I could feel him staring at me.
We were the only early risers at the hostel; the only two in the breakfast room enjoying our cereal and yogurt. His eyes burned into me, as I tried to keep my gaze on my Kindle.
Do not make eye contact. Do not make eye contact.
In my peripheral vision, I saw the guy begin to get up.
Crap. He’s coming this way.
And just when I thought he was going to sit at my table…
…he veered left and went up the stairs.
I realize this account sounds like the beginning of a #metoo story; but in reality, this guy wasn’t a pervert at all. Simply, he was another solo traveler looking to chat.
And I was avoiding the opportunity like the plague.
Psst! Don’t forget to pin this post on Pinterest for later:
I Swear I’m Not A Mean Girl
I’ve written before about how I’m one of those introverted travelers that actually likes being alone.
Not always, but often.
You’ll find me happily eating at a restaurant alone, editing photos on my laptop quietly in the corner of the hostel and feigning a stomach ache when I meet other travelers who want to go clubbing.
Oh, and if you try to talk to me while I have headphones on I may smile at you politely; but don’t think for a second my internal feeling isn’t more along the lines of…
And yes, I’m also the same traveler who was invited to the wedding of a guy I met at a money exchange while on a solo trip to Prague, still Skypes with a girl I met on a beach in Fiji when I was 21, and totally loves hostels and CouchSurfing.
The thing is, constantly socializing can be exhausting, especially for introverted travelers like myself.
It’s a myth that all travelers are partiers; or even that people who like to go out at home like to stay out until 5am on the road.
Sometimes, though, when everyone else around you is in a group laughing with beers and playing games, or getting ready together in the hostel bathroom for a night out, you do start to feel, well, like a loser.
An Introvert Travel Guide
It’s Okay To Be Socially Awkward
What’s funny is when I’m in the mood to be Ms. Social Butterfly, I can totally fit in with those laughing, beer-drinking nomads; though often — after a long day of traveling — I honestly just want to read my serial killer biography (my favorite type of reading that makes me look even weirder) or write in a quiet nook.
Away from the shrieks and fraternizing.
For so long people have talked about how introverts need time alone to re-energize, though a study out of Finland found that both introverts and extroverts find hanging out with others tiring.
What differs is how long it takes the person to feel drained, as extroverts feel energized right after socializing and then come down a few hours after.
I absolutely love this description by Psychology Today of the act of socializing for too long giving some an “introvert hangover.”
And hey, on a Saturday night in NYC it’s just as likely you’ll find me dancing until 4am in Brooklyn as it is you’ll find me curled up with my boyfriend and cat watching horror movies; but, in many social situations outside of my immediate friend group — and when I haven’t had at least five hours of recovery time on the couch — there are thoughts running through my head that a stranger may not see.
Let’s take hostel breakfast dude, for example.
If I had chosen to sit at his table instead of opting to eat alone, here’s what likely would have happened.
Him: Hey, so where are you from.
Me: New York. You?
Him: Australia. What have you done so far in Iceland?
Me: Yea…I think I need a nap.
Okay, I’m exaggerating here; but I do genuinely enjoy silence.
On the road, I like conserving my energy for my travel day and don’t really need to have 101 things distracting me to get excited.
Actually, my absolute favorite thing to do when traveling is just choosing a neighborhood and getting totally lost for the day, popping into a café for a coffee, sampling some cheeses or meats at a deli, finding a high vantage point to get an aerial photo from.
Recently, I learned why this is from Quiet Revolution, in an article depicting six spot-on illustrations that show what really goes on in an introvert’s head.
And guess what?
Introverts need less stimulation from the world to feel energized than extroverts do.
Oh hey, Kindle, whatchyou doin’ tonight 😉
Now, I’m not saying I didn’t talk to anyone at all while in Iceland. I loved chatting over lamb stew and rye bread ice cream on my Iceland food tour, and I had a blast sitting with another girl who happened to be from NYC too on my excursion around the Golden Circle.
I enjoyed getting into my rental car and just taking in the scenery, belting out Taylor Swift and stopping for photos when the occasion arose.
One night I even opted for a pub crawl and had a blast — though politely exited before the clock struck midnight and I turned into a pumpkin.
Umm, it could totally happen, and I should be admired for my continual focus on trying to avoid unsafe situations.
So many travel bloggers — myself included — pen articles on how to make friends traveling solo and how to find a great social hostel.
Sometimes, though, solo travelers want to do just that:
Travel solo, completely.
Learning To Be Confident
I think introverted travelers often feel like this inherent quality has a negative connotation — at least I did for a while.
But really, both have their pros/cons.
It took me so, so, so long to feel confident being introverted; because, as a solo traveler, you often already go into the trip worrying if you’ll meet people, at least the first times you head out on the road alone.
And then, once you’re traveling, you realize it’s actually pretty darn easy to meet people traveling solo.
What’s hard is feeling confident being the one who chooses not to.
Introvert Travel Tips
As an introverted traveler myself, I want to share with my fellow alone-time lovers a few introvert travel tips I’ve picked up after 11+ years of almost full-time travel.
1. Don’t Be Afraid To Book That Trip (Especially Solo)
Should Introverted Travelers Stay Home?
Can introverts travel solo?
Immersion into foreign sights and smells, having to navigate unfamiliar terrain, honking taxis and missed trains, that inevitable day of upset stomach.
One might think this would turn the introverted traveler’s detail-oriented world into a tizzy; but for me it’s quite the opposite. I can get close and interact when it’s appropriate, or be a quiet onlooker if I choose.
If you’re scared to travel alone, check out these stories by solo travelers who overcame their fear of traveling alone.
As a solo traveler, I can decide what I want to do, where I want to go and who I want to spend time with. It’s truly ultimate freedom, a style that eases my stress, rather than induces it (which happens on many group trips).
Which gets me to my next introvert travel tip.
2. Book Group Trips With Care
I haven’t always been careful when choosing a group trip in the past.
In fact, here’s what my progression can look like on a no-downtown seven-day group trip:
- Day 1: I hope everyone thinks I’m normal. Also, I hope nobody wants to go out tonight.
- Day 2: Yay, nobody wanted to go out last night. Hopefully the same goes for tonight.
- Day 3: I wish this trip had more time for me to wander alone; but I can do this. Reminder to self: sit with someone else on the bus instead of staring out the window the whole time!
- Day 4: Is it weird if I ask the guide if I can do my own thing today, away from the group?
- Day 5: Okay, I feel like I’m breaking into a rash, or like my brain is on fire, or like my insides want to swallow me whole because they just WANT TO GET OUT!!!
- Day 6: Just one more day left until I get to have a whole glorious 24 hours to myself!
- Day 7: (Feigns needing to pack for the sixth time in the last 24 hours to avoid the group breakfast)
Now look, I’ve gone on some amazing group trips and met some incredible people that I’m still friends with.
For instance, a few years back I went on a Central America Highlights tour with Intrepid, that was easily one of my all-time favorites.
Well for one, Intrepid is local and responsible tourism focused, and the itinerary itself highlighted active adventures, so this was right up my alley.
In terms of being an introvert, though, what’s really important to consider is how much downtime you’ll get.
Also, you’ll want to contemplate how quickly the tour moves from city to city.
If the itinerary is jam-packed, you’re out and about from 8am to midnight every day, and switching locations almost every other day, you’re not going to be able to re-charge.
However, if the itinerary is more laid-back and allows for you to get those much-needed solo sessions, it’ll be a better situation.
3. Make Your Needs Known Before Your Trip
Keeping on the topic of traveling in a group, let’s look at the situation of traveling with significant others, family and friends.
I almost exclusively travel solo, but sometimes I also travel with loved ones.
And I love doing this; however, I’ve learned over the years it’s incredibly important before even booking the trip to say something along the lines of, “Look, I’m super pumped for this trip, but I’m giving you a pre-trip warning that I will likely need to wander on my own a bit each day or spend some solo time re-charging. Are you okay with that?”
There are people out there who will need to be with you 24/7, especially if you’re with someone who has never traveled solo or who doesn’t get the idea of needing alone time.
Just because you’re best friends with someone at home does not mean you’ll travel well together, and it’s wise to figure this out before booking those flights.
Additionally, I’ve found that making my needs known beforehand helps ensure the person doesn’t get offended or think I’m secretly angry on the trip when I say “Hey, I know you want to go to that art museum; but I think I’m going to go take some photographs in the park on my own.”
4. Skip The Party Hostels & Dorm Rooms
I get it; sometimes budgets are tight and dorms are the only option.
But if you can swing it, many hostels offer private rooms. As I’m now in my 30s, I appreciate the space, and like that I can socialize when I want and then quickly retreat back to my sanctuary.
Now, when I say socialize I don’t mean in a hostel bar or club. In fact, I’ll add a bonus introvert travel tip here and say to avoid those at all costs.
Instead, look for hostels with communal kitchens, chill lounges and shared patios for a calmer collective experience.
5. Skip The Hostel For A Mix Of Airbnb & Couchsurfing
As mentioned above, I’m no longer in my 20s. And while I do still enjoy hostels, I’ve definitely turned more to Airbnb for unique, budget-friendly spaces around the world.
Airbnb offers a choose-your-own-adventure experience.
For instance, I’ve stayed in a three-story castle by myself in France, but I also booked a shared house in Denver when I lived there for over a month and wanted to meet other people. Moreover, you can choose a more homestay-like experience and stay with a local family in a spare room, like I did in Croatia.
Now, just because I’m one of those introverted travelers doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy meeting other people.
So, quite often, I’ll book an Airbnb all to myself, and then hop onto Couchsurfing to chat in the city forums and attend local meetups.
Many of these meetups are chill, such as grabbing a cup of coffee, cycling around vineyards for a few hours, taking a class or meeting in the park.
Actually, one of my favorite experiences was in my mid-20s back when I was traveling solo and celebrating my birthday in Mendoza. I posted on the Couchsurfing forum that I was alone on my special day, and I ended up having 10 local Couchsurfers take me out for a juicy steak dinner.
It’s such a wonderful community, whether you use it to stay on people’s couches for free or meet up with locals.
Keep in mind if you stay on a couch that often, though not always, the payment is an unspoken cultural exchange. This means that you should have a schedule that’s flexible to spend time with your host.
6. Keep A New Yorker Mindset
Yes, I am a New Yorker, so I’m fortunate that this comes naturally, but let me explain.
On any given day in New York City, I might see:
- A man dancing naked (like, totally naked) holding a rubber fish singing 80s rock to tourists
- A woman selling bows made of cat hair while pushing her cat in a stroller
- A group in full clown costumes on the train pulling live animals out of their hats
- A guy projectile vomiting on the subway before asking the girl next to him on a date
- People of all ages, races and sizes rocking everything from rainbow colored hair to outfits worn by your great-great-great-great-great grandparents singing and dancing at the top of their lungs truly as if nobody were watching
Also, yes, these are all things I have actually seen in NYC.
My point is that people in New York City don’t care what people think. Whether they’re letting their freak flag fly or in a crowded bar sitting alone, they stick their middle finger up to the world and just do what they feel like.
While sometimes this attitude can come off as abrasive, it’s also a great survival attitude.
More than that; it’s a great attitude to adopt to find confidence, because you’re too busy doing what you want to give a darn what others think.
Nobody notices that you’re acting like a loner.
And if they do, you’ll never see them again anyway.
7. Remember What Trip Experiences Energize You
Maybe you love a quiet camping trip in the countryside.
Or maybe you love big cities because, despite being loud, they’re easy to get lost in.
Possibly, like me, you like a mix of both, or something totally different.
There is no “right way” to travel as an introvert.
Personally, as a solo female traveler and a New Yorker, I feel most comfortable basing in cities and taking day and weekend trips into the countryside. My obsession with horror movies also means I would never camp alone, though I do enjoy it in a group.
Do what feels right to you, and listen to those signals your wise gut is giving you.
Here are more essential tips for first-time solo travelers.
8. Push Your Introvert Limits (At Least A Little)
You should also use travel to stretch your comfort zone a bit.
Travel is about experiencing new things. When I’m on the road, I’m naturally more curious and more apt to take new classes, book unique tours and do things like snorkeling below-freezing waters while it’s hailing in Iceland and summiting an active volcano in Nicaragua.
While testing your adventure limits and enrolling in novel experiences, push other limits, too.
Of course, not all introverted travelers are inherently shy, but as someone who craves alone time it can sometimes be easy to fall into a don’t-talk-to-me hole.
So, I challenge you to:
- Sit alone at the bar *without* a book — so you can strike up a conversation with another solo imbiber
- Book a group tour for the day — many cities have free walking tours where you simply leave a tip — and engage the guide as much as possible for a dip into local culture
- Join Couchsurfing or Meetup.com and attend at least one local meetup
- Carry a Chat Pack in case you need some conversation starters
- Take part in a social experience where you can play up a strength, for instance, an art class if you’re good at painting, so you can feel more confident in the domain you’re in
9. Don’t Use Your Smartphone As A Crutch
For one, it’s healthy to break away from technology, especially if you’re someone who tends to spend hours mindlessly scrolling Instagram and Facebook.
Instead, I like to bring a book or journal out with me. It almost feels like a massage for your brain when you JUST…PUT…DOWN…THE…SCREEN.
10. Take Part In Travel Therapy
This doesn’t necessarily need to be going to see a therapist, though it can.
Really, it means incorporating self-growth experiences into the travel itinerary.
What’s your meditation?
For me, this means journaling in a park, taking a yoga or dance class (or local cultural class, like Tai Chi in China), and going on a scenic hike (though nothing too remote when I’m solo, and I always carry my personal alarm).
I love rustic cafes (coffee, please!), always try the local ice cream and can spend hours in any art gallery.
And I’m more than happy to do it all solo.
Vacation Ideas For Loners
In my opinion, there are certain destinations and experiences that are better than others for introverted travelers.
My personal favorite trip type for introverts:
Most wellness retreats — or really any kind of niche retreats — attract people looking to better themselves. Even if they’re with friends the focus is typically on themselves and their own journey, making it a great experience for introverted travelers.
Additionally volunteer vacations, depending on the project, can be a good option for loners.
Sure, you’ll work hard and spend time on the project itself, but having a focus that isn’t purely socializing for the fun of it makes it easier to withdraw into oneself if needed.
Before applying, make sure your potential voluntourism experience is ethical.
Also remember that if you’re staying at a hostel, many offer private rooms. You can search Hostelworld‘s large inventory to find a chill accommodation that fits your needs.
Meanwhile, check out this list of amazing destinations for solo female travelers.
Positive Aspects Of Being An Introvert
Now, despite what the connotations around being introverted may be, I believe it can actually be a positive thing.
- You can more easily grow your relationship with yourself
- You don’t tend to have that whole “fear of missing out” (#FOMO) like your extroverted counterparts
- You can come off as mysterious and exotic (or slightly weird, but I like to think the former is more true)
- You choose your words carefully and what you say has value and meaning
- Your daydreams are wild and beautiful, as are you
Resources For Introverted Travelers
I just want to quickly recap a few booking resources for introverted travelers:
Couchsurfing. You can use Couchsurfing to stay on local couches for free. Or, you can create a free account to host and join local meetups.
Meetup. This is my other go-to resource for meeting up with other travelers who have shared interests.
Hostelworld. Opt for a hostel with private rooms and without a bar/club.
Book Yoga Retreats. Here you’ll be able to research and book yoga and wellness retreats from around the world at a wide range of price points.
Booking.com. By far, Booking.com offers the best travel deals over any other online booking platform. Whether you’re an introverted or extroverted traveler, I’m going to assume you like a good deal.
Intrepid Travel. While I usually travel solo, if I’m booking a group trip I opt for Intrepid Travel’s responsible tourism-focused, small group experiences. They offer a range of themes, too, so you end up traveling with others with a similar trip style. Click the link for their latest travel deals.
Note: I work as a guide in NYC for Intrepid’s day tour company, Urban Adventures, though I’ve been traveling with Intrepid long before I guided for them.
Well, Hello There!
Now, I promise I’m not as awkward as I just made myself out to me; so please do say hi if you see me on the road.
As long as I don’t have headphones on, that is.
Just kidding 😉
Okay introverted travelers, what did I miss? Please share your nomadic introvert experiences in the comments below!
*Some of the above links are affiliate links, meaning that if you make a purchase/booking I make a small commission, at absolutely no extra cost to you. I only ever link to products/services I truly believe you’ll love. Thank you for your support in helping to keep this site running!*
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