I just got back from a short trip to the Wisconsin Dells area, and while it was a lot of fun, it forced me to once again confront my increasingly mixed feelings about traveling. I’ve written a little before about my FOMO about not traveling more than I do and about how my ADHD makes packing stressful for me, and while I’m always grateful for the opportunity to see new places or visit family and friends, and I’m always glad I did it, I’ve come to see that there are a lot of good reasons why traveling can be such a struggle for me.
A lot of those reasons stem from my inattentive ADHD. As I already mentioned, packing is really stressful for me because it requires a lot executive functioning skills, and the same goes for logistics. In fact, just the anticipation of needing to do these activities makes me feel anxious. You may think the solution for me would be to not make any plans for trips and to just go with the flow, but that can also stress me out, especially if I’m with people I don’t see very much or in a place I likely won’t visit again. I’m the unfortunate person who needs plans but who also hates making them. Luckily, my husband is much better at it, but he still needs me to provide input about our plans, and I still have to ultimately figure out what I need to bring, so I can’t avoid these tasks entirely.
I think my ADHD also makes traveling more tiring for me because it requires a lot more of my attention than my daily life. Different places and activities take a lot more energy and awareness than my regular routines at home, whether it’s because I’m sight-seeing or because I’m trying to figure out where all of the kitchen utensils are in an Airbnb. It’s easier to get overstimulated when nothing is familiar, and positive stress is still stress. I’ve decided that I need to think of sight-seeing as work, albeit a very fun kind of work, so that I build in enough downtime into a trip. I’m still not great at it, because it’s hard for me to not feel like I need to make the most of every opportunity while traveling, but I’m getting better, and I’ve learned that trips are a lot more pleasant when I do. I ended up spending a whole day watching The Office during my trip to California with Dave because I was just too tired from visiting two other national parks to start taking on Yosemite. I thought I would regret it, but I really don’t, and it gave me the energy I needed to finish the trip.
I’ve also seen that resting during trips is important because I tend to not sleep as well or as much during them. Not only is sleeping in a different bed always an adjustment, but when I’m vacationing with family or friends, I also tend to stay up later hanging out with them, or I stay up reading because it’s the only time that I have to myself, and this introvert needs it! But even when I plan for more rest, it takes a few days for me to recover from a trip and get back to normal when I come home, especially because it requires unpacking, another fun executive functioning task, and because I’m definitely one of those people with ADHD who needs more time to transition.
All of this is not to say that I hate traveling or won’t continue to do it. I’ll admit that at my most stressed-out moments I’ve wondered if it’s worth it, but I’ve also never regretted going on a trip. I just have to accept that while traveling has a lot of benefits, it also has a lot of costs for me that I need to take into account, and I don’t need to feel guilty for having mixed feelings about it or for choosing a “staycation” in the future.