Catering to your personality makes for a better experience. (Thinkstock)
Confession: I’m an introvert. And as other introverts know, though we make up anywhere from a third to half the population, sometimes it feels like the world caters to extroverts.
It’s not always easy to be an introvert living in an extroverts’ world. (If extroverts ruled the world, small talk would be outlawed.) This can be especially true when it comes to travel. Chatty airplane seatmates, group sight-seeing tours, bed and breakfasts, all-inclusive resorts, all these things can be an introvert’s worst nightmare.
Why? Introverts’ brains literally work differently than extroverts. “Introverts are oriented toward their own private thoughts and feelings,” explains psychologist and University of Washington affiliate professor Jonathan Bricker. “They can be over-stimulated when they interact with too many people.” In other words, introverts actually lose or expend energy in social situations. (Extroverts are oriented to the outside world and truly gain energy from social interaction, says Bricker.)
That doesn’t mean that introverts hate being around people. We are capable of going to new places, meeting new people, being in groups, and we can get as much as anyone else out of travel. But these interactions have very real consequences for introverts, says Bricker. We have to make decisions on how and where to spend our limited social energy — and we need alone time and quiet to recharge.
And, says Bricker, surveys have shown that you can have better travel experience if you make the right choices for your personality type.
With that in mind, here experts’ top tips for the introverted traveler.
1. Prep your travel partners beforehand.
Especially if you’re vacationing with one or more extroverts, let them know you’re an introvert and what that entails. Tell them ahead of time that you’ll need time to yourself. That’s just how you roll.
2. Pack headphones, a sleep mask, and a book (or e-reader).
This introvert is partial to the $12 Daily Concepts Sleep Mask (Daily Concepts)
For an introvert, getting stuck on a plane or train next to a talker can feel like worst-case scenario. Unless you’re genuinely interested in chatting with someone (and therefore it’s worth your effort), small talk with someone you’ll never see again is not a very good use of an introvert’s limited social energy, explains Bricker. The easiest way to avoid conversation is to put on your headphones or a sleep mask or bury your nose in a book.
3. Choose an aisle seat.
When stuck in a large group of people (as you are on plane – sometimes for hours) we introverts can actually feel physically uncomfortable. We tend to want to stay on the periphery and have an easy escape route. Plus, we don’t like to be surrounded by people or objects on all sides. An aisle seats checks those boxes more than any other.
4. Skip the B&B or Airbnb and stay in a conventional hotel.
The Langham, Sydney (The Langham/Facebook)
“With bed and breakfasts, you really have to expect the proprietors and guests may want get to know you and expect that same — it’s part of the experience,” says Lisa Avebury, an introvert and creator of the Sacred Introvert Retreat Tours, trips that cater specifically to introverts. That can be enriching, but it can also be too much for an introvert. At a big hotel you can be more anonymous and people will generally leave you alone. “Save your energy for the things that really interest you,” says psychologist Pauline Wallin.
5. Spring for your own room.
If you’re traveling with friends or going on an organized trip where they try to buddy you up with a roommate, spend the extra money if possible. It’s worth it to have your own space to return to, suggests Avebury.
6. Stay in an area that has something to offer in and of itself.
Monmartre in Paris (Thinkstock)
That way, when you need a more low-key day, you can stay local but still take in the culture. “When I go to Paris, I always stay in Monmartre, because there’s so much there, you can just go for a walk or sit at café all afternoon people watching,” says Avebury. (Yes, that’s completely appealing to introverts.)
7. Travel away from the equator.
Iceland could be the perfect vacation spot for an introvert. (Thinkstock)
“The closer you are to the equator, the closer the social interactions you’ll usually have,” says Bricker. For example, “South Americans need about 18 to 24 inches of personal space,” explains Bricker. “In North America, it’s three feet, and in Iceland and Finland, they need about four feet of distance. The closer more likely to interact.” Of course, seeing Machu Picchu may be worth the social energy you have to expend that close to the equator. Just know what you’re getting yourself into.
8. Trade tour guides for tour apps.
Take your own tour. (Thinkstock)
To an introvert, going on a guided tour can feel like torture — stuck on a set schedule with a group of people, listening to the tour leader drone on and on about the sights. Instead, Avebury advises figuring out what you’d like to see before the trip and reading up on those places. Then rent a car, download a local tour app like Detour or Field Trip or grab your guidebook, and go explore on your own terms. For introverts, says Avebury, it’s all about taking in the vibes of a place and having flexibility.
9. Try physical activities or classes.
This is especially useful when traveling with others, says Wallin. Things like hiking, surfing lessons or even a cooking class are helpful for two reasons: 1. They help you get out of your head and live in the moment, and 2. Having a common goal or activity make socializing easier on an introvert because it’s not all about talking to people.
10. Become an amateur photographer.
Get behind the camera. (Thinkstock)
“Being behind the camera will give you some objectivity if the situation feels too social,” says Wallin. “When you see it from a distance it can feel less draining. And you can also get up and say, ‘I’m going to take some pictures,’ adds Wallin. “That way you’re still there, but you’re able to remove yourself a little.”
11. Check in with yourself regularly.
“Your body is a great barometer of introversion,” says Bricker. “So check in with your body every two hours: How do you feel in your chest, your stomach? Notice if you feel overwhelmed. If you’re at a seven or more on a scale of one to 10, it may be time take a break. Take a walk, read, or take nap. It’s just the natural rhythm of introverts.”
12. Schedule downtime.
Whether it’s waking up early before your travel buddies or family, taking an hour back at the room before dinner, or heading back early to read before bed, your brain very literally needs to recharge, says Wallin. If you don’t schedule it into your daily activities while traveling, it’s too easy to let it fall by the wayside and you can become overwhelmed.
13. Bring a journal.
Write it down. (Thinkstock)
“Travel is often transformational, and that can bring up a lot of feelings,” says Avebury. Whatever it is — joy, fear, frustration, overwhelm — writing is cathartic and a good way for an introvert to help deal with things and download.
14. Bring a calming tool box.
Introverts can be particularly sensitive to their surroundings — light, smells, etc., according to Avebury. So it’s helpful to pack your favorite soothing essentials, whether it’s aromatherapy oils, soothing music, or chamomile tea.
15. Order room service.
“Finding somewhere to eat three meals a day while traveling can actually involve a lot of interaction and be exhausting for an introvert,” says Avebury. To avoid wasting mental energy on it, try ordering room service one night or stop at a local grocery and leave some snacks in your room for when you just need a nice, easy, quite meal.
16. For group activities, set a time limit.
Remember we said that introverts don’t hate people? It’s true. Sometimes it’s worth it to be in a group — meeting new people, whether locals or fellow travelers, is an important part of the experience. The trick is just to have an escape route: Decide ahead of time that you will leave in two hours or 9:30 p.m., suggests Wallin. “A time limit helps you let it go so you don’t have to stress about it.”
17. Choose a retreat.
Retreats are pretty much tailor-made for introverts. Whether for yoga or writing or something else — retreats are set in beautiful natural surroundings, there quiet spaces for introspection, they offer single rooms, and the list goes on, says Avebury.
18. Take an extra day off work.
It’s not just during the vacation you need to make tweaks to fit your style. No matter how much an introvert loves to travel, it can be draining. So introverts need extra time when they get home to re-acclimate and decompress, explains Avebury. Make the return trip on a Saturday if you need to be back to work (and life) on Monday.
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