Photo Credit: Leila Farquharson
How Travel Helped One Woman Heal From A Life Of Abuse
Leila Latoya Farquharson is a 39-year-old IT operations service manager for a global travel technology-based company. She was born and raised on the beautiful island of Nassau, Bahamas, and is now based in Miami, FL. Throughout her life, Leila has experienced repeated abuse, often at the hands of those who were supposed to be loving and protecting her.
As a child, she was taunted in school, ostracized and called hurtful names due to being heavyset. Physical education was her most dreaded class. She struggled with exercises and sports, and was constantly laughed at. At the age of six, she suffered sexual abuse from a family member, which she kept bottled up inside for a large part of her life, afraid to tell anyone. Over the years, living with the pain of the abuse took a toll on her mental health and well-being.
When Leila got married, it seemed that brighter days were finally ahead. Unfortunately, with time, her husband began to show his true colors and became extremely abusive towards her, both verbally and physically.
“I was called big, fat, disgusting, a cow, and many other hurtful words because of the weight I was gaining due to stress and being in grad school at the time. I felt so awful and unwanted. I didn’t know what to do with myself, and my confidence level was lower than ever.”
Physically, Leila endured being choked and hit many times throughout the six-year marriage. Her husband even threatened to throw her over a balcony. Her health was put at risk due to his infidelity when she contracted a sexually transmitted infection as a result of his affairs with other women.
“Thank God the infection was curable and treated. We had been trying to have a child in the beginning, but it never happened. I guess God knows best. I put up with these things because I wasn’t strong enough to walk away from the abuse or do anything about it. I was in a very bad and dark place, and I certainly was not happy at all.”
Leila’s abusive marriage launched her health into a major downward spiral. Her weight was up and down like a rollercoaster. She became deeply depressed and began to withdraw from her friends. She stopped spending time with them and would go months without talking to any of them. Throughout it all, however, there was one person who remained by Leila’s side and continually tried to encourage her— her mother.
“I don’t know what I would have done without my strong and praying mother, who cast down every stronghold! Every time we talked over the phone, she prayed with me, asking God to release the burden over me, and to remove me from a relationship of abuse that was not meant to be. In the summer of 2013, I finally had the courage to file for a divorce, and by July 2014, I was officially divorced.”
Leila considers filing for divorce the best decision she has made in her entire life. Once the divorced was finalized, she felt free. A weight had been lifted. However, that was only the beginning of her healing. It took Leila years to get over the trauma and depression from the abuse she had endured, and she continues to heal today. For a long while afterwards, she still found it difficult to socialize with friends or come out of the house to spend time with them.
It wasn’t until she began traveling that Leila actually found herself smiling again, believing in herself again, loving herself, and gaining confidence and comfort with her body as a plus-sized woman. A two-month business trip to Munich, Germany, was her first trip after her divorce.
“It felt so good! I found it so freeing to be amongst new scenery and a different culture. I was able to enjoy new experiences, meet new people, and leave my traumatic past behind.”
Today, Leila has visited over 25 countries on three continents. Making time during her trips to relax, decompress, and enjoy self-care has been a major factor in helping her relieve stress. Traveling solo has truly been empowering and has helped boost her confidence in ways she never imagined possible.
“Travel has helped me big time! It has been my therapy. I thoroughly enjoy my travel adventures and experiences. My favorite things are enjoying the different cultures, languages, and local lifestyles of the places I visit, and learning their history.”
“I’ve not only discovered all these amazing things, but I discovered myself in the process and learned to live in the moment. I’ve been able to feel a sense of belonging in the Caribbean islands and the places I’ve visited in Mexico. The people there appreciate women my size and skin tone. It’s a very good feeling.”
In addition to traveling, Leila has been working through her traumas with the help of a professional therapist and has been taking the steps to live a healthier lifestyle. So far, she has lost a total of 38 pounds, and she plans to continue exercising regularly. She is working on opening up more and learning to trust again.
One of Leila’s main goals is to encourage other curvy people to travel the world with confidence and live their best lives while doing so. She hopes to start collaborating with brands to show that plus-sized individuals are just as capable of traveling and creating amazing experiences as the typical thin models commonly seen in magazines and commercials.
“I want to show them that plus-sized people can look good, feel great, and be confident no matter what size we are. We deserve to be seen and accepted. There are plus-sized people living in fear, thinking they are not beautiful, and afraid of what others might think of them. It’s really hurtful and sad. Everyone deserves to be happy and accepted.”
“To those individuals, I say this: know that you are beautiful, you are loved, and that you deserve to be loved no matter what size you are. Know that you can get out of a bad situation if you are unhappy, because it’s not good for your physical or mental health. Know that the size of your body does not define who you are. Always put yourself first and make yourself happy before you put your time and energy into others. Try boosting your confidence gradually by wearing whatever you want to wear, and feel good doing it because at the end of the day, it’s YOUR life. Lastly, don’t ever change who you are to make society feel comfortable. Do you, and do it unapologetically!”
Leila is planning to head to Dubai for her upcoming 40th birthday. She also hopes to tackle Central America in the first quarter of 2022 and visit places like Costa Rica, Guatemala, El Salvador, and Panama. You can follow Leila’s travels at @darkbeautyl.