At Bold, we love meeting people who are out there, loving life and shattering stereotypes! Today, we are thrilled to present our interview with Dean and Julie Couchey, AKA Two Fat Americans. They’ve travelled to 44 countries, and love sharing their stories, which has gained them a huge following. Enjoy our chat about dream destinations, travel tips, the occasional challenge, and undoing prejudice!
Bold Magazine: It seems “travel” is defined very differently by each of us. Some people feel it must require a passport, while others consider a day trip to a new town or attraction to be travel. What are your thoughts? How do you define travel, for you?
Two Fat Americans: For us, as long as the destination holds new sights, experiences and ways to tickle our senses, it is considered travel. We used to feel as though it would only be considered “travel” if we left the country, but with the times we are in now, a long weekend trip away to relax and enjoy new experiences fits the bill.
Bold: Yes, it has been very challenging to navigate travel during Covid, given uncertainty and restrictions. How do you feel people are adapting/coping?
Two Fat Americans: These times have definitely proved that long weekends away, even nice long afternoons, can do wonders for the travel itch! Hanging by a lake, hiking or camping have been great ways that we have heard people making the most of not being able to travel like they used to. We just went to upstate New York and it was the perfect getaway. Everything is naturally much more spread out there and since there are less people, we were able to enjoy socially distant wineries and outdoor activities. We had a blast!
Bold: Tell us more about how you got started!
Two Fat Americans: Dean has always had the travel itch, and when we met, he told Julie that he couldn’t wait to take her around the world. And that’s what we did! We started by going on trips over the holidays to Europe and were hooked! After getting married, we decided there was no better time than the present (before we had children or owned a home) to quit our jobs and travel the world. We cashed out our vacation, sold all our belongings and we were off! The only plan we had was that we wanted to have an endless summer and be to Paris by our one year wedding anniversary. We wanted to document everything so that our friends and family could follow us and so that we could remember all the amazing places we would go, and Two Fat Americans was born!
Bold: I couldn’t agree more with an observation you’ve made in the past that “There is a stigma in the world that Americans are just fat people who, if they do travel, only go to the tourist spots and eat at the tourist places.” How do we continue to break this stereotype?
Two Fat Americans: A great way of doing this is by trying our best to immerse ourselves into the culture of the place we are in. Learning a few basic phrases helps this a lot and is such an easy way to make a difference. A simple “hello” or “thank you” in a native language goes such a long way and helps to break the stereotype that Americans don’t care or are rude. We also like to adhere to the local culture and customs when it comes to how we dress as well. We always make sure to dress appropriately when going to a temple, museum, church or other cultural attraction. Some cultures find it very offensive to not take off your shoes, so we make sure to do that as well. A lot of tourists either don’t care to do this, or don’t do their research ahead of time but it shows so much respect and goes such a long way.
We also try not to be overly loud or brash as we walk around and try to order the local cuisine when at restaurants. That means even going as deep into the local life as checking out their fast food options and seeing how it’s different from ours! Imagine a rice bowl with honey garlic chicken on top or fried rice burger from McDonalds! It is so much fun to check out all of these different offerings!
Above all, the most important thing we can do to help break these stereotypes is to share our experiences with others. If we keep talking about these things and sharing it on our social media platforms, hopefully others will start to adapt these different ways of travel and over time help break this stereotype.
Bold: What are your favorite travel memories?
Two Fat Americans: How do we answer this?! There are so many! Some of the top would have to be (in no particular order!):
- Going to the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary in Brisbane, Australia. Holding a koala and lounging with kangaroos will always be such a heartwarming memory for us!
- Visiting Ankor Wat. You see it in photos, on travel shows and hear people’s experiences, but actually going there and seeing one of the most iconic temples in the world in person is so breathtaking.
- Paris for Bastille Day. Paris is a city that will always hold a special place in our hearts. It was where we celebrated our first dating anniversary and wedding anniversary and trips in between. It’s probably our favorite city, but being there as they celebrate Bastille Day on the 14th of July brings a whole different energy to the trip. No sight quite compares to seeing fireworks explode out of the Eiffel Tower!
- Lake Carezza in Italy. This is a place with a feeling and sight we will never forget. Finding it by chance as we looked on Google Maps for a fun day trip from Verona, this lake is also known as the Rainbow Lake and for good reason. As we approached we could see the ombré of colors and upon arriving, it completely took our breath away. The water sparkled in the sun and the dolomite mountains in the back rounded out the entire moment.
- Visiting Machu Picchu. We had quite a tough time actually making it there as the town of Cusco, where you stay in preparation of going to Machu Picchu, was on strike when we got there. No cars in or out! They say to leave a few days between arriving to Cusco and going to the mountain to acclimate to the altitude so we scheduled our tour with only 1 day left to spare before our plane left. The first tour got canceled but we luckily were able to schedule another, only to be stranded at the entrance when we got there! Luckily it all worked out (doesn’t it always!) and we ended up getting our own private tour of this iconic World Heritage Site.
- Thailand – we know this a generalized experience but all of Thailand was a “Pinch Me” moment. From the food to the incredible sights, this entire country swept us off our feet. Imagine having Pad Thai in Thailand!!! It was so delicious that our mouths are drooling just remembering it. And the water and beaches there really ARE that beautiful!!
Bold: Any not-so-great experiences?
Two Fat Americans; Of course! But usually those end up making for fun stories to tell later on right?! We’ve got a ton of those!
Except there was this one…that is still a painful memory, but one we feel is important to discuss: On a plane from Hong Kong to Seoul, we sat down in our assigned emergency exit seats. We like to pick those when we can since Dean is so tall! The flight attendant came back a few minutes later and informed us that we would need to move seats because, “Obese people could not sit in the emergency exit row.” This infuriated us. Not only were we being discriminated against because of our size, but, you’re telling us that a much smaller person you are replacing us with is better suited to help in the case of an emergency? Why? Because they are smaller? We agreed to move after expressing how discriminatory this, was but ended up having to wait over an hour for them to arrange seats together. If we were going to move, we wanted to be able to still sit together as we originally had purchased! As we moved to our new seats, all the eyes of all the other passengers were on us, causing complete humiliation. Most probably did not understand what had transpired, but all knew we were the reason for the delay. This horrible memory will forever stick with us.
Bold: What are some tips or easy steps you recommend taking to reduce stress while traveling?
Two Fat Americans: If you are able to purchase an extra seat on long haul flights – do it! It will allow you some extra room to spread out which is priceless for us, and also allows some extra baggage allowance also! No more stressing about stuffing everything into one bag. Also, use SeatGuru to find the airlines that have the largest seat and pitch to allow for more comfort as well. Total de-stresser when you can actually relax on the plane!
Another tip is to check out the public transport system or what parking is like as you plan on how you’ll get around your destination. People often plan where to stay, eat and things to do, but don’t often plan for how they’ll actually get to all these places. Whether it’s knowing where the public transportation stops are, how frequent they run, if there are any interruptions or how much and where parking is near your location, knowing all of this info will take the stress off once you get there!
Bold: Describe your dream vacation- even if it includes fictional places!
Two Fat Americans: Our world trip was honestly our dream vacation-if we we had been able to do it longer and not had to penny pinch or worry about our budget the whole time! Not only would it include a lot of the stops and sights that we saw, just for a longer period of time, but we would have loved to have done a Safari in Southern Africa as well, as we didn’t get to do that.
Bold: And finally, our standard question: What makes you Bold?
Two Fat Americans: That we’re willing to take risks to see the world and put it out there for the everyone to see, despite all the criticisms and judgements that may come along with it. We know that with some criticisms comes way more inspiration and joy and that is what we are all about!
Follow Dean & Julie at:
Instagram at @twofatamericans
Facebook: Two Fat Americans