Travelling abroad when you have Aspergers Syndrome

I would consider myself a fairly seasoned traveller. I used to go on family holidays abroad regularly as a child and try to go abroad at least once a year. I have a fascination with learning about other cultures and experiencing these first hand and holidays help me to experience this. 

When I left university in 2008, I went travelling with a close friend of mine from university. We travelled around Thailand, Hong Kong, Australia and New Zealand. I loved every minute of it and my only regret is that unfortunately, due to finances and the fact that I had a new job to come back to in the January, we only spent 2 months abroad. I could have easily done with six months travelling time. Last February. I experienced flying on my own to Trinidad for the first time to meet friends out there.

I know that, for most people, travelling abroad poses no problems but, for me and doubtless also for other people with Aspergers, it is a concept that fills us with anxiety. One example is my paranoia around security controls at airports. I know on an intellectual level that there is nothing criminal or illegal in my suitcase or hand luggage and that nobody else could have gained entry to it (I always padlock my suitcase) but that doesn’t stop me wondering whether something will have magically found its way into there and get me into serious trouble. I am always relieved when my bags are given the all clear even though I know that they will be. When something on my person sets off the metal detectors and I get bodily searched by security staff, I absolutely hate it. I don’t like being touched by strangers especially at such close range but, of course, there is no justification to my knowledge of refusing to be searched without sparking off suspicion. Immigration officials unnerve me too even though, again, I have no reason to believe that I will run into any trouble with them. I am always relieved when I am finally sat on the plane and all of the nasty experiences are behind me.

Last October, I experienced a horrendous time when my boyfriend and I flew to Prague. Despite assurances from Czech Embassy officials that he did not require a visa, when we got to Prague Airport. my boyfriend was refused entry due to not having a visa and we had to fly back again, My anxiety was at ridiculously high levels that day but we got through it and we eventually got our weekend break in Prague this February. It is a day in my life that I will never forget though! I was surprised that we survived the ordeal without me being reduced to a nervous breakdown!

When it comes to the holiday destinations themselves, I am not spontaneous at all. I am not the sort of person who can turn up in a country and ask for the nearest cheap hotel (as a lot of people I met on the travelling circuit did)-I need to know before I travel exactly where I am going to be staying, how far it is from the airport and I need to know that it is already paid for. If possible, I book excursions before I go away too so I know my itinerary. I envy people who can just fly somewhere and pick a hotel when they get there but, for me, it’s impossible as I would spend the whole flight to the destination panicking that I wouldn;t be able to find anywhere that suited my needs and desires.

Once flights and accommodation have been sorted, I would actually say I am quite relaxed when I am on holiday. I have issues with heat and sunlight which can often make me feel quite ill but, if I avoid the times of the day when the sun is at its hottest and always try and find some shade, I am OK. I love sitting on Mediterranean marinas looking out to sea while having my dinner or a drink. I love meeting the local people too.

I would recommend travelling to anyone with Aspergers but make sure you have a precise planned itinerary first to make sure that you keep your anxiety level as low as possible. Make sure you always have enough money and means to contact people in an emergency and then try and relax and enjoy your holiday. I never thought I would be able to fly Trans Atlantic on my own but I did it! We need to push ourselves at times to see just how much we can achieve.

As for me, I’m now thinking of where to go next!