8 Truths About Traveling as an Introvert

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This may come as a surprise to anyone who hasn't met me in real life, because of course it's easy to scan through my blog posts and imagine me to be a certain way – people have used words like “adventurous,” “outgoing,” and even “brave” to describe the me on the computer screen.

But the reality is that, while I *can* be all of those things, I'm actually an introvert at heart.

I'm not necessarily shy (that's a common misconception about introverts!), but I'm also not going to be the first one to strike up a conversation or suggest going to a party. Like most introverted people, I prefer small groups to large gatherings; I can be quiet if I don't have anything to say; and I need alone time every day in order to decompress.

Me at Lake Louise

This might not sound like a person who would also go gallivanting around the globe, but, believe it or not, there are a LOT of introverted travelers (and even travel bloggers!) out there.

And so, in order to connect more with my people and show you that introverts can totally conquer the world, too, I've decided to dish on the realities of traveling as an introvert.

You'll stress out over the most random things

This may not be true of all introverts, but it's definitely true for me – really random things stress me out and give me anxiety while traveling. Things like asking for directions (especially in another language), getting up the nerve to walk into a restaurant alone and ask for a table for one, being thrust into social situations by new travel friends… They're all small and silly, but be prepared for the most random things to stress you out when you're traveling as an introvert.

Too many options gives me anxiety, too. For example, when I was in Seville in early 2015, I decided I would go out for dinner one night. I wanted to go somewhere for tapas. But there were SO. MANY. PLACES. First, I got anxious about finding a good place to eat when there were so many to choose from. Then I got myself all worked up about going inside alone and trying to order off a menu I could only half-read.

Plaza de Espana in Seville, Spain

I ended up walking around for an hour, and then giving up – I had a gourmet burger in my hotel room that night instead.

Overload like this – whether it's sensory or social or a mix of both – is a real thing that we introverts struggle with while traveling.

But you know what? That burger was one of the best burgers I had this whole year. #noregrets

People will drive you nuts (sometimes)

I began my traveling career as a backpacker. I spent two summers backpacking around Europe, traveling on backpacker buses and budget airlines and staying in hostels. This forced me into socializing a lot more than I probably would have at home – often with people that I would have avoided like the plague anywhere else.

There were the all-night partiers that come bumbling back into the hostel dorm room at 5 a.m. to make more noise than you would think humanly possible. There were the twenty-something travelers more intent on scoring drugs than getting to know a new culture. There were the travelers who were loud and rude and inconsiderate of the fact that I just wanted to check my email and go to bed early sometimes.

And, quite frequently, these same people who drove me nuts would call me a party pooper when I didn't want to get drunk or hang out with lots of other drunk people until all hours of the morning.

Reykjavik, Iceland

Not everyone will GET that you need to have some “alone time” each night, or if you're not much of a partier and/or feel really uncomfortable in large, rowdy groups. This really bothered me when I first started traveling, but I eventually realized it wasn't worth stressing out over what other people thought of me.

Do your thing. And, if that doesn't always work, sometimes this old saying rings true: “If you can't beat 'em, join 'em.”

Some days you'll have to force yourself to be social 

As an introvert, you won't be predisposed to joining 'em. I know this. In fact, you may start brainstorming elaborate reasons why you CAN'T join 'em. I've been there; I've done it.

But, if I've learned anything about pushing myself, it's that forcing yourself to be social can sometimes be exactly what you need. I'm not saying you have to force yourself to do something you're entirely uncomfortable with – but convincing yourself to be slightly more social than you would normally be can really enhance your travel experience.

Some days, you'll have to force yourself to be social. This could be as simple as going on a free walking tour with a group of other travelers instead of wandering around on your own, or could be as intense as agreeing to go on a rafting pub crawl with people you just met on a bus.

Cesky Krumlov
Post-rafting in Cesky Krumlov

There are many days when I wake up on the road convinced that I don't want to talk to a soul that day. But then I force myself to be a little bit social, and I end up having a much better time than I would have had on my own. (You know, as long as I can curl up alone in bed with my laptop afterwards…)

You'll meet others like you

When I first started traveling (on that backpacker trail, remember), I would DREAD meeting new people in hostels because I assumed that they all would only be interested in partying. I was under the incorrect assumption that I was always destined to be the odd one out.

This, of course, could not be further from the truth.

I mean, yes, I DID meet plenty of backpackers who only wanted to party. But I also met plenty of other travelers just like me – introverts trying to figure out where they fit in to the travel landscape.

I remember being really apprehensive about doing a guided trip with Busabout a few years ago. I knew I'd be traveling on a large bus with lots of other young travelers, and I was terrified that I wouldn't fit in with any of them. Thankfully, though, I immediately hit it off with three Australian girls – one traveling solo and the other two traveling together – who shared my preference for beach days and sightseeing over all-night parties. We had so much fun together that they didn't really even have to try hard to convince me into having one big night out at a treehouse club in Montenegro.

Budva

This has been a recurring theme on my travels. No matter how much I stress out over not being able to meet people due to my introverted ways, I always end up connecting with a small group of fellow travelers. And it's often those beautiful people who turn up in my fondest travel memories.

Slow or solo travel might be a good fit for you

Even though backpacking wasn't as traumatizing as I originally feared it would be, I realized after a while that it just wasn't my ideal style of travel. Moving around so frequently and sharing my bedroom with so many strangers caused me a lot of unneeded stress. I got sick frequently, and the anxiety that has plagued me on and off since high school would often creep up the night before I had to navigate another airport or train station or set of bus schedules.

For many introverts, slower travel – i.e. staying in one place longer than just a couple of nights – is easier to adjust to than what I like to call “FOMO-style travel” (i.e. rushing around to see as much as you possibly can). It's less stressful and lets you get to know destinations at a slower pace, on your own terms. If it takes you a few days to get comfortable talking to strangers or branching out from the area where you're staying, traveling slower is a natural choice.

I think it's also safe to say that solo travel might be a better fit for many introverted travelers. While I DO like to travel in small groups or with my boyfriend every now and then, solo travel gives you all the freedom you need to travel in the way that works best for you.

Amanda from A Dangerous Business Travel Blog

When I'm traveling alone and I hit a travel day where I don't want to force myself to be social, I simply don't have to. I can enjoy my own company for the entire day, doing what I want when I want to do it.

And, on the other hand, if you've had enough alone time and want to be more social, you're much more approachable as a solo traveler – don't be surprised when strangers just start talking to you in public!

RELATED: Why I'm Not Afraid to Travel Alone

You'll find ways to adapt that work for you

There's no “one size fits all” style of travel for us introverts. What works for me might not work for you. But, ultimately, you'll find ways to adapt and mold your travel style into whatever suits you best.

You might find that renting apartments instead of staying in hostels or hotels gives you the relaxing space you need to recharge at night. You might find that wearing headphones in public is effective when you're in a non-social mood. You may find that taking a Kindle with you to dinner helps combat the stress/awkwardness of eating alone when you're traveling solo.

Whatever your tricks are, you'll figure them out by simple trial and error and will eventually settle into the perfect travel style for YOU.

Brandywine Falls in Cuyahoga Valley National Park

You may not ever come “out of your shell” – and that's totally fine

A lot of people talk about the transformative power of travel; about how it changed their lives and brought them “out of their shell.”

Sure, it's possible that travel may transform your life and help you shed some of your introverted ways. But, then again, it may not. And that's okay, too! Being an introvert isn't a BAD thing, and certainly doesn't mean that you can't have an awesome and fulfilling travel experience.

Despite how it might come across on this blog, I'm no less introverted today than I was when I first started traveling years ago. I still stress out on travel days. I still have days where I don't want to be social. I still need time and space to decompress (alone) after a long day.

But that's just who I am, and who I will always be. And I've come to accept and even embrace that.

White Sands National Monument

You can absolutely still travel as an introvert

If you take anything away from this post, I hope it will be that you can still travel – AND have an awesome time – as a more introverted person. You aren't destined to always be the odd one out; there will be people to connect with should you want to.

And, at the end of the day, traveling in any way, shape, or form is SO much better than not traveling at all. So don't let your introvertedness hold you back.

Are you an introverted traveler, too? Share your story in the comments below!

 

Truths about traveling as an introvert

"It's a dangerous business, going out your door. You step onto the road, and, if you don't keep your feet, there's no telling where you might get swept off to." - JRR Tolkien

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111 Comments on “8 Truths About Traveling as an Introvert

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  1. Yes, totally! I’m such an introvert, but I love to travel but definitely need my down time. I love solo road trips, especially! Me, my dog and my iPod! I laughed about eating a burger in the room because I’ve done this so many times, and it wasn’t really about not wanting to eat alone in a restaurant, but more about being overwhelmed by choices and waiting until I am starving. Probably more anxiety than introversion! I just did a whitewater trip with a large group and while everyone else enjoyed cocktail hour, I often retreated to my tent with my Kindle, just for a little break 🙂

      I haven’t done many solo road trips, but I definitely love my solo travel in general!

    Its wonderful to learn that I’m not the only introvert that likes to travel. I started reading the blog and I thought to myself, why is she describing me. The pushing yourself to be social is an understatement, but at time it is more than exactly what you need. Oh so true.

    Wow…another introvert who travels…who know..!

      If you take a scroll through the comments, you’ll realize that there are TONS of us out there!

    Like many others, I can realllyyyy relate to this post! I’ve always felt like a “weird” introvert. I’m not shy at all–I’m actually quite confident and outgoing, and I AM the type of person to strike up conversations with total strangers and feel completely okay eating alone in public. The thing is, I just really like being alone! Spending a lot of time with people tends to make me feel worn out and exhausted, and I NEED a good amount of quiet time for myself every single day. As I type this comment, I’m hiding out in a cafe a few doors down from the dive shop I’m staying at now 🙂

    For me it can be hard to find a balance of being social (which I DO enjoy a little bit of) and finding time to “indulge” in my alone time during travel. Luckily, solo travel seems to be the perfect fit for me, since I can meet up with people when I feel like it and go off and do my own thing when I don’t.

      Solo travel is great for introverts for the very reasons you mentioned! And I definitely believe that there’s a spectrum when it comes to introverted – some people are definitely outgoing while still largely identifying as introverts!

    Nice one.

    Yeah, it is interesting how every time you force yourself to be social it works out better than great – & every time the next time is just as hard, & one is just as happy to never see anyone again.

    Kind of flies in the face of most social neuroscience & exposure therapy learning theories. But it appears to be the case, I find anyway.

    Thanks for writing. ^^

    J.

      Haha yeah you think it would get easier with time! But that doesn’t seem to be the case for the majority of people like us!

    I’m not an introvert as I can be a right show off sometimes, but when I was a little girl, I used to be extremely shy and would always hide behind the door when people came to visit LOL! Happily, I grew out of that and it was my English teacher who helped me. He introduced me to debating and taught me how to “hold the room.” It seems that I was a natural LOL!
    p.s. I’ve been asked many a time to do stand-up-comedy (in Berlin where I live) but I’ve always declined LOL!

      That’s great that you were able to grow out of your shyness! I think for a lot of people it’s just ingrained, though. But travel HAS definitely helped me be more confident and come out of my shell a bit.

    Great post. It seems from the comments that there’s a lot of us introverts out there! I like to mix up my accommodation throughout a trip – a couple of nights in a dorm room and then a night or two in a BnB or private room. It’s a bit more expensive but it’s worth it to get some alone time.

      I agree – it’s worth it to me, too to spend a little extra in order to get that alone time that I always crave.

    I can relate to all of these. That first point was definitely me on my last trip to Madrid. I was so indecisive and anxious trying to find a good place to eat (and there are lots of places to eat in Madrid). The one night I went to a ramen restaurant because I couldn’t figure where else to go. It’s nice to know I’m not the only one who does this.

      I’M glad that I’m not the only one, either! Haha.

    Oh, yest, having too many options to choose from is a very, very big problem form me.
    I’m kind of relieved I’m not the only one.
    Travelling as an introvert might be hard sometimes, but then it’s easy the other times because because I enjoy my own company.

      You definitely aren’t the only one if these comments are any indication!

    I’m an odd sort of introvert. I adore spending my days with others and meeting new people when I travel. It’s such a high to make new friends. But at the end of the day (or the wee hours of the morning, or at least for a couple hours in the afternoon) I need time to myself. I need my own bedroom or at least someplace I can go alone to be completely anonymous. After a couple of nights of sharing small quarters with anyone (even my husband) I go completely batty. Luckily, my husband is also an introvert so we build alone time into all of our trips together.

    I also love traveling solo. I learned to dine alone in NYC, which is a great place to do it because there’s so many people, nobody cares, and there are often other people alone. However, it’s been a long time since my last solo trip and I know that it’s going to take some getting used to when I need to eat dinner out alone again.

      Someone else mentioned that there’s a spectrum when it comes to all this – there are definitely some people who are more or less introverted than others! It’s great that you and your husband are able to give each other alone time when you travel. I’m sure that makes all the difference!

    Wow, like others, I feel I was reading my own bio here. Not only does this describe me, yes I can chat with others, yes I can have lots of fun in a small group, but it also describes ESP folks, which I also relate to. Extra Sensitive People! And oh, how many burgers have I had in my room alone.
    Thanks for this post!

      I’m glad so many people have been able to relate to this! (And I’m extra glad to learn that I’m not alone in stressing out over things like where to eat!)

    I’m also an introvert to a certain extent. I also prefer small groups over large groups, and I also don’t feel like talking to people all the time. But, travel has changed me to a great extent. I’m more comfortable with people, more tolerant of them! I agree, solo and slow travel is great for people like us.

      I can totally relate to travel making you more tolerant of people! Travel has definitely mellowed me out a lot. I still stress over random things sometimes, but it’s nowhere near as bad as it used to be!

    I’m totally with you on all of these points. It takes me a while to get used to certain situations and often I can be the quietest one in the group often because it’s too easy to let the more extrovert people be the centre of attention. However, there are always similar people around when travelling and you do have to force yourself to be social sometimes, that’s often when the best memories and experiences happen 🙂

      Yup, I’ve definitely discovered that there are almost ALWAYS other introverted travelers around you – you just have to find them!

    I’m also an introvert and I can so relate to what you say about stressing over the small things. I’m going to travel for a solid year next year and being an introvert it stresses me out a little bit, but hopefully it’ll be fine! 🙂

      I’m sure you’ll be fine, Rianne! And if you run into a lot of situations that stress you out, just remember that you can always slow down and take a break. 🙂

    Oh man, I feel this. When I moved abroad it was a constant effort to get out there and meet people – a necessary evil when you don’t know a single person in the country!

      Yeah that’s rough! It was the same for me when I studied abroad. Luckily, though, you’re almost always to meet at least a few people that you’ll get close with – which is usually perfect for us introverts!

    I totally relate to all of this! I love my alone time, and can find it tough to force myself to socialize. In some ways, solo travel is perfect for introverts, but in other ways it’s super challenging. Forcing yourself to be social at times is good advice – it’s usually those situations that lead you to the coolest, most random experiences.

      You’re so right, Robin – solo travel can be both the best and the worst for us introverts! I think the more you travel, though, the easier it is to find the right balance.

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