Do you want to enjoy traveling as a highly sensitive person? In this guest article, coach Enid De Jesus shares 7 valuable travel tips for highly sensitive people.
Estimated reading time: 9 minutes
Traveling is one of the best ways for Highly Sensitive People (HSPs) to take in new sights, experience different cultures, and discover the depths of themselves. However, is the anxiety, overstimulation, and sensory overload that can come with travel worth it?
As an HSP, travel can feel deeply appealing and incredibly overwhelming. Yes, you want to go smell the lavender fields of Provence, but what about the overwhelming smell of 100+ people in a plane that requires you to get there? How can a sensitive person manage?
You may feel like you are stuck choosing the lesser of two evils. You enjoy the predictability and comfort of your home, but you feel bored, uninspired, and left craving more novelty. Or you dive deep into your wanderlust but are left freewheeling between excitement and sensory overload on your excursions.
This is not your only option! As a world traveler, mental health therapist, and coach for introverted HSP women, I’ve discovered how to embrace your sensitivity and your sense of adventure, with minimal overwhelm.
Let me show you my HSP travel hacks so you can travel the world as a sensitive soul while enjoying the process. Here’s how to pursue your travel dreams, on your terms.
Here’s What You’ll Learn:
- #1: Choose quality over quantity
- #2: Choose your travel partner(s) wisely – or go solo
- #3: Roll with the punches and welcome the unexpected
- #4: Schedule rest and “go-with-the-flow” days
- #5: Ensure you have a quiet, sensory-friendly space to retreat
- #6: Plan time for reflection
- #7: Bring comfort items to soothe your senses
- Find more peace in a fast-paced world?
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#1: Choose quality over quantity
It’s so tempting to cram in as much as possible, especially if you are visiting a place that’s really exciting to you. Since you’re spending all this time and money in a new place, you need to see as much as you can, right? Wrong! This is what non-sensitives may encourage, but trying to cram in as much as possible during your travels will only result in fatigue and overstimulation.
The answer: You can’t see everything, but you can see what’s important to you. Before you travel, make a list of the top 1 to 2 things you’d like to experience on your trip. Ensure that your time and energy go to seeing those places, and allow yourself a pass if you don’t have the energy to see the lower items on your list.
Focusing on quality over quantity results in a richer experience for you. When you allow yourself more time to experience a single attraction, you’ll be allowing your sensitive brain the opportunity to soak in every small detail of the experience.
#2: Choose your travel partner(s) wisely – or go solo
Before I embraced my sensitivity, I went on summer trips with my large, Puerto Rican family. They like to go-go-go from sun up to sun down, moving quickly from one attraction to the next, with little rest. Looking back, no wonder I was so overstimulated, even though I truly loved the places we were visiting. I feared I just wasn’t cut out for traveling – but I was just traveling with the wrong people, at the wrong pace.
We have all been on a trip where your travel partner can make – or break – your experience, no matter how idyllic the destination. That’s why it’s so important, especially as an HSP, to know your temperament and your travel preferences before you pack your bags so that you can carefully consider who you travel with.
Be upfront with your travel partner before the trip so that you can communicate before you’re cranky after an unexpected 8-hour layover in Italy. If your travel partner is also an HSP, it will be especially important to be on the same page so that you both can plan and anticipate if one (or both!) of you gets sensory overwhelm. (Use this list as a guide in your discussion!)
It’s also okay to give yourself unapologetic permission to travel solo. Some of my favorite trips have been by myself, going at my own pace, on my timeline. If you’re wary about traveling alone, there are countless blogs and social media channels that can teach you how to safely travel solo – and enjoy the experience.
#3: Roll with the punches and welcome the unexpected
Missed flights. Losing baggage. Stolen money. Misplacing your passport. Using the wrong directions. The possibilities of what could go awry when you travel abroad are limitless.
I’m no stranger to plans going off the rails during my world travels. During one of my trips, I got food poisoning and could not leave my hotel for 3 days, except to get Gatorade and saltine crackers. In between gastrointestinal symptoms and watching soap operas in a foreign language, I felt angry and guilty that I was wasting my time in a beautiful country laying in bed. In reality, I was making my vacation worse with this mindset. I decided that my vacation is going to look how I want it to, and that meant allowing my body to heal and not pushing it. This allowed me to bounce back quicker and enjoy the rest of my time.
HSPs are naturally gifted at anticipating all possible outcomes of a situation, which means that you might be prepared for when your trip goes off script. But planning for delays is not the same as embracing them. I invite you to also embrace a mindset of allowing the unexpected, and seeing how it might be a gift – a moment to pause and rest, or to tap into strengths you didn’t know you had. This can help you feel less overwhelmed and more in control when something does go awry.
#4: Schedule rest and “go-with-the-flow” days
To enjoy your travels as a sensitive being, you must allow yourself downtime. While it’s tempting to pack every day to the brim with sights and activities, that is a surefire way to crash into HSP overload. It’s okay to take breaks and have quiet time during your travels. Schedule time for rest and relaxation so you don’t become overwhelmed.
Here’s my best trick to make sure I don’t overbook. I look at my travel itinerary and ask: ‘Is this how my schedule would look at home?”
When I’m home would I go on a 8-mile hike every day, for 3 days in a row? No! If I were home, would I travel for 16 hours and expect myself to just pop up like a daisy the next day? No. I need rest after those events. Use this trick to see where your schedule is unrealistic and adjust accordingly.
Another HSP travel hack: Allow ‘go-with-the-flow’ days. There are days with no plans, you get to wake up and see what you feel like doing. My best memory of travel has been on these days. Sometimes the best moments of travel happen when you allow yourself to be spontaneous and go with your feelings, not your itinerary. Leave some room in your schedule for unexpected adventures, and don’t be afraid to deviate from your plan if something interesting catches your eye.
#5: Ensure you have a quiet, sensory-friendly space to retreat
It’s important for you to have a quiet, sensory-friendly place to land during your travels. This can look different for each person. For me, I make sure I have my own room and my own bathroom because this allows me to completely rest in-between excursions. If that’s not possible, you and your travel partner might coordinate times when each person gets the room to themselves to unplug. Make sure to look for accommodations that are quiet, peaceful, and have minimal distractions. You might book a room away from the elevator or main road to reduce noise levels.
You’ll want to be thoughtful about lodging and know what causes overstimulation for you, knowing that there may be trade-offs. For example, you choose to stay further out of the city where it’s quieter, but you will need to plan extra time to take public transport to the city’s destination. Perhaps driving in a foreign place is stressful for you, so you might stay in a busier part of the city. Despite the extra noise, this actually feels less overwhelming to you, because you know you can walk wherever you need. Using your skill of self-awareness will help you know the right setting and environment for you.
#6: Plan time for reflection
In addition to planning for downtime, you’ll want to include time for reflection. One option is to bring a travel journal. Writing can be a therapeutic way to process emotions and reflect on experiences. You can even use this journal to draw or sketch scenes and savor your surroundings. You can start writing in this journal before the trip to help manage any anxiety or trepidation.
If you choose to bring a small journal with you on your travels, take some time each day to either jot down your thoughts and feelings. This can help you stay grounded and present in the moment and also serve as a powerful memento of your trip. On your rest days, you can review your notes, as well as add new reflections on your travel experiences.
If you are traveling with a partner or group of friends, you can take turns writing down your thoughts and experiences. At the end of the trip, you have a special token of the group experience. You can make a digital copy of the journal so everyone has a reminder of the trip – or alternate who gets to keep the journal.
#7: Bring comfort items to soothe your senses
The gift of being sensitive means you can actually use your senses to help ground and soothe you during your trip. Smelling something familiar can help ground you and reduce anxiety. Your sense of smell is powerful and can be used to help create a sense of comfort and familiarity in unfamiliar environments. Bring a small TSA-friendly-sized bottle of your favorite scent, as hand lotion or essential oil, to use during your travels.
Tune into the power of music and create a travel playlist. Music is a powerful tool for mood regulation. Create a playlist of your favorite songs that help you feel relaxed and happy, and listen to it when you’re having a stressful travel experience. You can also listen to music with noise-canceling headphones to block out unwanted noise, like the sounds of a busy airport or train station.
Your travel dreams can be a reality – sooner than you think.
While it might seem contrary to your sensitive nature, you can travel the world – and enjoy it – as a Highly Sensitive Person. Your gifts can actually be powerful tools to help calm, center, and enhance your travel experience. The world is waiting for you to experience it – go ahead and book your trip!
Find more peace in a fast-paced world?
Hey! It’s Enid De Jesus, a world traveler, therapist, and coach for introverted, sensitive women. Check out my free resource Become a Radical Introvert: How to Find Peace In A Fast-Paced World to start to fully honor and celebrate your sensitivity today. Learn more at TheRadicalIntrovert.com.