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Travelling Solo with ADHD: Top Tips for the Neurodivergent Traveller

Janine Magnin in front of Santiago de Santiago

ADHD chaos is real! You want to travel, but there’s too much to choose from. You want to go, but there’s too much to plan. You book your holiday, but there’s a muddle of things to do before getting on the plane. You arrive at your destination, can’t speak the language, and now you must find your bus. 

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a condition that affects how people behave. They love the novelty of somewhere new but can be impulsive, restless, and forgetful. The most straightforward tasks taken for granted by most people are never as simple for the neurodiverse. They have to be broken into a thousand smaller manageable tasks. It’s exhausting!

But this doesn’t have to stop you from getting out there and seeing the world! A solo traveller has to rely on their wits, organisational skills, and travel savvy. Here are some travel tips and tricks that work for me as a solo adventurer travelling with ADHD.

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Tips to confidently travel solo with ADHD

1 – Lists are your friend

Work smarter, not harder. Lists make planning holidays much more manageable. Jot down all those little tasks. Break the complex tasks into smaller manageable chunks and tick them off as you go. You’ll find that this helps to keep your chaotic status quo in check and everything nicely organised. 

2 – Prevent analysis paralysis

The world is not my oyster. In fact, it’s a maze of indecision. Choice paralysis happens when the ADHD brain over-analyses the situation. There are so many places to explore and destinations to visit. How do you prioritise one over the other? What if you make a mistake and pick the wrong one? Here’s what works for me. Jot down only three to five destinations that you want to travel to. Take out your least favourite choices one at a time until you are just down to one. Don’t change your mind and don’t doubt yourself. It’s still one of your five top choices. The others will still be waiting for you.

Giant Fiesta puppets Spain

Image source:Janine Magnin

3 – Put everything into a file

Our natural state is chaotic anarchy. We need to impose order on that chaos, which will, in turn, help us to feel more in control. Create a digital or hardcopy folder and put everything into it. Everything remains concrete and easily on hand, from booking the cattery to paying for your flights.

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4 – Create an itinerary and check in with friends 

This is my favourite part of planning a holiday! Make it as detailed as you can. I like creating tables in Word: one column for the day, one for the date, one for the city, and one for any other information, including accommodation, contact numbers and bus times. Send this to your friends and family. This way, you have backups of your plans and everyone knows where you are. While travelling with ADHD, you can hold yourself accountable and remain more organised by checking in with them.

5 – Set multiple alarms

For someone who struggles with time blindness, alarms are your friend. I like to set multiple alarms on different devices, especially when I need to wake up for an early flight. I leave the house with plenty of extra time in case I’ve remembered the time wrong. Time is an abstract and intangible concept; alarms and written-down departure times make it concrete and manageable. Every time I glance at the jotted-down journey times on the Post-It, the panic and butterfly-stomach-flurries settle down. Those sticky notes tell me I’ve got this!

Sunset Silhouette on the Camino

Image source:Janine Magnin

6 – Book a social travel experience

Leave the organising up to someone else! There is a great sense of security when you join a social travel  group, especially if you are  solo, inexperienced, and travelling  with ADHD. The tours are organised, the accommodation is booked and everyone is just as interested in exploring as you are.  Social travel gives you the feeling of independence and the security of being part of a group. Your adventure is likely to be more organised and structured. Just keep checking your  watch so that you’re not that person holding everyone else up on the coach.

7 – Don’t panic

Take a leaf from The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. My biggest struggle on an adventure is allowing my plans to shift when circumstances require it. Is it too hot for that hike? Is the temple closed for a private function? Sometimes, you can’t follow your itinerary because circumstances just won’t let you and you can’t do anything about it except make new plans. That’s OK! Sit down, take a breath, order a drink, and replan. What are your options and what do you want to do? Inform your friends, pay the bill, and go enjoy yourself. 

Best Places to visit  while travelling solo with ADHD

1 – Anywhere alone

Personally, this is my favourite way of visiting cities. You can go where you like. Do what you like, see what you like, and take as much time as you want. There’s no need to negotiate another person’s needs and you can more fully look after your own. When things become too much and you become over-stimulated, you can just walk away and make alternative plans for your divergent needs. 

Janine Magnin Hiking with Tilly the Rescue Dog

Image source:Janine Magnin

2 – Nature destinations

There is a growing body of evidence showing that nature has a beneficial effect on people who struggle with ADHD. The research shows that nature increases the ability to pay attention and concentrate. It also helps to lower anxiety and stress levels. Nature can calm a nervous system prone to becoming overwhelmed at the turn of a pin. 

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3 – A private room

Cities can be crowded, loud and bustling. They can be stimulating and then they can become over-stimulating. A private room may be just the ticket for your peace of mind, an oasis and refuge to return to whenever you need a moment to yourself in your own space.

4 – Most importantly, be kind to yourself!

Don’t be so hard on yourself. As ADHD’ers, we are well acquainted with messing up and feeling anxious and overwhelmed. Forgive yourself and just go with the flow. You have your lists, you have your itinerary, you have your circle of friends. Enjoy this fantastic adventure that you’ve created for yourself.

Townhall Groningen, Holland

Image source:Janine Magnin

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