As one of the most misunderstood species of humankind, introverts are often mislabeled as entirely antisocial, shy, and anxious. Although some of us do struggle with an occasional need to escape a room full of people and avoid professional roles that get us too much exposure, the world often unfairly represents us as secluded, and void of typical desires such as traveling or going out in general.
On the contrary, we are inquisitive beings with wanderlust running through our veins as much as any extrovert, but we struggle with different aspects of this incredible habit. If you find yourself overwhelmed with the desire to explore the world, but you’re not certain where you’ll feel at home with your introverted self, read on and make the most of your next adventure.
Being a tourist, or a digital nomad, often means traveling to places that are literally bursting at the seams with people coming from all over the world, visiting the same hotspots and the same cultural attractions. As an introvert, I am drawn to witness the Mona Lisa’s famous smile in person, but terrified by the crowds the Louvre is known for.
I’m simultaneously overwhelmed by the desire to taste the local culture, and yet, the very essence of that culture is something I will never feel comfortable with. The truth may be simple, but the solution to the problem more complex – all you need is to find balance and still experience the culture you’re visiting. Perhaps I’ll never have a moment alone with Mona Lisa, but I can do my absolute best to keep away from tourist-laden spots and go to the Shakespeare and Company bookstore instead. It’s literally the epitome of all things French, and everything an introverted bookworm could dream of.
The paradox of immersing yourself into a new culture without being an actual tourist is not the only challenge of an introvert. The world is still predominantly an extrovert one, where the majority of tips and suggestions you’ll find online come from wonderfully sociable people who go to the busiest places a destination has to offer.
You need to go beyond the must-see lists and the locally-inspired guides written mostly by those who thrive in crowds and love chatty environments. My own preference? I like getting lost, with a map in my pocket. I like randomly picking bus stops where I’ll leave and start roaming the streets – and my go-to signals are empty, silent cobbled corners, little artisan nooks, and no tourist groups in the vicinity. So, instead of heading to the most populous city on the map, try for a smaller neighbor with fewer inhabitants, such as Wanaka in New Zealand.
It’s a conflicting feeling to want to travel to a new, exciting, faraway place while at the same time craving only the presence of a good book and a window with a view of the ocean. I’m not the only introvert who understands the meaning of being alone without feeling lonesome, as we recharge our batteries when we take some time to spend away from noisy bars and busy streets. I, as many introverts, like being away and alone for a certain amount of time every day, and sharing space is something I need to factor in when I design my travel agenda.
Whenever I travel, I need to carefully choose where I stay in order to have as much privacy as possible, without secluding myself from the destination entirely. In your search for such spots, you’ll come across resorts such as the St. Regis in Bora Bora which embody the balance an introvert craves – access to everything you need and an intimate, serene environment to tune out the hectic city life for a while.
You may find yourself fascinated at the sight of the Sagrada Familia proudly standing in the streets of Barcelona, yet you will quickly yearn for a cup of sangria somewhere far from, well, people. Some wonders are worth the trouble of spending more time around people, but in those situations, brace yourself and arm yourself with brief escapes into solitude.
Find a small restaurant on the very edge of the city where you can have your own little table with a single chair, gaze into the sunset (or your favorite book) and listen to the music of this romantic language playing in the background. Or discover a completely introvert experience such as this ramen restaurant chain that eliminates interaction from the equation, if that makes you happy. Find your little slice of Zen even amidst all the crowds, and you will have mastered the art of traveling as an introvert.