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The Introvert’s Guide to Solo Travel


Sometimes I feel as if there are two versions of myself: the “me” that lives on this blog, and the “me” that lives in the real world.

To be honest, I have no idea how my personality actually comes across on this blog, but I try my hardest to be friendly, approachable, clever, outgoing, entertaining and transparent.

However, from what I’ve been told by friends, family members, acquaintances, and even strangers that I’ve only just met, the way that I sometimes come across on this blog is actually quite different than the way that I am “in the real world.”

How so? I’m literally one of the most introverted, private, quiet, and reserved people that I know!

It’s kind of comical, right? The idea that someone could be extremely private, yet want to blast personal details of their life all over the internet? Or the idea that someone could be quiet and reserved, yet go out of their way to connect with readers and other bloggers from around the world?

Or, perhaps most surprising of all, that someone as introverted as me could leave my comfort zone to travel completely alone and make friends around the globe…AND LIKE IT.

After all, aren’t introverts supposed to be, like, super shy and afraid of communicating with anyone and everyone?! How are we supposed to make friends on the road?! How are we supposed to fend for ourselves when we can’t even speak the same language as the majority of the people around us?! How are we supposed to leave the shadowy comfort of our homes to venture out into the world alone, without our skin burning in the sun?!

(…Oh wait, that’s vampires, not introverts! Same thing I guess…?)

The point is, while almost everyone who travels alone gets nervous from time to time, many introverts often have an extra tendency to doubt their ability to travel on their own, usually because they’re so used to standing off to the side in other social situations, or because they’re not used to “putting themselves out there,” or because they have a comfort zone that’s a bit too clearly defined.

But can I let you in on a secret?

Introverts often make the BEST solo travelers!

After all, think about the whole concept of “solo travel.”

Yes, there are plenty of times when you’ll need to step up and interact with complete strangers during any solo trip, like on public transportation, or when asking for directions, or when settling into your accommodation (especially if you’re staying in a hostel).

BUT, on a true solo trip there will also be a lot of time spent, well…solo! And who is better equipped to handle that than an introvert?

Hammock for one? Yes please!

Many introverts are used to spending a lot of time by themselves without feeling lonely, which can definitely come in handy:

  • On long plane or train rides
  • When you’re having a hard time connecting with anyone at your hostel
  • When you spend an entire day exploring on your own in a new city
  • When you need to sit down for a meal in a restaurant by yourself
  • When it’s been a few days since you’ve had a real conversation with anyone at all

While many extroverts may feel lonely and burnt out after so much time alone, introverts often feel relaxed, peaceful, confident, and fully in their element (at least, that’s how I always feel during my solo travels!).

If you’re an introvert who’s thinking about taking the leap into solo travel, here’s what you need to know:

1. Introverts: You’re not alone (even if it feels that way).

It often feels like our world is run by extroverts – politicians, celebrities, powerful business executives, and other influencers are often extroverts, which can make introverts feel isolated and misunderstood.

However, according to recent estimates, roughly 50% of the world’s population is introverted. Additionally, there may be a greater number powerful and well-know introverts than you think! 

According to the 16 personalities test, I have an INFJ personality type (Introverted, Intuitive, Feeling, Judging). According to these results (which, based on my own self-perception, are scarily accurate), I’m definitely extremely introverted.

 

For me, one of the most interesting parts about knowing my personality type is getting to see the names of well-known, wildly inspiring people who share my personality type. Looks like I’m in good company, eh?! Just look at the introverted adventurers in that first row!

Over the years, I have really learned to come to terms with my personality traits, including my affinity for spending time alone and my need to “recharge my batteries” after interacting with others, even in small doses.

Best of all, I’ve learned how to leverage my introverted tendencies to make the most of my solo travel experiences, as well as how to take care of myself and keep from getting burnt out while on the road (it happens!).

2. People will probably think you’re weird, awkward, and antisocial sometimes. It’s okay.

Let’s just get this out of the way, shall we?

I don’t think of myself as a particularly shy, awkward, or antisocial person. But I guarantee I’ve come across that way to plenty of people I’ve met on the road.

After all, I can be pretty quiet, and I’m super content to just sit back and chill while those around me in engage in conversation. I love soaking in the stories and hearing what other people have to say, and I feel much more content listening than I do speaking.

That said, I’ve probably come across as a weird lurker in multiple social interactions. As in, “who is that weird quiet girl at our table and why doesn’t she speak?”

Taking posed self timer pictures in the middle of the German Alps? #DefinitelyWeird

I have literally no qualms with eating alone in a restaurant, hanging out alone in hostels, or signing up for a group tour by myself. But, I definitely know that this can look strange to some travelers!

And you know what? It’s fine.

It’s my trip, and if I want to order a pint of beer at the Hofbräuhaus in Munich or have a picnic in Paris all by my lonesome, I will…and I won’t let the confused stares and questioning looks get in my way.

That said…

3. Take risks, and get outside your comfort zone.

Whatever your reason is for traveling (to “find yourself,” to learn more about the world, to experience other cultures, etc.) it will absolutely, positively, 100% help you if you get used to the idea of stepping outside of your comfort zone and trying things that are new to you – including initiating conversations, and saying “yes” to things when you’d rather say “no.”

This could include:

  • Signing up for a group tour
  • Inviting someone from your hostel to grab a bite to eat
  • Asking someone from your hostel if they’d like to visit an attraction together
  • Asking someone from your hostel where they’ve been on their trip so far
  • Hanging out with groups from your hostel, even if you’re tired or uncomfortable at first

I’ve always been pretty reluctant to strike up conversations with random strangers, but my experience with solo travel has made it so much easier for me. All it takes to start a conversation with a fellow traveler is a simple question, like “How long have you been here?” or “Where are you from?” or “Have you been to XYZ attraction yet?”

Travelers tend to be very receptive to other travelers who ask questions, and by asking a question first, it takes the pressure off of you to do most of the talking. Plus, introverts are usually great listeners, so put those skills to use by listening to everyone’s stories and learning deeply about this world you’re off exploring.

4. Break up hostel dorm stays with private rooms.

I can’t stress this enough: If you’re an introvert who’s going to be on the road for multiple months (or even weeks), you probably shouldn’t stay in dorm rooms 100% of the time.

I actually really love staying in hostels. It puts me in a situation where it’s ridiculously easy to meet others; after all, if you’re sharing a bunk bed with a complete stranger, there’s a good chance you’ll have at least one opportunity to strike up a conversation or two.

But after a few weeks of sharing my personal space with others, I NEED some down time in a private room. Sometime’s it’s as easy as moving into a private room in a hostel; other times, it might be worth booking a room in a guesthouse, bed & breakfast, or traditional hotel.

Either way, staying in a private room for 2 or 3 nights every now and then allows you to carve out some valuable alone time and recharge your batteries.

Trust me – after a few weeks on the road, grabbing some take-out, locking yourself in your room, and watching Netflix on a spotty WiFi connection for an entire day will feel like the biggest luxury in the world.

5. Seek out quiet, natural spaces on your travels.

When I’m traveling solo, I often feel the most content when I’m in a place with wide open spaces, beautiful nature, and few other people around.

As much as I love visiting big, bustling cities like New York and Bangkok, I can really only handle large cities like that for 2 or 3 days before I end up feeling drained and ready to leave. The go-go-go mentality, countless interactions with fellow strangers, relentless noise, and overwhelming sights, smells, and sounds really get to me and bring me down after a while.

Some of my favorite travel destinations so far include:

  • Berchtesgaden, Germany: population ~8,000
  • Tepoztlan, Mexico: population ~14,000
  • Amboise, France: population ~12,000
  • Isla de Ometepe, Nicaragua: population ~30,000
  • Santa Cruz La Laguna, Guatemala: population ~6,000

Aside from the very small populations, these destinations are all abundant in natural beauty and are perfect places for hiking, going on aimless walks, taking photos, soaking in the views, and reading/writing in solitude outdoors.

In other words, pretty much perfect travel destinations for introverted personality types!

6. Bring plenty of books, music, and movies.

It’s important for introverts to be able to escape from “the outside world” every now and then while they’re traveling. While booking stays in private rooms is one of the best ways to handle this, it may not always be practical due to timing or budget constraints.

That’s why I ALWAYS travel with my Kindle, and keep my laptop and iPhone stocked with plenty of music and movies. If you’re staying in a hostel and just need a bit of downtime, pop in your headphones and watch a movie, or lie down and a read a book.

Mountains? Check. Book? Check. Solitude? Check.

Your roommates should get the hint and give you your space, and you’ll have a chance to unwind and build your energy back up.

7. Make friends and travel with them when you feel like it, but don’t be scared to break away.

If I haven’t made this clear already, I will now: it’s SO easy to make friends while traveling solo.

There are WAY more solo travelers than you might expect, and many of them are eager to meet new people, make new friends, and have new experiences with other travelers from around the world.

I personally enjoy partnering up with one or two other solo travelers and spending a few days exploring with them. For one thing, conquering public transportation in foreign cities is much easier and less intimidating when you have someone else with you, and it can also be nice to share some of those special travel experiences and memories with others.

Last year in Nicaragua, I actually met a girl who I traveled very well with, and we spent nearly two weeks together exploring various cities.  But at the end of those two weeks, I was definitely suffering from a bit of burn-out, and needed a few nights of recovery before I was ready to be social again.

If you meet someone on your trip who you want to keep traveling with, go for it! But if you start feeling like you need to be on your own again, that’s perfectly okay too.

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