Trials and Habits of the Highly Sensitive Traveler

Flowers Washington DC

It seems nowadays everyone has a disorder or something identifiably wrong with them, but maybe that’s just because we’re finally recognizing as a society the nuances of mental health and that there isn’t a crazy versus not-crazy red line anymore. We are all unique individuals, but amongst us is a large group of folks (myself included) who deal with something that most of the time doesn’t really affect our daily lives, but it’s always there, hovering in the background. The highly sensitive personality trait is found amongst 20 percent of the population, this commonly misunderstood trait doesn’t necessarily mean introversion, although it can. No, instead it’s about how people see and interpret the world, how we react to various stimulation and how we process everything from large crowds to criticism. It can have its challenges in daily life, but those challenges can become pronounced in the travel setting. So today I thought I’d share a few of the habits and characteristics of the highly sensitive traveler, and how we can learn to improve our travel experience with a few easy changes.

Egypt

What You Should Know About The Highly Sensitive Traveler

We feel very deeply

Since we are so sensitive that also means our sense of intuition is higher than others and we tend to be very empathic. But that also becomes a problem when we travel with other people. We love traveling with other people, so much so that we worry constantly about whether or not they’re having a good time. Did they really like that museum or are they just saying that to be polite? They agreed a little too quickly to that dinner suggestion, they probably want something else. As a sensitive traveler, we honestly care whether or not everyone is having a good time. Usually though, we take this to an extreme level and can make ourselves miserable in the process. It drives me crazy and I do everything I can to make sure everyone else’s needs are taken care of to the point where I ignore my own. So, if you find yourself traveling with someone like me, have some patience and be sure to constantly say how much fun you’re having.

Travel planning is time-consuming and complicated

Highly sensitive people are more aware of the nuances of decisions, which makes decision-making time consuming and laborious. I’m not talking about life altering decisions here either; it can be as simple as languishing over a menu where there is no right or wrong choice. Instead though, we will perceive right and wrong choices and then spend time trying to determine which ones those are. When planning a trip, this can become crippling. I think that’s one reason why I am an admitted over-planner. By spending weeks and months before a personal vacation to plan out every detail, I’ve subconsciously taken all the guesswork out of the trip, thereby minimizing the decision-making time once I’m traveling. Naturally, this doesn’t translate very well to the travel experience where spontaneity is a traveler’s best quality. It’s taken me years, but I’ve loosened up a bit, although I will always make a detailed itinerary before any trip – I couldn’t imagine NOT doing that.

Unique qualities make highly sensitive people better travelers

While some of our personality quirks may seem insane to other people, many of these same qualities actually help us out a lot in the context of travel. We are very detail oriented, as I alluded to in the previous point, and no aspect of a trip will go without a thorough examination. If left to our own devices, we’ll never miss a flight, see every amazing sight and eat at the best restaurants, thoroughly researched well in advance. But it also helps us meet and learn from locals wherever we go. We’re highly conscientious people, we tend to have better manners than others and we definitely consider the emotions of others in a way uncommonly found. We imagine everyone to be like us, and so we don’t want to do anything that would also upset us. For the non-highly sensitive person then, it would appear as if we’re ultra-polite when, in reality, we’re just experiencing the world as we would prefer it to be. This opens doors though, it makes people more likely to chat with us and in turn, we tend to see a different side to a destination than others might be privy to.

Pisac Peru

What Highly Sensitive Travelers Should Keep In Mind

We’re not crazy

While at times it may sound as if we’re nuts, especially after reading this post, we’re not. There are a lot of us out there and for whatever reason, this is the way we were born. For as long as I can remember, everyone has always told me to stop being so sensitive, and why couldn’t I take a joke. I felt bad, I felt as if I had a deficiency somewhere that made me less than other people. This actually has affected me a lot throughout my life and it was only realizing that I wasn’t alone that it got better. I am sensitive and that’s not going to change, nor will it for anyone who is highly sensitive. What we can do though is learn how to deal with it, and that’s especially true when we travel.

Step back and relax

One of the cardinal traits is that we are very quick to intense emotions, no matter the type. Given our sensitivities, we feel at a different level, which can mean crying at the drop of a hat or being far more ebullient than we should be. We need to recognize this about ourselves and learn how to dial it back, especially when we’re traveling. If we miss a flight or are late to something, we need to learn how to deal with these situations in a more moderate and less extreme way. We need to step back and think about solutions instead of letting our emotions carry the day. We also need to allow other people to NOT be sensitive, to NOT want to plan every aspect of every trip and allow for that spontaneity to exist. But it’s hard. It’s hard to let go and to run the risk of not doing or seeing something IMPORTANT. It doesn’t make sense, I get it, it’s an emotional response on my part. I get twitchy and anxious without having a plan of action so lately I’ve decided to be both an over-planner and a spontaneous traveler. Before leaving home I’ll go ahead and make up that plan of action, but then once I start the trip I tend to ignore large parts of it. This slightly off-kilter way of traveling fools my brain, allows me to relax a little and have those special unplanned travel moments.

Learn to embrace the travel experience for what it is

Believe me, it’s not that we don’t want to enjoy travel experiences as they happen, it’s just hard to shut off our brains sometimes and just absorb the situation. That’s why when I do find that special place or activity that gives me the chance to not get lost in my own thoughts, but rather get lost in the experience it suddenly becomes THE BEST THING EVER. We’re also somewhat prone to overstatement and make attachments quickly, so those nice places become life-changing, forever endearing destinations. I think that’s one reason why I seek out amazing experiences more than anything else. Walking around old buildings is fine, but I need to DO something, I need to concentrate on something other than my own inner-monologue in order to truly have a great time.

We’re quirky and a little different, but believe it or not, traveling with a highly sensitive traveler will actually help your travel experience and not hinder it.

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By: Matt Long

Matt has a true passion for travel. As someone who has a bad case of the travel bug, Matt travels the world in order to share tips on where to go, what to see and how to experience the best the world has to offer. Also follow Matt on Twitter, Facebook and

One Response

  1. Jon

    i think i am a sensitive one as well 🙂

    Reply

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