A Guide To Introvert Travel in an Extrovert’s World

We live in an extrovert’s world. In job interviews, you need to be bubbly, social, and demonstrate your social prowess to stand out as a candidate. If you want to forge your own career, then you need to be adept at networking and have maximum confidence in yourself and your abilities. At my age, the majority of social interaction is based around socialising on a large scale: parties, going out drinking, and group events. There seems to be little space for introverts like me, who want to be alone a good proportion of the time.

The difference between being introverted and extroverted is where you find your source of energy. Introverts are capable of being social, but need time alone afterwards to recharge their batteries. Extroverts thrive off social interaction and get their energy from these encounters. A good collection of articles about the differences can be found here.

An introvert will spend a lot of time pretending to be extroverted if they want to get ahead in life. For me, this has created an environment where I feel uncomfortable with wanting to be alone. I feel intense guilt whenever I need to decline a social invitation so that I can recharge my energy levels. I worry that I offend people when I don’t want to travel with them, because I would rather travel alone. I know on a deeper level what my brain and body needs, but I still feel the need to push myself to be more extroverted.

Travel is designed for extroverts.

Travel also favours the extrovert. The experience of travel is based around human connection and finding commonality even in the unknown. However, you often need to be assertive if you want to find that connection.  Hostels are highly social environments that reward travellers who feel comfortable talking to strangers and quickly assimilating into a group environment. I have pushed myself to travel alone several times, and always have to train myself through pretending to be confident and adept at social interaction with strangers.

However, the very nature of being an introvert is that you need to have alone time. You can’t push yourself to pretend to be something that you’re not. You need to learn how to be comfortable with your alone time, and solo travel is perfect for this.

Solo travel gives you the space to call all the shots, make plans as you please, and choose when and where you choose to socialise. These are the ways in which I travel to enjoy my alone time as well as socialise as a travelling introvert.

Neon lights in Japan

Alternate between staying in shared rooms and private rooms.

In shared accommodation like dorms, it is easier to meet others to combat loneliness. If you stay too long in shared accommodation, you will likely feel irritated and overwhelmed with the constant social interaction. Taking breaks by staying in private rooms allows you to get much-needed space for recharging. However, take care not to fully isolate yourself from everyone around you, or else you may end up feeling very lonely.

Organise activities with others during the day or night, but not both.

I will often arrange to go on a daily outing with other travellers, or to go out drinking at night. Trying to do both in one day leaves me feeling drained and irritable. It’s always nice to have someone to share new experiences with, but you also need to factor in time for reflection and relaxation.

Practise being comfortable with eating alone.

Neon cityscape

I personally love eating alone because it allows me to focus on the meal and not the person that I’m with. However, it can be confronting if you’re not used to doing it in restaurants. Taking a book with you is a really effective way to reduce the anxiety around eating alone in public.

Go for long walks or hikes by yourself.

Hiking is one of the best ways to be alone with your thoughts and process issues in your life. If you form a repetitive pattern with the movement of your body, it allows your mind to properly wander and focus on problem-solving. Hiking with others doesn’t have these benefits because there is an expectation of socialising.

Have clear ideas of your own goals and priorities for travel.

It’s easy to feel pressured into following the crowd or travelling with others just because it feels like it’s what you’re “supposed” to do. It’s easy to get sucked into going out clubbing even if, like me, you just aren’t that into the scene. If you can write a list of your priorities and interests for your travel experience, and stick to it, then you are less likely to be miserable from trying to fit in.

Remember that it’s perfectly fine to be an introvert.

People may be offended if you don’t always want to hang out, or pass on their invitation to go out drinking. Some people may be confused if you assert your need to have a day alone when travelling with them. You may be considered as rude or shy if you sometimes keep to yourself in a hostel. However, there is nothing wrong with being introverted and needing your own space to recharge. Everyone travels differently, and your needs and desires are perfectly valid.

 

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By | 2017-12-07T14:32:00+00:00 November 18th, 2017|mental health|23 Comments

23 Comments

  1. Marcelle Simone Heller November 18, 2017 at 8:16 pm - Reply

    Your article reflects what I go through as an introvert all my life. At work I had to be social and didn’t find enough time for myself to recharge my batteries. It’s so important to have ones own space to recover from trying to be social. Many people – even family members – can’t understand that I don’t want to be invited with other people. Such evenings aren’t enjoyable for me. Do you recognize that, too?

    • Her Travel Therapy November 19, 2017 at 7:51 pm - Reply

      Extroverted people definitely find it difficult to understand when you need time by yourself. I guess it’s just about asserting your boundaries and need for space.

  2. Jenn and Ed Coleman November 19, 2017 at 5:48 am - Reply

    I (Ed) am an INTP personality so this article speaks to me. One of the difficulties with traveling, for me, is being over socialized. Jenn is a full extrovert so I just let her run interference for us. It works well enough. Another things that I found works great is to have a guided tour, especially all inclusive. That way, you have only one point of contact and they just set everything up for you.

    • Her Travel Therapy November 19, 2017 at 7:48 pm - Reply

      It must be an interesting dynamic to be in a couple where one of you is an introvert and one is an extrovert. My partner and I are both introverts so I’m interested to see how that goes when we take our first trip to Japan early next year. That sounds like a good idea with a guided tour and a good way to not get overwhelmed.

  3. Tanvi November 19, 2017 at 2:53 pm - Reply

    I totally relate to this post because as you’ve mentioned I also like to be left alone at times to recharge my batteries.. It’s so important to me.. But i think once you travel solo you automatically want to connect with other people and it’s easier to make friends while travelling for me then otherwise.. I used to think it’s only me but after reading this I think there’s more people out there in this world like me & that gives me some sort of satisfaction!

    • Her Travel Therapy November 19, 2017 at 7:47 pm - Reply

      I’m glad that this made you feel like others share your experience. Travel definitely makes me more social too but I can burn out quickly if I don’t keep on eye on things and give myself alone time.

  4. Rhonda Albom November 19, 2017 at 3:14 pm - Reply

    Over the past twenty years I’ve always travelled with others, but before that I got to travel a little on my own and it made me appreciate my own company. It’s always a wonderful feeling to experience something entirely new and have it all to yourself. However, I never got comfortable with eating alone. A book is a wonderful idea.

    • Her Travel Therapy November 19, 2017 at 7:46 pm - Reply

      It is so liberating to travel by yourself! It’s amazing that you’ve found people that you enjoy travelling with though, there’s very few people that I would consider appropriate travel partners.

  5. Jennifer November 19, 2017 at 9:05 pm - Reply

    I’m an introvert. But I don’t necessarily agree that travel favors extroverts.

    I’m probably an introvert because I am an only child and I grew up out in the countryside. I had no choice but to entertain myself and I did that playing in the yard, going on bike rides and all sorts of other things by myself. So when I got old enough to travel by myself, I never really minded. I’ve never, ever stayed in a hostel and it wouldn’t be my cup of tea.

    When I met my husband, we started traveling together as a couple. Neither one of is an extrovert and we just enjoy each other’s company on trips. We’re fine with conversation with others when we go on some sort of guided tour or activity and we’ve even developed friendships with people around the world when it’s a natural fit. But we don’t seek out the company of strangers and we don’t need to.

    I’d say travel favors the pair or group more than the solo traveler. There’s often single supplements if you go on a cruise or a multi-day organized tour. But not that travel favors one type of personality over another.

    • Her Travel Therapy November 21, 2017 at 2:35 pm - Reply

      I agree that in terms of costs and logistics, travel is easier for couples. I think I’ve always been envious of people who are extroverted and really outgoing, and so I think to some degree I assume that they get more out of a travel experience. I think if you are more comfortable chatting with strangers then you can absorb more of the local culture.

  6. Meg Jerrard November 20, 2017 at 4:17 pm - Reply

    Yes, we definitely live in an extroverts world. I’m largely an extrovert, though I do enjoy a lot of my own time alone – I think I’ve become a solid mix of both as I’ve gotten older. Happy and socialize and be bubbly, but not all the time. These are fabulous tips and pointers for traveling introverts – I personally love the balance of booking a private room at a hostel. You benefit from the social atmosphere and being in a position where people are happy to mingle, but have a retreat if you do need time alone.

    • Her Travel Therapy November 21, 2017 at 1:31 pm - Reply

      It definitely took a long time of either staying in private rooms all the time or forcing myself into dorms all the time to realise that I need to mix things up so that I don’t get overwhelmed or lonely.

  7. Marcus and Mel November 20, 2017 at 8:10 pm - Reply

    Love walking alone, it is great way to relax or think things over. It’s also really good for catching up with podcasts and audiobooks. Never really travelled much on my own outside of a work situation.

  8. Elisa World in Paris November 22, 2017 at 6:59 am - Reply

    Very good point, especially the one on trying to combine shared dorms with private rooms (budget allowing). I don’t agree about hiking alone because it is never a good idea to hike alone (accidents may happen). However you can hike in a group and have moments for yourself to clear up your mind (I always do it)

    • Her Travel Therapy November 27, 2017 at 7:30 pm - Reply

      Hiking doesn’t necessarily need to be in complete wilderness or for several hours at a time. Hiking between villages for example, I find to be really safe and people are always driving past in case you get in trouble.

  9. Jayce Cairo November 23, 2017 at 8:12 am - Reply

    I am an INFJ and I relish solo traveling but there are trips I’d prefer to be with a friend. I totally get everything in your post. I’ve only stayed at a hostel for a couple of times and I found “sleeping with strangers” a bit trying. Haha! I think the one thing I hate about traveling alone is that no one is there to take my photos.

    • Her Travel Therapy November 27, 2017 at 7:29 pm - Reply

      Yeah, the vast majority of my photos don’t have me in them, so that’s definitely a drawback (or a positive depending on how you feel about yourself haha).

  10. Anna November 23, 2017 at 9:19 am - Reply

    Can you be bit of both? I feel I am introvert but also extrovert at the same time! I like how you described your situation in detail. Keep writing. Look forward to read more from you!

    • Her Travel Therapy November 27, 2017 at 7:28 pm - Reply

      Introversion and extroversion are on a spectrum so you can have traits from both personality types. For most people, one is more dominant than the other.

  11. Tahna de Veyra December 3, 2017 at 7:36 pm - Reply

    I love spending time alone. Even eating out alone. I’ve always wanted to travel alone, but I’m nervous about the idea. It’s generally the pervs that I am afraid of. heheh.

    Anyhow, I love your tips and could definitely use them.

    • Her Travel Therapy December 4, 2017 at 5:31 pm - Reply

      Yeah, you do get some people who will try to find out where you are staying or whatever, but I usually just give them a really vague answer or ignore them.

  12. byronicone December 5, 2017 at 11:32 am - Reply

    Wow. It’s like you’re in my head! I had a lot of these experiences when staying in a hostel in Barcelona.

    I went to the free walking tours during the day, the hostel dinner, and the pub crawl after. It was one of the worst nights of my entire month long trip to Europe. I actually had a bunch of people come up to me and criticize me for being tired, call me “old man”, and generally make me uncomfortable for not being into the clubbing scene we were getting into.

    I knew intellectually that I’m an introvert and that was the reason, but it still made me feel like a freak and that I needed to change.

    But to share this experience with someone else, even another travel blogger all the way across the globe, it means a lot to read. Thank you.

    • Her Travel Therapy December 5, 2017 at 3:40 pm - Reply

      It’s really rude and inconsiderate that people were going out of their way to criticise you for not being into clubbing and going out. I like those things on occasion, but I definitely couldn’t handle it every night like a lot of travellers seem to. I’m glad that this post was helpful for you and I hope you can come to terms with your introversion and learn to love it.

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