What Leading HSP Retreats Has Taught Me About Sensitivity

A highly sensitive woman shops at a flea market in Mexico

I wanted to see what happens when you give highly sensitive people their own peaceful space. The results were eye-opening. 

Have you had a travel experience that left you exhausted? Perhaps you had an overscheduled itinerary? Or maybe your pace differed from your fellow travelers.

I’ve been there. As a highly sensitive person (HSP), I can get overstimulated by noise, crowds, and thinking through the many choices travel can involve. And I’ve often yearned for silence among travel companions who wouldn’t stop talking.  

For example, I had an ex who was always ready to traverse every inch of a city, even after a sleepless overnight bus ride. I’d drag myself along, despite my body’s protests.

Back then, I didn’t understand my sensitive nervous system. I loved traveling, but I didn’t realize that trying to keep up with a rhythm that wasn’t mine would inevitably lead to depletion (and, often, arguments). I constantly felt like there was something “wrong” with me.

It wasn’t until years later that I began to understand my sensitivity. My desire to get to know the world, and the exhaustion that often accompanied it, suddenly made sense to me.

I became more intentional about traveling in ways that respected my needs. This made such a difference for me that I knew I had to bring other HSPs together to travel in this way.

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How I Created Travel Retreats Specifically for Highly Sensitive People 

I didn’t want to limit HSP travel to retreating to a bubble away from all stimuli. After all, we learn about other cultures by getting to know the people. A little discomfort or challenge when traveling can be enriching and help us grow.

But we also need time to process, regulate, and rest. And we highly sensitive types benefit from travel companions who understand, and respect, these needs. So, I thought…

  • What if we can offer sensitive travelers a way to experience the world as it is, but with structures that allow for flexibility and alone time
  • What if I created a group environment that encourages (and celebrates) nonconformity and the right to participate in your own way?
  • What if tending to the needs of sensitivity — and connecting with other HSPs — can allow our sensitive strengths to unfold and flourish?

I imagined… and then took a chance.

And I’m sure grateful I did. I’ve now organized 17 meaningful immersions to Guatemala, Peru, Mexico, Colombia, Portugal, and the U.S. for sensitive travelers from around the world, ranging in age from 18 to 78. 

I love offering travelers an opportunity to get to know the cultures and landscapes we visit at a slower pace than typical group travel. And, of course, I’ve been able to provide a space for HSPs to feel seen and heard while building community with like-minded people. 

Many HSPs report a sense of belonging they’ve been seeking their whole lives. And if you’re a highly sensitive person yourself, you know we really value deep and meaningful friendships and connections with others.  

Over the last six years of leading my HSP Retreats, I’ve met many incredible sensitive souls who have taught me just as much as I may have taught them. Here are some key things I’ve learned about sensitivity as a result.

4 Key Things Leading HSP Retreats Has Taught Me About Sensitivity

1. Sensitive people are strong people — they’re willing to be open and vulnerable with each other.

When I tell folks about my retreats, they often respond in ways that assume sensitive people are fragile and need “fixing.” The truth is, the people who attend these retreats are some of the strongest I’ve met. 

There are first-time solo travelers that are so brave to venture across the world and put their trust in my planning. HSPs have a willingness to be vulnerable and real with each other, even when it feels scary. They tend to be committed to examining — and healing — dysfunctional patterns, whether it be in themselves, families, or communities. All this takes courage and is the bedrock for true connection to blossom. 

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2. HSPs have a lot in common, but we’re also diverse. 

HSPs often feel at home when meeting others who know what it’s like to go through life processing so much. At the same time, I’ve come to notice and appreciate our diversity. 

HSPs feel and analyze to varying degrees — we have different sensory sensitivities. HSPs can be very spiritual people, scientific materialists, and everyone in between. 

The strengths of HSPs manifest in all kinds of ways, too. Sometimes when we witness an admirable quality of sensitivity in another, we recognize that quality as a strength in ourselves. Other times, we celebrate the diverse gifts that sensitivity offers the world. What’s important is welcoming the full spectrum of what it means to be sensitive.

3. HSPs benefit each other in transformative ways. 

All HSPs have important insights, knowledge, and lived experiences to share that, collectively, go far beyond what any one person can teach. 

Many retreats follow a top-down model in which the facilitator shares their expertise and promises growth or healing. Yet the means for transformation can come from the group itself. 

My intention has always been to create the conditions for meaningful connection so that HSPs may share their stories and learn from one another. In this way, I hold the supportive container, but every group member plays a vital role in generating the experience.

4. For HSPs, subtle shifts can have profound impacts. 

Sometimes, I hesitate to use the term “life-changing” because it sounds a bit hyperbolic. Some HSPs do come out of my retreats with new friends, or perhaps clarity about their life direction, purpose, or relationships. 

Still, others say the shift they feel is more subtle — a change they can’t quite identify, but has shifted their perspective or given them some peace. I have an appreciation for these indefinable shifts, as I know they, too, change lives in ways that can endure, just in a quieter, subtler way that HSPs seem particularly poised to benefit from and appreciate. 

There’s something truly special that happens when sensitive travelers come together in a way that honors sensitive needs and strengths. I’m incredibly grateful to witness HSPs change the way they see themselves, form deep connections, and grow together, all while experiencing new cultures, landscapes, and ways of living.

Want to take the stress and drain out of travel, and experience what it’s like to travel with other HSPs? I invite you to check out my upcoming 2023 HSP Retreats to find a travel experience that is right for you and use code HSR50 for $50.00 off your retreat. 

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