An Introverted Traveler’s Survival Guide
A RARE SPECIES: THE INTROVERTED TRAVELER
I always knew I was introverted but had no idea to what extent until I started my long solo journey of traveling solo at the age of 35. I first noticed it when I went from hostel to hostel for the first 3 weeks of my trip. Hi Jill! Want to hang? Sure. You want to come see the waterfalls with us today? Okay. I mean part of the reason I travel is to force myself to be more outgoing and get out of my shell. This is good for me, right?
I am not one for small talk and never have been. Therefore, I prepared myself with a few staples that can easily be used on the road. Where are you from? How long have you been traveling? When did you get here? How long are you staying? Where else have you been? Where to next? These usually get me by enough to find a tangent we are both interested in going on for a bit about. (ie. You went to Sri Lanka?! Did you stay in the mountains? Eat the food? I can’t stop thinking about it!) People you meet traveling are so friendly, it is almost like they travel just to meet other people and talk to them, without taking a break. I get it but can’t relate.
So one night, I am sitting at dinner with some new friends for the third night in a row. Me just sitting there, listening to them all talk to each other. I am tired. Exhausted actually. Drained. I need alone time, badly. It is the only place I can recharge to handle these type of situations.
A guy next to me asks me where I am going next. I tell him. India. As this exchange takes place, it is all of the sudden like I am having an out of body experience watching myself, hearing myself have the same conversation I have had hundreds of times before. I no longer feel I am having real or meaningful conversations. Am I am a robot! What is happening? I get extremely dizzy and feel like I am going to faint. Anxiety rises up in my chest. Is this real? Have I really become a robot? I feel like I have been drugged. Ahh get me out of here, pronto. Hey guys, I am exhausted, you can go on without me tonight. I head back to the hostel to hide.
It is early, only 8pm. Maybe no one will be there. I arrive. Ahh, this hostel has pregame festivities? Beer pong and a bunch of drunk frat bros in the common area fill the scene before me. Excuse me. Pardon me. Can I please get through? Squeezing my way through the shouting cheers and high fives, just trying to get to my dorm room. Yes, finally. I made it. I open the door. It is quiet except for one person asleep who just arrived. PEACE. I made it. I can relax. Until they get home. Hurry up and sleep.
ADJUSTING TO A LIFE ON THE ROAD
I used to go on vacations to meet as many people as possible, fit as many experiences as I possibly can into my itinerary before I have to return home. The difference now, I don’t have a home. At this point, the whole world is my home. I quickly realize I have become a different type of traveler. This is not just a week long holiday for me this time, this is my life. I am not just traveling, I am a traveler.
When you are living on the road, you meet so many people, always asking you to come explore with them. This is a wonderful thing about traveling. It is easy to get caught up in thinking you should experience all of these things. Your mind gets lost in vacation mode and it can easily burn you out if you are in it for the long haul. On this trip, I still want to experience things, just experience them more deeply. Instead of small talk with one thousand strangers, I want to have deeper conversations and really connect with a smaller number of people. I still want to party, but I want to experience life in the culture I am in as well. I am not looking for a week long getaway, I am craving experiences that enrich my life.
TIPS FOR SURVIVING LONG TERM TRAVEL
If you are introverted but still want to enjoy the company of others while traveling, you have to learn balance. Ahhh, balance. I was initially intimidated that I was too reserved to meet anyone. I quickly realized that even if I try to hide, someone will find me, peak around the corner, and try to befriend me. Which is a great thing about traveling. This did however, force me to make sure I have balance in my life so that I don’t get burnt out. Here are some things I have learned that hopefully will help you if you are as introverted as I am.
1) Pod Hostels. Yes, a box to hide in! The best. Obviously it is best if you have your own room, but it isn’t always budget friendly depending on which country you are in. If you want to meet people but also have the sanctuary of your own space, pod hostels are the greatest. Pod hostels still have a shared living space, but offer you more privacy because your bed is enclosed by either walls, or curtains. You can literally shut out the outside world. I have found that many boutique pod hostel accommodations are popping up which are usually cleaner and house more of an older crowd.
2) Coworking Hostels. Many “startup” hostels are popping up around the world geared toward the digital nomad. This means you can get work done but still network and socialize at the same time. I have found that these are often full of travelers who work remotely, spending their days working hard but still socializing in the evenings. It is a great place to get the balance you are looking for if you are traveling long term.
3) Learn how to say no. If you are traveling alone, you are bound to have people ask you to come out with them. Every single day even. You might feel like you need to make new friends so you should say yes. It is okay to tell them no and that you will hang with them later. The reason you are traveling is likely to enrich your own personal experience. If you don’t want to go see a waterfall, tell them no, you will catch them later because you have things you need to do. Or if you don’t feel like going out drinking that night, you don’t have to say yes just because you are on “holiday.” You aren’t on holiday, this is your life! Do whatever you want. (The whole meaning behind Gelato for Breakfast, remember?!)
4) Pace yourself. When you are only in a place for a limited amount of time, you can sometimes put pressure on yourself like you should be out doing things. You don’t have to explore like a tourist. Just because you are visiting a place for the first time, doesn’t mean you have to see all of the tourist sites. Or even feel pressured to see anything at all. There is also something amazing about experiencing a place like you live there. Working and then going out for lunch. Hitting the beach and then coming back to your place to relax is a great way to also experience a new place.
5) Forget the small talk. I honestly don’t even know how to answer the question, “Where are you from?” (Am I from Missouri or California? Where do I live if I don’t have a home? The world is my home. Help.). Try forcing yourself to ask deeper questions to actually get to know the person. “Where have you traveled that most feels like home for you?” “What type of experiences do you feel enrich your life the most?” Or try doing more things where you meet like minded people and deeper conversation comes more naturally. Go to a yoga class. Learn how to surf. Do something that puts you out of your comfort zone that you can experience for the first time, together with others.
These are a few things I have learned on the road to help me stay at peace. I can now can embrace the influx of amazing people who seem to throw themselves at me. (This happens no matter how cool you are, believe me.) Now that I know how to keep balance in my life and stay sane, comes the next step. Learning how to open myself up and let people in so that I can have more connection in my life. A work in progress, but don’t worry. Blog coming soon. 🙂