I wouldn’t necessarily call myself introverted, but I’m not extroverted either. If I had to break it down, I would say I’m 49% introvert and 51% extrovert. There are times when I really enjoy being in social environments, talking to literally everybody and being in the center of attention. But there’s also times when I hate it, when it makes me feel utterly uncomfortable and I just wish I was alone.
The good thing about traveling is that you can almost always decide which environment you want to be in. But most would choose to be in the social one. All the time. Because that’s what traveling is about too – meeting people, getting new friends and perhaps even a new love interest. But it really drained me after a while because I was trying to be 100% extroverted when I really wasn’t.
Solo traveling also puts you on the spot. If you don’t want to be alone, you have to open up and be social. You have to be extroverted, always in a good mood and want to join in every conversation. When I was younger and traveling, there were so many times when I was afraid of being lonely. So instead of prioritizing that precious alone time, I started chatting with anyone who was in the room and made sure that I never had to travel alone. Once I got older (and hopefully more wiser), I got more in touch with the introvert in me. I started respecting that part of me and learned how to fully embrace it. Now when I travel, I do it in a completely different way.
Let’s do Vietnam as an example. I’ve traveled solo there twice and the first time, I was always surrounded by people. I made sure to check in to the biggest hostels where I would guaranteed find other people, I joined free walking tours, I went on pub crawls, etc. The second time I was there, I did the opposite. Instead of staying in the cheapest hostels, which also happens to be the most social ones, I opted for the more expensive hostels so I could get the maximum comfort. I didn’t care if I wouldn’t meet people because I didn’t want to. I wanted to explore cities on my own, I wanted to eat dinner by myself and truly enjoy the food, I wanted to avoid the parties and instead read a book before going to bed.
I also appreciated the friendships I made much more. I made fewer friends on this trip, but I felt like I made a deeper connection with them. Before, I used to hang out in big groups and make short lasting friendships just because I was afraid of being lonely. Now I made sure to only spend time with those I could fully appreciate and really get to know. Being introverted doesn’t mean that you want to be alone all the time. It also doesn’t mean that you’re timid in social situations or don’t feel comfortable within them. It just means that you see the world through a different lens.
When I started feeling more and more introverted, I was a bit afraid of how people would view me. Unfortunately, there are many negative connotations associated with introversion. People tend to think that we’re antisocial or loners, that we don’t like people or some may even presume that we’re snobbish, which is really not the case. Being introverted just means that you value alone time more, that you don’t need or want to be in huge groups, or that you just prefer intimate settings with one person that you can have a deeper connection with.
I think traveling has so many perks though and suits both extroverts and introverts. Even if you’re an introverted person, you’ll thoroughly enjoy traveling. You might even meet a few people you’d assume are extroverts but they’re in fact introverts. I’ve met a few of them. They were some of the most social people in my hostel, but I later found out that they were actually introverts and didn’t really enjoy the hostel scene but decided to give it a try. So even if it might feel like you’re the only introvert out there traveling, know you’re far from the only one.
Traveling as an introvert can be tough at times, especially if we always find ourselves in social environments such as party hostels. But traveling as an introvert is also highly rewarding because we’re independent, we’re used to taking care of ourselves so we never have to rely on anyone else, we won’t feel uncomfortable eating alone at a restaurant because we actually love it, we make deeper connections with the friends we get to know, we know how to enjoy being alone, we’re not afraid of doing your own thing and we’ll always stay true to ourselves. And once we learn to fully embrace our introverted sides, magic will ensue.