As an introvert, I may travel alone, but that doesn’t mean I’m lonely.
When I tell people I’ll be traveling alone, the first thing they say is, “Oh, I’m sure you’ll meet people!” or “Won’t you be lonely?” The comments are always well-intended, but meeting people while traveling is the last thing on my mind — my name is Ashley, and I’m an introvert.
You may think of an introvert as someone who is shy, but this simply isn’t the case. While some introverts are shy, not all introverts are shy. In any case, introverts are strong, self-assured, and self-reliant by nature. We just prefer to spend time alone and recharge; we’re our own best friends. How cool is that? To truly love yourself enough to not require external gratification? It’s a beautiful thing!
Most articles about solo travel will tell you not to worry because you’ll meet people. But what if that’s not your style? What if you’re traveling solo for the purpose of introspection, peace, and tranquility — and to not meet people? Even if you don’t consider yourself to be an introvert, there are many benefits to turning inward and focusing solely on your own thoughts and interests instead.
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Traveling Solo Gives Me the Opportunity to Break Free of Our Extroverted World
As an introvert, living in our world is exhausting. To avoid being labeled as an outcast, I must go against my natural tendencies and constantly force myself to conform to society’s expectations of normal, which requires me to act “social” and “extroverted.” Since socializing leaves me in desperate need of recharging my depleted batteries, solo travel provides me with the opportunity to break free and truly be myself.
When I’m overwhelmed, I like to draw on a cherished memory from a trip to Machu Picchu. The breeze is dancing on my skin, the fresh mountain air fills my lungs, and I’m overcome with a deep sense of peace and fulfillment. I would have missed creating that memory entirely if I had been engaged in conversation with my fellow travelers. While building connections with others is important, nurturing the connection with oneself is essential.
The Downside to Meeting Others
Overstepping, oversharing, and just plain overboard! We’ve all met these people, be it on an airplane, at the bus stop, or in a grocery store. When you’re a solo traveler, you’re a prime target for the social advances of other travelers. Beware! As well-intended as these folks may be, they can suck the wind right out of your sails and make you feel as though you need to spend your vacation ducking and hiding.
Tips for introverts:
- Be mindful of your introvert needs when choosing housing. Book accommodation that offers a private balcony or courtyard — your very own slice of paradise to enjoy as you please.
- Pack light. Your luggage will either become your faithful friend or frustrating foe for the duration of your trip.
- Dress down. We must be aware of the image we project as solo travelers; do your best to blend in with your surroundings.
- Introvert-proof yourself. As soon as you take your seat on the plane, don your earbuds or headphones (even if you’re not listening to anything).
- Avoid places where people gather. When you arrive at your destination, don’t spend your time sitting at the bar; grab a drink and go for a walk.
- Eating alone? Not a problem! Bring a book, write in your travel journal, or peruse the photos you’ve taken so far.
- Keep conversations short. Always be pleasant and respectful, but never inquisitive.
- Turn down invitations. A simple lunch with other travelers could turn into an expectation of constant companionship.
Making the Most of Your Solo Experience
Now that we’ve covered how to remain solo, it’s time to explore how to make the most of your journey. Introverts have the distinct advantage of already knowing ourselves quite well, as our natural instinct is to turn inward. However, modern society offers many distractions that can cause us to lose track of this inner connection. Thankfully, solo travel gives us the unique opportunity to ground ourselves and reestablish our voice.
Tips for introverts:
- Journal about your experiences. Each day, set aside time to put pen to paper. Writing is a great way to relax, organize your thoughts, and memorialize your adventures. Your journal is a great release and takes the place of sharing memories with travel companions.
- Be mindful about your surroundings. Without the distraction of constant conversation and interaction with others, you’ll be able to truly experience your destination. Breathe in the smells, commit the sounds to memory, record the scenes in your mind, and feel the sensation of everything you touch.
- Listen to your inner self. If you’re traveling to “find yourself” or to get over a loss in your life, you’ll find peace and clarity in introverted solo travel. Make time to listen to your inner voice and find the answers you’ve been seeking.
- Embrace the culture. Check out the vibrant markets, visit historical sites, and sample flavorful dishes.
- Listen to the locals. Folks in the service industry often have amazing stories and an in-depth knowledge of the area. Make the most of your taxi ride or solo dining experiences by asking for advice or practicing your local language skills.
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.
The Upside to Traveling Alone
Whatever you want, whenever you want! Feel sleepy? Take a nap. Feel adventurous? Get on a city bus and travel like a local. Feel the need to recharge? Ditch the all-night dance club and opt for a quiet night in. There are no outside expectations or hurt feelings. The only mood that matters is your own!
Tips for introverts:
- Move at your own pace. That “boring” museum you’ve always wanted to see? Grab a ticket and enjoy at your own pace, free of sighs and eye rolls.
- See what you want to see. Not super stoked about a crowded “must-see” attraction at your destination? Don’t go! If you’re already at an attraction and feel uncomfortable, leave! Traveling on your own means you get to decide what’s best for you.
- Know a place will be busy and crowded? Go early. Trevi Fountain is one of the most popular sites in Rome, but I had the privilege of watching the fountain change colors in the rising sun with only a handful of other people.
- Solo travel is a great way to test your boundaries. There are times when you’ll need to approach people to ask questions or get directions. Take a deep breath and welcome these short-term interactions. Though you may not love doing so, it can boost your confidence as an independent traveler.
- When you feel overwhelmed, take a break. Find a spot away from the crowd, close your eyes, and focus on your breathing — slowly in through your nose and out through your mouth while visualizing something you find calming, such as digging your toes into soft sand, cuddling with your pet, or soaking in a bubble bath. Sip some water, savor a snack from your travel bag, and chill out until you feel ready to carry on. Take as long as you need.
- Make yourself an itinerary before you go so you maximize your time. Introverts love their plans, but also leave plenty of wiggle-room so you can follow your whims and have plenty of time to recharge.
Introverts are often misunderstood, but it’s time we embrace our unique approach to life. Solo travel is the perfect way to build self-confidence, step outside the norm, and grow as an individual — all while getting plenty of alone time. Stand tall, fellow introverts. Adventure awaits!
For more solo travel tips and stories about my experiences, check out my blog, AloneButNotLonely.net.
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