So this is me in Granada, Spain. But for as many moments there were that looked like that, there were also plenty of these:
That is the reality of how I spent a lot of my time while in Granada, or anywhere I’ve traveled. Look at me, I’ve got a book in hand (One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, in case you were wondering), snacks on deck, cozy ass blanket, hella pillows, and I’m literally a foot from the heater, Oh, and my laptop with headphones just in case someone tries to talk to me.
I’ve always been an introvert, that’s clear. I’ve also always wanted to travel. I first became a solo traveler out of necessity. I couldn’t find anyone to go with me. Now, I love it just as much, if not more than traveling with friends. It’s the best. But I was apprehensive about some things. The thought of roaming around with no set plan and a lot of uncertainties admittedly made me nervous, and still does sometimes. But to me, it’s worth facing those uncertainties for the experience of traveling. Here is my advice for balancing introversion with an unquenchable desire to see the world.
I say this all the time but it is crucial for the introverts. I spent two months in that hostel in Granada, I actually volunteered there for a few hours every day so I could stay for free. If you stay more than a few days in one place you won’t feel like you’re missing out by spending a full day under a blanket with your nose in a book and not exploring the city and seeing the sites.
You may not make it to as many cities or get as many stamps in your passport, but who cares? You’ll be happier. I honestly don’t know how backpackers can hop from city to city for months at a time. I mean, good for them but no thank you. I would get so burnt out.
Ignore the Travel Shamers
One time when I was sitting on that couch like in the picture (it happened a lot), a kid walks in and asked me what my plans were for that day. I tore my eyes away from my book, bitchy resting face intact, and replied “Uhh, this.” He then thoughtfully informed me that I was in Granada, and I should go out and do something. So of course, I made some half assed attempt to justify my behavior to a perfect stranger until he stopped talking long enough for me to put my headphones in and ignore him again.
I would imagine that most introverts are used this kind of thing. In our society, well, The U.S. anyway, we’re taught from a very young age that being quiet and having a preference for solitude is inferior to being more outgoing and extraverted. I’ve long accepted that this is not true, and I feel no shame or guilt in embracing my nature, thanks in part to Susan Cain’s amazing Ted Talk, The Power of Introverts. But I understand that a lot of people are not yet so enlightened.
Side note: Some of the other volunteers and I ended up hanging out with that guy later and once he realized that we basically lived there he understood. He was actually pretty cool and not technically a travel shamer. But they do exist, and they are annoying, and you should ignore them.
Don’t be Shy
Introversion has its limits, for most people. Travelling can get lonely, but most of the time it’s super easy to meet people when you want to. Most travelers are super friendly and they want to talk to you. It’s as easy as emerging from introvert mode and into the common area of your hostel, walking up to someone, smiling, and asking where they’re from. Boom. Instant besties.
Okay, so maybe not every time, but seriously it’s SO MUCH easier than making friends when you’re not traveling.
It surprised me a lot actually that even though it seemed like such a big deal that I was totally on my own, #solotraveling, sometimes I think the most transformative part about traveling were the people I met. People who changed my life and who I have gotten to take with me in some way.
So please don’t deprive yourself of that by staying in introvert mode the whole time. Or, you know, you can if you want to.