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.
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.
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.