[Hanging out at Hag’s Head at the Cliffs of Moher in Ireland]
What to do when you’re down to travel, but you’re an introvert? When you’re on a budget, and have to stay in hostels, but need to balance time with meeting people and recharging? When you’re easily overwhelmed by busy situations?
In my opinion, solo travel is a great way to travel when you’re an introvert – BUT I was nervous that if I I’d meet basically NO friends, because I can get hermit-ty and lazy as far as socializing goes. BUT – I actually met more people than when I traveled with friends!
However, it was nice to be able to CHOOSE when I could make those friends, ya know? Like I could be like, mmmk, today it’s just gonna be me and my DSLR and RBF (resting bitch face), and the next day I could put on the RNF (resting nice face) instead and try to not look so pained in social situations. (And somehow that worked, although I’m sure I looked constipated at times).
I do still love being around people, but I definitely need my alone time or else I run the risk of turning into a complete bitch. And sometimes that would stress me out – I felt like I constantly had to be friendly and meet new people to travel with when sometimes I just wanted to not talk or even look at anyone and go straight to my dorm room and read a book. It’s hard because, especially in a smaller dorm room, you can feel like an asshole if you don’t say hi/make conversation with your fellow dormies (is that a thing? No?).
[It’s nice when you do make friends as a solo traveler because, instant photographer]
I also sometimes made myself feel guilty for not meeting people to travel with, but then I’d remind myself that HELLO this is a SOLO trip, ain’t nothing wrong with exploring by myself! I did that in 3/5 cities I went to in Belgium, to be honest. It was my last destination so I was so ready to be like #BYE I don’t need no new friends! Sometimes it’s almost better to sightsee by yourself, because then you can do what you want and not have to worry about what the other person wants to do.
Okay, so now getting to what has saved my butt time and time again being my introverted self. And what has kept me sane in the midst of traveling (sometimes it can be exhausting for introverts, even if you’re alone, since travel is super stimulating and can be overwhelming).
Here’s what works for me, and I hope it helps you fellow introverts:
BALANCE LARGER CITIES WITH SMALLER ONES
[Or, skip the city altogether and escape to the countryside instead!; Cape Clear Island in Ireland]
I enjoy big cities because I sometimes like being around a lot of people without actually having to talk to them. It’s nice to feel that buzz of energy without putting in effort – same reason I enjoy being in coffee shops. However, when it got to be too much, I’d escape to a smaller city or somewhere more countryside-like to get centered and feel like I could *breathe* again. I’ve learned that I can really only do big BIG cities for a few days, but can do smaller BIG cities for a lot longer (i.e., I much preferred Galway to Dublin, Flagstaff to Phoenix, etc.). And breaks in national parks or the countryside are much appreciated.
DON’T FORCE YOURSELF TO SOCIALIZE EVERY NIGHT
[Looking like a big dweeb in Galway; this was on a free walking tour, and I met some really awesome people that invited me out that night! But, I was like, nah bro, I just need to be a loner and do my own thang]
I like meeting cool people (and there are an abundance when you travel!), but sometimes I just needed to put on the brakes, shove aside the FOMO, and hang out by myself.
I used to think I was a super weirdo, and felt like something was wrong with me (especially since both my mom and brother, who I spent the most time with growing up, are both super extroverts), which really sucked. It took a while to realize that this is just who I am, and hello my name is Kelsey and I am an introvert so please leave me alone I promise I’m not a bitch I just need time to recharge, and now I’ve come to accept it.
I still struggle (especially since I seem to be drawn to extroverts as friends! And then feel even more weird when I mysteriously decline a lot of their social invitations and worry that they hate me or think I hate them!), but I’m learning to give myself plenty of alone time so I’m ready to socialize when that time does inevitably come and I have to force myself not to make excuses about why I don’t HAVE to meet people today, I can do it tomorrow, etc.
IF POSSIBLE, MEET UP WITH PEOPLE YOU DO KNOW
It’s real nice to stay with someone that you’ve known for a long time so that you can feel at home and not have to deal with that exhaustion of constantly meeting new ones.
BOOK A PRIVATE ROOM EVERY NOW AND THEN
[My friend and I stayed in private rooms when we were traveling through Scandanavia and it was soooo nice; view from our AirBnb in Copenhagen]
This is a BIG ONE for me, and I’ve learned it’s one of the best ways to stay chillll when I travel. I don’t have the budget to stay in a room just with me myself and I every single night, but it’s real nice to break up the constant influx of new people. I think next time I travel for a longer period of time, I’m going to aim to do this for a few nights every couple of weeks. It also helps prevent me from feeling all the FOMO because I can just go hermit it up in my room, unaware of all the other people that are becoming friends around me.
DON’T STAY IN A ROOM WITH TOO MANY PEOPLE
I learned this lesson in Dublin. It’s already a big city, so I felt overwhelmed to start, and then I decided it would be a great idea to stay in a room with 26 people. NO. NO. No matter how cheap the price is, I will never ever do this again. I felt super anxious the entire time, and will probably never go back to that hostel as it was also HUGE. And I just do not do well in HUGE places.
TRY TO MEET SOMEONE AND TRAVEL WITH THEM LONGER
[Andrew and I met in Athens, then decided to travel together for 9 more days! Here we are on a Go-Kart (I was too scared to try the ATV’s lol) in Paros; he ended up driving most of the day because I was a terrible driver LOLOL and went way too slow]
Not sure if all introverts feel this way, but I really enjoyed traveling with one or two other people for longer periods of time – anywhere from a few days to a week. (As long as they weren’t crazy extroverted with really strong personalities – I can’t handle those sorts of people lol). It was nice to get close to a few people at a time instead of constantly making small talk with strangers. And, when you’re traveling, you get close to people reallllly fast since you go through so much with them. So, it often feels like you’re with an old friend after day 2.
HAVE A GETAWAY PLAN
And no, I’m not talking safety-wise (although that’s important, too!) – but more like, if you’re feeling socially overwhelmed and just need to LEAVE.
JOURNAL! AND READ. OR FIND WHATEVER IT IS THAT HELPS YOU RECHARGE
[Sitting on this bench and staring into the distance is a big help]
For me, writing down my thoughts at the end of the day, especially while traveling, is crucial. It helps me refocus my energy, and not feel so jumbled and anxious. I also like a good book because it totally takes me out of reality, and I’m just focused on that one thing. If these aren’t your things, make time for whatever it is that is! Like yoga, or taking photos, or looking at cat pictures – whatever it is that relaxes you and chills you out, make sure to do it. Otherwise you’ll just feel bleh and exhausted and burnt out.
SLOWER TRAVEL IS MY BEST FRIEND
[I traveled sooo much slower in Ireland and it was so. Nice.]
If I travel too fast, I feel wayyyy too overwhelmed and stimulated. I’ve found that the slower I travel, the happier I am, and the more positive I look back on a destination. I also have much more of a connection to that place, since I wasn’t rushing my ass off and was able to have some nice familiarities, such as the way the public transportation works and that nice little bakery on the corner and my favorite place to sit after a long day.
Okay, so – I hope this helps y’all. Have fun and live your best life, and don’t feel guilty for wanting to do so! Let your hermit flag fly and when you do decide to let it down, be honest with yourself, put yourself out there but don’t burn yourself out. And have fun, okay – that’s the entire point of travel, right??
[Walking along the Salthill Promenade in Ireland – I felt soooo chill after this walk. Sometimes a walk by yourself by the seaside is allllllll ya need. And can you tell I’m dying to go back to Ireland from the sheer number of photos I’ve posted of it???]