One thing I’ve been fortunate enough to do is to travel, and in my late teens, I discovered the joys of travelling by myself rather than with a group of people. I was talking about this recently, and many autistic people were interested, so I thought I’d write my next blog post about it.
With a group of people, the neurotypical social rituals come into play, so although I was technically on holiday, I was still masking when communicating within the group, and the only place I could be myself was the toilet or the shower (not always but often).
However, when I was 19, I had a few free days to travel by myself. The idea seemed scary at first, but my gut reaction was telling me to do it. So I did! I went for about 3-4 days, and at first, it felt isolating and scary. But as I got further into the trip, I found my energy levels were building up, I felt genuinely relaxed, and I started to enjoy myself. I realised I entered my bliss as I essentially cut myself off from the neurotypical world, and I’d never felt so content.
It taught me that a true holiday is simply being away from people rather than going to Ibiza and spending 14 hours a day clubbing. I don’t even need to travel far away; as long as I’m in a place where people don’t know me, people won’t come up to me in the street and expected me to interact in a neurotypical way, then I’m content. FYI I live in my hometown, which is not that big, so it’s an annoying problem anytime I go to my local town centre (I just want to shop in peace!).
When I have time off, I essentially need a break from neurotypical society. So yes, like many people I may go away on holiday, but my motivation is very different from the norm, and what I do is probs different from a lot of people too. The most important thing is I use my time to keep masking to a minimum so I can rejuvenate.
When I was talking about this on Twitter, many people expressed they would like to try something similar but didn’t have the confidence to go on a break by themselves. Although I don’t understand people’s unique situations, phobias and other factors (so this may not apply to all), here are a few things I’d recommend if you want to give it a try.
- Don’t travel far; if you feel the need to come home or it doesn’t work out, make sure it’s easy and affordable for you to come back early/quickly if needed.
- Go for a short break, even if it’s just one night. It may feel too daunting just to go straight in for a break that lasts a week or two.
- Stay somewhere you’ll be comfortable. This will vary for each person, but it’s worth asking yourself if that will be a tent in a campsite, a hostel, an Airbnb or a hotel. Also, your budget will affect this too, but make sure you don’t book anywhere where you wouldn’t feel safe or relaxed.
- Plan everything you do in advance if it helps. I like to leave my plans a little open-ended and spontaneous (Shock horror, I know! How unautistic of me). But if you like certainty and a need to know what you will be doing each day, make sure you do that.
And that’s it. I hope you enjoyed this blog post and that with the pandemic coming to an end (hopefully), you’ll get an opportunity to try solo travel. I’m going on my first break in two years this week, so I’m excited to have a few days off from being NT!
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