January 2 is World Introvert Day. It’s the day to celebrate all the quiet ones, the listeners, the people sitting on the sidelines and observing the world around them, rather than throwing themselves into the midst of activity. Not because they are shy, or friendless, or depressed, but because they enjoy quietness and solitude, and feel uncomfortable if too much attention is heaped upon them.
World Introvert Day has been set intentionally on 2nd of January. This is the day when all the holidays, family gatherings and New Year ceöebrations are behind you. Finally, you can withdraw into you introvert cocoon and recharge your much-depleted batteries.
But being at the beginning of the year, it’s also the perfect opportunity to take a look ahead into the coming year. It’s the time to apply the lessons your past year has taught you.
For me, the past year was greatly shaped by travel
While that’s important for me in any given year, in 2018 it has impacted my life more than ever. This was the year that saw me taking my newly founded freelance business on the road and work remotely while travelling around South America. It was the year I discovered a new continent I had never been to before. I spent time in Chile, Bolivia and Argentina, with more countries to be added to that list in 2019. 2018 was the year I was abroad more than I was home, which makes it both my longest trip yet and the first one that stretches over my birthday, Christmas and New Year.
There have been many ups and downs, mistakes made and lessons learned. So today, to mark the start of 2019 and celebrate all the travelling introverts out there, I’m going to look at everything this past year has taught me about myself and my introverted nature.
Even introverts need connection
Of these past twelve months, I was home for only about three. The rest was spent travelling South America. It’s a long time to be away. No matter how excited you are about a trip, if it lasts this long there will be times when it’s hard.
The most difficult part, hands down, is being away from my closest friends and family. Introverts, in general, tend to only have a few very close friends as opposed to a huge group of acquaintances, because building a deep connection to these select few are more important to us than being friends with a big quantity of people.
Travel, in a way, is an antithesis to this. You meet a lot of people and even get along great with some, but due to the nature of travel, none of these connections can last very long. Soon, you find yourself moving in a different direction than your new-found friends. You need to start from scratch again.
Even introverts get lonely
Additionally, introverts tend to loathe small talk and prefer deep, meaningful conversations. With a lot of the people you meet on the road, however, you never get to that stage.
On the other hand, we have the advantage of generally enjoying time by ourselves and not needing to constantly surround ourselves with other people. Still, even introverts get lonely if we never manage to connect to another human being.
That’s why it’s so difficult being away from your loved ones. Those people who get you, because they have known you long enough to be aware of all your quirks and love you in spite of them.
I miss those silly conversations I have with my best friend. We talk about everything and nothing, probably not making sense to anyone but ourselves as the conversation is built on years of shared time, experiences and laughter.
I miss our family get-togethers, even though more often than not I just sit back and let the others do the talking, just feeling happy at being surrounded by all the people I care about.
I miss seeing my little niece grow up. She’s nine and a half months old now and making her first attempts at standing up, though she could hardly sit on her own last time I saw her.
Missing these moments is the price you pay for being a full-time traveller
While you get many other great moments in return, that doesn’t make it any less hard when all you want is having a carefree conversation with your best friends.
Therefore, even if you’re as introverted as it gets, you need to make an effort to connect to people you meet while travelling. To move beyond the small talk and the usual “where are you from” and connect on a deeper, more meaningful level. It won’t replace what you have at home – nothing can do that – but it will keep you from feeling lonely. After all, we may be introverts, but we are also social beings. We just need to connect to others in our own way.
Travel helps you stop caring about other people’s opinions and prioritize yourself
Staying in hostels is good for one thing. You just stop caring about what you look like. I run around in hostels in pretty much the same way I run around at home when there’s no one there to see me (hello, sweatpants and undone hair). If you as good as live in these places, comfort eventually just wins out over worrying about your appearance.
However, not caring about what others think goes beyond just appearance. Though maybe the I’m-wearing-this-for-comfort-and-I-don’t-care-what-it-looks-like attitude helped to get there. Either way, I feel I’m generally much less concerned with other people’s opinion of me than I used to be. Which is a huge thing for a notorious people pleaser like
Appreciate the differences
Travel brings together many people from different nationalities, cultures and backgrounds. Not everyone will share or even understand your
I often feel when meeting other travellers that my interests are different from theirs. For instance, I couldn’t care less about whether a place is good or not for drinking or going out at night. I hardly ever do that anyway. However, it’s a big deal for some.
Also, I travel a lot slower than many others. Part of it is the need to balance travel and sightseeing with work. Another part is also that I simply enjoy staying in places longer. If I change location too often, I quickly get stressed and overwhelmed, so I rather take my time. This way, I have the chance to truly take in my destination and also have some down-time in between. Some people regard this as boring, but for me, it’s vital to preserve mental health.
Know your needs
I hardly care anymore whether people understand my need for alone-time. Even though making connections and socializing is vital to avoid loneliness while travelling, it’s just as important to know when it’s enough. Sometimes, I’m not interested in talking to the people around me. Maybe I’ve already used up all my social energy during the day or just don’t feel like making small talk.
Whatever the reason, there are times when I consciously distance myself from other travellers. I find a quiet corner and do my own thing. I’m aware that sometimes that may be taken wrongly by other people. It could seem like I’m rude, or aloof. Although I surely don’t mean it that way, I don’t want to socialize just out of feeling guilty or fearing that anyone gets a bad opinion of me.
If I need alone-time, I’ll take it. Let the others think whatever they want.
Set your priorities
Travel has overall established itself as one of the few areas in my life that I care about so much that I will not back down from my plans only to please someone else. I’m usually an absolute people-pleaser, as are many introverts. I’d much rather give in and do what the other person wants than push ahead with my own plans. In the few
However, when it comes to travel, I’ve always unapologetically gone on every trip I could possibly make happen. And I intend to continue to do so.
It taught me that I am capable of insisting on my standpoint, as long as the issue at hand is important enough Even if there are people, some very close to me, who would much rather I stayed home. (I can’t blame them for that sentiment. After all, I miss them too.)
At the same time, because it doesn’t come easy for me to go against other people’s wishes, it forces me to constantly reassess how much I want this and whether the path I’m on is the direction I want my life to take. If it weren’t, I don’t think I’d be able to pull through with it.
Introspection is one of our introvert superpowers anyway. For me, travel makes it easy to truly prioritize my own needs and wishes for how I want to live my life, in the coming year and beyond. The decisions aren’t always easy, but they leave me the more sure about where I want to go and more capable of standing up for myself.
Travel will boost your self-confidence
Many things about having a life on the road are not easy to deal with as an introvert. Which makes it the more rewarding if you manage to do it anyway. Let me give you an example:
Earlier in 2018, I wrote an article about how I struggle to use community kitchens in hostels. Several months of travel later, I can proudly say that it bothers me a lot less these days. The places I stayed over the past couple of months I almost always used the kitchen. It still costs me a bit of inner struggle. There is also still the occasional evening when I spontaneously eat out because the kitchen is too crowded and I can’t face any more people that day. But overall, it has certainly gotten a lot easier.
I’m telling you this to show that situations that seem really hard can become easier with practice. Even if you may want to despair at that given moment, in the long run, it will help you to grow. Travel can challenge you like few other things, but as a reward, it will make you a better, more capable and more confident person.
I strongly doubt I would be where I am today if it weren’t for travel. And I don’t mean in the literal sense, sitting in my hostel in Buenos Aires. I mean figuratively – as a person, as a writer and as an introvert. I’m already excited to see how many more places it will take me in the coming year.
Lastly: hiking is the best introvert activity ever
The last points were all a bit heavy, so let’s end this with a lighter note, shall we? Have I mentioned that I absolutely love hiking?
I’ve never really done any before I came to South America. Sure, sometimes on my tours in Australia we’d do a walk through the bush or the outback. However, it was never anything longer than a couple of hours, and surely no multiple-day trips.
When I came to South America, I started doing more and more day hikes while in Chile and then Argentina. The landscape here is just insanely beautiful, and often hiking is the best (or even the only) way to see the best bits. During those hikes, I realized how much I enjoyed them. Often I did them alone and hardly met any people on the way. Walking through amazing nature with plenty of time to myself and the opportunity to let my mind wander – what could possibly be better?
The highlight of my hiking career so far was the eight-day trip in Patagonia’s Torres del Paine National Park. Here, I also discovered the joys of hiking in a group. While I started out alone, it only took about 10 minutes to bond with the first fellow hiker. The next few days I met many more. Soon, we were a solid group of friends tackling the challenges of the O-trek together. I loved every minute of it.
If you love nature, alone-time and maybe a little physical challenge, go and try hiking. I promise you won’t regret it. Just be warned, you might get addicted.
What has 2018 taught you about your life as an introvert? How do you hope to continue to grow in 2019? Share in the comments!