Travel as an Introvert

I spent Halloween at one of the most uncomfortable parties I’ve ever been to.

Our hostess was absolutely lovely, but that was where any pleasantries stopped. What my boyfriend and I thought would be a quiet, low-key game night far away from the drunken masqued crowds doing the downtown bar crawl, was actually anything but.

We were welcomed with a loud declaration that everyone present had been drinking since 4pm. Throughout the evening, conversation swung from heated political discussions about the ‘evil Democrats’ to half-joking admissions of alcoholism to raucous laughter over how English majors are the most perverted people on the planet. The only thing anyone had to say directly to me was that my playing a card game and minding my own business made me seem judgmental.

My first thought was “I am not drunk enough for this.”

My second thought was “If you don’t want total strangers to judge you, don’t give them this much ammunition right off the bat.”

My third thought was “How the hell am I going to interact with only strangers for an entire year?”

My Halloween is just one of many instances proving I’m an introvert living in an extrovert’s world. Is the long-term travel community any different?

I’ve met wonderful people in my past travels, whom I never would have crossed paths with otherwise.

This lovely lady and I dragged each other through many an Italian village and, if we're being totally honest, more than one hangover.
This lovely lady and I dragged each other through many an Italian village and, if we’re being totally honest, more than one hangover.

That amazing, enriching side of traveling overseas is not lost on me. But how I’ll feel after the first few weeks of my RTW pass by and that honeymoon phase fades away is a real point of concern.

Oxford Punting 4
And if I’m not living in one place for an extended period of time, that means no awesome flatmates become lifelong friends.

My introversion isn’t an aspect of myself I’ll ever change. I simply don’t want to. I think there’s a lot to be said for the positive traits of introverts. It’s difficult for me to get bored. Concentration and analysis are second nature to me. Listening means more than simply waiting my turn.

But when your days are spent largely in public places and your nights are spent in a 10-bed dorm to save money, there aren’t many opportunities to recharge. It’s hard enough to tell people at home I need some alone time without being accused of being anti-social or, worse, pitied for being shy. How do you balance all that as an outsider?

Whether it means figuring out how to express my introversion overseas or developing an extrovert disguise, learning how to travel as an introvert is going to be one of my biggest challenges on the road.

If you’re an extrovert, congrats. You don’t face the same challenges as I do. But you might not know how to deal with the introverts you meet on the road, and it’s high time you learned.

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