As an introvert, I struggle with spending far too much time in my own head, both second-guessing my decisions and worrying about what others think of me. It can be paralyzing at times, but I’ve found one scenario where I feel a unique sense of freedom and belonging: solo travel.
You might think solo travel in unfamiliar, high-stimulus environments would be an introvert’s recipe for disaster, but stick with me as I share the main reasons I recommend solo travel to all my fellow introverts.
Why Introverts Should Try Solo Travel
1. You’re free to be yourself without judgment.
It can be hard to let loose when you constantly think about what those close to you think about how you act, how you’re dressed, or the choices you make. Sometimes I avoid social interaction and get stuck in a cycle of being unsociable because of my tendency to overanalyze what people think.
Herein lies my favorite aspect of solo travel — you’ll be around people you will likely NEVER see again, so you can be completely awkward and no one is going to care. Whatever fears normally hold you back, you can leave them behind when you set off on a solo journey and just enjoy every moment!
2. You make friends based on shared experiences.
Introversion and extroversion exist on a scale, so no one is completely one or the other; we all exhibit some characteristics of both. Another thing I enjoy about solo travel is I get to express more extroverted characteristics than I would in everyday life at home. For example, I took a solo trip to Croatia in 2014 and ended up sharing a room in a hostel with a girl from Japan. While there, we connected with a guy from the Maldives who was also staying in the hostel. Though we didn’t know each other previously, we all ended up having dinner and exploring the city together — and we stay in touch to this day.
Being introverted can make it difficult to make friends easily in everyday life, but solo travel provides a unique opportunity to make quick connections with others based on shared experiences.
3. You get to set your own pace.
New connections can be fun, but you may not be interested in making new friends on your travels, and may want a lot of alone time to just soak up new cities and experiences. There’s no right or wrong way to experience solo travel; having the freedom to see as much or as little as you want each day can be liberating. You can allow yourself plenty of time to recharge and relax on your own, but you can also join tour groups or stay in a hostel if you do end up feeling lonely.
4. You learn to speak up for yourself.
If I’m with a significant other or friend who’s more gregarious than I am, I often zone out a little (sometimes out of laziness) and fade into the background while letting that person take the lead with new people we encounter. Do any of my fellow introverts do this as well? This can be good and bad, but during solo travel, you typically won’t have the option to let someone else speak for you, so you have to stay engaged and completely present in each situation.
It can be tiring if you’re used to letting others take the lead, but ultimately, it’s a good thing to be fully responsible for your interactions, at least for a period of time. You will learn when to advocate for yourself, especially when it comes to your travel plans. For example, if you’re delayed or have a flight canceled, you will have to politely ask what other options can be provided. Often the airline employees try to offer the least amount they can get by with, but will agree to more compensation if you specifically ask for it — but it’s up to you to speak up.
5. You make meaningful connections with locals.
If traveling solo, you may opt to stay in hotels based on familiarity, but I would highly recommend staying at either a hostel or Airbnb in order to connect with locals and/or other travelers. Hotels are great to just crash and disconnect for a while, but staying with those in the know about your destination gives you a much more authentic experience and view into the culture.
I’ve found that hosts are eager to share tips and stories about their cities, and some even provide you with free tours of the area — such a great way to immerse yourself in a new place. When traveling with someone, you will have to consider their accommodation preferences, but traveling solo allows you to go with the flow and stay where you feel you will learn the most. Striking up a conversation with a stranger can be intimidating, but often yields rewarding connections. In some countries like China, this may happen more naturally since many people there are eager to practice their English with native speakers.
6. You develop an independent mindset.
Traveling solo has taught me that I can accomplish so many things I previously would not have even dreamed of attempting on my own. I learned to navigate new cities by memorizing landmarks when I didn’t have GPS, which was huge for me, as I had become so reliant on technology as a crutch!
Independence can also come in the form of learning to communicate using the local language, even if you only know a few words or phrases. Putting yourself out there when you’re not confident in your language skills can be challenging, but successfully ordering food in another language or having a basic conversation (even if you need to use a few gestures) is an effective way to begin to assert yourself and develop your skills as a self-sufficient solo traveler.
Join the introvert revolution. One email, every Friday. The best introvert articles. Subscribe here.
7. You learn to be flexible.
As an introvert, it’s far too easy for me to become set in my ways and somewhat resistant to change. Living cautiously can certainly be beneficial in some circumstances, but when you travel solo, you tend to become more receptive to new ideas and ways of accomplishing your goals, sometimes out of necessity. When you leave your own country or area of the world, you realize that just because you’re used to something being done a certain way doesn’t mean it’s the right or only successful way of doing it.
One of my biggest takeaways from solo travel has been the ability to be flexible and adaptable instead of demanding things be done my way or in my timeframe. Maybe you’re usually starving at 6 p.m., but the local tradition is to eat at 9 or 10 p.m. Maybe there are no flights to your next destination, so you take an overnight ferry for the first time. Maybe your kayak falls apart in the ocean, so you hitch a ride on a catamaran. You never know what adventures await until you open yourself up to going with the flow and letting go of the need to control everything.
Introvert, have you traveled solo? I’d love to hear about your experiences in the comments below!