One of my biggest struggles throughout my travels has been deciphering the things I actually really want to do from the ones I feel like I “should” do.
When I first got the itch to travel full time, I was bombarded by articles and videos of young, fun-loving (usually quite attractive) people gallivanting around the world. They seemingly never took a break from one adventurous activity to the next. Their lives seemed perfect – and in my depression-fueled desperation, travel seemed like the perfect antidote to my “boring life.” And it was! The End.
Nope, unfortunately, life just doesn’t work that way. You know that saying “wherever you go, there you are?” I think anyone who has traveled for a prolonged period of time will tell you that the saying holds true for them. You will never hear me saying that travel doesn’t change your life. It most certainly does – I am a vastly different person from the one who set off on her own just over a year ago. But it’s also true that those personality traits that you’ve been “battling” since birth do not disappear just because you decide to leave home.
One of the traits that I thought would miraculously disappear when I started traveling was my hatred of doing things. AKA introversion. I would classify myself as an “extroverted introvert.” Meaning if you met me in person you may not think I was an introvert. I have had people confuse me for an extrovert before, but they would be wrong. I am an introvert, through and through. All that means is that it costs me more energy to be around other people than it does my extroverted friends. I need periods of time to myself to recharge. This poses a unique challenge when it comes to travel.
Many of the people you will meet when you travel are extroverts (or possibly introverts who are running themselves ragged trying to keep up with the extroverts). I mean, who else would subject themselves to dorm rooms and crowded buses and days jam packed with activity and adventure? At least, these are the images and stories you read and see online, right? Isn’t travel about taking the one life you have to live and making the absolute most of it?
Well, yes, of course. Which is why my most constant struggle is between the things I think I “should” be doing and the things I enjoy doing. For reference, here is a list of the things I enjoy doing most days:
The things I think I “should” be doing when I travel, for comparison?
So, you see my dilemma, right? I’m sure if you’re a fellow introvert, you’re laughing along with me at the ridiculous chasm between the things we enjoy and the things travel expects of us.
The world of travel may be painted in terms that extroverts know best, but I think there are definitely more travel bloggers who are introverts. After all, who else would willingly sit out precious travel days to transcribe everything that happens? Travel blogging is an introverts’ playground. As such, is it any wonder that there are plenty of ‘traveling as an introvert’ articles out there on the web? Introverts tend to be cautious types, and even I find myself googling ‘I hate doing things. Is there something wrong with me?” So I am here to tell you that, no, there is nothing wrong with you. And here are some ways that you can maximize your unique travel experience:
The Introvert’s Guide To Travel
When indecision strikes, sit with it.
Rather than making a rash decision because “YOLO!” or letting friends pressure you into doing something, take a minute for yourself. Get quiet, place your hands on your belly and take some deep breaths. Repeat to yourself, either in your head or out loud, “I am going to do ____ (insert whatever thing you are deciding whether or not to do).” See how your body reacts. Do you feel clenching in your stomach? A deep exhale of relief? A sharp intake of breath? At first, it can be difficult to decipher what exactly these mean, especially if you’re not used to checking in with your body. So repeat the phrase, but opposite this time. “I am NOT going to do ____.” What happens then? Do you have a different reaction? This exercise can tell you a lot about the things you actually WANT to do and the things you think you SHOULD be doing. [To read more about this process, I encourage you to read Elizabeth DiAlto’s book, Untame Yourself. Free on Kindle Unlimited!]
What if I don’t feel anything?
Especially in the beginning, you might be sitting there like “Am I supposed to be feeling something?” That’s because if you don’t check in regularly with your body, she or he is unused to being asked things. If no one ever asked you a question, you’d have a hard time coming up with an answer, wouldn’t you? The answering muscle would be out of practice. So be patient with yourself, instead of deciding this means you’re “broken” and giving up on the whole practice. Also, I know sometimes I think my body speaking to me has to be a LOUD voice. Quite the opposite, your body speaking to you is often as subtle as a twinge or twitch.
What if my “no” is actually just me being scared?
I frequently think this about my “no’s.” After all, we are told that YES is the most powerful word ever. But a full-body NO is just as awesome. If you’re being true to yourself and setting a boundary, especially if you’re unused to setting boundaries, that can feel pretty freaking badass.
To be honest, I am still in the process of deciphering when my “no’s” are operating out of fear instead of truth. So I experiment. Sometimes I push myself to do things I don’t “want” to do (usually something social with someone I barely know) to see if it was actually a “fearful no” instead of an “I really just do NOT want to do this, actually.” Sometimes I push myself and realize, during or after, that I really didn’t want to do that, so next time I know. It’s always a process.
STOP with the “should”
Ugh. My least favorite word, and if you’re an introvert I’m guessing it’s one of your least favorites as well. Should makes us feel like we are doing something wrong. Like we aren’t living our lives in the “right” way. Well, there IS no right way to live a life! Sure, strive to live your best life and keep improving yourself. But stop beating yourself up for not doing and being everything that society tells you that you “should” be.
Be super gentle on yourself. Notice when your thoughts turn negative towards yourself. And then, instead of using that as another excuse for why you’re a shitty person, redirect your thoughts. Reverse the negativity into something positive.
Maybe “Everyone else seems to be able to make friends so easily, I must be a terrible person because I feel left out” becomes “I am trying the best I can. Other people’s lives look good from where I am, but I have no idea what they’re truly dealing with.”
“Why can’t I get out of this funk? I’m supposed to be having a blast traveling! Clearly, I am a loser. No wonder everyone hates me” becomes “Life has many ups and downs. Sometimes I feel down, and that’s okay. I love myself because I can experience the full range of emotions life offers me.”
Take time to NOT be doing
I know, you’re traveling and you’ve saved a lot of money to travel and/or this is a once in a lifetime trip that you’ll NEVER get to experience again. But you can’t enjoy it if you’re frazzled, overwhelmed, and generally tense and anxious. And if you don’t give yourself some downtime as an introvert, I guarantee that time will come.
When I went on a backpacking trip for two months in Europe a few years ago, I barely took a moment of downtime. I thought this was what I “should” do (UGH THAT WORD AGAIN!) so I kept myself moving. What happened was, I turned into a CRAZY person. Literally. I was simply not pleasant to be around. And then I got sick. Of course.
So, if it’s a trip that you really want to be “on” for, schedule in some downtime. Maybe take one morning to simply sit in a cafe, people watch and write in your journal. Sit in a park and watch the clouds pass by overhead. Sleep in, or even go to sleep EARLY! Your body will thank you so hard.
If you’re a lady and this is possible for you, schedule your big trip around your pre-ovulatory and ovulatory phases (roughly days 5-20, counting the first day of your period as day 1). That’s when you naturally have more energy and can DO more and be out in the world without getting totally depleted. Of course, everyone has their own natural rhythms, but if you’re a lady these days will generally be better for you to maximize travel days.
So, my fellow travel-loving introverts, I hope this has helped you with some actionable tips and tricks you can use on your next trip. Even though travel may seem to be for extroverts, the rewards of travel can go SUPER deep for us introverts. The things we experience on our travels can transform our lives, help us understand the world around us, and increase our self-confidence.
If you’re an introvert who travels, please leave your own tips and tricks in the comments below!
Happy Exploring, Wherever You Are!
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