Confessions of a solo traveler with ADHD

outlander tour in scotland

I was born on December 21 which makes me a Sagittarius. If you know anything about star signs, the personality traits of this one, in particular, are known for being restless and in love with travel.� I didn’t realize until recently that restlessness and impulsiveness are also symptoms of ADHD.��

It never occurred to me that ADHD was even a possibility for me — I was that reserved, awkward shy kid, more prone to daydreaming than jumping around at a million miles an hour — which is what I thought the condition was all about. It wasn’t until my son said something about the way I skipped from topic to topic that made me start the process of research and then diagnosis.

That’s when all the puzzle pieces started to come together.� That’s when I realized my social awkwardness (social anxiety)was also a symptom. Why long airport queues were a source of dread and why I was so impulsive with money — often buying things in the middle of the night when my brain had woken me up with silly questions about the world. It also explained the restlessness of wanting to travel frequently.�

Adapting to Travel with ADHD

dragonfly on my hand

When a neurotypical person thinks of vacations, they probably imagine relaxation but for the neurodiverse ADHDers among us, those holiday styles probably just don’t sit right.� You can probably rule out things like spending a long time taking in the views of the Grand Canyon or spending hours by the pool. If they’re anything like me, they need constant content and activity. Swimming in the pool for a short time might work but they’re soon going to be looking for other things to do.

My ideal trip includes a lot of walking around, history tours, and checking out the local cuisine.� I don’t mind resting a little but if I’m traveling with someone, they’re probably going to get annoyed with my drive to occupy every minute with dopamine-driven things of interest.� That’s one of the reasons that I enjoy traveling alone the most.�

Solo travel with ADHD means uncompromised travel

Hopetoun Tea Rooms at the Block Arcade

The world of solo travel has its pros and cons. The pros include things like being able to choose what I want to do and not having to worry that it fits in with my travel companions. The cons include things like having no one to dine at local restaurants with. While this last one might be easy for some, for someone with social anxiety, it takes a lot of self-talk about motivation and bravery to get through it. 

Breakfast and lunches are a lot easier than dinners. In some places — especially tourist towns like New Orleans or Venice, dining alone doesn’t feel so awkward but in many other places it feels like every eye is upon you, judging you for being alone. Fine dining is usually out of the question and I’ll usually pick a spot that’s either a bar or has more of a fast-food vibe. 

I’ve heard of people talking about trying to normalize dining alone and I love that idea but it’s still anxiety-causing for me.  In the end,  I have to remind myself why I’m here — I love to travel, I love exploring and if I want to experience everything, I need to be brave and make that sacrifice. Traveling with ADHD can be challenging but just breathe, you’ve got this. 

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