It’s not news to anyone I know that I’m quite the introvert, and as such sometimes it makes travel that little bit harder than it needs to be…
“A term introduced by the psychologist Carl Jung to describe a person whose motives and actions are directed inward. Introverts tend to be preoccupied with their own thoughts and feelings and minimise their contact with other people.”
This is pretty much the first definition that comes up on google, and it often creates a misconception that introverts hate being around people, which isn’t true – though often portrayed as shy and anti-social people, introverts actually become quickly over-stimulated after interacting with too many people and lose energy in social situations. Extroverts however, gain energy from social interactions. (There’s many other variations of course; extroverted introverts, introverted extroverts, and so on…)
As an introvert, it often becomes confusing reading such quotes as ‘A journey is best measured in friends, rather than miles.” because sometimes more often than not, when travelling you may not be all that interested in seeking people out. Sure, you’re happy enough when interesting friendships develop out of the blue, but sometimes you can be context exploring places all by yourself.
So when people ask me how I can travel solo, now you know why. I’m an introvert!
Here’s some tips on how I get by;
? Get some quality noise-cancelling headphones
The universal sign for ‘don’t talk to me I’m busy’
? Don’t be afraid to travel solo
Sometimes travelling with friends (especially for the first time), can be way too much at once. Pace yourself and try solo travel – it’ll bring you a unique sense of independence!
? Bring a book, travel guide or your laptop with you to meals
Sometimes it can be a little awkward showing up to a meal by yourself, and more often than not I’ve found that some people find this quite strange ‘only one?’ ‘no boyfriend?’ so on…
? Order room service
Sometimes it just becomes exhausting having to go out for every meal – ordering room service on the odd occasion lets you enjoy an easy, quiet meal.
✍ Keep a journal
This is something that any type of traveller can get into, but jotting down your feelings at the end of the day is an easy way to use up down time, as well as keep a record of all of your memories.
? Don’t feel pressured to hang out with your hostel roommates
My first trip overseas, many people told me never to turn down an invitation, and it made me kind of confused and conflicted.
My first invitation was to go grab dinner along Venice Boardwalk with a fellow Aussie who’d just made herself comfortable in my dorm room, I’d just eaten, so I said no – and later I did regret it. Instead I just sat on my computer before getting into bed. So the next time an opportunity came up, I went with it – I’d already eaten, yet I still went and joined some Europeans in a hostel bar/pub. I wasn’t of legal age at the time, so I just got a bowl of chips and traded war stories while they chugged down their beers. Once I was truly tired, I said goodbye and went back to my room, and was content with how I’d spent the night. Even though they continued on with their night, I didn’t feel that pressure to stay out more than I wanted to.
You just need to go with your gut, if you’re not sure you can always “test the waters”, and leave early if it’s not for you!
? Pre-book seats for flights
By pre-booking your seats for flights you’re able to make sure you can get a seat that you are comfortable in – personally I love the window seat as I can lean on the wall and have a little space that’s mine. Others prefer the aisle seat so that they can get up and walk around whenever they like without having to ask anyone to move. I’m not sure if there’s anyone who likes the middle seat? Let me know if that’s you… haha!
? Pack an eye mask
Another universal sign for ‘don’t talk to me’.
? Shop at a grocer and make your own meals
Similarly to ordering room service, going to a grocery store and buying supplies allows you to make up your own meals in the comfort of your hotel room. If you’re staying at a backpackers this can be a little more difficult, but you can just quickly whip something up in the communal kitchen and then take it somewhere quiet to enjoy.
? Travel in countries with the same main language
Learning new phrases and languages can be daunting, and language barriers themselves can be quite intimidating if you’re trying to express something important – by travelling somewhere that speaks the same language/s that you speak it’ll relieve that bit of pressure.
? Have all of the correct documentation ready for border control
My first time to America, I was freshly 18 and had never travelled solo before – I’d always slyly hidden behind a parent while they dealt with all of the documentation and airport business. Upon reaching border control, I realised I didn’t have everything I needed – I had my passport and all of the entry forms, but then the man started asking for my itinerary and final destination. I didn’t know where I was planning on sleeping that night, and I didn’t have an itinerary, so the simple task of handing over my passport for a stamp became all the more daunting. He wasn’t very happy with me but after a good talking to, I continued on my way.
Since then I always come prepared.
? Plan your days
By planning ahead you’re giving yourself less responsibility to deal with in the morning. Waking up to the confrontation of having to figure out travel, transport, bookings, etc. can easily ruin a day of travel.
? Schedule downtime
Though I like to fill in all of my time overseas with exploring, sometimes you just need to give yourself a moment – whether it’s some time to get some sleep and wake up to an easy breakfast, or just a short while sitting in front of your computer, it’s better to feel refreshed before heading back out. Repeat after me; “Refreshed, not stressed!”
? Take your hobbies with you
As an avid photographer, I often get away with avoiding confrontations just because I’m so busy taking photographs of anything and everything – people are less likely to bother you if your doing something.
? Become an amateur photographer
Like I said with taking your hobbies with you, getting behind a camera will give you some distance if a situation is feeling too social – even on group tours or when you are with friends, if you’re beginning to feel drained you are easily able to stand up and say ‘I’m going to take some pictures’ because that in itself is a big part of travel. More often than not someone will agree with you and go to take their own photos as well.
? Have a day for downtime upon return
This was something I did myself anyway, just because I find that sometimes I get too tired, but no matter how much anyone loves to travel, it can be draining. Sometimes taking an extra day off work just to re-accustom to your surroundings and any time differences can make you feel all the more refreshed and prepared. As well as this you’re able to catch up on some sleep, finish unpacking, and settle back into the usual routine.
? Choose your companion/s carefully
Some people say that travelling with your friends is the best way to travel, but some people are just terrible travellers – some plan nothing, some make no effort, some have different interests, and sometimes there’s just personality clashes. Sometimes you have to stick with the ones that you know love to travel – though as an introvert, you don’t want this to be someone who’s going to be physically draining. You should pick someone that you know you can sit in silence with, someone who understands the desire to not talk ALL the time, and not have something going on at every second. This was something I’d never experienced until my first proper trip away with friends (excluding small trips like camping). When it comes to actual travel, you can forget how full on some friends are when you’re around them 24/7 – then you can find that you’re spending too much of the trip trying to take in a moment of silence and you miss the experience.
? Fake it
We’ve all done it, sometimes when confronted with social situations, you just have ‘fake it till you make it’ as they say. Slap on a smile, make small talk, and bare through it until the conversation eventually dies down or you have an opportunity to politely leave.
? Go on group tours
The great thing about day tours is that you’re stuck with the same group of people, it’s not a parade of new people to confront and greet. Sometimes you barely even have to say hello to your fellow travellers, just a polite nod on occasion. By going on a group tour your not confined to having to plan your entire trip yourself, you can just go along getting educated on new destinations.
So what do you think? How do you get by as an introverted traveller?