Ok, confession time: I am an extremely introverted person. We’re talking, like, nearly all the way to one end of the introversion-extraversion scale.
I feel like introverts, and introversion in general, are widely misunderstood. Being an introvert isn’t the same as being shy, quiet, socially anxious, or antisocial. Really, it boils down to this: introverts thrive off of their own energy, and are drained after spending too much time around other people.
Traveling has challenged my introverted nature, that’s for damn sure. I much prefer to walk, hike, and roadtrip on my own, but since it’s often cheaper to split the costs, I’ve ended up traveling with others more and more in recent years. At times I’ve felt like running for the hills, like I’m drowning in the energy of my travel companions and gasping for breath. As if spending a minute more with them will cause me to explode.
Doesn’t it sound kinda silly that other people can make me feel this way? It doesn’t even matter who: even if it’s my best friend, sister, or manfriend, I’m going to need my space and alone time – and lots of it.
Don’t get me wrong, meeting and interacting with people is one of the best things about traveling. But for introverts like me, we prefer to do it in small doses, interspersed with some reflective alone time. And it’s not always easy to do this when we don’t have much control over our environment, as is often the case when we travel.
At the risk of sounding like an antisocial hermit, here are some strategies I’ve developed for surviving a trip as an introvert when traveling with others:
Plan your alone time
This is THE #1 thing you should do as an introvert when you’re traveling with others. If you don’t take time out of the day just for yourself, you’re going to be mentally exhausted and running on empty.
This is particularly key if you know you have to be sociable at a certain time – for example, if you and your travel buddies are planning a night out. In anticipation of expending a whole lot of energy being social, plan some alone time beforehand to fill up those energy tanks. Wander the streets by yourself for the afternoon, spend some time reading in a park, or do whatever solo activities you enjoy. By the time you meet up with people, you’ll be ready to be social again.
Or on a broader scale, don’t pack your travel schedule with several consecutive days of social activities. I like to plan an “off day” at least once every 3 days so that I’m not too overwhelmed and exhausted from social stimulation.
Spend no extra time in the hostel dorm room
Assuming you’re a frugal introvert like me, your cheapest accommodation option is probably going to be sharing a dorm room with 11 foreigners. This blows for obvious reasons, but it’s even worse when you LOVE LOVE LOVE being alone. Crammed into a room with 11 others is pretty much the opposite of being alone. So if you have to do it, the best way to make it suck a little less is to spend as little time as possible in the dorm room. Don’t hang out there, don’t read in your bed, don’t dilly dally before setting off for the day. Literally only be in your dorm room when you’re sleeping.
Roadtripping with a fellow introvert and car singer was perfect!
Carefully choose your roadtrip partners
If you’re going to be cooped up in tight quarters with people without any chance of escaping, you really need to screen your travel companions. The absolute worst case scenario for an introvert is being stuck in a car with a Chatty Cathy for hours on end, who morphs into Clingy Cathy when you stop and get out of the car. Shit will hit the fan REAL quick if you can’t get your alone time fix, which is why it’s so important that whoever you’re roadtripping with respects your needs.
Having experienced all sorts of roadtrip setups, here’s my take on it:
- Roadtripping with 1 other person can be the absolute best for an introvert, but only if this person knows and understands you well enough to know that nonstop talking and forced conversation is no bueno. Either that, or they’re also introverted and embrace the silence as you do. Otherwise it can get super awkward and uncomfortable and before you know it, neither of you is having much fun on the roadtrip.
- Roadtripping with 2 other people is ideal if you’re an introvert – that way the 2 of them can chat while you space out and do your introverted thang. Everyone’s happy!
- Roadtripping with 3 or more other people is just too much noise and forced interaction and too little space in the car. I would NOT recommend roadtripping with this many people if you’re an introvert!
Time your hike departure so you leave either before or after everyone else
As an introvert, I’ve come to utilize multi-day treks as an opportunity to meditate and completely recharge my batteries. If I could go the entire trek without talking to a single person, I’d be perfectly content. Unfortunately that’s not very realistic, especially for the more popular treks, and you will run into other hikers along the way who inevitably will want to exchange pleasantries.
To maximize your silence and solitude during the trek, make a point to set out for the day either first or last each morning. If you’re a faster walker, aim to leave for the day’s hike before anyone else does – that way you know the path ahead of you should be mostly clear of other hikers, and you’re less likely to be passed by anyone coming up from behind you. If you’re an average to slow walker, leave last and lag behind everyone else – then you won’t be snuck up on by groups of hikers chatting amongst themselves and disturbing the peace.
Don’t do your solo activities in a highly trafficked area
I’m guilty of breaking this rule because sometimes I like having background noise and a scene change while I’m doing my Me Things. But inevitably, you almost always pay for it when roommates walk in the door and want to tell you about their day while you’re writing at the kitchen table, or when fellow travelers invite you out while you’re reading or laptopping in the hostel lounge on a Saturday night. I wish they could see the invisible Do Not Disturb sign taped across my forehead in these situations. But on the other hand, can you blame them for trying? If you really want to be alone, then go somewhere private where there’s no chance of anyone bothering you.
Because I was hiking ahead of the group, I only shared this pool with a few others and it was still peaceful. Once the rest of the group caught up, I moved on.
Don’t book yourself onto a group tour
Just don’t. Trust me on this one.
But if you do, brace yourself for extreme energy deflation. Not only are you surrounded by your tourmates at nearly all times, but your days are also completely planned out. It leaves little room for freedom or alone time.
But dammit, that’s exactly what an introvert needs in order to rejuvenate! Whenever I felt super drained from all the socializing on the few group tours I’ve signed up for, I stole away from the group as often as I could manage. A couple of pro tips for surviving group tours as an introvert:
- If any free time is allocated, go off and be alone!
- Eat your meals slightly away from the group if it’s not too awkward
- Go to bed early
Of course, you run the risk of looking like an unfriendly loner if you’re constantly separating yourself from the group. Try to balance it out by being friendly to everyone when you’re all together, or limiting your alone time if you aren’t desperate for it.
But above all: have no shame in your introverted game. If you need to be alone, DO IT. You’ll be able to enjoy your travels so much more if you’re energized.