If you’re an introvert, vacationing with an extrovert can be tricky — is that a selfie stick they’re getting out?
As I read through Paul Harrison’s Introvert, Dear article discussing the vacation that introverts should take based on their Myers-Briggs type, I sat nodding along and identifying myself in many of the holidays described. My summers are usually spent hiking in the mountains, reading lots of books, or being creative by learning new skills or cooking recipes. But what happens when we can’t do this? What happens when, for example, your extroverted best friend visits for two weeks? And you’re an introvert…
Currently, I live in Como, Italy, a desirable place for many of my friends and family to come visit. However, with the constantly changing rules and regulations due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the majority of people I know couldn’t visit without having to quarantine for a significant amount of time. The exception to this rule was my friend in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) who was unable to visit her family in England this summer. Therefore, in a moment of empathy and probably a bit of insanity, I invited her to Italy to stay with me.
We are the ultimate introvert-extrovert team. I love listening to all she has to say about her past, culture, and religion, and she loves talking about it. Back when we lived in the same city, we used to drive to work together. She’d have the music turned up to 100 to get going in the morning, and I’d turn it down to a 2 or 3 — typical behavior of both an extrovert and introvert. As the time of her visit drew nearer, I approached it with a mix of excitement and apprehension: In the past, I’d always been able to retreat to my own space if things got to be too much, but in this situation, I wasn’t sure it would be an option since she’d be in my home and space.
Sharing My Living Space as an Introvert
I live alone. I have done this for four years now, and I love having my own apartment to escape to from the world. So to have someone else constantly in this space was a big deal for me. It was exhausting, especially after the first few days. By day three, I said that it felt as if we’d been together non-stop, but her response was, “Not really.”
It wasn’t only that we were sharing my apartment — it was that during all our activities, we were surrounded by, and interacting with, people. Furthermore, her approach to sightseeing was to see as much as possible as quickly as possible, whereas mine was to go much slower and enjoy a moment of quiet reflection, followed by another moment of quiet reflection… This was highlighted on our trip to the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, where we clearly wanted to walk around and enjoy the art in different ways and at different paces.
It was in the gallery where we decided to take things at our own pace a bit more. We agreed we were both worried about ruining each other’s vacation. So we decided that the best thing we could do was to do our own thing at times, almost like traveling alone (for some of the day, anyway). I handed her the keys and said I’d message her when I was finished. She whizzed through the gallery, seeing the artwork she wanted to see and enjoying it her own way, and I got to walk through slowly, enjoying it my way.
After this, we were both much more in our element — we had mornings or afternoons where we would each do our own thing, and then get together later. We still spent a lot of time together, but this way gave me a chance to find the quiet spots of a city or just wander around and not have to speak for a few hours. I was able to recharge. Finally.
Lei Non Parla Italiano, Ma Parlo Italiano (She Doesn’t Speak Italian, But I Speak Italian)
Possibly my greatest challenge during these two weeks was that I had to talk to strangers more because my friend spoke no Italian, whereas I can speak a little. In normal circumstances, she would naturally chat more and ask questions to shopkeepers, waiters, etc., but the language barrier made this more difficult. Not that it stopped her. She would merrily ask questions, but I’d have to be there to help translate, forcing me into interactions I’d never normally be part of. (I’m sure my fellow introverts can relate!)
At one point, she told me to “just ask” about a possible room change at our hotel. There is nothing simple about this task; even in English to “just ask” can cause me stress and anxiety and usually requires plenty of time for me to plan how this will be done. In Italian, it was impossible. Her extroverted mindset, however, didn’t see it that way, because it was something she could do so easily. As a result, she felt I let her down.
What helped in the end was my own mindset toward the interactions. Everything became a learning opportunity: It was a chance for me to practice my Italian and learn new words or phrases. I also began teaching my friend simple phrases she could use in restaurants, taking some of the burden off myself to do all the talking. It was still exhausting, but it made it a little easier and gave me a greater purpose for each interaction I had.
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Introverts and the Dreaded Selfie
I’m not 100 percent sure if this is an introvert thing, or if it’s just a me thing, but I hate selfies. Yes, they are much better than having to ask someone for a photo, but I just feel they never look good, and I just get in the way of the main purpose of the photo (the view in the background). If it wasn’t for my mother and grandmother asking for photos of me, I’d happily never be in a photo.
My extroverted friend, however, loves selfies. What makes it even more horrifying is that she even has a selfie stick! In my head, this means everyone is now looking at us (and making judgments), which ultimately makes it even more difficult to smile and pretend to be happy and carefree.
And is one quick photo enough? No, of course not. She needs to take 10 photos, check them all, decide none of them are any good, and… repeat the entire process! Mortifying. Of course, she finally settles on the photo where she looks great, she’s captured the backdrop she wanted, but I look terrible. Not that I’d ever say anything.
Within the first day, it was clear how painful this process was for me. We didn’t even need to talk about it, and we came up with a silent agreement that we’d take fewer selfies. I was able to stay behind the camera and take the photos, and she was happy because she had her own cameraman to capture shots that a selfie just couldn’t.
I consider myself incredibly lucky to have a friend who “gets” me well enough to have noticed my discomfort and change for me, but I do believe the best remedy for this is to simply talk about it. However, I’m not yet sure if my introverted self would have had the courage to bring this up in a conversation.
Dealing With the ‘Introvert Hangover’
The “introvert hangover” was something I first came across on Introvert, Dear. I recognized it immediately — for me, it feels like I’m a computer which has crashed after having too many programs open and the only way for it to work again is a full reboot — and now that I have a better understanding of it, I can plan for it. I knew two weeks with my extroverted friend would be a challenge for my introverted self and deplete my energy, so I’d planned for “me-time” afterwards.
The following week, I spent my time curled up with my nose in a book, going on some of my favorite hikes, cooking my favorite meals, and writing this article. I wasn’t a complete recluse — I still socialized with my close friends in Como — but I allowed myself the time to re-energize and do the things that I knew would help. Knowing that I had this time planned for myself helped throughout the two weeks with my friend — it gave me something extra to look forward to. And it allowed me to appreciate and enjoy our time together more than if I hadn’t planned for it.
It’s Nice to Think of Other People’s Needs, but Important to Think About Your Introvert Needs, Too
Overall, it was a lovely two weeks, and it was great to see a friend I hadn’t seen for over a year. It had its challenges, but with a few conversations and a bit of planning, we both had the vacation we wanted. We introverts (too) often put other people’s needs ahead of our own, and I think it’s important to remember that our enjoyment and needs are just as important as everyone else’s. Our more extroverted friends and family would agree, I’m sure, and sometimes we just need to communicate this to them in order to get the downtime we need.