The Postcard
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The Postcard

How My ADHD Fuels My Travel Habits

The good and bad of being a frequent traveler with ADHD.

Photo by Kelsey Knight on Unsplash

I decided that I wanted to travel to Iceland last week. It took me less than an hour to go from consideration to receiving an email confirmation for my plane tickets.

This happens to me a lot with travel. An idea is sparked, and then my brain takes off like a racehorse. I blame my ADHD, although it’s definitely not a totally negative thing. In many cases it has led to some of the best international experiences of my life. But it also definitely has its drawbacks.

Here are some of the pros and cons of being a frequent traveler with ADHD.

Good: I am an obsessive researcher.

Within 48 hours of buying my plane tickets, I had already drafted a 6-page document detailing everything I would need to know about my destination and how to prepare. I’m talking about itinerary, packing lists, cultural tips, a price chart for anticipated expenses, information about restaurants and food culture, where to get weather alerts — you name it, I had it in a Google doc.

One of the defining aspects of my ADHD is that when I am focused on something, I get complete and total tunnel vision. Booking plane tickets is like hand-picking my next hyperfixation. For a very short and intense period, my next destination is all I can think about. This is great for pre-planning my trips and thankfully helps me to be fully prepared when it’s time to depart.

(Even if it comes at the expense of not being able to focus on anything else in my life…)

Bad: I sometimes overspend in my excitement.

In that same 48-hour period, I made a lot of purchases. Snow boots and winter apparel, new camera equipment, pre-booked excursions, etc. None of these purchases were necessarily bad on their own — I almost always buy useful and necessary things that will definitely come in handy.

However, I could definitely benefit from learning to pace myself better when it comes to my purchases. Not everything has to be done right away or at once, especially if I haven’t fully determined what I already own that will do the job. Healthline has a funny article about all the impulsivity that comes with ADHD, and the tendency to over-shop rings very true for me! It’s something I’ve worked to curb a lot — successfully, in many ways — but traveling is like pushing the “Buy Now” button in my brain.

Good: I’m creative about how I plan my trips.

I take pride in being a creative person, and that’s one of the benefits of ADHD. My favorite travel experiences are unique, one-of-a-kind, and often very spontaneous. I like to leave a lot of wiggle room to accommodate those things when I plan trips.

Going to a pop-up art installation, like the Floating Piers in Italy, or making a last minute trip to Wales to see a musical for just one night. If it’s temporary, I love to be a witness to it, especially if it’s something artistic! My goal is always to do at least one unplanned and unexpected thing no matter where I go. It’s something I have yet to ever regret.

Bad: I’m prone to over-packing AND still forgetting things.

I started packing for Iceland almost immediately, despite still being weeks away from the trip. My brain is going in a lot of different directions sometimes, and this makes me focus on very minor things while neglecting major ones. Like color-coordinating everything with my new winter boots while almost forgetting to bring a travel adapter for all my chargers.

On my very first trip abroad my suitcase weighed over 50lbs, and I still wasn’t fully prepared. I went home with more suitcases than I left with!

For Iceland, after weighing all the things I was attempting to jam into my carry-on, I ended up purchasing a checked bag (because of all that photography equipment I bought). I’m optimistic about not forgetting anything important this time because of all that obsessive research and planning I mentioned before.

Fingers crossed!

At the end of the day, I wouldn’t trade my brain or its weird habits for anything. Despite all its oddities and frustrations, its remarkable the way things somehow manage to balance themselves out. Every travel experience I’ve had thus far has been the result of both my strengths and my shortcomings. Understanding my brain and accepting it has made it easier to accommodate in the long run.

After all, taking the good with the bad is a part of travel, ADHD, life, and all things that truly matter.

How does your ADHD (or other neurodivergencies) influence your travel habits?



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