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Setting Boundaries While Traveling

Uncategorized Jul 13, 2019

Hello from 🇫🇷France!!! 🇫🇷 

My husband, Dr Titus Chiu, and I are traveling through France and something happened that prompted me to want to talk more about the importance of boundaries while traveling.

This can be a touchy subject and difficult for some people to navigate, especially on a trip or vacation. 

This came up for me because last night my husband and I went to a Thom Yorke concert. If you don't know who Thom Yorke is, he's the lead singer for Radiohead, one of our favorite bands. He's a wonderful musician and he tends to play a lot of ambient electronic music that can end up being quite loud.

This concert was a collaboration with visual artist Tarik Barri at the Paris Philharmonic. There was this massive screen behind him that had flashing lights and really beautiful visuals, but there were very bright and the music for blaring for over 3 hours.  

While it was an amazing concert and I really enjoyed seeing him live, I also got overstimulated, which is something that happens for autoimmune people and sensitive people. This may also be exaggerated while you're traveling because you don't have access to the comforts and routines that you normally do at home to rest and recharge.

You may not be sleeping as well. You may not be eating what you normally eat. You're certainly not doing the things that you normally do.

As a result, it's pretty common for people who are sensitive while traveling to feel a little bit off from their regular routine and not feel their best.

That happened for me at the concert.

Luckily, it wasn't a situation where I was feeling uncomfortable or upset about it. I was at a concert that I was really enjoying, but the lights and the music just became too much for me about 2 hours in.

Which inspired this conversation around boundaries while traveling.

Boundaries while traveling is rarely talked about but is actually very important. We all talk about setting and maintaining boundaries in daily life, but it's a different situation when you're traveling.

The number one tip that I have for while you're traveling to establish boundaries and handle overstimulation is that it's okay to say no and walk away from things.  It’s ok to not do something, even though you're in a foreign country or you're in a new exciting place and want to make the most of it.

It’s ok to say I'm done, I have to go home, I need to take a rest.

This is exactly what I did at the concert. It was about two hours into it. We had standing floor seats and we actually got there really early, so we were pretty much standing in the front few rows.

There was only few people in front of us at the concert. Ten years ago, I wouldn't have given up those standing "seats" for anything! However, there was still an hour before the concert would start AND there was an opening act. My husband and I just looked at each other, (we were both slightly jet lagged) and thinking it wasn't worth keeping this amazing standing room "seats" if it meant we would be crowded and on our feet for 4+ hours.

We had been walking around Paris and going to museums all day and we both just knew that it wasn't going to work for us. We decided to give up our seats in the very, very front and go in the back and lean against the wall.  It may be a really old person move. We might not have done that 10 or 20 years ago if we had the chance to see Thom Yorke. But we're older, wiser and we realized, this wasn't going work for us with people pushing forward to the stage and I didn’t want that type of energy for the next four hours.

So we both agreed to go to the back of the floor standing and hang out there to watch the show. Like I said, about two hours into the concert, the lights started to be too much. I actually had to close my eyes and had to look away from the stage. Even though I was really enjoying the music, I started to see the signs of me fading. So at that point I told my husband, I'm going to go wait in the hallway and text me or come find me when the concert's done. He was really understanding about it. He knows that I'm sensitive and pick up a lot of stimuli when we're out in public. So that made it really easy to take a break out in the hall and I could hear the music out from the hallway.  I think it's really important to bring this topic up because I think a lot of people feel shame in doing things like that.

You may feel like you’re wasting the experience for not staying for the whole concert, which I had a tinge of that feeling. But I reminded myself that I came to the concert. I saw him. I really enjoyed it. If I need to exit earlier than the plan to time, there's nothing wrong with that. 

I didn't waste anything. I still had the experience that I was there to have.

This is just a reminder that even if you're at home or you're traveling, always listen to your body.

Be okay with the decisions that you make and understand that it's not always about staying the longest or doing the most, but it's about having a positive experience for yourself.

I was able to get to the concert, enjoy it and also leave when I was ready to leave. After the concert let out, I came straight home and went to bed, whereas my husband went out for an hour or so and had a midnight snack and a nightcap. He came home about an hour later and joined me at the apartment.

I think sometimes at a younger age I might've thought, "Oh, this is terrible! We're not doing everything together!" Now we are to a place in our lives where we realize that people have different needs at different times and it's just about communicating what those needs are and make sure that everyone is aware and agreeing upon the strategies that you choose, especially while you're traveling. 

Be kind to yourself, be kind to the people that you're with and be kind to the other people that your decisions impact. Just communicate what is and is not working for you. It also really does help to have a travel partner who understands that these sensitivities are real. They're hard to see. Sometimes people think they're imaginary.

Luckily for me, I have a wonderful husband who also understands a lot about autoimmune conditions. He's also a brain doctor, so he understands the idea of overstimulation in the brain.

I'd love to hear your comments about what you do when you feel like you get a little overstimulated or certain aspects of traveling have become too much for you. So leave them down  in the comments and we'll continue this discussion throughout the month.


Dr. Natasha F


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