The Highly Sensitive Person and Travel.
Travel will enrich your life; it will allow you to experience other cultures, take you out of your comfort zone and realize how vital experiences are over physical possessions. It will enable you to work on coping skills as you travel through the unknown.
For the highly sensitive person, experiences will be much more heightened; you will feel everything deeply, the smells, sounds, and tastes, and more importantly, you will connect with the world around you.
Upon discovering I was highly sensitive, I realized that the secret to creating memorable trips was researching and planning everything in detail. It would include days where I did absolutely nothing and could retreat and not be overwhelmed. That could mean a spa day or a day by the pool reading. The more prepared you are, the less you will feel overwhelmed.
I have traveled extensively; some trips were out of this world, others challenging. I love to chat, meet new people, experience new things, and get out of my comfort zone. Then I feel chronic fatigue and mentally can’t cope with anything. As each year passes, I become more introverted and don’t want to talk to people. However, my trips are improving as I plan everything in detail; the more organized I am, the less overwhelmed I feel.
Also, as you work on your itinerary, don’t try to cram too much into your trip. If you only have two weeks and plan to travel to Italy. The flights take up to 3 days if you include jetlag. You want to see Venice, Florence, Rome, and the Amalfi Coast. I can guarantee you that you will be a wreck and miserable if you try to do all that in two weeks, but I am always amazed at how many people try to do it.
These trips can cost a fortune, and, understandably, you want to see as much as you can, but it’s not worth it if you arrive home completely exhausted and then go back to work. Take your time; it’s better to experience one place in detail than rush through it in two days. You are highly sensitive. You have to slow down.
Some great ideas for down days are reading a book on the beach, having a spa day, and taking a stroll through a park or nature reserve. Plan something incredibly peaceful. If what you planned is not peaceful, then turn around, go back to your hotel, order room service and have a bath. Be resilient.
Avoid High Season
To start – avoid high season at all costs; this is never a time to travel unless you have to. The good thing about avoiding high season is that your trip will be much less expensive, and you can probably upgrade your hotel level at a more reasonable price.
Do Nothing Days
Create days where you do very little; I don't plan anything for a day or two of arrival as I always have jetlag. If I try to do anything, I wander around in a daze and become grumpy, which sets me up for not being in a good place from the beginning.
Checklists are beneficial in all phases of travel. Click here to read my Pre-Travel Checklist.
Get Ready for the Airport
Airports go into the category of open offices – a complete nightmare. Between crowds, noise, agitated people, children crying, people arguing with check-in staff, and getting through security, you end up anxious when you enter the plane and haven't even left yet!
There are a few ways to cope with this; you can take some herbal remedy to help control your anxiety or ask your doctor for something like Xanax. Choose what is best for you.
I fear flying to the point where I feel sick; add that to the airport experience and imagine how crazy I am when I land at my holiday destination.
Imagine when a chatty person sits next to me, and I don't want to be rude, so I chat back. I get off the plane looking haggard.
I love to travel too much to let that stop me, so to combat this, I take the lowest dose of Xanax the day before I fly, the day of, and if my jetlag is terrible the next day. I only bring this when flying.
Xanax is addictive, and taking it more than five days in a row is not advisable. So, be careful with it, but it is incredible how calm I am when traveling now.
I still have jetlag, but I arrive in better condition than if I didn't take it.
To make flying less stressful, plan what you will wear and what to bring in your carry-on. Ensure you book the seat you want in advance, and if you can’t, plan on getting to the airport early as they keep seats open for airport check-in. Look at seatguru.com before you book to get an idea of where the good seats are.
Figure out a carry-on bag that will fit under the seat in front of you. I never put my bag in the overhead bin; it’s too annoying to keep getting up to get it if you need anything.
I use the medium Dagne Dover Landon Carryall as my carry-on bag. It’s soft and flexible but strong; I love the material – see my review here. I can fit everything I need in the bag, and the medium size fits perfectly under the seat. This bag will work for men and women.
I have read a lot of travel blogs that have long carry-on checklists. While being prepared is good, the more I travel, the less I bring in my carry-on. They all advise bringing a change of clothes; I stopped doing that. I get my travel documents, laptop, iPad, phone, wallet, meds, chargers, wipes, tissues, and some snacks – that’s it. Anything important you have, put it in the carry-on versus your suitcase.
I don’t bring a pillow or blanket, it’s great in theory, but you have to carry everything. I usually wear a puffer jacket or hoodie that works as a blanket or pillow if needed. I take the least number of items I can; it creates less stress.
What you wear must be comfortable; I prefer fabrics that I can barely feel, are exceptionally soft, and that everything is loose. Comfy socks and sneakers should round out your outfit. Flying is not glamorous unless you travel in first-class, so you don’t need to be either.
Update all of your devices before you leave home. Download any books, apps, or movies you want to watch – I can’t stress this enough. I don’t know how many times I have waited to do this until I’m traveling, and I can’t update or download anything even though I’m on either the flight or hotel wi-fi. I guess we have to learn the hard way sometimes.
Hotels are also tricky. It makes sense to book a hotel in a smaller town or on the outskirts of a big city, to have a more peaceful, quiet experience but then you have to travel to visit any of the sights.
I did this when I visited Barcelona. I booked a beautiful Airbnb with its' private pool in a small seaside town called Sitges, about a 45-minute train ride to downtown Barcelona. Sitges had excellent reviews on TripAdvisor and any other forum I read. The whole thing made so much sense when I was booking it.
In reality, it wasn't enjoyable. Everything we wanted to do was in Barcelona, so we had to commute daily by train. One day we did a long tour and returned to Barcelona at around 7 pm; we had dinner in one of the beautiful squares, and I realized we were right next to a hotel.
We were so tired the thought of having to get on a train for 45 minutes was too much. We decided to see if the hotel had any rooms and stayed there that night.
I prefer to book a hotel on a quiet street, downtown near everything. Ask for a room in a quiet part of the hotel, not near the elevator and on a higher floor.
Do not plan many airport days. For example, it’s not a good idea to plan to visit London, Madrid, and Rome in one trip. If you are flying from the US, you will be in an airport eight times. That is too much for anyone with high sensitivity. Keep travel days to a minimum.
Museums | Attractions
As you plan each day, try to schedule your visits right when an attraction opens, if possible, or look at what would be an off time when there won’t be as many people present. That will vary depending on where you visit, so do some research and plan accordingly.
Highly Sensitive Person – Being Overwhelmed
It will happen at some point in your trip, so plan for it. If you are traveling with someone who is not highly sensitive, then figure out ways that what you are experiencing does not affect their travel experience.
Speak with them before the trip, explain high sensitivity and give some examples of situations where you might need to leave. They don’t have to go with you, but they will understand why you have to.
I think this is the trickiest part of planning a trip – whoever you choose to travel with can make it or break it for you, and how you interact during the journey will let you know if you have a good relationship.
You have to give and take here, so be prepared to be uncomfortable if your companion wants to do something and needs you there. Be strong and remember that the pros far outweigh the cons; whatever you are experiencing that makes you feel overwhelmed will pass.
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