How to Make the Most of your Airport Experience as an Introvert

An introvert at the airport

Airports might just seem like an obligatory stopping point, but they can also be an incredible recharge space for introverts.

Summer is in full swing, and for those of us with plans to travel, that means more time spent in airports. An airport may not be the first place to come to mind when thinking of ideal spaces for introverts — they’re loud, chaotic, and full of people.

As I’ve found from my own experiences, though, they are actually great environments for introverts. Here are some ways to make the most of your time at an airport, whether it’s this summer or beyond.

7 Ways to Make the Most of your Airport Experience as an Introvert

1. Read and peruse books at bookstores and kiosks.

As an introvert, I’ve been a voracious reader since I was a kid. I’ll never forget the excitement that took hold of me when my mom and I made trips to the library, or when classmates and I had “reading zones” in elementary school. Reading took me out of myself, and, at the same time, it also reconnected me to previously neglected inner corridors.

Many introverts find similar catharsis in reading. Sometimes it’s hard to find time for making a special trip to the bookstore, though (and, hey, that requires getting out of the house) — for which reason many introverts may stick to their Kindles. Still, nothing compares to holding a book in your hands. At the airport, you don’t have to make that special trip. Reading nooks await you in numerous bookstores and kiosks scattered everywhere as you wait to board your flight.

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2. Embrace the cocooning sensation of the “in-between” space.

Regarding the COVID-19 pandemic’s shelter-in-place orders, in his Atlantic article, writer Tim Kreider said, “I’ve always loved weekends and summers, those officially sanctioned respites from productivity. This year was like one long Sunday afternoon: society suspended, life on hiatus. It felt like being offstage, or hanging out in the kitchen at a party.”  

I feel similarly at airports — cocooned and freed from obligations. A feeling of comfortable suspension between two distinct worlds fills me when I’m at them. A sense of being en route, or neither here nor there, takes hold. That we might feel insulated from the scurry and hustle of life can be immensely calming for introverts.

3. Take comfort in neutrality and anonymity.

While taking brisk strides, I pass by a man who’s napping across three seats. He’s bunched his sweater up into a pillow-like ball. His long gray hair spills across it. His arms cuddle his suitcase like it’s a stuffed animal. 

The man doesn’t look out of place. As Coriander Woodruff wrote in The Call of the Spectacled Owl: “The airport is the only place you can walk around with no shoes, a glazed look on your face, and sleep on the benches and no one judges you.” 

I, too, look disheveled: My hair is unkempt and my sweater doesn’t match my sweatpants — but I feel okay about it. Airports give us the permission to look and be however we want, protected by anonymity and constant motion – almost akin to when we travel to a new city alone. For introverts, something about that feels especially comforting.

4. There’s plenty of time to process the trip you just took (or are about to take).

Whether it’s with a beer at the bar, inside an airport restaurant, or while leaned back into a black leather seat looking out at the runway, airports put a pause on our worlds, offering little pockets of time to reflect. What better place to mentally meander than when you have nowhere else to be?

In Mexico City’s airport a couple years ago, recollections of my past two weeks there flashed through my mind. I thought of eating lunch inside a cave, of hiking the 100 steps of a breathtaking pyramid for a panoramic view of ancient ruins, of eating like a queen for under five dollars a day, of my friend and I riding horses and go-karts… 

Or, allow the excitement of new beginnings to fill you. Are you moving to a new state or country? About to add new pages to your mental memory book with a long-lost friend? Going to a new place solo?

Allow the words of E.a. Bucchianeri, author of Brushstrokes of a Gadfly, to flow through you: “It was exciting to be off on a journey she had looked forward to for months. Oddly, the billowing diesel fumes of the airport [did not smell like suffocating effluence; it] assumed a peculiar pungent scent that morning, like the beginning of a new adventure, if an adventure could exude a fragrance.”

5. You can have fleeting connections and deep conversations with strangers.

I know not all introverts will embrace this one, as fleeting conversations may mean small talk. But… it can also turn into deep talk. So if you embrace the idea of fleeting intersections, of disparate journeys momentarily coming together, keep reading. After all, we introverts don’t hate people — it’s the shallow socializing that gets us.

Since we like to have meaningful conversations, it’s easy to do so with a person we’ll never see again. (And it’s good practice regardless!) Plus, there’s something epic and exhilarating about meeting at an airport. I think that, within them, people are generally more likely to skip over the social niceties and launch straight into deeper and more heartfelt dialogues.

At 16, I connected with a young Bostonian musician when the two of us sat next to each other on my flight home from a Connecticut writing camp. His path and mine never crossed again, but I still remember the excitement that imbued our conversation. It was similar to the passing connections I’d experience years later in one-time interactions with Lyft passengers. Many would unbury their souls for 20 minutes, an hour, or however long, before departing, never to be seen again.

And if you’re a single introvert, don’t write off the possibility that your match could be someone you strike up a convo with at the airport (a la Before Sunrise, but the plane version). You may be waiting for the plane together, seated next to each other on the plane itself, or treating yourself to a nice solo meal at an airport restaurant when you notice the attractive stranger next to you. You never know!

In her book, The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight, author Jennifer E. Smith writes, “People who meet in airports are seventy-two percent more likely to fall for each other than people who meet anywhere else.” Who knew, right?!

Do you ever struggle to know what to say?

As an introvert, you actually have the ability to be an amazing conversationalist — even if you’re quiet and hate small talk. To learn how, we recommend this online course from our partner Michaela Chung. Click here to check out the Introvert Conversation Genius course.

6. You can brush up on your observational skills.

Introverts are great observers, and I recall some of my own airport people-watching. Inside one restaurant, a blond-haired boy with short legs held a mug of coffee in front of him that was almost as big as his head. Spilled water on another table flowed into the shape of a partying jellyfish (or a wonky Christmas tree, depending on which angle you looked at it from). At security, a brother-sister duo who forgot to drain their bottles competed in a water-chugging contest. And tying in from point #5 above: A man smiled broadly after a parting kiss with someone, then carted his suitcase away like it weighed nothing, even though it probably weighed close to fifty pounds. (Love gives you the strength to move mountains though, right?)

7. You can get in some exercise and power-walk through the airport terminals.

Lastly, we know that exercise is beneficial for all of us. Maybe you can’t find much time in your schedule to do it, though. 

But when you’re in an airport, why not? After all, they’re (usually) very spacious and the air inside them is crisp and cool. Both of these things make brisk walking very feasible. Many people are in a hurry when at the airport, so your power-strolling won’t draw as many stares as it might out on the streets. Plus, they’re a great way to get from bookstore to bookstore (see point #1)! 

In Essence, Airports Can Be the Perfect Place for Introverts to Recharge

Airports might just seem like an obligatory stopping point, but they can also be an incredible recharge space for introverts. So use your time there to immerse yourself in reading. Uncork endorphins by getting some steps in. Allow the thrill of anonymity, swift motion, and the promise of transience to permit the uncensoring of yourself with a person you may never see again (or who may turn out to be the love of your life). Happy travels!

And, introverts, what would you add to the list? I’d love to hear in the comments below!

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