Travelling is not a privilege of the extroverted, and neither should it be. I have never considered not doing a trip only because I happen to be a quiet person. What I have done, however, more often than I should, is wonder whether my introvert travel style was lacking in any way lacking compared to that of an extrovert.
How is introvert travel different from the more extroverted travel experience?
I have heard many accounts of people who have studied abroad or backpacked a foreign country. A big part of the narrative is always the many new people they’ve met, the amazing parties they’ve been to, and all the bars, clubs and house parties they attended every weekend.
If I tell you about my own experiences none of those things will feature much, with the one exception of meeting new people. I could count the number of parties I went to during my semester in Sydney on one hand. And if I do go for once, I am the person standing off in a quiet corner, not the one frequenting the dance floor. There was the complimentary welcoming party for international students, which took place on a boat cruising the Sydney harbour. I spent most of the time on deck watching the view, rather than being inside dancing or at the bar.
Would I have met more people I had mingled more? Maybe. But on the other hand, how often do you get a free harbour cruise in Sydney?
You don’t need to party to have a good time
Meeting new people and making friends is certainly a huge part of being abroad. Luckily there are many occasions to do that, apart from bars and parties.
For some people having a good time is synonymous with getting drunk. I know too well the looks they give me if I decline a party invitation. The typical line is “But you’re here to have a good time”. Well, yes. But what these people fail to see is that my definition of a good time is very different from theirs. I’m not going abroad to get drunk and nurse a hangover the next day. I want to be awake and in possession of all my energy so I can go out exploring and see as much as possible of the place I am visiting.
That does not mean I’m opposed to having a night out once in a while. Or to other people doing that. Heck, if partying is your thing, then by all means do it as often as you can. Only don’t judge other people for not doing the same. You might be enjoying yourself immensely on a dance floor, but if I go with you I will most likely spent a huge amount of time wondering how soon I can get out of this place without seeming impolite. There are exceptions, but more often than not I will be much happier doing something that does not require me to mix in with a throng of unfamiliar people.
Socializing the introvert way
If I don’t enjoy parties for the parties sake, or for the alcohol, meeting people is the only other reason to go. But that can happen in a lot of other places, too. As an introvert, chances that I walk up to a stranger to start a conversation are about zero. So for me there are much better places to make friends.
The good thing about being at a foreign university is that you automatically meet like-minded people without having to do much about it. If you meet someone in one of your classes, there is a good chance the two of you have a common interest. The same goes for student societies. I joined those for drama and musical because I love theatre. There were so many options though, I’m sure everyone can find something.
It can also be fun trying out something completely new. A friend dragged me along to the Doctor Who society, although I had never before seen a single episode of that show. It ended up providing me with some new friends and a new TV addiction.
Why introvert travel is no less exciting than any other
I also made wonderful friends on other trips that I have been on, despite my quietness. Every holiday was full of fun and adventure and the most fascinating people. So why am I still wondering whether I could have made more of my time if I had been more outgoing? Part of it may be a general fear many people have about missing out on something, or not getting the best that is possible. We are exposed to so many stories and news from other people that we are constantly comparing our experiences with theirs. Did I get to do everything they did? Did they have a better time, or see more? Make more friends? Was their trip better than mine?
When I start having these kind of thoughts I try to remind myself about all the wonderful things I did experience. I think of the friends I did make, rather than those I did not. Travelling is not a competition about who had the best time or visited the most places. It is my trip, and only I decide what I want to do on it. While it is a good thing to get out of my comfort zone sometimes and try new things, I don’t have to spent my time doing something I know beforehand I probably won’t enjoy.
No one can tell us what we should or should not be doing during our travels. And don’t let anyone convince you that you are not making the most of your trip, only because your idea of having a good time is different from theirs. It’s your journey, and your decision. Don’t be scared of trying new things, but don’t waste your time with doing something you don’t enjoy. If other people don’t understand that, leave them to their activities and do what you like. You might meet someone new while you do it who is more in sync with your interests. And if you don’t, at least you’ve had a good time doing something you love. That’s all that matters.
What does your introvert travel style look like? Do you ever feel like missing out because you’re not participating in the “typical” backpacker experiences? What do you do to overcome those feelings? Share in the comments!