A common misconception says it is difficult to be both an introvert AND a traveler. Introverts are thought to be more comfortable in the confines of their home and never venture out unless they have to. Horse-pooey. I’m both a strong introvert and I love to travel. I’ve traveled around the world and enjoyed every minute. Contrary to popular belief, introverts can make the best travelers. Here’s why.
Alone is a GOOD thing
Travel can be a lonely activity. While most travel with loved ones or friends, you learn quickly that it is a big world out there, and you are just a small insignificant part of it. Travelers often find themselves stuck in confined settings like buses or trains, surrounded by strangers. They may not even be able to communicate. Many people may find this unnerving, but not introverts. We’re more comfortable when we are alone. In fact, we crave it to recharge our energy. My wife comments all the time how much more energy I have when we travel. I know why.
Limited social interaction
Traveling in a foreign country where you can’t speak the language is distressing to many travelers. Unable to communicate makes it hard to engage and socialize with people around you. Imagine eating in a restaurant where your language is not the one being spoken at all the other tables around you. This can be daunting to many people, but not introverts. Most introverts would do an internal “happy dance” if they were eating in this restaurant. Inability to communicate is a good thing to an introvert; we can’t be forced into unwanted social interaction.
Good with “Me-Time”
People travel in a variety of ways. Many just throw a few clothes in a backpack and head off, trusting in fate to take them where they should go. For others, they meticulously plan their vacation like they were storming the beaches at Normandy. No one way is better than the out, it is a matter of preference.
I fall somewhere in the middle. I like a general itinerary which highlights a few of the areas I wish to explore while traveling. However, I also include plenty of free time for ad hoc side treks. Traveling has too many variables (weather, transportation, local customs, etc.) to allow anyone to plan for every contingency. It is better to build in a little flexibility in your travel plans. Besides, “free-time is me-time” for an introvert. Introverts crave downtime to recharge. The point is that it doesn’t really matter HOW a person travels. It is more about how a person EXPERIENCES travel.
I would argue that an introvert’s social preferences are better for traveling. For example, introverts dislike being the center of attention in any social situation. Introverts are far more comfortable staying on the periphery, just a nameless face in the crowd. We like to blend in. This works to our advantage when we are traveling in unfamiliar areas. Not wanting to draw attention, introverts quietly observe from the sidelines; watching and learning. It is exactly how we socialize at home. This allows us to immerse ourselves in the local customs, language, and cuisine during our travels. In a strange way, we are more likely to connect with people during our travels than an extrovert.
Introverts also realize that when we travel, it isn’t about us. We are the visitors, the strangers to the people who live there. Extroverts have a more developed sense of self and are more likely to be upset when things don’t match their expectations. Introverts don’t see the world that way. We are more willing to consider alternative views. In essence, we are more adaptable.
Traveling Introverts are NOT perfect!
In fact, the only part of traveling where introverts fall short is before we actually travel. While most people look forward to the start of their travels with excitement, introverts often experience trepidation. It is less about fear of the unknown and more about taking us away from our familiar place of retreat and recharging.
Nonetheless, once we take our first steps from our front door, introverts travel with the best of them. In fact, introverts ARE the best of them!