I sat in the Indian Visa and Consular Services centre in Toronto, Ontario, admiring the colorful posters of India adorning the walls. As I waited for my turn to submit my Tourist Visa application, I imagined what it might be like to actually be in India.
Was I about to plunge myself into a massive two-week emotional and sensory overload? Perhaps.
While living in Toronto, the light, noise, and air pollution; crime, crowds, and ambient anger which permeated the city (and to which I was highly attuned given my hypersensitivity), reduced me to a chronically overwhelmed mess. After four years, I ran away to the country where I (blissfully) remain.
Back at the Consular office
A man sat in my row, three chairs away, and began tapping his foot, rapidly moving his entire leg. My seat shook, distracting me and making me wonder how I’d cope with the jostling of Indian markets, tourist attraction crowds, and lineups.
A young mother and baby sat in front of me. Charmed, I smiled at both of them. After a while, the wailing began (the baby’s, not mine).
One baby’s cry can drive me to madness, but the cries of millions?
Friendly but misguided?
As a well-known journalist, author, and performer, I’d been greeted by name wherever I went in the small city I lived in before I’d moved to Toronto. I loved the friendliness (and my big-fish-in-a-small-pond fame).
In Toronto, I continued my habit of saying hello and smiling at strangers. In return, I was met with fear; people physically backed away.
Although I’d sworn that the big city wouldn’t change me, it did. I curbed my natural friendliness, a soul-crushing but necessary move.
Will I be too friendly and gullible in India? It’s possible.
Money management and travel
Money management is a post-ADHD diagnosis skill I’m still catching up on. If my money management skills leave much to be desired at home, how will I fare in a foreign land, surrounded by an exponential number of desirable distractions (i.e. shiny things), while trying to manage foreign currency?
And what about beggars? When I moved to Toronto, I gave money to every panhandler who asked. It didn’t take long to realize that if I kept it up I’d soon find myself on the asking, not giving, side of the equation.
Peace, quiet and solitude
Peace, quiet and solitude: three things that HSP’s need on a regular, if not daily basis. How on earth will I get these in India? Compared to the wide expanses of Canada, just about anywhere else in the world can feel like wall-to-wall humanity especially if you’re hypersensitive.
I’m hoping to get to a quiet temple; get into the Jaisalmer desert for respite; visit the less populated countryside where my tour guide assures me it’s quiet and peaceful. But “quiet” is relative, and as a rural-dwelling HSP ADHD woman, I’m a little… Hey! Is that a spider walking on the wall?
Am I asking too much of myself? Maybe.
So why go?
It’s been my lifelong dream to visit India. Given my ADHD and HSP tendencies, I’m aware this trip holds some extra challenges for me.
How can I prepare for my trip, mentally, psychologically, physically and emotionally?
I plan to do more yoga and meditation before I go, to build up my inner resources and resilience, but will that be enough?
Turning to the HSP expert
In Elaine N. Aron’s August 2006 Coping Corner newsletter I found a piece called, “Thoughts on Vacation and Travel.” Turns out I’m not the only HSP who worries before travelling.
Why can’t I have a Wizard to accompany me on my travels?
Aron cites Frodo from The Hobbit as an example of a reluctant traveller. (Maybe she meant Bilbo Baggins, but nonetheless both of them were pretty reluctant to leave the Shire. And they had a powerful wizard to help them; I’ll be traveling alone.)
I’ve been eagerly anticipating The Hobbit movie, but I hadn’t thought of it as a source of encouragement for my upcoming trip.
In her newsletter, Aron writes:
And on a trip we are especially likely to have our creativity stimulated, if we make time for it, because we are being exposed to so much that is new.
Aron’s words were a great reminder to focus on the positive. I can journal, take photos, write blog posts about coping (or not), and remind myself that, after all, it’s only two weeks – and a trip of a lifetime. I’m infinitely grateful that I get to go at all.
What else can I do?
Do you share my hypersensitivities and ADHD symptoms of being easily overwhelmed, distracted, confused, stymied and upset by transitions? Do you have any tips for me and others who want to travel over the holidays or in the New Year?
When I compare what Bilbo Baggins et al had to deal with, I guess I can cope with India. Unless there are Orcs. Are there Orcs? I don’t think so. But if there are, I’ll have to remember not to give them any money.