Yes, cities can be crowded and loud, but they’re also environments where introverts can be adventurous and thrive.
It’s a sunny winter morning in Savannah, Georgia. I’ve taken a solo weekend trip to a city that’s new to me, something I love to do as often as I can. With nowhere I need to be, and nobody I need to think of other than myself, the city is mine to explore. My feet hit the pavement and the energy of the city invigorates me — it’s a new adventure.
Yes, cities can be crowded and loud, two things that are often overwhelming for introverts. I’ve experienced that stressful feeling firsthand, having lived in three major U.S. and European cities, each home to well over half a million people.
But even though cities have the potential to overstimulate introverts, they’re not always a nightmare. In fact, they’re sometimes an environment where introverts can thrive. And if you’re visiting a city as a solo traveler, there are certain benefits that make it an especially introvert-friendly adventure.
My travels to this point have been to cities throughout the U.S. and Europe, so my experience is limited to those locations and my “to-travel-to” list is long. And though I love traveling, I haven’t loved every city I’ve visited. But here are a few things I’ve enjoyed and appreciated as an introvert when exploring a new city, whether a smaller one like Savannah, or a larger one like Warsaw.
4 Reasons You’ll Love Traveling to Cities Alone as an Introvert
1. You can have complete anonymity — nobody will know who you are.
Introverts don’t usually like being the center of attention, or even just knowing that multiple people are looking at us. Traveling in a new city, however, introverts can enjoy being on their own without the self-consciousness or anxiousness that they sometimes experience in their day-to-day lives.
When traveling solo in a new place where there are plenty of other people around, there are plenty of benefits — we won’t run into someone we know and need to make small talk; we won’t have to pretend we’re interested in this or that tourist site that others in our group want to visit; and we won’t feel uncomfortable at how others might react if we mispronounce the food we’re ordering (for example).
In cities, everyone tends to go about their own business. Nobody cares what I’m wearing or what book I’m reading. I love being able to walk around as I please, just another human going about their day, knowing that I’ll probably never see any of these people again. (It’s similar to the confident feeling I have, for example, while in my car belting out ‘90s pop music on the highway… none of those people know me or will ever see me again either.)
2. You can be as independent as you’d like — if you don’t want to have a plan, then that’s your plan.
I love traveling alone in general. But cities have such a range of opportunities that allow me to truly appreciate the level of independence a solo trip to a new city provides. Introverts can be adventurous, and our tendency to be independent lends itself to that.
When traveling alone, I don’t like having a schedule unless I’ve booked a specific activity, like a tour, wine tasting, theater performance, or, in the case of my Savannah trip, a ghost tour! Several years ago, I wandered the streets of Lisbon, Portugal, with zero plan, stopping for coffee when I wanted to, going back to my hotel for an afternoon nap at whatever time I needed to, and having dinner wherever I wanted.
The independence of solo travel can also allow us to customize our experience in a new city to make it as introvert-friendly as possible. For instance, you can choose to stay in a quieter neighborhood within walking distance of the things you’d like to see and do. And if you want to visit tourist sites, you can plan to go at a quieter time of day. When I was on a research trip to Warsaw, Poland during graduate school, I walked whenever possible vs. taking public transportation. It was the dead of winter, but the brisk air was refreshing and preferable to crowds.
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3. You can follow your curiosity and see where it leads.
Curiosity helps introverts thrive. We’re notorious thinkers who love questions (even if, like me, we’re shy about asking them sometimes!), and we take that curiosity with us when traveling. In a city that’s new to us, where there is so much to see and do, we’re excited to follow that curiosity and see where it takes us.
Traveling solo also allows us to be spontaneous in feeding that curiosity. Turn onto that street? Sure! Pop into that museum? Why not? Music’s playing on that street? Cool, I’ll check it out. Bakery on the corner? Time for a coffee and pastry.
It’s also possible to be a quiet, curious tourist in your own city. When I lived in New York City many years ago during my early twenties, I spent several Saturdays getting to know different parts of the city. Those days were for exploring, always on my own, and checking out different neighborhoods. And I became a more confident, inquisitive traveler when away from home because of those curiosity-fueled Saturdays.
4. You can learn what you’re truly capable of.
While writing this piece, I went back through a few of my old travel journals, and there was a common denominator: I saw what I was capable of by being in a new city and having to figure things out on my own. Getting from point A to point B? Done. Staying street smart? Check. Being confident enough to go out and about or eat dinner alone in a restaurant? Sure.
When I studied abroad in college, during which time I had the chance to do some solo traveling, the first thing I wrote on my list of ways I’d changed was: “I’m a lot braver.” Traveling to cities alone was a big part of that confidence boost. (And yes, I wrote that sentence while in a city by myself, sitting on a wall along the river in Zurich, Switzerland, and reflecting on my travel experiences.)
Here’s the thing: Introverts don’t always get confidence boosts in our day-to-day lives. Frequently, I feel overshadowed, fearing I come across as the hesitant one, the awkward one, or the overwhelmed one, especially when surrounded by extroverts who seem much more self-assured. But when I’m traveling alone in a city that’s new to me, I feel confident in my abilities to navigate, plan (or not plan) my day, and enjoy my own company.
Sure, it can be nice traveling to a city with other people, especially a small group of family or close friends. On those trips, I’ve stepped into various roles. I’ve been the tourist, the tour guide, the navigator, the leader, the follower, the local language-knower, the one who goes home early, and the adventurous one. But when it’s just me, I’m all of those things at once, which is empowering.
Traveling to new cities alone is a wonderful way for introverts to enjoy independence and fuel our curiosity, all while remaining comfortably anonymous and giving ourselves a confidence boost.
Introverts, I’d love to hear about your own solo travel adventures in the comments below!
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.
You might like:
- 7 Reasons Introverts Should Try Solo Travel at Least Once
- How to Travel Alone as an Introvert
- 10 Struggles Only Shy Introverts Will Understand
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