Travel with autism can be challenging - you need to know how to deal with some issues that will come up. But once you nail it, it's a big life-changing experience.
My name is Leonie, I was diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome in 2016. As an autistic person, traveling is a kind of therapy for me. Changing the environment and interacting with different people has a positive effect on my self-confidence and communication skills.
Nonetheless, travel can be overwhelming for autistic people. To make the expecience easier, it is important to understand what autism is and how to avoid common triggers.
Autism, or Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), refers to many conditions that involve challenges with social skills, repetitive behaviors, speech and nonverbal communication. Knowing that, the first step is to identify what kinds of stress can cause us problems.
Those are some potential triggers that can bother someone with autism:
Being around large groups
Changes in routine
Be unfamiliar with surroundings
Long waits at airports
My autism adventure travel with Worldpackers
I wanted to travel around the world. I wanted to go from place to place and from country to country. I wanted to visit places that are not on the general itinerary of an autism travel agency, but have something special for me.
That's how I started traveling as a volunteer with Worldpackers. It gave me the opportunity of self-development and showed me that traveling alone is not so hard and not so lonely. On the contrary, I met some cool people on the way.
As a person with autism, it’s important to consider what accommodations I need. For example, some people are sensitive to loud noises or bright lights, which can be common in busy hotels. Ask for a quiet room away from the elevator and stairs if it is possible.
Also, take into account the place of your accommodation, if it is downtown or in the suburb.
If it’s downtown, it's a good idea to bring noise-cancelling headphones or earbuds to sleep, or even consider staying a bit out. If you’re staying in the suburb, take note of your best route to and from town.
I can't stand loud noises, people talk nearly shouting and it makes me afraid and my brain seems to scream inside my head. So I always try to find a place where there are not many people or I can get a room for myself.
2. Keep all you need in hand
The backpack is one of the most important things when you travel. It's our home for a while, so we need to take care of it and find what’s comfortable for us. And be organized!
3. Write a schedule
I always try to write a schedule in advance because surprises confuse me and I lose the ability to think.
I prefer to get to the airport a few hours before the flight and wait until the last minute to avoid wasting time searching from gate to gate.
I remember while visiting a friend in Freiburg, Germany, we decided to go to Basel, Switzerland by train. We left the house 5 minutes before the train left, because my friend assured me that we would catch up with the train. It took us exactly 5 minutes walking to the train station and we almost jumped on the train. Since then, I always come 20 minutes ahead.
Traveling with autism and alone
I think everyone should travel alone at least once in a lifetime. It gives you a deeper understanding of yourself and makes you more independent. You will become fearless and start doing things that you never thought you could do before.
I really like travelling and I have been around the world. It is a great opportunity to learn about different cultures and ways of life.
So just do it. We live just once. We don't live just for work, sometimes we need to go crazy and do unusual things. Your fear of traveling shouldn't stop you from taking the plunge!
So let's do it, with no limits.
And yes, travel with autism is possible.
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