Introverts get a bad rap. Especially when it comes to travel. People assume we’re too timid to get much out of it. That we’ll sit like stones and not leave our hotel. That we won’t talk to anyone. I say “we” because I’m an introvert.
Travel expert Rick Steves claims that you must be an extrovert when traveling. “Make yourself an extrovert, even if you’re not. The meek may inherit the earth, but they make lousy travelers.” I like Rick a lot and often follow his advice, but he is absolutely wrong. He’s an extrovert and can’t imagine seeing the world without chatting up everyone he encounters. Besides, introversion is not something you can simply turn off and on.
Balderdash. Neither personality type is better…unless you’re also a television personality. In that case, effervescence is probably a plus. But for the 30-50 percent of us that don’t enjoy the limelight, travel is just as rich and meaningful.
How introverts are different
As an introvert and shameless “travel-holic,” I’ve learned a few things about how we differ from our extrovert companions:
- Introverts can be more attuned to their new environments than extroverts. Because they spend more time observing and absorbing information, they benefit just as much as the “chatterers.”
- Introverts are usually independent and self-reliant. We don’t mind being alone, so we figure things out by watching and learning…and yes, asking questions.
- Introverts are good listeners and observers, so they can be quicker to make sense of foreign cultures than extroverts.
- Introverts are happy to blend in to their surroundings and appreciate the full experience of travel. They don’t try to draw attention to themselves…
Are you an introvert? Here are some tips!
If you’re an introvert, here are 10 ways to make sure you find a balance between exploring and recharging during your travels:
- Get a room for yourself, even if you must pay a single supplement. (Yes, I hate them, too.) In between activities, a private room provides the quiet needed to process information.
- Visit museums and churches alone. If an audio guide is available, you can listen without outside interruptions.
- Find a coffee shop near your hotel. Go every day and soon you’ll see regular customers. You’ll be comfortable during your stay.
- Sign up for a walking tour or a cooking class. Introverts don’t mind being with others–we’re not hermits!–and enjoy brief interactions.
- Run errands and visit places where local residents go, such as markets and grocery stores. Walk among them and watch what they buy and how they interact with each other, the vendors, and the clerks.
- If you meet someone who’s interesting, don’t be afraid to ask questions or start a conversation. It’s a myth that introverts don’t talk! We’re just not natural blabbers.
- Take photos. When you’re behind a camera, you’re interacting with the destination in a different way. You’re also recording your experiences. Make it fun: pick a subject, like doors, fountains, or neon signs.
- Don’t over-plan your day. Allow time to take breaks, sit at a café, stroll in a pack, and just watch people.
- Explore your destination during a quiet time. Mornings are super for seeing the sights without crowds. Take your time to really look around. Later in the day, it gets harder to see details.
- Journal. It’s a way to record your thoughts and observations while sitting in a public place, or back in your room. You’ll be surprised how many things you forget—your journal will be a reminder for years to come.
For a great perspective on introverts, read Susan Cain’s book, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Sop Talking. She also has a TED Talk, “The Power of Introverts.” I especially lover her quote: “Solitude matters, and for some people, it’s the air they breathe.”
More about the importance of travel: