The world favours extroverts at the expense of introverts. Travelling seems to be just one more area where you’re better if you’re an extrovert: social interractions are more successful if you’re open and outgoing and the the urge for novelty and exploration is indespensable if you change places very often.
Are introverts at a disadvantage when travelling?
A very common misconception is that introverts dislike people. While some of them definitely do, the fact it that most often than not this opinion couldn’t be any further from the truth.
Introverts enjoy alone time and they might find socializing with others difficult, but they also might feel fine in the company of others as long as they are not forced into the situation and can stay back a little bit if they wish.
Most introverts are actually passionate observers, which means that they are fine being in the midst of people as long as they are not part of the crowd
L. Helgoe, an American psychologist
How to avoid people
Actually, if your goal is to be on your own, undisturbed by anyone, travelling is the answer. First, you might go to some remote areas where you don’t stand too much chance of meeting people, and even if you do, these are just a short encounters. You might choose the country where you don’t speak the language and the communication will be much more difficult which will save you from deep, prolonged discussions.
Then, music and literature might come to your rescue. You think I listen to music on my iPod or read a book because I like Shakira or find crime fiction fascinating? Well, of course I do! But they are not the only reasons. My earplugs and my Kindle keep me away from the outside world. They are like a sign that warns people not to approach me, to keep away from my private space. Well, some don’t get a hint and will interrupt asking what I read or listen to, but most people get it. (If they don’t just ignore them)
Some activities are perfect if you want to avoid conversations. Learn diving!
How to meet people
Meeting new people has never been natural to me. After years of practice I’ve gained more of people skills and sometimes I might act as being in a new environment was something easy, but it is not.
When I go somewhere I tell myself that I need to be social, I need to speak to people and I need to interact. Not too much, just a bit, to be informed, to learn more and to live like a regular person.
Hostels are ideal places for meeting fellow travellers – if you’re ashamed of starting a conversation, most probably someone will chat you up anyway. An ideal solution is to stay in a single room in a hostel (if they are available) which will let you keep your privacy while enable socializing at the same time. I also find freewalking tours a great idea for meeting people when I’m on my own – they are becoming more and more popular and if you’re going to visit a big town or a city you’re likely to find one of those tours.
Learning a language and accommodation at a local family (in a single room) are perfect for meeting other people, both locals and travellers.
Online Image vs Reality
Many travellers who blog about their adventures or post travel status updates on social media sites and seem extremelly open and eager to share their every thought the moment they have it, might be more reserved in real life.
So if your image on the Internet is different from the one in real life, does it mean you like to distort the reality?
Not necessarily. When I voice my opinions online I’m always in control: I can choose when and where I have conversations and I can always decide who I talk to. Unfortunately, it’s not so simple and straightforward in a real life. Of course I might avoid certain topics that would make me feel uncomfortable or force me into sharing my opinions which I’d rather keep for myself, but still I find it sometimes difficult when it comes to fact to face encounters. I wish I could turn around and simply walk off whenerver I don’t wan to talk to someone the same way I close the Internet page and stop the discussion. No, it is often not possible. I wish it was.
Me and other people. This photo suggests I find it easy to meet other people. Well, let it suggest it.
Silence is not awkward
You probably know people who need to fill every moment with talking? They talk, ask questions (wait for answers or not), talk more. And more. They are also quiet people anxious about the silence feeling guilty when they can’t come up with anything to say. They all think silence is bad.
I remember that many years ago I asked my friends: What can you talk about when there’s nothing to talk about? The years have passed and it’s a problem I no longer have. First, I’ve learnt small talk and I if I try hard I can have meaningless conversations for hours. If I try of course, but it’s a tiring chore so I usually stick to a regular small talk. I also learnt how to ask questions and most people (introverts or not) love talking about themselves. I don’t always like listening, but I survive. Most importantly, however, I’ve learnt to be comfortable with silence. I no longer feel the need to talk, I don’t mind walking next to someone without saying a world. It doesn’t bother me.
It bothers other people sometimes, but then… it’s not my problem anymore.
An introvert meets an extrovert
What I like most about travel is… meeting people! Surprising statement for an introvert? No, it’s not. I like variety, novelty, regular small talks that might change into deep conversation (might, but don’t need to). Being an introvert, I still admit that talking to extroverts is much easier, but then when I look back at the years of travelling it’s hard not to notice that I become friends with other introverts.
Meals are the best for conversations!
I like talking, but travelling with talkative people tires me and I like going out, but being in the company of real party animals annoys me. There’s nothing worse than someone who is trying to drag you out to a party when you want to be in your pyjamas with a book, or a chit-chat that you hear the moment you wake up, even before you open your eyes.
Extroverts just don’t get it. And other introverts will surely understand what it’s like to want to be left alone. And the best thing is to be left alone in the company of someone else who wants to be alone.
The most important thing is to get to know your needs, and it’s a wise thing to do not only as a traveller. Travelling for most of the people means holidays and it’s good to know whether you feel better in a bustling city where you are totally anonymous or if quiet places appeal to you more. There are no right or wrong choices, it all depends on what YOU need.
Don’t think of introversion as something that needs to be cured… Spend your free time the way you like, not the way you’re supposed to.
Susan Cain, the author of Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking
Travelling is something I like, something I look forward to, something I want to do and I want to enjoy it. There’s nothing wrong with being an introvert, and there’s nothing to change. Why should it be?