When I tell people that I am an introvert, they typically don’t believe me. They would never have guessed that after we finish our conversation over drinks, coffee, or breakfast, that I would rather be alone with my music and thoughts than move on to anything else.
I like to decompress in solitude, but I also find it very exhausting carrying on conversations with strangers. Can you relate?
Yet, isn’t meeting and chatting with new people inevitable and what backpacking is all about? This “Who am I going to meet in this new city or hostel?”, is something I expect and genuinely always look forward to.
As an introvert, it’s a difficult balance for me. These 6 tips have changed my life forever as an introverted traveler, and I know they can change yours too!
1: Treat yourself to a private hotel room every once and a while.
This is for your own mental health, not because we require a lavish travel lifestyle of staying at hotels by ourself (because let’s be real, for most solo budget travelers, this is not sustainable).
While the hostel life may save you money when you’re traveling by yourself, don’t sacrifice saving a few dollars for your sanity. Sometimes staying in a hostel night in and night out can mean no privacy, unwelcome conversation, and inescapable social interaction.
Of course, as introverts, we know we are not shy and socially awkward (although I am sure some may be), we generally like social interactions and find them extremely rewarding and intuitive. Just not ALL the time. I like to know that I can escape the chaos of being surrounded by complete strangers 24/7 and hide out in my own room doing my own thing for however long it takes me to recharge and re-enter the world again.
Knowing I am set up with my own room from time to time keeps my mind in check. It reassures me whenever I may get overwhelmed by my surroundings that I have a space where I control how much interaction I have with others and it’s on my own watch.
2: Don’t ever feel like you need to make excuses when declining invitations to social outings or events.
You shouldn’t feel like there’s is anything wrong with you just because perhaps that one night you simply just DON’T FEEL LIKE IT. And rest assured, this is absolutely alright.
I have several friends who, at first, didn’t understand why some nights I would go all out, but then the same invite would come along the following weekend and I told them that I just wanted to stay in. My responses were completely random and had nothing to do with any other variables, just my own introverted sense and desire to be alone. I have learned to make this a need and priority over my people-pleaser trait.
Learning how to say no and be content with it, and understanding that you can’t please everyone (so why not please yourself by doing what you want) is something that has taken many years for me to come to terms with. And I am so satisfied with this aspect of my personality. That brings me to to the next point…
3: Connect and engage with other solo travelers in conversations about personality and personality types.
Many introvert and extroverts alike find personalities fascinating. It can be an eye-opening experience for someone who has always felt that they don’t relate to anyone to realize it’s not them, but their personality, and that there are many others out there with similar personalities.
They can also help to understand why people act or make decisions the way they do. And as many travelers know, when you travel with someone, you end up learning ABSOLUTELY EVERYTHING about that other person.
The Meyers Briggs personality test was extremely helpful in understanding myself and my friends’ personality types during my time volunteering with the United States Peace Corps. Once we all took the test, we found out more about ourselves; similarities with each other, and were able to really perceive their intentions and understand their behaviors. No more having to make excuses for who you are!!
4: As an introvert, you are by no means alone!
There are actually just as many introverts as extroverts in the world, but usually we are often overpowered by our extroverted counterparts, or even mistaken for extroverts when we most definitely know we are not.
Identifying your strongest personality type is key to self-awareness and to understanding that there are others who feel similarly when you are busy traveling around the world as the SAVAGE SOLO FEMALE TRAVELER that you are. Some personalities are more uncommon than others, but rest assured there are others out there who know exactly what you are feeling.
5: Take your headphones out and leave the book behind!
What I mean is take a leap of faith and get outside your comfort zone! Maybe it’s something small once a day, like eating in the general lounge of the hostel without your ear buds in so you look welcome and open to conversation. Or maybe it’s once a week by going on a group tour or expedition.
Whatever you feel like your mental energy levels can handle is completely fine, and it’s entirely up to you!
As I have said before, it can be so rewarding and in the end, you never know what great conversation or connections you’ll have made in the end. It may be nothing really, or it may be SOMETHING BIG. But you will never know until you put yourself out there and do it.
I have a difficult time saying “no” to others, but I find it very easy to say “no” to myself. So instead, tell yourself that “yes, I will have a conversation with one new person today”, or “yes, I will go on that pub crawl everyone keeps talking about”. Because if I hadn’t, then I would have never met some incredible entrepreneurs and friends located all around the world.
6: With that said, don’t feel like you have to hang out with these people later
I know this sounds a bit conceited but, let’s be honest, we aren’t always going to like everyone we meet. Traveling can bring together a lot of like-minded individuals, but from my experience, some can be too much for me to handle. I have learned to say “no” more often, but to tell myself later to say “yes” to something else.
On that same note, even if you end up making a friend or two, or meet up with good friends for a short time during your travels, don’t feel bad if you feel the need to leave them behind so you can do your own thing.
It’s not that you don’t enjoy their company and value them as a travel companion, but in return you know that you can also be a better travel companion when you have time to yourself to find solidarity and recharge.
This is not always something that friends find easy to understand about me, but once they realize this reality, they have no problem letting me do my own thing for a bit, they won’t take it personally and know that everyone will be better off.
As an INFJ, sensory overload can weigh me down, but I generally enjoy it. However, what’s important to remember for me is to take everything in moderation, otherwise I will only get burnt out.