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Last Updated on 23/12/2020
I’m an introvert who loves to travel and meet new people. Sounds like a confusing oxymoron, right? After all, we typically associate introverts with being quiet homebody types rather than outgoing adventurers.
I’ve always been a bit of an introvert, and it’s only grown with age. These days I much prefer the quiet of my bed and a good TV show over a big night out. I tend to value a good night’s sleep over a hangover although it wasn’t always the case.
I did have a brief spell in my teens where I yearned for company. Staying at home gave me a bad case of FOMO, and I was always game to party till late, watching another hour slip by as I put off the inevitable commute home.
Now, in a dramatic role reversal, I catch myself longing for home in the middle of a conversation. Constant social interactions make me exhausted and I can’t help but think about the earliest acceptable time to leave.
I’m acutely envious of those who are unwavering in their ability to remain bubbly and outgoing no matter what. Being introverted comes with the never-ending worry that I’m just not fun enough (hi, social anxiety!).
Is there such a thing as an introvert that travels?
I’m an introvert that loves to travel
By all accounts travel and being an introvert just don’t seem compatible. To start with, travel is everything introversion is not. You’re constantly bombarded with new places and people on the road which should automatically be unbearable for a homebody like me.
And yet, despite this glaring unsuitability, I absolutely love travel. I can’t get enough of exploring new places and meeting new people along the way.
So does travel make you more outgoing?
Novelty is exciting
Travel pushes you into a new environment and for survival’s sake, you have no choice but to interact with the outside world. It makes you feel more extroverted. You have to ask questions if you get lost or go out in search of food if you want to eat.
There’s no option to stay in your hotel room for the duration of your trip, and why would you? You’ve paid for your holiday so you want to get your money’s worth.
It’s easier for an introvert to feel more outgoing while travelling because the experience is exciting. It’s a novelty, and the rush you get from being in a new place is basically a drug, a chemical that your brain craves. Novelty causes your brain to release a whole load of dopamine. It feels so good that it motivates you to search for more of that fix.
Something as simple as going to the supermarket abroad becomes much more appealing than at home because it’s a chance to learn something new about the culture. It’s a curiosity more than a necessity.
Meeting people is easier when you’re travelling
I had never ridden a moped before this moment…
One of the benefits of travel is that meeting new people doesn’t seem half as intimidating when you’re sharing an experience in an exciting new place.
Travel generates a constant stream of new people wherever you go, particularly if you choose the hostel lifestyle (you can find out more about surviving a hostel here). It also awards you the chance to be a blank slate which makes socialising a lot easier.
You get a rare opportunity to reinvent yourself and the pressure is off if it doesn’t work out. Chances are you’re not going to see them again. Instead, you’re free to simply cultivate the shared enjoyment of being in an exciting new place. If a lifelong friendship is formed even better, if not it will still conjure fond memories of your trip anyway.
Solo travellers get the best of both worlds
Solo travel is perfect for introverts
Travelling with a friend has its perks. You don’t have to worry about your itinerary half as much, and if you get lost then at least you’re in it together. But unless you’re a superhuman with saintly patience, it’s inevitable that spending 24/7 with the same person is bound to grind your gears.
Travel has a tendency to heighten even the slightest grievances to unbearable levels, and can very easily ruin a trip and a friendship in a matter of moments.
If you travel alone it’s a free opt-out of that whole situation. Yes, you may find yourself overloaded with responsibility from chief interpreter to secretary of navigation in some real sink or swim moments, but you get complete control of your social interactions.
Solo travel is perfect for introverts. There’s no obligation to commit to a group of people if you don’t feel comfortable around them. You can just leave if you feel left out or don’t enjoy the activities they’re doing. It’s both flexible and empowering.
Making friends can enrich your travelling experience
Meeting people is an important part of the experience
It’s important to stay true to what you enjoy and how you travel best. If that means taking a day or two to be alone and unwind then so be it. Solo travel gives you the opportunity to control how you can do it and when.
That being said, meeting people is an important part of travelling. Making new connections broadens your mind and offers enriching travel experiences. You can learn so much about a place from its people; more than a travel guide or blog can ever tell you. These human connections are what make travel meaningful and authentic.
Read my guide to doing a group tour as a solo traveller here.
How to cope with being an introvert abroad
The key is to find a balance
First of all, I just want to say that being an introvert is not bad in any way. I find that the characteristic is often misconstrued as negative. It’s frowned upon to enjoy being alone. We crave it with a pinch of guilt that we aren’t trying to be more outgoing and fun.
I say own your introversion. Give yourself permission to accept when a social environment is making you feel de-energised and uncomfortable. In my experience, repressing it will only make you miserable.
The key to travelling as an introvert is all about finding that balance. Push yourself into trying new experiences and making those connections but know that it’s fine if you want to close yourself off for a few days. Travel, particularly solo travel, is a sensory overload at the best of times and even the most seasoned travellers need some time out now and again.
Check out this great article by the Young Adventuress about the realities of travelling solo as an introvert.
You can absolutely enjoy travelling as an introvert. The secret to making the most out of your trip is to play to your strengths. Solo travel is a great way to have flexibility over your social interactions. However, if you’re worried about the practical side of travelling alone then bringing along one or two close friends with you can work just as well.
Are you an introvert that loves to travel? Let me know in the comments!
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