Traveling. Some people live for it, yearn for it, spend thousands of dollars to happily accomplish it. Other people, like me, take a great dislike to traveling (in fact … the word detest would be quite suitable here).
When packing your suitcase is not spent in glorious reverie of the future, but frantic, frenzied dread of insanely long Customs lines, you know that you’re not made for traveling. When sitting on a 7 hour flight from here to god-knows-where is not spent in luxurious appreciation of the view down below while sipping a delectable piña colada, but instead is spent in an endless state of nausea, dehydration, insomnia and constipation, you sorta know that traveling is not your kinda thing.
If you’re a highly sensitive person like me, you probably already struggle with bus, train and boat trips. But what about the biggest kahuna of them all: airplane travel? What the hell is one who is already sensitive to light, sound, smell and atmospheric changes supposed to do in a big metal box, hurtling through the air, thousands of miles per hour? Scary … isn’t it.
After about 100 hours of traveling spent to and from Spain (including waiting periods), as well as 9 more hours spent traveling to Italy and back, I would like to share with you what I learned as a highly sensitive person traveling recently.
10+ Rules For The Highly Sensitive Person Traveling
Altitude changes, blocked eardrums, screaming babies, dry throats, swelling feet, pins and needles, bloating. Airplane travel tends to have a really weird affect on our bodies and the way in which they function.
If you’ve never traveled by plane before, and are trying to prepare yourself, or if you’d simple like some kind of refresher, please read on. I’ve found that the following suggestions make all the difference between a pleasant or utterly horrifying trip.
1# – Travel sickness pills.
Take them. Please, please do. The chances are that if you’re a highly sensitive person traveling, you will get nauseous, as your body is extra sensitive to the environmental changes around you. This means that your body is super aware of the rise and fall in altitude, producing an imbalance within your body. This usually equals vomiting, and prevents you from enjoying any of the snacks or dishes that the flight stewards offer you for the rest of the trip. You’ll also need to decide whether you want to stay awake or go to sleep on your flight (I recommend sleeping). This will help you decide whether you should get travel sickness pills with caffeine or not (as we already know: caffeine keeps you awake). Make sure you ask the pharmacist whether or not the pills have caffeine before you buy them.
2# – Eat only light meals.
Heavy meals will tend to sit very heavily within your stomach and can contribute towards nausea and constipation. Large quantities of food rich in protein should generally be avoided (think meat, sausages, beans, eggs etc.) Instead, opt for the lighter alternatives: salads, fruit, crackers, nuts, vegetables. Snacks are generally offered on flights by the hosts and hostesses, so take advantage of them while they last.
3# – Take earplugs.
Not only will they help you to block out enough sound to sleep, but they also prevent your ears from getting blocked constantly due to the air pressure changes. If you’re happy to simply read or sleep, these are a good option. Personally, I like to use the Macks Waterproof earplugs as they don’t make my ears ache like conventional earplugs do.
4# – Chew gum.
Chewing gum can also unblock your ears at altitude changes, and can free your ears up to listen to music, or the movies that are sometimes provided during the flight. A word of warning however: chewing gum for extended periods of time can dehydrate you, causing a dry throat and potential headache. Make sure that you hydrate yourself well if you go for this option.
5# – Take a spare water bottle.
Security doesn’t allow you to bring in any liquids over 100mls, so your bottle will need to be empty before you arrive to the Departures Lounge. Never fear though, there are usually drinking taps in the Departures area that will allow you to fill up your bottle (otherwise, I go to the taps in the bathrooms. Water in airports is terribly overpriced). It’s essential that you drink lots of water during your trip because the air is dry in the plane and tends to dehydrate your eyes, nostrils and throat quickly. The recommended amount of water that you drink is about 8 ounces (or about 200 grams) every hour. I constantly experienced dehydration during my trips, and learnt the hard way that the consequences of dehydration is not only a terribly uncomfortable trip, but bad constipation in the future.
6# – Pick an aisle seat.
Usually there are online options to choose your seats 24 hours before your trip (for free). Although there’s a certain romantic notion of sitting next to the window, musing over the land and sea beneath, you won’t find it that romantic once you need to get up and go to the loo half a million times during the trip (or else, are forced to hold it in for fear of pestering the people next to you). Because it’s important to keep drinking fluids during your trip, you’ll need to go to the toilet a few times as well. So in the end, it would be smart to pick your seat wisely and strategically.
7# – Wear comfortable shoes.
7 inch heels and thick heavy boots? Bad choice. Your best option would be sneakers, sandals or thongs on plane trips; shoes that you can easily slip off and on to rest in and walk around in on the plane. On long flights especially, your feet and legs tend to ache, swell and go numb with pins and needles. The more tight and uncomfortable your shoes are, the worse your circulation will be, and the worse you’ll feel during the trip. Coupled with leg/feet exercises, as well as short strolls up and down the aisles, you can reduce the strain and discomfort in your lower limbs.
8# – Bring an extra jumper.
If you’re intending to sleep (which on long flights you will usually try to), you will benefit from an extra jumper or two. Not only can you use it as a blanket (your body temperature lowers when you become tired), but you can use it as a neck-pillow as well. In my experience, it wasn’t worth buying a traditional neck-rest pillow – my jumper could do the job just as well if I folded it in the right way. This will save you about $5 – $15. Some airlines also provide free blankets and eyeshades, which you’d do well to research or inquire about before or during the trip.
9# – Listen to music instead of watching movies.
This may be personal choice, but in my experience, watching dramatic, action-packed films on the plane actually made me feel more nauseous and stressed out. If you’re a highly sensitive person, you’ll most likely benefit from listening to soothing music (think: classical, new age, nature sounds, ambient etc.), and this is sometimes offered as an option on the plane instead of movies and TV shows. It may also be a good idea to stock up your iPod/MP3 Player with a good variety of songs before your trip.
10# – Go in search for spare seats.
Once your voyage starts, and the plane has set off, you’re not actually obliged or restricted to stay in your designated seat. Usually there are a few rows of empty seats free on flights (especially at night), and you’d benefit from seeking them out and temporarily claiming them as your own to sleep on. Just to make sure, check with a flight steward so as to not ruffle any feathers. This is a good idea if you’re doing a long flight – the trip will pass like a breeze before you know it.
11# – Take Melatonin or Valerian.
These natural substances encourage your body to rest, and also help in adjusting to new time changes and sleeping patterns.
12# – Baby wipes.
Oh, how I love them. Long flights really make you feel grubby after a while, and for serenity of mind I loved cleaning myself quickly with a handful of refreshing baby wipes. They truly are an inexpensive and hygienic godsend.
13# – Lavender oil.
Lavender oil is known to reduce anxiety and calm tension in the body. I benefited quite a lot from smelling a few dabs of this essential oil, which helped me to relax and sleep on my flights.
At the end of the day, I discovered that I’m not really that fond of traveling – I prefer the more passive armchair kind. But with the application of a few of these tips, your own experience could turn out to be memorable, enjoyable and most of all comfortable.