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What I learned as an introverted solo traveller

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Last year I embarked on four months of solo travel around the world. Whilst I was obviously excited before my trip, as an introvert, I had some concerns.

What if I had to spend every minute of every day with people? Would I have to make friends with a big group? What will happen if the people I meet go clubbing every night and I just want an early night? Will I miss out on amazing experiences just because I’m an introvert?

We certainly live in a world that’s designed for extroverts to socialise and succeed, but when I began my travels I was pleasantly surprised to learn that solo travel is perhaps one of the most liberating and well-suited activities to do as an introvert.

As an introvert, I am very used to my own company. This meant that I found I felt perfectly comfortable in situations that more extroverted or ambiverted people may have found more difficult. Solitude is more often than not an enjoyable concept for introverts, which means that travelling doesn’t get lonely when you have long flights alone or have to spend a day or a week wandering around new places by yourself.

As an introvert, the concept of a quiet night in reading a book whilst your dorm mates go out drinking every evening is a welcome one, which means that it’s not a disaster if you don’t make friends with everyone in your hostel dorm. Even doing things like eating alone or being surrounded by groups of friends often doesn’t bother an introverted person, so in that respect, solo travel is designed for the introverted soul.

One common misconception about introverts is that we don’t like to have any friends, and like to spend 100% of our time on our own. This is far from the truth, as introverts treasure more meaningful and deep conversations and relationships with others, rather than small talk and having hundreds of friends that you only partly know.

When you’re adventuring on your own, especially if you’re travelling in social places like hostels or group tours, you often have complete control over who you make friends with and when. When I was travelling I noticed that lots of the solo travellers on my bus formed groups almost as soon as we boarded, which is a method of socialising that really suits certain people.

For me, I chose to wait until I met one or two people who I had a lot in common with, and form close friendships with them rather than struggle to get my voice heard in big groups. Never feel pressured to slot into a big group if that’s not going to make you feel happy or comfortable. Hold off, have a chat to some of the other smaller groups or solo travellers and see if there’s anyone that you can really get on with. 

There’s a lot to be said for the liberation and comfort in time spend completely alone, especially if you’re someone who feels relaxed in solitude but anxious in groups. This being said, I found that sometimes when I pushed myself out of my comfort zone I had the best experiences by making friends with the people around me.

While it may be easier and a more comfortable decision to explore places alone or go to a restaurant solo, on occasions if you gently encourage yourself to form connections with the people in your dorm room or tour group you might find an incredible travel companion.

Never force yourself to do something that causes you a sustained level of anxiety or distress, but if you like the look of someone or you spot one or two people who you think you might get along with, it’s often worth a try inviting them to see an attraction or to go for some drinks. Complete solitude is a blessing but that in no way means that friendships can’t be made when you’re on the road.

Lastly, if you’re an introvert living in this extroverted world, you’ve probably had a lifetime of forced group activities; school trips, group work parties and team building trips. When you travel solo your experience will be the complete opposite to all those loud social-centric trips. There will be no one telling you to wake up a certain time, nobody will force you to tell the group a bit about yourself and no one directing you towards a dinner table full of people you don’t know.

As a solo traveller, you decide who you talk to, what you say and when. You make the rules. And that’s why solo travel is an experience tailor-made for the introvert.

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