This sensitive traveler’s survival kit has been submitted by Dara Denney.
I am a highly sensitive person. Maybe you are too, or you have recently read an article about “our kind” and thought you could relate to some of the “symptoms”. (Personally, I look at it like the human experience at full volume!)
It is by no means a disability but it can make travel a little trickier, and certainly more intense, for better and for worse. Because of this over-stimulation, we sensitive folk are more prone to anxiety and depression, and our bodies are also sensitive, making migraines, skin problems, and stomach issues more commonplace.
Even though I am a highly sensitive person, I am also a long-term woman traveler. I have spent a lot of my time in developing nations where there are few amenities and even fewer comforts. For the average person this can be challenging, but for someone like me it can feel unbearable especially in the face of constant poverty, lack of sanitation, and disease. I created a survival kit for myself (small enough to keep in your carry-on or purse!) which has helped keep me happy, healthy, and sane on the (not so well-paved) road.
Sensitive’s Survival Kit:
Cooling Migraine Patches. These are my number one thing that I must have when going abroad, and I try to pack a few boxes of them so that I always have a supply. For anyone who is prone to migraines, this is a “must-have”. You can use these with medication, and the cooling sensation brings immediate relief and feels great if you are in a hot climate.
>> Check out the WellPatch on Amazon.
Badger Headache Soother. I use this when I feel a (non-migraine) headache coming on; especially if I am doing workshops or teaching so I would feel funny using a patch. It’s also great for muscle aches and neck tension, and I love the peppermint and lavender scent!
>> Check out Badger Headache Soother on Amazon.
Tea tree oil. This is great if you have acne, but I personally use it to put over bug bites. The smell is really soothing and helps keep those pesky mosquitoes away.
>> Check out tea tree oil on Amazon.
Roll-on peppermint oil stick. I rub this under my nose when I’m feeling nauseous or when I need some fresh air on a plane or bus. It also has a cooling sensation which is relaxing and soothing. You can rub it on your stomach directly when dealing with stomach discomfort.
>> Check out the Aura Cacia Aromatherapy Roll-On on Amazon.
Rosebud salve. While I was living in New York City I used this as lip balm and as a subtle perfume. When I moved to Ghana I threw it in my bag to finish up the tin. My second week in Kumasi my hands broke out into a heat rash, which burned and itched nonstop, and this was the only thing that gave me relief. I also use it to treat sporadic body acne and dry skin.
>> Check out the Rosebud salve on Amazon.
Lush bath bombs. I always back two of these in my favorite scent (Rose Jam!) in separate zip lock bags to keep my clothes smelling fresh while in my backpack. I also dip into it as emergency body wash, and regularly as laundry detergent to wash my pillow case in. The scent is an instant pick-me-up, and has helped established a sense of security and consistency in the face of my ever-changing locale.
>> Check out Lush’s bath bombs on their website.
Hot water bottle. I throw this at the bottom of my backpack, and use it when experiencing painful menstrual cramps. There are also some disposable ones, but I prefer this one because it’s reusable and eco-friendly.
When you get in country: I have found that every nation has their own unique way of treating illness and discomfort, and often times they become one of my favorite things about the country! I loved eating fennel seed after my meals in India, and even kept a small bag of it with me on the rest of my trip to help combat against nausea, and to freshen my breath. In Ghana they have “sobolo”, a frozen hibiscus and ginger drink, which is given to children when they have diarrhea or malaria. I like drinking it because it tastes great, and makes me feel instantly re-hydrated!
Skin care: Taking care of your skin is tricky when on the road, but for someone like me who is extremely fair and prone to sunburn, acne, and “mystery” rashes, it can be pretty impossible to keep my skin under control. However, I have found that having a simplified skin-care routine works best for me while traveling. I only use an apricot scrub at night, and a spot treatment twice a day when experiencing breakouts. (Neutrogena Fight and Clear works the best for me, and it helps fade scars!) Tea tree oil also helps with acne.
IMPORTANT: Don’t forget your sunscreen at home! Sometimes it will be harder to find on the road. It took me three weeks to find a reliable brand while in West Africa… in which time I accrued many preventable and painful sunburns.
A note about mental health: I am no stranger to anxiety or depression, and I have experienced them both to varying degrees while on the road, even in developing nations. Culture shock is not only real, but common and to be expected if you are staying put in a developing country for awhile. I have found that instead of trying to fight with my negative emotions, I accept them, and try to be mindful of my thought processes. Try avoiding “us vs. them” mentalities with the locals, and give yourself a break with the sometimes difficult local cuisine and have monthly spaghetti nights. Also, I have found that all of the items in the survival kit also serve the dual purpose of helping me mentally and emotionally. Sometimes I sleep with the hot-water bottle when I’m feeling depressed and the heat makes me feel comforted and secure, and if I’m feeling anxious I rub any one of the scents under my nose to keep me calm and connected with the moment.
What items keep you sane on the road? Do you consider yourself a sensitive person?
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About the Author: Dara Denney is a long-term woman traveler who is passionate about cultural exchanges and finding common threads of humanity. She is new to the travel blogging community and is currently managing tutoring programs in rural Ghana. You can follow her misadventures at her newly resurrected blog at The Traveller’s Cookbook
I am also a sensitive traveler! I bring a Ziploc bag with several coffee beans in it while traveling! It is an extremely calming scent to me and strong enough to overpower other scents that will quickly give me a headache or make me nauseous (such as airplane food or smelly hostel room mates!)
Thanks for the idea! I get chronic headaches that turn into migraines (usually in the evening- where my vision is blurred and I’m noise and light sensitive) and I normally just take pain meds, have some caffeine and sleep it off. I just ordered the cooling pads and Badger Balm off Amazon and I can’t wait to try them out! I’m flying to Japan this weekend and back the next so I’ll have two 13 hour flights to try ’em out.
Emily, please let us know how the Badger Balm and cooling patches work for you! I also get chronic-headaches-turned-migraines, and both items help me out tremendously! With the Badger Balm I also use it to rub into my neck and shoulders…really great for tension relief on those long flights!
A hot water bottle saved me when I had cold while traveling in wintertime.
Yes! Mine saved me when I had a cold while hiking in the mountains…now I refuse to leave without it!
Lynn Dirk says
A heat pack on the forehead is my go to remedy for a headache. I sewed a small one up and pack it in my bag. One does need a microwave to heat it up but I am usually in a vacation rental or motel with one provided.
Ear plugs, sleep mask, magnesium citrate pills for relaxation, headphones