If you know me, you’ll know that I’m the text book definition of introvert. The Oxford English Dictionary describes my type of person as “A shy, reticent person. A person predominantly concerned with their own thoughts and feelings rather than with external things.” While I’ve got a bone to pick with this definition – my main point being that introverts don’t have to be shy and are normally considered as shy because they recharge their energy by spending time alone – this post isn’t about the ins-and-outs of introvert-ism (which I may write about some time in the future), but about what it’s like to travel as one.
The world is designed to cater to extroverts, meaning that us poor, lowly, shy introverts often have to change ourselves in order to fit in with the pecking order. While travelling and spending time alone is good for the soul, often while on the road you’ve got to meet new people and get out of your comfort zone, otherwise you’ll go stir crazy.
Here are a few tips that I learnt while travelling solo as an introvert last summer:
Head Into Nature
Whether you’re in the middle of a city or out in the wilderness, heading into nature will let you have some much needed chill out time. For me, I went for walks in Central Park, hiked up to the Griffith Observatory and strolled along Venice Beach when I was in America last summer, spending time in NYC and LA by myself. Immersing yourself in nature lets you breathe and take a minute for yourself; don’t underestimate the power of a park.
Group Travel Is Actually Great
Often an introvert’s biggest UGH is spending all day every day in a group. Being part of a tour group – like my Trek America one – is actually really great for introverts. Firstly, there’s a lot of driving, so you can sit back and listen to music, read a book or just nap while the world whizzes past you. By the middle of the trip, you’ll find that everyone is knackered and often just wants to be with their own thoughts while you’re driving, so these hours are an introvert’s dream.
Group travel will force you to get outside your comfort zone and learn how to be more flexible. As you’re surrounded by people most of the time, it makes you adapt to different situations and learn how to control your introvertism to ensure that you make the most of the experiences you’re having.
Stick To Interactions Your Enjoy
If you meet someone while travelling – in your dorm or on your flight for example – and you don’t enjoy their company, you don’t have to talk to them. Spend your social time communicating and hanging out with people that you enjoy hanging out with, and nurture those relationships that you find sustaining.
Don’t Beat Yourself Up For Not Making Friends
When I was in hostels I didn’t make any friends, and that’s totally fine. There’s this idea that all hostel travellers make friends as soon as they kick the door open, but that just isn’t the case. I find it hard to talk to new people, so it is very unnatural for me to just go up to someone I’ve never even seen before and introduce myself. Not making friends in your hostel isn’t a bad thing at all. Everyone’s travel experience is different, so don’t worry about not having “making friends” as the top thing you did while out there.
It’s tough to pretend you’re enjoying every social situation you’re in while travelling, but you get the hang of faking it after a while. Even if you wish you could curl up in your tent and read a book and avoid any social niceties, sometimes you’ve just got to put yourself out there; you can fake it until you’re actually enjoying yourself and no one will even notice.
Let Your Natural Independence Shine
As an introvert, I’m used to being independent and forging my own path. While travelling you’ll have to overcome hurdles, throw yourself into new situations and experience new things, all of which will kickstart your natural independence. As an introvert, you rarely rely on people to get shit done, so you’re actually in a great position to be a traveller – no co-dependency equals less chance of fuck-ups.