain in the butt sometimes, and I’d never give up a single inch of my height. However, spare a moment for your tall friend who is being actively attacked and made to pay extra money for just going about their business.


(Lead image: provided by author)