Has this happened to you?
You spend months — or years — planning the perfect get-away. You’re finally taking a much-needed break from work or the kids. You’re going to explore that place you’ve always dreamed of visiting.
Bliss and relaxation will finally be yours.
But then the long-awaited vacation arrives, and you feel anything but relaxed. In fact, you feel downright exhausted, frazzled, and stressed.
This isn’t the way it was supposed to be.
Let’s explore why travel can turn into one big source of drain for introverts and highly sensitive people (HSPs) — even though they’re drawn to it. I’ll also share some tips from an introvert/HSP travel expert to help you make vacations relaxing again.
Why Introverts and HSPs Are Drawn to Travel
Although travel can be overwhelming for some introverts and HSPs, there are plenty of good reasons we’re drawn to it. Losing yourself in a faraway place is magical. And not only does travel capture our imagination, but it’s also rich with opportunities for meaning.
Introverts and sensitive people are “often drawn to the sense of meaning and inevitable transformation that comes from experiencing a new part of the world,” travel expert Melissa Renzi told me. Renzi leads retreats to Peru and Guatemala just for introverts and HSPs.
And, because introverts and HSPs tend to be highly observant, “travel can be enriching as we take in the details of our surroundings. And sometimes, when we step into unknown territory, we feel greater permission to be ourselves.”
If travel is supposed to be magical, why do introverts and HSPs often end up stressed?
Introverts and HSPs Process Things Deeply
For introverts and HSPs, the stress usually begins before they even leave the house.
That’s because they process things deeply. For HSPs, this looks like processing all kinds of stimulation deeply — including emotional and environmental stimuli — according to Dr. Elaine Aron, author of The Highly Sensitive Person. For introverts, it has more to do with them having a very active mind.
This causes both introverts and HSPs to think deeply about things and to look at issues from many different angles. And this can lead to stress and anxiety when getting ready for a trip.
When planning a trip, there are so many things to consider — where to stay, what to do, what to pack, etc. Not only do introverts and HSPs think about the fun they’ll have on their vacation but also about all the things that could go wrong. What if it rains? Will I be safe? Will my shoes be comfortable? And on and on.
Pre-travel anxiety can shut down our wildest vacation dreams before they even take flight. Or, at the very least, it can leave us worn out before we even reach our destination.
The Problem of Overstimulation
If we manage to actually get out the door, introverts and HSPs then face overstimulation at their destination.
“Travel situations with an abundance of sensory stimulation can overload the HSP’s nervous system,” Renzi explained. “Introverts forced into constant socializing can wind up depleted.”
That’s right, travel can actually be quite unpleasant for introverts and HSPs.
Highly sensitive people pick up on subtleties in their environment — again, it has to do with their depth of processing. They notice details that others might miss, from the way the sunlight looks on an early autumn morning to the anger emanating from a pair of strangers having a fight.
Noticing these subtleties enriches the HSP’s life, often making them highly creative. But when you notice every little thing, it can add up fast.
It’s a similar problem for introverts, who can also get overloaded in busy environments.
Many introverts and HSPs find comfort in routine and familiar environments because familiarity is less stimulating. When you’re vacationing in a new place, all that familiarity goes out the window.
Introverts and HSPs aren’t the only ones to experience tiredness and stress while traveling. This well-documented phenomenon has been dubbed “travel fatigue” or “vacation overwhelm” by others. But for introverts and HSPs, it can be even worse.
So Many Things to Do
A final reason vacations can be exhausting for introverts and HSPs has to do with this familiar problem: We only have X days here, so we have to make them count!
When you book the trip of a lifetime — paying all that money, taking all that time off work, and spending all that time planning — you feel compelled to make the most of it. You dash from one tourist spot to the next, intent on not missing a thing.
And while all that busyness would tire anyone out, it’s especially wearisome to introverts and HSPs, who need plenty of downtime to recharge from the overstimulation they face. Often, they’re the ones coming home saying, “I need a vacation to recover from my vacation!”
How to Make Vacations Relaxing Again
So what are introverts and HSPs supposed to do?
Travel doesn’t have to be exhausting. Here are five tips from Renzi:
1. Avoid over-scheduling by making deliberate choices.
Think about the environments that feed you. Then think about the environments that drain you. Does a casual stroll through an art museum sound relaxing, whereas partying at Oktoberfest sounds like a nightmare? Make deliberate choices about your travel destination and the kinds of activities you’ll do once you get there. The choices you make on your trip should make you feel good.
2. Tell others about your introversion or high sensitivity.
When traveling with others, be upfront about your needs. Introverts and HSPs often feel the need to hide their personality traits. But casually sharing in conversation that you’re an introvert and/or HSP does a few things:
- It sets the stage for having your needs respected.
- It offers a chance to dispel myths about introversion and high sensitivity.
- It serves as a bridge to deeper conversation (something both introverts and HSPs crave).
- It helps us find other like-minded companions, which can lead to new compatible relationships.
3. Narrow your list of “must-sees.”
Busy environments and crowds can overwhelm introverts and HSPs, so give yourself permission to skip them. Try choosing just one or two tourist hotspots then calling it good.
4. Build buffer days into your vacation.
And make them non-negotiable. You might make the first day after arriving at your destination a buffer day. Or the day after the trip is over, where you’re doing nothing but recovering.
Your buffer day might mean relaxing in your hotel room and ordering room service. Or doing an activity on your own (being alone lowers your stimulation level). After the trip, it might mean unpacking, cleaning up, and getting some R&R.
Here’s the trick: The only way to get your buffer day is to firmly schedule it. It won’t just magically happen, so this is the time to be your own advocate.
5. Give yourself permission to change plans.
Even when you build downtime into your trip, it may not be enough. You may need to let go of some things and adjust your plan when necessary to take care of yourself. When we allow our trip to adapt to us instead of the other way around, we can find ourselves in a much more meaningful experience.
Introvert and HSP Retreat to Peru
Want to take the stress out of travel, and experience what it’s like to vacation with other introverts and HSPs? Renzi still has spots available for her upcoming retreat to Peru, April 13-20, 2019. See details here.
You’ll wake up in the stunning landscape of the Andes Mountains and see Machu Picchu, one of the Seven Wonders of the World — all in a way that honors your need for downtime and calm.
What is it really like to travel with other introverts and HSPs?
“It was an acceptance I’ve never felt before in my life and I’ve been searching for since I was a kid,” said Marian M., who recently returned from one of Renzi’s retreats. “It was reinforcement that there are people out there who understand.”
The final deadline to book is Dec. 15, 2018. Introvert, Dear readers can get $50 off by using the code INTRODEAR50. You can book here.
You might like:
- 6 Gorgeous and Secluded Vacation Spots for Introverts
- 25 Illustrations That Perfectly Capture the Joy of Living Alone as an Introvert
- For Many Introverts, the Pain of Overthinking Is Real
- Why Highly Sensitive People Get Mentally and Emotionally ‘Flooded’
- Do Typos and Grammar Mistakes Annoy You? You Might Be an Introvert
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