Fear Not, Introverts: You Can Travel Successfully Solo
There are only a few activities that excite and thrill me as much as travel does. At the same time, there are also a few activities that stress and nauseate me as much as travel does. Some of these negative feelings occur because I am, at my core, a homebody and a creature of habit. But another part of it is my introversion, which also plays a role in the fact that I am such a homebody.
Others often cite meeting new people as a reason they love to travel. While I do like to meet new people sometimes, the overall “newness” associated with traveling tends to send me into sensory overload and under the stiff sheets of my hotel bed. Even if you’re not actively seeking to meet new people while traveling, unless you are doing a solo hike through the rainforests of the Amazon, you are probably going to find yourself in the same space as a lot of strangers. Airports, bus stations, restaurants, and tourist attractions are crowded places. The endless din of voices—even if they’re not in my language—can overwhelm me.
Thankfully, none of this is enough to make me avoid travel entirely. I’ve learned that there are certain things I can do and coping mechanisms I can use to make a trip more pleasant for both me and anyone I might be traveling with. This brings me to my next point—to travel solo or not to travel solo, that is the question.
As an Introvert, traveling alone holds a huge appeal for me. However, as a generally neurotic, anxious, and paranoid person, it can be hard for me to not imagine my traveling alone as culminating into being mugged, losing my room key, getting lost and wandering into an opium den, and finally being eaten by sharks.
One has to weigh the pros and cons of traveling solo.
Pro: It is unlikely that any of those aforementioned things will happen, let alone all four.
Pro: As a solo traveler, you are free to make your own decisions and enjoy peace and quiet whenever you want it.
Con: On the other hand, having one or more traveling companions offers you the safety of numbers, as well as supplying you with a conversation partner and a backup room key, credit card, cell phone, and pair of kidneys.
Once you’ve decided which travel style suits you best, read on for tips on how to maximize your enjoyment of traveling as an Introvert in either situation!
- Safety first! This one should be obvious, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t include it. Be wary of pickpocketers, scam artists, and friendly strangers who seem too friendly. When in doubt, trust your gut.
- If you’re starting to feel a little lonely and want to get out of your own head, go somewhere where you can meet and chat with people—and where you can leave once you’ve had your fill. Bars are the go-to place to mingle for a reason, but if that’s not your thing, you can go to a comedy club, a poetry reading, a book-signing, or any other event where people with similar interests will be gathered.
- If you really want to meet people, staying in a hostel or with a Couchsurfer is the best way to go. However, if you want to have the option to meet people, but also be free to be alone when you want to, getting a private room in a hostel or staying with an Airbnb host is a good way to accomplish a balance. If you’re a member of Couchsurfing, you also have the option to go to a meet-up with fellow Couchsurfers, even if you aren’t staying with a CS host in that city.
- Have some sort of portable entertainment. Be it a book, a magazine, an iPad, or a smartphone loaded with music, have something that you can take with you wherever you go. A bus ride or a wait at a restaurant can seem extra long when you don’t have a travel companion. Sometimes your thoughts and people-watching can be enough, but it’s best to be prepared in order to stave off boredom or loneliness—both of which can leave a bad taste that’s hard to get rid of once it forms.
- Along the same lines, in order to avoid boredom and/or loneliness, have some idea of your itinerary. You don’t need to plan out every second of every day; you can plan just one major activity for each day that you don’t want to miss and then fill in the rest of the time as you see fit. Alternatively, if you’re traveling solo because you want to actually accomplish everything on your itinerary without anyone slowing you down or complaining, now is the time!
- Be confident. Even as a lifelong, card-carrying Introvert (it’s sometimes called a library card), I sometimes feel awkward and uncomfortable sitting in a café by myself or saying that nope, there’s nobody I’m saving these seats for in a theater. Remember that you’re your own best traveling companion.
Traveling with a Companion or Group:
- Establish at the start of the trip that you are going to want some downtime and/or alone time during the trip. Make sure your traveling companion(s) knows that this is nothing against them but simply something you need to do to keep your energy levels up and your mood pleasant. Trust me, no one wants to travel with a strung-out, over-stimulated, cranky Introvert. (Trust me - I have been that strung-out, over-stimulated, cranky Introvert, and it is no fun for you or your friends.)
- Feel free to stay in when your friends go out to a bar or club at night, and feel free to even opt out of some daytime activities if you’re exhausted. Even if you feel done halfway through your trip to the Louvre, go back to your room, or go to a café where you can sit quietly and nurse a cup of tea while your friends do their thing.
- In order to enable yourself to go back to your room without your travel partners, make sure you get your own room key if you’re staying in a hotel.
- Go to a show or a movie. This way you will be with your friends and you’ll all be doing something together, but you are also free to sit in silence and zone-out if you so choose.
- Similarly, museums give you the option to wander on your own through the exhibits, as do some historical and architectural sites. If you’re all marveling at the Sistine Chapel or exploring the grounds of Edinburgh castle, chances are that awe and fascination will shut everyone up anyways.
Have I missed anything? If you’re an Introvert, how do you keep your energy up while traveling? And if you’re an Extravert, do you feel like some of these tips or scenarios might apply to you as well?