How to Travel as an Empath without Getting Burned Out

How to Travel as an Empath without Getting Burned Out

Natalie L Trent, PhD
June 24th, 2018

One of the challenging things about being an empath is traveling and remaining centered. Have you ever gone somewhere and felt overwhelmed? Maybe you had sensory overload, there were too many people, or you were not sure know why. Maybe you felt certain emotions that didn’t seem to have anything to do with you because you felt fine a moment before.

When I was traveling in Amsterdam years ago I had an experience of being caught off guard as an empath. I was with some close friends walking through the streets when we found ourselves in the red light district. This would have normally been fine but I was not energetically prepared. I felt an onslaught of deep depression, emptiness, and horrific pain in my lower abdomen. There was nothing I could do at that point but grab a taxi and head back to my hotel room. I became sick for a few hours and that was the end of my night. Sadly, I have had too many experiences like this to count. This is a classic example of picking up the emotional pain of an environment and the people. I had picked up the pain of those women, many before them, and the land itself.

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Unfortunately, this is a common experience for empaths. Empaths are similar to, but not the same as highly sensitive people (HSPs)[1]. The difference is subtle. Whereas both are sensitive to their environment, including the emotions of others, the empath also perceives information that is extrasensory, whereas the HSP may not. Empaths are more likely to be introverted but there are also extroverted empaths. Whether they are introverted or extroverted, they are good at reading people’s emotions, feelings, intentions, and even thoughts, as thoughts are strongly connected to emotions. This extrasensory information is usually called clairsentience. Clairsentience is experiencing others’ emotions as your own without any obvious external cues. Empaths not only feel the emotions that others are currently having, but also the emotions that they may be suppressing. They can also pick up the emotions imprinted during a particular time at a particular place, often called an imprint.

The empath likely has high activity in areas associated with clairsentience, such as the nervous systems of the heart and gut. Studies of presentience or “intuitive feeling,” implicate electrical activity from the heart as predictive of an upcoming emotional stimulus. The gut has been less researched with respect to this phenomenon, but an interesting study published by Drs. Dean Radin and Marilyn Schlitz[2] revealed that the gut plays an important role in intuition as well. We have known this throughout our own experience, which is reflected in our language as “gut feeling” or “gut instinct.”

In short, Radin and Schlitz used electrogastrogram (EGG) to measure the myoelectric activity to see if one person’s gut would react to the emotions of another from a distance. The EGG activity was recorded in an individual relaxing in a heavily shielded chamber while, at a distance, a second person periodically viewed a live video image of the first person along with stimuli designed to evoke positive, negative, calming, or neutral emotions. The EGG maximums were significantly larger on average when the distant person was experiencing positive and negative emotions, as compared to neutral emotions. Therefore, the stomach of the person being measured responded to the emotions of the observer even though they did not see them and were shielded from any possible communication.

The heart and the gut, through their connections with parts of the brain such as the insular cortex, orbitofrontal cortex, and amygdala, help inform our intuitive decision-making. Indeed, HSPs, and likely empaths, show stronger activation in brain regions involved in awareness, empathy, and self‐other processing. [3]

Sometimes we receive these intuitive signals but we fail to listen or act on them, and this can harm us. It is important to always listen to our heart and gut. To enhance this intuition, we can increase our mind-body awareness through mind-body practices such as yoga, energy medicine (e.g., Reiki, Qigong), breathing techniques, or meditation that includes body scanning.

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Because of this sensitivity to others’ emotions, traveling can be ungrounding and difficult for some empaths since it involves a series of many people and places all connected with different energies. It can throw our whole energetic system off balance. Of course, this depends on where you travel and whom you travel with. If an empath takes a trip to a retreat center and spends the day with nature doing yoga of course these issues will not come up.

The bombardment of energy from many people and any imprints from historical sites or regions where negativity is high, for example, can be too much to bear. We can burn out. This burnout is characteristic of low energy, crankiness, other negative emotions, and wanting to be alone. But even though it can be overwhelming sometimes, there are preparations that we can make and actions we can take to mitigate the empath burnout.

We want to remain sensitive so that we can be guided by our intuition, but we also want to remain centered when lots of information is overwhelming our mind-body systems.

Alright, let’s get to it. Here are my top 10 tips for traveling as an empath:

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1. Find green space

Nature is the great cleanser. I highly recommend spending at least half an hour with some trees or a meadow of wildflowers. You can sit in a park or walk a trail through the woods. Nature is everywhere; so make sure to find some every day on your travels. You may need to plan ahead by booking a hotel or air BNB that is next to a park, for example.

2. Breathe deeply and get plenty of fresh air

I know for myself, I am often traveling for research conferences, which are usually housed in large convention centers or hotels. I make a point of leaving the facility regularly so that I can get a few minutes of fresh air. It energizes, cleanses, and increases positive emotions. One of the common things we do when in stress is restrict our breathing. We want to mindfully take deep breaths throughout the day to cleanse our tissues and bring in lots of fresh energizing oxygen.

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3. Hydrate and eat lots of food high in life force energy

Staying hydrated will insure that you continually cleanse your body and organs of any toxins or gunk that you may be picking up. Make sure the water is fluoride free and alkaline if possible. When it comes to food, what we feed our bodies will determine how we feel and how our bodies function. We all know this, but it’s really important that we put it into practice, especially when we travel and can be more easily taken off balance. Make sure you start your day, whether you eat breakfast or lunch, with some fresh raw fruits and vegetables, especially leafy greens. This will keep your life force energy high vibrational and energize your body and mind. Leafy greens will help ground you as well, which is extra challenging when traveling. I also like to eat more potatoes when I travel, as I find them to be especially grounding and centering for me.

4. Find a body of water for cleansing

Water can have an amazing effect on our energy systems. It helps cleanse residual energy in, on, and around our body. We take showers to clean our bodies, but water also cleanses our emotions and energy fields. When traveling, if you feel like you really can’t shake some emotions, find a body of water that you can spend a few minutes by. If you are in a city without natural bodies of water, find a canal or a fountain to hang out by for a few minutes. For the strongest effect, sit by a natural stream or waterfall and allow its flowing energy to cleanse any emotional gunk or thought forms that may be stored.

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5. Plan for alone time

It’s important for the empath to have plenty of quiet alone time, and this is even more the case when traveling. Spend some time alone or with only one other person you are comfortable with if you are traveling in a group. Find a nice café or park and just enjoy the moments of stillness. This brings me to the next related tip:

6. Spend time doing nothing but being present and observing

This is key. We can get very swept up in the drama of the emotions of others, which is often based in past regrets or rumination, or fears about the near or distant future. Mindfulness, present moment awareness can be an antidote to being pulled through these timelines. Make time to just observe the happenings around and within you.

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7. Hang out with some animals

Animals are authentic and hold less baggage than humans. They are also in the present moment much more than humans, which helps to ground us. Find birds and mammals to observe, they will re-energize you with their simple authenticity. I highly discourage supporting zoos, but highly ethical sanctuaries are an option if you cannot find wild animals where you are visiting.

9. Visit a museum or art gallery

These are places that usually are quiet because everyone is either reading or listening to headsets and learning. What a delight! You can go alone or with your travel companions, either way it will recharge you. Make sure that you visit during the less busy hours and check for school visits, you’ll definitely want to avoid those!

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9. Take a nap or two

Sure, you’re on vacation so you want to experience as much as possible. Or you’re traveling for work and want to be productive. But don’t underestimate the power of a nap to restore your energy levels, cleanse your antennae, and release any emotional baggage from the day. Even just 20 minutes can be enough to recharge and shake off any residual energy.

10. Give love

During empathy overload, we can easily revert to sponge mode, soaking up all the energy around us. Instead, focus on sending loving energy outward. As you walk around and pass people in the streets, send them unconditional, universal love. Keep your heart open. Love is the medicine for negative emotion. If you practice metta or loving kindness meditation, this will be much easier. Regardless of whether you already practice generating unconditional love, this will take practice, since it can be difficult to switch from receiving to giving when the bombardment of energy is high. Our natural tendency is to shut down, to close up and protect our self. To ease into this practice, you can practice when you are not traveling, or when you are around fewer people.

When traveling as an empath, preparation is key. It is a good idea to make sure that you can create a situation in which it will be convenient to follow the tips above.

While the above list should be helpful, it is by no means complete. There are many actions we can take to protect ourselves from empath burnout. Do you have any tips for empaths that were not mentioned? If so, feel free to share this post, along with your story and other tips that you may have for traveling empaths.

Happy Wandering!

For more information on intuition research, see our forthcoming book Expanding Science, published by Param Media (www.parammedia.com/books/expanding-science), with contributions by Dr. Dean Radin, Dr. Marilyn Schlitz, and other postmaterialist scientists.

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[1] Aron, E. N. (2013). The highly sensitive person: How to thrive when the world overwhelms you. Kensington Publishing Corp.

[2] Radin, D. I., & Schlitz, M. J. (2005). Gut feelings, intuition, and emotions: An exploratory study. Journal of Alternative & Complementary Medicine11(1), 85-91.

[3] Acevedo, B. P., Aron, E. N., Aron, A., Sangster, M. D., Collins, N., & Brown, L. L. (2014). The highly sensitive brain: an fMRI study of sensory processing sensitivity and response to others’ emotions. Brain and behavior4(4), 580-594.