An introvert, in the wild.

Introverts live differently than extroverts. Not surprisingly, they also travel differently. Trust me, I know.

5 min read  ·  August 29th, 2009

Peeking, Istanbul, Turkey
Peeking, Istanbul, Turkey

Sophia Dembling, Confessions of an Introverted Traveler:

Introversion and extroversion are inborn traits, and the difference between them is not that one is gregarious and at ease in the world and the other shy and awkward. Rather, extroverts are outwardly motivated and gain energy from interaction with the outside world while introverts are more inwardly directed and drained by interaction with others. Introverts’ thinking tends to be deep and slow, we require copious time alone, we prefer probing conversation to shallow chitchat, and our social lives are geared more towards intimate one-on-one interactions than “more the merrier” free-for-alls.

To add, Jonathan Rauch, Caring for Your Introvert:

… introverts are people who find other people tiring.

Extroverts are energized by people, and wilt or fade when alone. … In contrast, after an hour or two of being socially “on,” we introverts need to turn off and recharge. … This isn’t antisocial. It isn’t a sign of depression. It does not call for medication. For introverts, to be alone with our thoughts is as restorative as sleeping, as nourishing as eating. Our motto: “I’m okay, you’re okay—in small doses.”

A traveling life, especially one spent in the halls of hostels around the world, is easier for extroverts. But the joy of traveling is still accessible to introverts; Sophia Dembling, in an article worth reading in full, Six Tips for Introverted Travelers:

  1. Be open to conversation when it’s offered.

… In her book Introvert Power, psychologist Laurie Helgoe points out that introverts generally prefer deep conversation to superficial chitchat. I’m never afraid to turn conversations to to the subject of worldview, personal goals, politics and other Deep Thoughts.

Regular, daily, social chit-chat doesn’t come easy to introverts. I don’t think extroverts truly understand this.

Introverts (well, at least me) get bored by the typical conversations about past exploits and future destinations; but we’re ready for the deeper explorations of cultural and economic differences that travel helps create. Just not all the time…

Trails, Istanbul, Turkey
Trails, Istanbul, Turkey

Continuing…

  1. Don’t be shy about ending an encounter when you’re ready.

A lot of times, random conversations lead to invitations to parties, to travel companionship, to meet others. … Don’t be ashamed or embarrassed to say “no” if you’re not feeling it. Then again, say “yes” sometimes, too. You never know.

“Saying yes” is one of the keys to creating serendipity; figuring out when to say “yes” and “no” to optimize for serendipity is particularly important for introverts, part of the constant battle to balance one’s time between expending and recharging social energy.

(And to be clear, I like raucous good times. Just not every night.)

  1. Carry a book.

… I always carry a book when I travel for when I need to create a quiet place for myself. Travel is wonderful and exhausting and over-stimulating. Sometimes I need to escape into the tranquility of reading.

A book, a camera, a pad of paper and a pen, the tools for a happy day.

Give me a computer with an Internet connection, and that’s bliss for a couple days.

Targets, Hagia Sophia, Istanbul, Turkey
Targets, Hagia Sophia, Istanbul, Turkey

Continuing…

  1. Develop the art of sitting and watching.

In her book, Helgoe talks about the French term “flâneur” (feminine, “flâneuse”). It translates literally to “idler or loafer,” but the poet Charles Baudelaire defined it as a passionate observer. Yes, yes! I am a flâneuse. I love just sitting and watching people doing what they do, and even more so when I travel.

If there were truly any doubts, yes, I am a flâneur, of a sort. Done and done.

  1. Take a walking tour or, even better, hire a guide yourself.

I have found this controlled interaction is a great way to get some conversation in with a local. …

Honestly I’ve never had the desire to hire a guide. Give me a map, point me in the right direction and I’m much happier to amuse myself with whatever I see and find.

Private Wishes in Public, Sofia, Bulgaria
Private Wishes in Public, Sofia, Bulgaria

Continuing…

  1. Take the downtime you need.

I’m not opposed to traveling with others—a good travel companion is a joy and an extroverted companion can make connections for you on the road. But I’m also not shy about eking out time to myself as necessary.

The short intersections of time and place shared by travelers simply aren’t conducive for softly educating people about what introverts need; frankly both introverts and extroverts suffer from an inability to communicate about their preferred ways to travel and live.

But hopefully this will help…

i. Links via Jason Kottke
ii . Related reading: Party of One: the Loner’s Manifesto

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