The Truth About Traveling As An Introvert

introvert

Photo: Ana Gabriel/Unsplash; Edited: Jessie on a Journey

One reason I think I truly thrive as a solo traveler is that I’m an introvert. Despite popular belief, this doesn’t mean I’m shy or have trouble making friends. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. I can easily talk to anyone, young or old, quiet or loud, and be a happy and engaging person. This has helped me make countless friends on the road in hostels, on walking tours, at money exchanges and at CouchSurfing meetups.

How I Recharge As An Introvert

The issue is that I can easily go from life of the party to super awkward chic overnight. There comes a point on trips where the laughter, conversation and shared experiences go from fun to stifling, to where I literally feel like I’m suffocating. It’s also hard for me to engage on topics that don’t interest me. I love talking, but when I’m making small talk or trying to add to a conversation I’m not fully up to date on it is a serious drain to my mental batteries. So, I retreat and avoid these conversations. This typically leads the people I’ve just met as “fun Jessie” to wrongly assume something is wrong with me or that I’m angry as I turn into “reclusive Jessie.”

This is less of an issue when traveling with close friends or people who know me, as I feel close enough to tell them when I need space and also know what to expect in terms of personalities and where I fit into the relationship equation; however, when traveling with new people my need for space and independence often leads me to alienate myself as I become quiet and retreat into myself.

When this happens it can be hard to snap back, especially once trip groups and bonds have been cemented. The language of the trip becomes a foreign one, with everyone on the same page and me scrambling to finish chapter one. It may seem like I’m upset or angry, but the truth is I feel like I’ve become an awkward third boob, as my dad would so eloquently put it.

It’s like my body and mind are a battery, and being alone in my own mind is my charger.

A Constant Struggle

It’s something I struggled with a lot when I was younger, easily making friends and then retreating from them as I craved space — a lot of it. When my friends in high school would go run errands and work out together I would feign a stomach ache then go do them myself. On organized group trips I’ll often opt out of certain excursions to devour time on my own. Organized dinners, while nice, can leave me losing myself in a glass of wine and my own head and fantasizing about relaxing with my book in the bathtub — alone.

Over time I’ve learned to accept that I’m introverted — though with some extroverted tendencies, like a love of going on spontaneous adventures — and that it doesn’t make me a weirdo (well, I’m sure some people think it’s weird). I’ve managed to figure out how to maintain a polite acquaintanceship with those strangers I travel with, while just becoming the quiet girl who loves to go off with a cup of coffee, her journal and her camera.

By the way, when I travel solo I do genuinely love meeting other people. The difference with this and a group tour situation is that I have more chances to naturally go off on my own when I need alone time without having to bow out of planned activities that bring the group together. I can choose when and when not to engage, and am able to more easily choose the conversations that energize me.

introvert

Making great friends in Latin America

Meeting The Right People

This also means when I meet people whose conversations energize me frequently I naturally feel insanely close to them, like we’re kindred spirits and fate brought us together. This may make me weirder than the whole “going off on my own” thing. For example, on my Intrepid Travel Way To San Jose trip my group became insanely close from the very start. Maybe it was my mindset or my energy levels, but the first night a small group of us went out tango dancing and cemented our unbreakable clique bond for the rest of the 21-day trip. I still wonder if I hadn’t gone out that night if that would have happened, but I’m happy it did as I still talk to — and see — this group over six months later.

Do I wish I could be life of the party 24/7 and never transform into awkward girl? Sometimes. But I’m not. And guess what, I still have amazing friends and amazing travels. I think it’s also helped me stay focused on my blogging and photography, build up the courage to explore the world on my own, have deeper thoughts, feel more empathy, and grow my relationship with myself and the people I truly connect with.

I’m not anti social.

I’m not damaged.

I’m not afraid to speak my mind and share my opinion.

I’m an introvert, and I’m okay with it.

Do you feel more like an introvert or extrovert when you travel? How do you cope? Please share in the comments below. 


dream creator

7 Comments

  1. You’re my girl 🙂 I feel the same in every way you described. Thanks for such a great post. I don’t think we’re weirdos. Actually I found many solo travelers are introverts. Probably simply because it’s easier for us to be alone. I mean I can live with being on my own, exploring places on my own. In fact I need and I enjoy it. But I enjoy meeting people as well. But please extroverts don’t worry if we want to do some exploring on our own or are not up for a party one evening. It’s not that we don’t like you, we just need some space.

    1. @Stef: Exactly! I always have to have this conversation with my friends before a trip starts, like “I may need to go off on my own for a day. Don’t take it personally, please!” Being on my own seriously makes me feel like a battery being re-charged 🙂

  2. Hey Jessie – introvert isn’t a bad thing or disease. As I tell my daughters, ‘everyone is defective in their own way, that’s what makes us all unique’ 🙂 You might have heard about this, but MBTI is a psychological test that is also widely used in business to help people understand that we are different and to recognize how at least, a little, a co-worker might process things differently. Introverts need quiet time and space to recharge their batteries. Extroverts need conversation and other people. If I have to work at a conference, many of my co-workers will want to go out after to socialize, but I’ve used all my ‘socialization’ skills during the day working the booth. So I need to go back to my room and read a book and do some yoga. The next day we are all recharged in our own way and ready to go once again, ha.

    It does usually mean you are not good at small talk but value conversation that is meaningful to you (travel, yoga, culture, etc) vs maybe something else (golf, politics…). So people who don’t know you see the two ‘personalities’ but the reality is much different.

    https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/1/1f/MyersBriggsTypes.png

    Take care.

    1. @Jon: Very interesting! I’ll have to check this out. Thank you for sharing. And that’s great that something like this exists. I think the hardest thing — even harder than feeling drained — is feeling like others might not understand where you’re coming from. Having a tool that helps us understand each other’s perspectives is a wonderful move in the right direction!

  3. I totally agree with what you’re saying here. Traveling as an introvert can be challenging at times and even a little exhausting. It’s important to try and meet new people, though, even if it is hard, in order to have the most optimal experience when you’re traveling. It looks like you are really enjoying your journeys! Nice work! Thanks for sharing!

  4. Hey Jessie,
    Really I discovered many solo explorers are contemplative people. Presumably essentially in light of the fact that it’s simpler for us to be separated from everyone else. I mean I can live with being all alone, investigating places all alone. Truth be told I need and I appreciate it. In any case, I appreciate meeting individuals too. Be that as it may, please outgoing individuals don’t stress in the event that we need to do some investigating all alone or are not up for a gathering one night.

Post a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *