by Kimmie McKibben,
Do you get nervous about new places and new people? Find yourself overstimulated while traveling? Get overwhelmed making decisions? Feel exhausted just looking at a jam-packed itinerary? If the answer to any of these questions is “yes,” it’s likely that you’re an introvert or a highly sensitive person (HSP).
I absolutely love going on trips, but, as an introvert, I have to set aside time for self-care and recharging. Traveling is great for introverts because it allows us to escape our reality, experience new and meaningful things, and fully embrace our curiosity and creativity. However, without proper attention and reflection, it can be extremely stressful.
My health, both physical and mental, is a priority when I travel, as it should be for all, but especially for introverts and HSPs. In order for me to have a good time, I must ensure my mind and body feel good; if they don’t, it snowballs. My anxiety rises, I become more temperamental, my brain kind of shuts out the world, and I get stuck inside my head. Not good.
So I use a few simple and mindful tasks to check in with myself and make sure I’m practicing healthy habits. These tips are easy to integrate into your trip and will help ease your high-functioning introverted brain.
How Introverts Can Stay Happy and Healthy While Traveling
1. Plan ahead
This suggestion seems rather obvious, but trust me, it’s important. The more you can plan in advance, the smoother your trip will go, thus eliminating stress.
First, decide on a budget. You don’t have to completely restrict yourself to a certain dollar amount, but having a general idea of how much you expect (or are able) to spend on a trip will help you make all other decisions, such as food and activities. After deciding on a budget and choosing a destination, make a list of “wanna-sees” (not to be confused with “must-sees,” which implies an obligation to do something); find accommodations in a good area and a convenient location; and figure out your means of transportation.
You don’t need to plan out your time by the hour or try to fit in as much as you can, but having a few different sites or restaurants you want to visit will allow you to make decisions based on how you feel, rather than forcing yourself to stick to a rigid schedule or retreat and do nothing at all. The key is to find a balance between structure and flexibility. If one day is overwhelming, take it easy the next. If you want to have a mid-afternoon nap to recharge after a busy morning, let yourself! Have different options to choose from so you can create a trip tailored to your needs.
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2. Seize your mornings
I’m all for sleeping in, but when I travel, I try to make the most of my mornings by giving myself some productive alone time to clear my head and get ready for the day. Some of my mindful morning tasks include: mapping out my day, drinking a cup of coffee, doing some yoga, getting through a chapter or two of the book I’m reading, watching an episode of Queer Eye, etc.
The key here is to ground yourself and do things that are familiar to you that will make you feel good and help set the tone for your day. As a creative person, I like to journal in the morning. It allows me to reflect and express myself and put my never-ending thoughts into concrete words. It helps relieve some of my anxiety, especially because I can write whatever I want, completely unfiltered.
Find something that brings you comfort (or gets you pumped up), and spend your morning doing that exact thing. Be intentional and mindful. As the beloved Jim Hopper of Stranger Things said, “Mornings are for coffee and contemplation.”
3. Eat well, eat plenty
My favorite part of traveling is eating, period. I want to eat as much and at as many places as I can. It’s where I spend most of my money, and I’m perfectly fine with that; but I have to remind myself not to overindulge. I typically justify poor eating habits with a “vacation calories don’t count” and a couple of Tums — however, this really isn’t the best approach for my body.
This is neither a plea for you to eat healthy nor for you to eat all the greasy food you can get your hands on; you know your body, and you know what your body needs. You don’t have to refrain from getting something you want, but if you had fries for lunch, maybe opt for some veggies or a side salad for dinner. Again, we’re aiming for balance here.
Eat plenty of protein, and finish it off with a yummy dessert. Bring a refillable water bottle so you stay hydrated, and snacks so you can combat those hangry-between-meal moments. If you eat and drink moderately well, your body will thank you by giving you the energy you need to do the things you want. It’s easy to neglect your nutrition, especially when you’re not home, but nothing ruins a good trip like irregular bowel movements and dehydration.
4. Move naturally
If you’re anything like me, the last thing you want to do on vacation is… exercise. As someone who doesn’t regularly work out, exercise is not a priority of mine when I travel. Instead, I try to incorporate more activity into my daily tasks.
In Dan Buettner’s Ted Talk, “How to live to be 100+,” he discusses his study on a series of communities around the world with an above average life expectancy. He outlines commonalities between the groups and suggests nine lifestyle habits that promote longevity. The first is to move naturally. Buettner explains that people with the highest life expectancy, “set up their lives so that they are constantly nudged into physical activity.” They walk to their friend’s house, they do yard work, they take the stairs.
What a relief, right? You don’t necessarily have to work out, but rather live a more active life. When you “seize your mornings,” do yoga, go for a walk, have a dance party of one. Even doing some jumping-jacks will get your heart moving and your blood pumping. Take the stairs instead of the escalator; stay in a location that’s walkable, or a city with bike rentals to reduce your need for a car. It’s much easier to intentionally set yourself up for active alternatives rather that set aside precious time to work out.
If you’re already an active person, you’ve already got this one covered! But if you’re anything like me, this simple tip will make a huge difference in your travels. To quote another beloved character, Elle Woods, “Exercise gives you endorphins. Endorphins make you happy.” Ergo, being active physically will directly impact your mental health — and make your trip happier and healthier.
Travel can be overwhelming for us introverts and HSPs — but it doesn’t have to be that way. When you make your mental and physical health a priority, you can experience the joy and sense of meaning that travel can bring.