If you’re a highly sensitive (HSP) introvert like me, you understand how challenging this can be. As an HSP introvert, you know what it’s like to feel mentally and physically exhausted after doing everyday activities, like going to a crowded grocery store. Or giving a presentation. Or taking the subway.
Being an HSP introvert means that …
- You are more aware of subtleties in your environment. You notice smells, sounds, and sights that others miss. Your sensitivity to even subtle stimuli makes you prone to overwhelm.
- You are more sensitive to your own emotions. You feel things deeply, and tend to spend more time reflecting on your feelings. This is why you have strong reactions to violent movies and TV shows.
- You are empathetic, which means that you are deeply affected by other people’s moods. You literally feel the emotions of others. This can be exhausting if you don’t know how to create emotional and energetic boundaries.
- You are particularly sensitive to caffeine.
- You are prone to suffering from social hangovers. Sometimes, you need days to recover from a single social event.
To clarify, not all introverts are highly sensitive, BUT about 70% of HSPs are introverts. This makes the HSP/introvert combination surprisingly common. Still, few people understand how hard it is to be highly sensitive and introverted in a busybody, extrovert-biased culture.
Don’t get me wrong, being an HSP introvert has its advantages: strong intuition, keen observation skills, creativity. And it’s perfectly possible to tailor your lifestyle to suit your unique needs. This is exactly what I’ve done. Nowadays, I rarely notice my sensitivity when I’m at work, or at home (which happen to be the same place).
Why vacations are tricky for HSP Introverts
But there are certain activities that shine a blinding white light on my sensitivity. Take vacations for example. A vacation is meant to be something that you look forward to all year. It is your chance to “go on an adventure”, “have FUN!!”, and “seize the day”.
But for the HSP introvert, a vacation isn’t always so shiny. There are many good reasons for this.
When you are on vacation, you are surrounded by all sorts of new sights, smells, and sounds. Even if you’re in paradise, all the new stimuli can be exhausting. Not only that.
You feel a lot of pressure to do, do, do and see, see, see. Perhaps, you’ve bought into the myth that jam packed days are the only way to have a great vacation.
Non-HSPs don’t really get it
Non-HSPs are often confused by an introvert HSP’s vacation anxieties. Heck, even a fellow introvert who is not highly sensitive might not get it. They won’t understand why all the sightseeing is giving you a headache. They’ll also be totally perplexed by your desire to take an afternoon nap when there are so many exciting new things to do and see. I saw this firsthand while on vacation recently with my introverted boyfriend.
My innie man is the classic introvert in many ways. He likes to spend time alone, or with one best friend, or partner (that’s me!). His small circle of close friends rarely expands, and he’s okay with that. Best of all, he’s okay with silence. Quiet activities, such as walks, bike rides, and cooking are his go-to pastimes. But, as I discovered during our vacation, his introversion looks different than mine because he is not highly sensitive.
“You get tired a lot,” said my boyfriend. It was the third day of our seaside vacation, and my need for naps was steadily increasing.
“I’ve always been this way,” I replied. “I get tired from being out and about. Even just going to the grocery store can be tiring for me.”
Even though our activities while on vacation had been relatively introvert friendly, the days were a bit too overstuffed for my sensitive nature.
My average weekday consists of one-two outings (usually an afternoon walk, or a trip to the store). On vacation, just finding food can mean several outings on a given day. On top of that, you might want to go for walks, visit attractions, and try new things. It’s no wonder I was tired after the first day!
If you can relate to what I’ve shared, I’ve got your back.
Here are 3 essentials to survive and thrive on your next vacation as an HSP introvert:
1. Explain your needs to your vacation buddy.
If you’re on vacation with a partner or friend, it’s crucial that they understand the reason for your slower approach to travel. If you don’t, they might assume that you don’t enjoy spending time with them. Saying something as simple as, “I get tired from going out a lot. I need lots of naps while on vacation,” will do the trick.
If expressing your needs is a challenge for you, check out my free 30-day framework for introvert charisma. You’ll discover clear steps to speak with confidence, even if you’re introverted and shy.
2. Be okay with taking a break.
You might be tempted to feel guilty for taking a time out while on vacation. Keep this in mind: you’ll have way more fun if you are fresh and awake, than if you force yourself to sightsee when you’re exhausted. It’s okay to sneak away for a while and do nothing.
3. Reduce the number of activities you do in a day.
This doesn’t mean you spend all day staring at the flies on the ceiling. It simply means that you spend more time on a few carefully chosen activities, instead of completely cramming your schedule.
Maybe you’ll go for a late breakfast in town, and then pack your picnic bags and spend the entire afternoon at the beach. Or, you do a morning tour, and have a quiet afternoon reading beside the hotel pool. Planning your meals ahead of time and having snacks on hand will also help simplify your days.
Vacationing as an HSP introvert isn’t always easy, but with a little planning and understanding, you can actually enjoy yourself. Wherever your next holiday takes you, remember to pack some self-compassion in your carry-on.
Ear plugs will help, too. 😉
Over to you
Can you relate to my vacation overwhelm? I’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences in the comments below.
P.S. In case you’re wondering, I did have an amazing time on my vacation! Afternoon naps helped me enjoy it to its fullest. And once I explained my needs to my boyfriend, he was very understanding about my sloth-like stamina. 🙂
Amazing and such an insightful article! 🙂 I was recently invited to go on a mountain resort for 10 days in the summer. It would have been okay, if not for the people who invited me… 😀 Since I also possess a sloth-like nature, I need a lot of nap-time recharging, and yes, I cannot live without the internet. 😀 A minor connection would be just fine haha. 🙂 Back to the offer, the people who invited me are 100 percent extroverts, who are actually good people, really, but they don’t understand my need for recharge and solitude. Adding to that a crowded cabin, constant talk, and my mountain resort trip looks more like a trip so some kind of a large concert (by the way, I don’t like large concert’s). No thanks.
So basically what I want to say is, since I am an highly sensitive INFJ, I love traveling alone, with a friend, or with my partner (only one of my ex-girlfriends was an introvert, and I kinda doubt that to this day), because this way I will determine my own recharge timing (and naps haha), or be in a company of someone who will completely understand it. 🙂
Beautiful article Michaela! 🙂
Thanks for sharing that, Marko! Glad you can relate. 🙂
I am a hsp infj in a family of extroverts. Family trips were exhausting growing up. We would be up at the crack of dawn and moving and seeing until we reached the next hotel late at night. I would barely eat because I was so tired. By the time we would get home I was so drained it felt like I would need to sleep for a week.
My husband and I spent our honeymoon in Door County, Wisconsin. When I planned our wedding I knew I would need recovery time from the wedding. It turned out perfect. It was cool and rainy, which encouraged a slower pace and lots of time to sit still and just be. That was 15 years ago… and the last actual vacation I had. My extroverted husband has been to Sturgis since then. I went into overload just thinking about it. I took staycations while he was gone.
I have desires to travel and experience new cultures, but I would need days to recover from the airport and flying and more days to mentally prepare to do it again to come home. Just watching the news about 3 hour wait times and seeing all those people waiting is enough to send me over the edge. I’ll just stay here with my blanket and my dog 🙂
Ah, yes, family vacations can be so tough because you don’t have a choice. Glad you had a better experience on your honeymoon!! 🙂 xo
One thing I wonder is how common is it for HSP introverts to take more staycations than others? I’m also an HSP INFJ so vacations can be tricky for me. I’ve learned over the years to not jam pack my day. It’s exhausting and feels like you spend most of your day rushing around to get from one activity to another without actually enjoying anything. I also make sure I have quiet me-time. It helps I’m a bit of a night owl so finding a quiet spot works. I also try to pick activities I know I’ll enjoy such as a hike or a museum or eating a relaxing meal. If I happen to be dragged into a large group, I actually will break away from the group to do my own thing. My mother-in-law is an extreme extrovert so my husband’s explained to her that I need to be left alone to do my own thing. Makes me calmer and a little bit more able to deal with group stuff.
A big test for someone like me, and I did this years before I knew I was an HSP, was going on a cruise. It was to Alaska so a lot of the shore excursions were nature based. My favorite activities were a hike and getting to learn about sled dogs including holding puppies. My least favorite was a privateish picnic at a botanical garden that was actually held out on a very public lawn so people were milling about and watching a group of us as we ate our meal. What I did each night was to roam around the cruise ship because it was very quiet after midnight and just sat in the windows watching the water.
Thanks for the post.
Hi Danielle, thanks for sharing your experience with this as an HSP INFJ. I love staycations, and have one at least one day a week. 🙂 I also love going to a cabin or lodge where everything you need is within walking distance. xo
I can totally relate to this! My family likes travelling, and wherever we go its attractions and sight seeings, they just interpret my unwillingness to go out all the time as laziness, they accept that which is good, but I hope they could understand it’s more than laziness, its just my physical and psychological needs! It’s a bit hard to explain, they aren’t into the psychology, personality types kinda thing. But I’m so glad I’m not the only one getting exhausted from going on vacation! Thanks for sharing Michaela 🙂
Wow! The first article which caught my eye as I’ve just joined this forum and how apt it is for me! Every year I go on a wonderful family holiday with my husband and daughter and I was confused as to why I would always feel so tired and found the whole thing so challenging (even though we were in paradise and generally just relaxing!!). And now it’s just clicked for me, thanks to your article. I had thought that my exhaustion and general ‘how can I get through today attitude’ was simply because I was struggling with the lack of ‘me-time.’ But I realise now that it wasn’t just about that. That was part of it. But it was the sheer amount of information that I was absorbing around me, constantly. From analysing how happy the barman was as he poured me a drink, to absorbing the hundreds of moods, expressions, behaviour-patterns in all the people around me – plus the nature of their relationships with each other – hah hah hah! If I actually stop to think how much I was assimilating at any given moment, it’s no wonder I needed an afternoon nap every single day! Fortunately, I have a very caring ESFJ husband, who understands my needs and an adorable daughter, who just goes with the flow. I now feel a little more prepared for our next trip – thank you for sharing. 🙂
Hi Michaela – I remember being impacted watching the movie “The Burbs”. Not from the main story but from the opening couple of scenes. Tom Hanks’ wife goes off to visit her mother for a week while he gets to spend the week at home relaxing by himself. I remember thinking that would be awesome and feeling jealous.
Hi Michaela — After reading all this I think I now know why I’ve never had to worry about “vacation overwhelm” — I haven’t had anything remotely resembling an actual “vacation” since 1984. (Be still Orwell fans.) I’m just now realizing that I “knew” a vacation would be extraordinarily taxing due to the people I’d have to be with. They wouldn’t ‘understand’ why I’d be exhausted. It makes sense to me now, if I tool a ‘real’ vacation, I’d be so out of it I’d need an extra week off before I could go back work. We’re all people pleasers, I ‘let’ my spouse go on a cruise by herself because I detest the ocean (A TRUE statement BTW — but not the ‘real’ reason) — I fretted over and over all the nightly dress for dinner, cocktails, and yes — the ever-so-dreaded smalltalk. I decided I’d simply make my spouse miserable (perhaps even feel guilty) for literally dragging me aboard. So in keeping the peace, I simply stayed home and later endured hour after hour of stories for weeks on end after the cruise. I no longer remember the things I used to do for fun — sad on so many levels. This is probably too depressing to even read much less post as a comment (I won’t take offense.) At least I’ve been able to vent a little. Thanz for that.
I can definitely relate to this. I live away from my family, since I am a college student living in student housing about an hour and a half away, I can’t remember the last time I spent this many consecutive days with them, it’s way too much. Usually I only come home 1 or 2 weekends a month and am only there for a day or two. I am now spending 14 days in 3 countries with them and I am about to pull my hair out!! Thank you for articulating everything I need.