My introvert-friendly road trip felt like a vacation and a major recharge at the same time.
Just over three years ago, I packed up my entire life and moved 1000 miles from Boston to the Blue Ridge Mountains outside of Asheville, North Carolina. On a sunny May morning, I loaded up my car for a solo road trip. Since then, I’ve taken many other road trips for work and for fun, but this was an adventure that I’ll never forget, one that felt like a vacation and a major recharge despite the seismic shift my life was taking.
Along the way, I learned a lot about myself as an introvert, and about how I handle solo travel now that I’ve embraced my introversion. I learned what works for me and what to avoid in order to make such a trip enjoyable.
To make moving as stress-free as possible, I also had to ensure that my road trip was as introvert-friendly as possible. Plus, I was starting a new job the following Monday, so I had to store up my introvert energy for this exciting change where I’d be meeting a lot of new people. My priorities for making my trip introvert-friendly were:
- Low stimulation
- Easy stops
- Slow pace
- Great playlists, entertainment, and treats
- Convenient food options (no waiting in crowded restaurants!)
- Time to myself outside of the car (even though I’d been by myself all day driving) so that I could rest and recharge
I hope that introverts out there will be able to relate to what I learned, and maybe even get some ideas for an introverted road trip of their own (solo or with a friend or two!).
1. Traffic is really, really bad for introverts.
Nobody likes traffic. But for introverts, it’s the driving equivalent of being stuck in a noisy, crowded room. (In other words, an introvert nightmare — I can almost hear you introverts cringing out there!) And it’s not just because the cars are full of people. It’s because the overstimulation of traffic can drain introverts: the noise, the crowdedness, and the stop-and-go that requires even more concentration than the open highway.
So what did I do for this trip? I avoided it. I wanted as little unplanned interruption as possible. Did I hit traffic? Yes, of course, though it was brief and concentrated around a major city. I hadn’t initially planned to drive the route I did, but after talking it through with family members who gave me some advice, I chose a route that avoided tolls and was altogether quieter. I still used some major highways, but got to see some beautiful (and very calming!) countryside along the way.
2. Rushing can drain introvert energy levels.
I stretched a 15-hour drive over four days. Could I have done it in one grueling day, or even two? Sure. But I had the time to take it slow, and I made the most of it. I left Boston on Wednesday with one goal: Get to my destination by Saturday.
I’ve been in time crunches before, and realize I prefer not to work under pressure. This extends to road trips! Taking it slow took away any stress of overstimulation and helped ensure I had plenty of time to myself outside of driving. I could also enjoy the drive itself with zero stress about the timeline.
For example, I had hours and hours of audio ready, with exactly the playlists, podcasts, and audiobooks that I wanted, but mostly playlists. Music helps me escape into my own thoughts and sort through my emotions, especially with a life event as dramatic as a one-thousand-mile move. And with not having to worry about a tight schedule, I could really use that time for introspection.
3. If you stay with people, make sure you can be your introverted self around them (or not around them, as the case may be).
The first two nights, I stayed with immediate family, so I didn’t feel like I had to be “on” at all. We’d catch up, no small talk needed, then just hang out. And because they were people who knew me well and I’d visited before, there were no hesitant “I’m a guest” feelings. I knew the drill as far as which room I’d stay in and where everything was (no need to ask “Where’s the bathroom?” or where to put my suitcase).
And going back to what I mentioned previously about rushing, I didn’t need to stress out about anything — like getting there in time for dinner. We’d eat dinner whenever I got there and have a relaxed night in.
4. Introverts need a buffer between travel and high-energy social interaction.
Even if we’ve enjoyed quiet time with family and friends, an evening to ourselves to unwind is vital. For my final night of the trip, I stayed at a hotel to gear up for the busy day ahead.
Rather than arrive in my new city late in the day, I found a hotel just under two hours away so that I could show up refreshed at my new place after a quiet evening alone. The following morning, I’d have to interact with apartment complex managers, and my movers were possibly showing up in the afternoon. I also needed to hit a grocery store and run a couple of other errands. And on top of all that, I’d have to make sure I found some time that weekend to rest and recharge before the upcoming week at my new job.
That last night of the trip, my hotel was a two-minute drive from a place where I could order food online for pickup and take it back to my room. I stayed in, watched a movie, and enjoyed just being on my own. I could take an evening to truly appreciate what I was doing and the new direction my life was taking.
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5. The correlation between time of day and energy levels are key when planning a trip.
For introverts, energy reserves are precious, especially in a fast-paced extroverted world. Knowing when my energy levels were naturally at their highest and lowest helped me figure out my trip schedule.
For me, the best times are morning and early evening. The worst is early afternoon from about NOON to 3 p.m. — also the time of day at work when I lose any traces of steam, and the time of day I tend to take naps on weekends (or even during my lunch breaks during the week!) if I can.
As introverts, we tend to be pretty self-aware about how we’re feeling, so pay attention and use that knowledge when planning your trip! I’d start out on the road after a quiet morning, spend a few hours driving, then take a lunch break before continuing. I’d then usually break up my afternoon to stop for coffee.
6. Even introverts can get tired of solitude after a while.
This point, though surprising, stood out to me when reflecting on my trip. Breaks are essential. Introverts love solitude, but if we’re in a monotonous situation, like driving for hours and hours, it can also wear us down (especially if, as mentioned above, we’re driving at a low-energy time of day).
If you find yourself getting tired, asking “What am I even listening to right now?” or feeling irritable about being in the car, it’s probably your introvert energy radar telling you it’s time to take a break. Shut off the radio, playlist, podcast, or audiobook, and take advantage of some quiet time. Or even better, get out of the car and stretch your legs for a bit. After all, nature is an elixir for introverts!
I took a stretch break on the second-to-last day to get some apartment-related and work wardrobe-related shopping done. It was a weekday in the middle of the day, so the stores (conveniently located just off the highway) were quieter, too. A win-win.
7. Treats are key — have your favorite snacks on hand or know where you can get them.
Okay, this goes for anyone on a road trip, actually, whether introvert or extrovert. Incorporating small things that will make your trip more enjoyable can also help break up that monotony I mentioned above. It’s like self-care on the road.
Plan to stop at the next exit where you can get a coffee/smoothie/tea/favorite snack. Or if there’s a tourist stop along the way that you can incorporate, like a national park or a historic downtown or a museum (all places where you can enjoy a relatively quiet walk to yourself!), go for it.
There are a few things I wish I’d included to make my trip even more introvert-friendly: a stroll around a small town to pop into a café or bookstore, a visit to a national park, or just longer walks (even if it was around a grocery store).
8. Both planning and spontaneity are necessary.
Even if, like me, you’re an introvert who enjoys some spontaneity, you at least want to have a few ideas on hand. The last thing you want, for example, is to end up stressing about where to take a break or where you’re going to stay.
But you do want to leave some room for spontaneity. I know, I know: It can be a scary word for introverts. My shopping stop, for example, was definitely not on my itinerary. But it served me well, because it was at a time of day when I knew I’d be drained (early afternoon). Spontaneity may lead to some of those great treats I mentioned above.
When planning any kind of trip, including a long-haul one, it’s important to be self-aware to make it as introvert-friendly as possible. For my thousand-mile road trip, I did that without even realizing it, for the most part, but learned a few things about myself and about traveling as an introvert along the way. Despite the dramatic nature of the trip, I was able to make it as stress-free as possible, because I worked with my personality to ensure I enjoyed it. And I hope you do the same!