So, you’re an introvert?
Yeah, me too (ISTP, in case you were wondering).
People like us, we enjoy time on our own – reading, writing, playing video games, working out. We don’t need others cramping our schedules. We don’t need bouts of small talk to make us feel comfortable. We like being alone. It’s easier that way.
So what about travel?
A lot of introverts think travelling the world is not for them. Having a travel buddy with you, 24 hours a day? Ugh.
And travelling alone as an introvert? Out here in all these strange places? Having to make new friends and socialise with new people all the time?
Count. Me. Out.
Yet over the last five years of traipsing through this world, I’ve come to realise something. Introvert travel works.
In fact, it’s better for us. Introverts are travellers at heart. We were made for this.
We’re more comfortable travelling alone
I’ve said many times in my writing that travelling solo is the way to go – no fiddling about with travel plans with a group of travel buddies all trying to figure out what the hell to do and disagreeing and arguing about every leg of your trip. Travel is a personal experience. You can do the odd trip with a group of friends now and then, but when you prepare for that massive multi-year journey and the shit gets real?
We go solo.
And that’s good for us. Extroverts always need that interaction, they can’t be alone, they need people around them all the time.
Us? Travelling alone as an introvert works because we’re comfortable being alone. We like it. It’s peaceful. We don’t need to feed off the energy of other people or always be in conversation. We can sit with ourselves, with a book, a pen and pad, even nothing, and we’ll be just fine.
While extroverts tend to travel with others, joining group tours or finding new travel buddies for every excursion, us introverts are able to move on our own time. We even prefer it. As an introvert travelling alone, we can sit on that 12 hour bus alone and it’s the most natural thing in the world. While others are lost in conversation, we stare out the window and actually notice how the goats strategically stand under the banana trees, how the driver waves to every bike that passes by. We’re able to move slowly, at our own pace, no group to worry about, no friend to check up on. We can explore the world without meeting times or dinner dates.
When you travel solo, you naturally spend a lot of time alone. Just so happens we like it that way.
Travel brings us out of our shell
We can’t stay alone forever. Sooner or later we need to interact – we need to find a friend, a buddy, someone. While extroverts do this naturally, we need to force ourselves to do this, and that’s a good thing. You’re expanding your horizons, you’re growing. You’re getting uncomfortable.
These days, I can walk into a party or a function and strike up a conversation rather easily. It never used to be that way. When I’m with friends or colleagues, I can be as loud or goofy as I please, but not with strangers. Trying to interact with communities and groups I didn’t know used to scare the shit out of me. I hated meet and greets and networking events and cocktail parties (I still do, actually).
But after travelling alone for so long, having to meet so many strangers and create new friendships, I’ve turned into a trained extrovert. It’s like a switch – with a little self pep talk, I can switch it on whenever I need to. Before I walk into the hostel lounge for the first time, I flick it on and it’s go time. I meet everyone, make friends, have a few laughs, and then I’ll spend the latter half of the evening in bed, reading a book or writing. When I feel like I need to get out and be social, I can sign up for a pub crawl or a walking tour and flick the switch back on again.
I love meeting new people, hearing other people’s stories, making new friends, but it’s not natural to me. If there’s just one or two of us sitting around the breakfast table, that’s easy, but a huge party with crowds of strangers? That’s not me. I had to learn to flick that switch on. Travelling alone taught me to deal with that one.
We Relish The Time To Think And Reflect
Because you’re not 100% “on” all the time, you spend a lot of time alone in thought. You flick through your photos, not because you’re showing them to someone and telling a story, but just because you want to. You can spend hours alone, thinking about the day, this new country, the new people you meet.
Not enough people take the time out to reflect while they’re travelling, but for us it’s natural. We need that time or we go crazy. And travel is nothing if not a reflective time. As an introvert travel has a deeper impact on you because you naturally observe, and see, and think. You take the time to take it all in.
Next time you’re on the train or the bus – look at the people who are talking and laughing the whole time, and look at the ones who are quietly staring out the window, lost in thought.
For one, the long train ride is a time to crack jokes and talk about themselves; for the other, it’s a time to observe and pull apart about the country flashing before them.
This really is one of the best parts about solo travel for introverts. The ability to really sink into your experiences and think about them, write about them, make sense of them. It’s exactly what travel is about.
Introvert Travel Is Easier To Plan
Can’t find anyone to eat dinner with? No one to take that hike with you? You’re the only person who wants to see the waterfalls?
You didn’t want anyone with you anyway.
These days it’s so normal for me to go eat dinner, alone, and then sit there for 3 hours afterwards reading. I can walk around a city for an entire day without talking to a single person. I don’t need anyone with me, and often, I don’t want anyone with me.
While extroverts are always trying to plan new trips with people and make plans with other travel buddies, I just worry about myself. My trip planning is always 100% stress free. I don’t need to worry about who’s coming, who’s not coming, if we have enough people, if we have too many people, if I’m going to like them or hate them.
I buy one ticket. I book one room. I ask for one seat.
No one else matters.
Of course, I’m not always alone. If I feel like meeting someone, I’ll pep talk myself to put my Kindle down, put on some pants, and I’ll check into a busy hostel or go to the local bar. I’ll close my eyes, flick the switch on, and away we go.
But for the rest of the time it’s all solo. No one to worry about, and no one worrying about me.
We Find Deeper Friendships
It feels like we’re loners, sometimes. People think we hate other people. That we’re shy and afraid of socialising.
That’s not true.
We just like a bit of quiet.
It seems more extroverted folk tend to say hi to every single person they see. They introduce themselves, add everyone on Facebook, shake everyone’s hand. They have time to meet everyone in sight.
We don’t have the energy for that. Maybe that makes us come off as snobbish, but whatever. It takes effort for us to let people in. To build a friendship. To get to know someone. And it’s not effort that we can give to every person, every day.
Unfortunately, travelling is filled with superficial friendships. People you’ll bunk with for a day, share a beer, say you’ll keep in touch, and then never see or talk to ever again. You cling to each other because you’re both village idiots disoriented in a foreign place, and it’s awesome, to meet new people this way, but you can hardly call them friends.
Extroverts always seek out someone to share things with, even if it’s just a few hours, but we don’t have the energy for that. It’s exhausting.
However, eventually you do meet someone who’s special. Someone you really click with. Someone who really could be a friend. It’s always magical when you meet these people – someone from halfway across the world who you really bond with. Bromances and romances and friendships that don’t just last fifteen minutes. They last a lifetime. You made the time for them because you had the time for them. You may not have 100 new Facebook friends this month, but you do have one new friend who might just change your life.
Afraid to travel the world because you’re an introvert? Worried about all the new faces? Can’t handle all the hellos and goodbyes?
You’re running in the wrong direction.
Get on a plane. Go somewhere faraway. Watch yourself soak it all in. See how you evolve.
Solo travel was made for you. And if you haven’t experienced it yet, it could be the exact thing you’ve been waiting for.
Are you an introvert who’s travelled solo? How was it? What did you learn? Did you enjoy it? Let me know in the comments below!
As an introvert, I agree with most of the above, but spending a bit too much time alone on the last trip taught me that I do need people in my life, and that I need to stop neglecting the folks already in my network. This coming year will be dedicated to that…
Yeah, balance. Hard to find sometimes..
I will admit that I am one of those people you talk about Bren in this Blog. I’ve been to about 36 countries and half of them I travelled solo. In one of those trips, I met an Aussie while in India and since then we became long distance friends after so many years. In fact, we made a second trip together to Nepal after many years since we first met. Up to this day we still email and send holiday and birthday greeting cards and always write about seeing each other in their respected countries. I appreciate the insight you made (which is so well written) and validated my inspiration to be a traveler.
Awesome to hear Lemuel. Interestingly I don’t keep in touch with many of my old travel friends (and I should!) but I see them on Facebook all the time doing interesting things out there. There’s always that handful that I do stay connected with too. Keep travelling!
Thanks for posting this. So much of what you said really resonated with me. I used to feel the need to apologize for my introversion, try to overcome it and even let people make me feel bad for being this way. But now I’m learning to accept and embrace it. Looking forward to hearing more introvert travel stories!
Thanks Kimberley. I’ll keep writing 🙂
I’ve always thought that I am an extrovert. You know that dude you is always on a smile and ready to make friends. Until I got a job that requires me to talk, please people like clients, clients you are mostly unpleasant, rude and mostly practicing bad business practices. I hated them but I needed to talk to them until I’ve had enough. there were moments when I just don’t want to talk to anyone, but I had to attend some meetings with them. After more than a year, I quit the job. Then I started traveling seriously.
that’s the time that I realized that i enjoy solo travel. I enjoy long hours bus travels. i enjoy being alone. i enjoy not giving a damn about others at times. I also discovered that I am more reflrective about my life than others. whew, I am really an introvert. Haha!
I enjoyed reading this post Bren. 🙂