5 Tips for Traveling Introverts

I’m living proof that introversion and love of travel are not at odds. That said, introversion is all about managing stimulating situations before they red-line to stimulation overload, and travel is packed with novel sensory experiences. There’s an art and science to getting the most out of travel as an introvert. Here are a few tips.

5.) Exploit the quiet spaces: No matter how clamorous the city one is visiting, there are  always little zones of solitude, including: places of worship as well as parks and gardens. In travel beast mode, our minds are often focused on getting photos, seeing everything there is to see, and planning our move to the next site, and one can miss opportunities to recharge.

One might not feel comfortable taking up a meditative / reflective stance at a place of worship of some sect not your own. However, if you can shed worries about being seen as a poseur-gone-native, the nice thing is that people everywhere tend to be respectful of your quietude in such places. Unfortunately, the same cannot always be said about parks and gardens, which may require scouting for a hidden enclave. In some countries, sitting on a bench in the park is taken as an invitation to engage in conversation — mostly in places that don’t see many foreigners. [Which can be great, unless one is specifically trying to turn inward for a few moments.]

4.) Meals aren’t just about nourishment: For a long time, I thought I had a pretty harsh tendency to go hypoglycemic. But I’ve come to notice that if it’s 3 o’clock in the afternoon and I haven’t eaten since breakfast and I’m hiking the Annapurna sanctuary in Nepal, I’m hungry and will let you know it, but it’s still possible to stand being around me. However, if it’s 3pm and I’ve been walking around New Delhi all day, I’m probably on the verge of going full-Hulk at the slightest provocation. [The other evidence that it’s the lack of peace and not the lack of glucose causing my problem is that a granola bar seldom makes a dent.]

Of course, a peaceful place to take a meal break isn’t always sitting right in front of one — even in big cities. It sometimes requires some thought before one is on the verge of a melt-down.

3.) Know thyself: If you are the kind who absolutely must see every site in the guidebook, you need to allow yourself extra time in a given city or village above and beyond just what is required to move from place to place. You need to factor in quiet time. In some travel destinations, solitude is built in by virtue of the locale, but in other places, it can be elusive.

Alternatively, if you are the kind who doesn’t mind missing temples 8 through 12 on the “best of” list, the whole issue becomes a bit easier.

2.) Vary your cycles: In practice this can be a challenge because of where sites are relative to other sites. However, if you can have a mix of more and less stimulating locations within a day, and then again over the course of the week, that will help a great deal.

Also, if you are a morning person and can hit the more intense sites when you have that burst of energy, that’s for the best. Alternatively, if you’re a night-owl, match your high energy periods with your high stimulation happenings.

1.) Recognize the upside: Don’t believe the hype that being an introvert is all downside with respect to travel. Most discussions of this subject would focus on how helpful introversion can be in the planning process, and in anticipating problems that might derail your travel itinerary. However, let me mention another advantage that you may not have been as likely to consider. I have found that a lifetime of feeling myself an outsider has desensitized me to instances in which I am really, truly, and vastly outside my culture. So to me, sitting with ex-head hunters in Nagaland isn’t particularly more awkward than attending a party in my hometown.