Traveling with ADHD

What is your favorite part about travel?

I admittedly have an addiction and it is travel.  I love every moment of it.  Not just the travel itself but the dreaming of places to go.  The research it takes to make that decision and the obsession I have with learning as much as I can about where I am going.  Once I get there I throw all my schedules away and live in the moment.  Partially because I am ADHD, I have extremely intense reactions to anything new.  I land in a new place and I go into full blown hyperaware ADHD mode, extremely or excessively aware of my surroundings.  I breath in the new smells.  My ears perk up to the sounds that are local and new.  My eyes almost pop out of my head they are working so hard to take it all in.  Being extremely tactile I even sense the change in climate and conditions on my skin.  I truly come alive, energized by an unexplainable high.   It usually takes me some time to adjust to my new surroundings, as you might imagine, but with this bolt of electricity streaming through me as I round a new corner it is truly addictive.  Yes it is my drug of choice – travel! 

Let’s break it down.  I know for many change is not easy, and worry is a big part of the hesitation to travel. But if you are a true addict, you have cast aside those chains long ago. That and the impulsivity factor that goes along with my ADHD, worry is not really in my vocabulary.

Let me try and put how this feels into perspective for you.  Let’s start with sounds.  If you have never noticed how sounds affect you take a moment when you arrive someplace new and close your eyes.  Stop.  Listen.  What do you hear.  And you don’t have to travel far to do this.  Some sounds of change are subtle: leaves rustling in the trees, birds chirping, slightly different accents in the people you hear, and, of course, totally different languages.  Sounds are often ignored because we are so impressed with what we are seeing, but sounds can also be extremely powerful.  The simple sound of tires on gravel will immediately trigger a memory of my dad for me. I listened everyday for the sound of his car coming home as a small child. Sounds will immediately soothe you or maybe intrigue you.  Spend a little time around young ones and they are constantly questioning what a sound is.

With your eyes closed sounds can spark your imagination like no other sense can. Now with your eyes still closed take a deep breath through your nose and take in the smells. It might be the salt air on a tropical beach, fresh baked bread at a city bakery or the faint smell of a delicate flower.  Every place has its own smells and odors. There is nothing like the smell after a heavy rain or when a lawn is freshly cut. Each scent will heighten your experience.  When we were traveling the islands of the South Pacific at each place, when we were greeted, we were handed a small flower and encouraged to take a moment to sniff it before placing it behind our ear.  In California wine country or at a vineyard in Italy you are encouraged to inhale the aroma of the wine before tasting. The smells of the world can be overpowering or subtle, but they are there to peak your interest and enhance the experience to the next level.

Now, before opening your eyes, feel where you are and how it makes your skin feel.  Are you hot? Are you cold? Is there a breeze or a sultry warmth? The more you can experience each moment the richer you will be.  I am saddened lately by the number of travelers I watch who are so busy taking selfies that I question how aware they are of where they are.

Slowly open your eyes and let your surroundings come into focus. By simply closing your eyes for a moment you will be surprised at how much more intense the colors will be.  The colors of the flowers will pop, the contrast of the blue skies and white clouds will seem that much more rich and vivid. Just now, writing about taking the time to close my eyes and experience my surroundings, for just that moment I totally recaptured the thrill of opening a gift on Christmas morning as a young child.  And by making a habit of that I can recall countless places and moments around the world with that same clarity.

So, if you ever wondered why I love to travel, or are curious about what it is like to experience the world through the senses of someone with ADHD, try this test. Savor the moment and take it all in; let life hit you with all its got!  Then realize for those of us with ADHD these sensations are not subtle, and it can’t be turned on and off. We walk in this world of heightened sensations 24/7!  Life comes at us like a freight train with technicolor and with no audio or visual filter. My life is a constant merry-go-round ride, but travel, it’s the roller coaster! Which is why I have learned to take these moments to distinguish and appreciate each element.  I encourage you to try and experience our world. Put down your phone and take it ALL in! You too may become a travel addict.  Writing about this had my fingers twitching and a can vaguely feel the tingle throughout my entire body at the mere thought of a new adventure.

Lydia Pontius