Highly Sensitive Refuge
A highly sensitive person traveling solo

Solo Travel Tips for Highly Sensitive People

Solo travel provides HSPs with plenty of their favorite things, from creating routines to having as much alone time as they need.

Traveling is such a wonderful experience for me. I love to travel, especially by myself. Solo travel is one of my favorite activities. It’s the opportunity to take in someplace new, different, and exciting. It is the chance to explore. I get to relax and destress from my grind of daily life. 

As a highly sensitive person (HSP) — who’s also an introvert — you’d probably assume that travel isn’t well-suited for me. But it’s actually more well-suited for an HSP than you would think, as long as you do it right.

Why I Love Taking Solo Trips as an HSP

Traveling solo allows me to take in a lot of beauty in the world. And that brings me a lot of joy, something we HSPs really value and which can help us destress. From walking the cobblestone streets in Paris to eating delicious tapas in Barcelona to seeing hazing sunsets over the crystal clear waters of the Caribbean Sea in Belize, I love seeing and eating all the world has to offer. My favorite things to do on vacation are to just walk around, take in the sights, and eat fabulous meals.

There’s also the added benefit of having a lot of alone time. As an HSP who gets easily drained by social interactions, I love getting to do things alone. And I get to fill my time with things based on my preferences. I have the freedom to do what I want, when I want. I’m not bound to someone else’s schedule, interests, and opinions. 

In addition, I won’t absorb the emotions of others traveling with me. I don’t have to be “on” for others. There is no pressure to be a people-pleaser (another thing we HSPs are so good at!). I can take care of my own needs. I am able to satisfy my curiosities and interests. If I’m in the mood to try a particular restaurant or see a particular sight, then I can! If I feel like taking an afternoon nap, then no one is there to complain about me missing out on something I could be doing. I also don’t have to do the traditional bar or club scene that many gravitate toward because I don’t enjoy it and I don’t want to. The freedom associated with solo travel is wonderful and I think everyone should take vacations by themselves if they so choose. 

Traveling Is Wonderful, but Can Also Be Draining for HSPs

Now traveling can be overwhelming and stressful, especially if you are highly sensitive. We are more likely to be easily overwhelmed and overstimulated by external stimuli, and that can be more prevalent when we travel. For example, it is never fun to be in a crowded airport full of irritated people while you’re waiting in long lines with bright overhead lights and surrounded by all kinds of different noise. 

Then, you are in a new, unfamiliar place. It can be hard to get your bearings. You are outside of your comfort zone. Travel fatigue can set in and drain you of your energy. 

But that doesn’t have to be the case. I love to travel solo and think it’s for everyone. There are ways that travel can be enjoyable, and these are some things that help me.

5 Solo Travel Tips for Highly Sensitive People

1. Create an itinerary ahead of time. 

When I have a plan ahead of time, that helps soothe my nerves when I get anxious about going somewhere new. When I am researching a new place, I make a list of interests and restaurants that I want to visit when I’m there. Then I create a schedule, based on proximity (most of the time), so I don’t overexert myself going from one part of town to the other.

Also within my itinerary, I can build a routine. HSPs love having a routine because we are comforted by familiarity. Maybe that means I go to the same restaurant or coffee shop for breakfast. I did this when I was in Belize. I learned the names of the owners of a cafe and they learned mine. so it felt like I was visiting friends each morning. 

2. Bring your HSP essentials, including noise-cancelling headphones, earplugs, and snacks.  

There are a few things that I have to bring with me to make my vacation more comfortable. What you need to bring will vary based on where you are traveling. But the three things I have to have are: a pair of noise-cancelling headphones, earplugs, and snacks. 

The noise-cancelling headphones come in handy for the plane. That way, I can usually do a little binge-watching of my current TV obsession on my iPad or chill out to some of my favorite music. It also politely sends the nonverbal message that I am not in the mood for small talk. 

Earplugs are brought along just in case. Hopefully, they won’t be needed, but you never know. The hotel or vacation rental you are staying in may have noisy guests or thin walls or have a lot of street noise coming in from outside. It’s better to have the earplugs and not need them rather than needing them and not having them. 

Lastly, you have to have snacks to stave off getting “hangry” (when you get hungry + angry). Highly sensitive people can be particularly cranky when our blood sugar dips due to hunger. I usually have granola bars or peanut butter crackers at the bottom of my purse to fight off the irritability that comes when I’m not eating on schedule.

3. Visit places during off-peak times.

Depending on where I am, there are times when I want to visit places that are on the more “touristy” side. That means those kinds of places are going to be more crowded. I do not thrive in situations where there are throngs of people. It’s just too much stimulation for my sensitive soul

So the best thing to do is to schedule my visit earlier in the day or within an hour of closing time.  That typically means the crowds are smaller and I’m less likely to be overwhelmed by a ton of people around.       

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4. Rest — it’s a necessity, especially for highly sensitive people. 

Take as much time as you need to get away and decompress. Highly sensitive people need to build in downtime to process all that we have seen and done. That means fighting the urge to do something all of the time. 

This can be hard for me. When I’m in a new place and unsure of when I will be back, I feel like I need to get in as much as I can. But that kind of mindset is detrimental to my well-being because it can easily wear me out. And even if I manage to get in a lot of activities, I’m not likely to enjoy them because I’m exhausted. So we must pace ourselves and build periods of rest to recharge. Personally, I love to sit at a farmers’ market and people-watch while having a snack.  

Also, HSPs need sleep. We can’t function if we are sleep-deprived and exhausted. So I need a full night’s sleep to be energized enough for another day of exploring (sometimes, I will take a nap in the middle of the day, if necessary). So usually when I travel, I call it in early. And since no one is with me, I don’t have to deal with someone trying to keep me up to go to a bar or a club because that’s the “fun” thing to do. (I have plenty of fun, believe me!)

5. Walk around, particularly in nature.

It’s important to get outside and walk around, whether you are on vacation or not. Nature is rejuvenating and healing, especially to the sensitive soul. When we are outside, we are improving our physical, emotional, and cognitive health. 

A study of 20,000 people confirmed that spending 120 minutes a week in green space — local parks or other natural environments, either all at once or spaced over several visits — were substantially more likely to report good health and psychological well-being than those who don’t. So when you are traveling, find a city park or public garden to visit on a consistent basis — have lunch there, take a walk or jog, or read on a blanket. Your body will be grateful. 

Solo travel can be an exciting, transformative experience. You discover a lot about yourself when you do it. I’m always excited for the next trip I will take. And if you do it in a way that suits your HSP needs, then travel is a really rewarding adventure.    

Fellow HSPS, what travel tips would you add to the list? Feel free to comment below!

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