When you imagine an adventurer, who do you picture in your mind? It’s probably someone seamlessly travelling from one iconic locale to another, making friends wherever he or she goes, or someone whose mountain climbing and scuba diving escapades deserve to be documented in National Geographic.
Well, as an introverted, Highly Sensitive Person (HSP) who writes a travel blog, I encourage fellow introverts and HSPs who want to travel to broaden their personal definition of ‘adventurer’ to include themselves.
Highly Sensitive People comprise roughly 20 percent of the population, and introverts represent approximately 25 to 30 percent of the world’s inhabitants. The idea of trekking around the globe often strikes fear into the hearts of even the most adventurous HSPs, because daily life presents a slew of hurdles for them. These include food sensitivities, hypersensitivity to noises and odours, motion sickness, insomnia, over-stimulation, and the tendency to cry when overwhelmed. The serendipity and volatility of travel usually magnify the severity of these HSP symptoms.
Introverts often share many traits with HSPs, but the main thing to remember about introverts is that they gain energy from solitude. This makes solo travel and hiking an ideal pastime for introverts, by the way! That said, introverts find themselves drained after spending too much time socializing, and need to “leave the party” before extroverts do. Therefore, the idea of traveling around and striking up conversations with total strangers makes most introverts’ palms sweat.
I must admit that travelling is not easy for me. In fact, it’s often a love-hate relationship that I keep returning to because I’m addicted to it. Motion sickness, panic about missed flights— if you can think of a travel mishap or faux pas, it has probably occurred at some point in my travels.
I truly hope this account of my own travels and the accompanying tips inspire introverts and Highly Sensitive People to become their own brand of adventurer.
Plan, plan, plan
Living life on the edge usually does not sit well with introverts and HSPs, so it’s a good idea to make many of your travel arrangements in advance so everything goes as smoothly as possible. For instance:
Request an aisle seat: If you’re not sitting by people you know on the plane, it is wise to request an aisle seat when booking a flight so you won’t feel hemmed in during long journeys.
Eat and drink ginger: In addition to my trusty Sea-Band nausea relief wrist bands that I keep handy in my purse, I load up on products containing ginger when traveling by plane, train, automobile, or boat. Chewing anti-nausea ginger gum eases my stomach and helps my ears pop when experiencing fluctuating altitude while driving through the mountains or soaring through the air. I request ginger ale when the flight attendant’s drink cart comes by and pack Tate’s Bake Shop (gluten-free) Ginger Zinger cookies for a delicious snack. If natural remedies such as ginger don’t do the trick, ask your doctor which anti-nausea medication would be best for you.
Stay hydrated: When travelling, it’s easy to forget the necessity of water until dehydration sets in. Frequent bathroom trips can be a nuisance, but please remember to stay hydrated. Pack a refillable water bottle so you’ll never go dry. Also, I find it helpful to eat a light meal or snack such as crackers (or ginger cookies) while flying and then eat a more balanced protein-filled meal after my feet hit the pavement.
Knowledge is power: Google every travel question that pops into your head. There are no dumb travel questions. Talk to seasoned travellers and join Facebook travel groups for tips and feedback. Read the huge range of articles here at Gapyear.com. Read about which parts of cities are relatively secure and which areas to avoid. Learn where to go if there is an emergency. And, of course, research all the fun stuff as well! Know where to find the best ice cream, a scenic picnic spot, and the oldest book store in the city.
When preparing to visit Paris, I beefed up my French vocabulary by taking free lessons on Duolingo.com. It is also helpful to keep a sheet of essential foreign language phrases on you at all times while travelling in case Google Translate isn’t working at the crucial moment.
Travel socialising tips
It’s okay to make time for yourself: Sometimes, non-HSPs or extroverts misconstrue our need for alone-time (or nap time) as standoffishness, but, in order to enjoy the travelling life, a rested body and mind is a must.
When I flew to London, I would have loved to join the ladies from my travel group who were running to Harrods before attending the welcome dinner at the Princess Victoria pub, but I was so zapped from our flight and the bus ride to the hotel that all I could do was trudge to my hotel room and sleep for a couple hours.
Although my first day in London wasn’t action-packed, getting some much-needed respite helped me shake off my jet lag and start the next day more refreshed.
Hobbies are good conversation starters. As an introvert, I understand that small talk is often a necessary gesture of politeness, but I would much rather engage in deep conversation. Thus, when travelling, I observe before approaching someone to talk. Are they walking a dog? Do they have a camera? Commenting on something they love is a great way to break the ice. Just remember to follow your gut. Who knows? You might bump into a fellow HSP!
Benefits of being an HSP
One of the great things about Highly Sensitive People is that we are sensitive to details that others do not sense. The little details such as the aroma of fresh bread wafting from the bakery, the gentle perfume of honeysuckle, or a quick smile from a bus driver make travel a richer experience. While several members of my travel group went to Windsor Castle, I decided to explore London by myself. That was my favorite day of the entire London-Paris trip because I explored at my own pace and created my own itinerary. HSPs are often drawn to nature, so I thought exploring Kensington Gardens and Hyde Park was a good plan. I soaked in the delicate colours of the flowers of Kensington Gardens and people-watched. I truly enjoyed being alive that day. Isn’t that what travelling is all about?
Heather Smith is a pianist and writer from Indiana who is obsessed with Jim Henson films and macarons. She travels as much as possible and documents her adventures on her blog.