The Sensitive Traveler (Part 1)

I am a highly sensitive person, or HSP. Yes, there is an actual acronym for this type of person!  We are overly sensitive to stimuli such as things that itch, overly loud people or places, flashing lights, and time zones, to name just a few.  There are many articles on HSPs in general if you’re interested in this topic.  But this post is about traveling as a sensitive person, which often brings out our sensitivities more than everyday life does.  It doesn’t have to stop you in your tracks or keep you from enjoying things that ‘normal’ people do and enjoy every day. I don’t love using the word normal, but I often feel like such a freak because of my sensitivities, and I know other people who don’t have these issues get annoyed or don’t understand, which can be frustrating for both sides.   But I know there are plenty of other people out there like me, who have a low tolerance for certain things, which makes travelling trickier. 

Recently I went on a 4-day trip with a group of 4 women (including me) and two men. The women drove, and the men went by motorcycle, and we met in certain pre-planned spots each day. We had a fairly packed schedule to follow each day, which is not my preferred way to travel, but we did get to see and experience a lot, which was fun. I tried to mentally prepare, but you never really know how it is going to be until you’re in the thick of your journey. 

So regarding the sensitivities: for starters, I have food allergies. When I’m home, I try to eat a mostly plant-based diet, and avoid anything that triggers stomach aches or migraines or whatever, which is a lot of things. The sad thing is, the cleaner you eat, and the cleaner your body becomes, the less you can tolerate unhealthy foods. Which is a total bummer, because sometimes you just want to eat how ‘normal’ people do, especially when traveling. So you have to find a balance between indulging in ‘normal’ person food and sensitive person food. Eating out creates a lot of challenges, especially when you don’t know in advance where you’ll be eating. But there are ways to do so, which I will get into in Part 2 of this post.

Another thing I have to watch while with groups is making time for some alone time. I just need a few minutes a day to check in with myself and get grounded.  It was tough to find the time to do so on this trip, and by Day 4 I was a bit cranky and snapped at my friend. I apologized within a few minutes, but I don’t like getting to that point.  On this trip I needed to be better about carving out those moments and creating boundaries without hurting anyone’s feelings. 

Thankfully I am not that picky about pillows or sheets or things like that, but I know people who can’t sleep unless certain conditions are met.  That makes traveling pretty rough, because sleep is essential, especially when you’re on the move a lot. 

Planning ahead helps a lot, but you can’t plan everything, and that is where flexibility comes in. You need to know your limits, but be flexible enough when plans change, restaurants change, etc.  Knowing what could potentially set you back before it happens can help a lot in the long run.

A few items that can help HSPs while traveling:

Essential oils: help with bug bites, anxiety reduction, and literally thousands of other uses

Ginger: for everything from motion sickness to cramps

Travel candle: makes a hotel room feel more homey, good to use for meditation

Ear plugs: to drown out snorers or other loud noises

Eye mask: (but I usually just put a t-shirt over my eyes)

Loose teas: to help everything from headaches to anxiety

Melatonin: to help you get to sleep when you’re switching time zones

Your own chemical-free toiletries:  most hotels don’t offer organic or clean toiletries, which is fine for most people, but not necessarily HSPs.  Think ahead of time!

 Are you a HSP, or even just somewhat sensitive? What are some things you do to help ease some parts of traveling that can be a burden or a headache?  Let me know in the comments!

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