Previous Next
Why does the enjoyment of travel mean a person should enjoy meeting new people?

I would classify myself as landing almost directly in the middle between introvert and extrovert. At least, that’s what most of those fun personality tests have told me.

Sometimes I get energy from being around people, while other times I need to refresh with some serious alone time. So I can easily appreciate view points that fall on either side of the equation.

But being an introverted traveler is not something we often discuss. It almost seems like the antithesis of going out to explore the world to say “I’m not much interested in meeting the people that are a part of it.” Which is why I so appreciated a recent article by Sophia Dembling over at World Hum entitled, Confessions of an Introverted Traveler.

I love how Dembling sheepishly admits “I’m always happy enough when interesting people stumble into my path,” she says. “And when the chemistry is right, I enjoy it.” Hear, hear. But going out of your way to meet people? Striking up a conversation with a random person? Not really her thing, and I can relate (unless I’ve had a particularly large amount of caffeine that day).

What’s so wrong with being an introvert, anyway? Well, as Dembling notes:

I have long been shamed out of owning my introversion by the extroverts who dominate American culture. Extroversion has long been considered healthier than introversion, and introverts often try to push against our natural tendencies in order to fit in, to seem “normal” so people will stop scolding us.

Yeah, what’s up with that? Can’t us innies get just as much from hiking the hills of a new city, reading about the history of a Cathedral or slum, or watching locals pass by as we sit on a bench Unter der Linden as those who like to chat up every person that walks by?

Extroversion Benefits

Photo: Ed Yourdon

I was at a concert last night where I noticed a completely obvious “benefit” of being an extrovert. There was a guy who chatted people up left and right, who had obtained a backstage access badge due to his personality “tendencies.”

That’s not the part that got me, though. When we stepped outside for him to smoke a cigarette, he confessed he wanted to smoke “something else”… except security was hovering. Suddenly, another guy came up and lit a joint.

Bam! Undercover security rolls up and grabs both of them to kick them out. The guy with the backstage pass just says, “Hey, man, I’m with the band,” and the security guy lets him go. The other guy, who didn’t say anything – well, you know what happened to him.

In other words, in travel, as in life, it pays to know how to be that “healthier” talkative person. No doubt those extroverts get bigger discounts at hostels, are better equipped to haggle at a market, and may get in with the locals – and more authentic local culture – than introverts.

But maybe, if we let those extroverts get the extras they thrive on (like getting out of sticky situations), and allow those introverts to enjoy their time watching others without making them feel less for “not getting out there,” it could work out for all of us.

As for me, guess it depends on the day. I’ll take a few extras now and again.

Do you think introverted travelers should make more of an effort to connect with people during their travels? Share your thoughts below.

Culture + Religion

 

About The Author

Christine Garvin

Christine Garvin is a certified Nutrition Educator and holds a MA in Holistic Health Education. She is the founder/editor of Living Holistically...with a sense of humor and co-founder of Confronting Love. When she is not out traveling the world, she is busy writing, doing yoga, and performing hip-hop and bhangra. She also likes to pretend living in her hippie town of Fairfax, CA is like being on vacation.

  • http://matadortrips.com/ Hal Amen

    Innies unite.

    It was funny in Korea, where people are almost never extroverted until you get to know them. They have this image of the boisterous, “fun” American, and I could always detect a little shock (maybe disappointment?) when they realized I wasn’t it.

  • Brian

    Interesting post, Christine. I witnessed this dichotomy first hand volunteering in Central America. It seemed to natural for my fellow volunteers to mistake my introversion for disdain aimed toward them.

    I say I fall somewhere in the middle too. And for some reason, I don’t think any trip would really be complete without a balance. Spend too much time alone, you’ll regret everything you may have missed out on. Spend too much time in groups, you may forget to take a timeout and appreciate your experience.

    Thanks for the insight

  • http://annearchynow.wordpress.com/ Anne

    Word word word word word.

  • http://onceatraveler.com Turner

    I think I’ve become more introverted since spending so much time in Japan. They practically encourage it there, at least in most situations.

  • Sarah

    We must have gotten the exact same score on those personality tests! I find myself especially frustrated when I travel in groups because I’m not extraverted enough to propose plans for the whole group, but I’m also not introverted enough to turn down most plans that they come up with… so I find myself on excursions that I would have done differently, or could have done without altogether, but I don’t want to miss out on the bonding time with the group.

    I struggle with this at home too… many people seem to think we’re crazy or depressed if we don’t want to go out every single weekend.

    I personally think you can have rich travel/life experiences either way, but I also think there’s a right and a wrong way to do both, as Brian alluded to already.

    Great to have some affirmation though, thanks!

  • http://www.kaleidoscopicwandering.com JoAnna

    I feel like you wrote this post about me. I am very much an introvert, though I’ve had to work my way out of my shell as I’ve become more involved in the travel blogging community. I’ve never been one for hitting the town late at night or mingling with others at the bar. Instead, I feel much more comfortable hanging out watching movies or playing games on a Friday night with a few close friends. When I travel, I admit that I feel a bit jealous at people who can so seamlessly chat with strangers or make friends easily. In fact, I’ve been told that I’m “too serious” but in all actuality, it just takes me awhile to access the situation, get a feel for the people I’m around and feel like I’m comfortable enough to engage in some sort of witty conversation with strangers. That said, I don’t think that makes me any less of a traveler. My journal and I might spend a lot of time together, but I enjoy my travels nonetheless.

    • http://www.holisticwithhumor.com/ Christine Garvin

      “it just takes me awhile to access the situation, get a feel for the people I’m around and feel like I’m comfortable enough to engage in some sort of witty conversation with strangers” – what a perfect description of how I feel in life in general. So often I wish I had the personality/brain/whathaveyou to just be witty, funny, and quick as so many of my extremely likable friends are, but have realized working on accepting that it takes me longer to get to know people BUT I often go way deeper with them (that’s just how I like to roll) than some of the natural extroverts continues to be a great lesson.

      And I agree that blogging helps to air out some of that introversion.

    • http://thefutureisred.com Leigh

      Joanna,

      People also say that I’m “too serious” or “I think too much.” And yes, that does get in the way when meeting people. I don’t think I’d ever be the one who chats up a bouncer to get a back stage pass, but I am the one who will have a long listen one-on-one over coffee.

      I’ve found over time, my introverted and serious nature has lead me to develop a series of solid friendships based on in depth discussions about everything from neurosurgery and particular physics to personal tales of physical abuse. In a big group, it’s much harder to get to these things.

      All that said, your online personality is anything but introverted. I suppose that’s what makes travel blogging so great for many of us. All the pre-work, the feeling out the situation goes on before hand. When you meet a person, you already know you have something in common and you know that you actually want to meet and spend time. It allows you to put down your guard a bit faster.

      • http://www.kaleidoscopicwandering.com JoAnna

        Hey Leigh ~

        I think that, in your last paragraph of your comment, you bring up a very sound and relevant point. Online it’s a lot easier just to jump right into to conversations with people, but getting to know people through social media or networks – even the Matador team – makes it a lot easier to get through the awkward in-person stuff if and once we meet. When I met some people who were in town for Blog World last year, I knew I already had something in common with them, and we weren’t starting from nothing. There was already a basis for a relationship there. And I think having the opportunity to get to know people online also helps me get a feel for who I would feel most comfortable with in person too.

        Cheers,
        JoAnna

    • Neha

      :)

  • http://milesofabbie.com Abbie

    One of the best parts about travel (for me) is getting to know local people and interacting with them. That being said, I think traveling is something that is actually pretty personal, so if you don’t want to meet people, don’t meet people :)

  • http://travel-junkie.com Boris

    I’d argue that long-term travel makes you more introverted. Least it did in my case. Generally I enjoy meeting locals a lot more than other travellers. Just sometimes, when the chemistry is right, I hang around other travellers for more than just a few days…

  • http://www.beatravelbee.com Joya

    I’ve always been an introvert which I used to be ashamed about but I appreciate it so much more now especially when I travel because being able to sit down by my self and enjoy the view or write about my day is one of the best parts about travel. I also feel that travel has helped me be more brave in talking to people. I don’t go out of my way to meet people but I just let it happen naturally and when it does I am comfortable asking questions of someone and getting to know them so I can see both sides of this article.

  • http://nancythegnomette.com Nancy

    I feel the same way JoAnna! I lit up when I saw the title of this article. Over the years I’ve learned to open up and be more talkative with people, especially since I’ve started traveling and travel blogging. I still need serious alone time at home and still enjoy hanging out by myself when I’m abroad, but the possibility of connecting one-on-one with people is very rewarding.

    I feel like you spoke for me with this: “When I travel, I admit that I feel a bit jealous at people who can so seamlessly chat with strangers or make friends easily. In fact, I’ve been told that I’m “too serious” but in all actuality, it just takes me awhile to access the situation, get a feel for the people I’m around and feel like I’m comfortable enough to engage in some sort of witty conversation with strangers. That said, I don’t think that makes me any less of a traveler. My journal and I might spend a lot of time together, but I enjoy my travels nonetheless.”

    Right on.

  • Julie A.

    I’m an Introverted person. I am superficially good at the art of “bullsh*tting” – a trait I probably learned from my father. But like my father, I have few friends and beyond b.s.-ing for a bit I tire of people easily. I’m also an only child & I can’t stand to room with people unless I’ve considered them practically a lifelong friend (and even that’s been problematic) and hosteling was a COMPLETE disaster for me.

    On the other hand, I’m traveled ALL OVER the place alone and I really ENJOY setting my own schedule. I’m a night person so I tend to go to places where I can do something at 3 a.m. but if I’m in say, Vegas I can always go back to my hotel ALONE to the peace & quiet of my own private room. When I was younger I felt uncomfortable eating alone in restaurants and the like but after I hit about my early to mid 30′s I got over that.
    It just makes it expensive to do something like take a cruise but that’s just me. And I’m completely fine with it.

  • http://thesegoldenhours.blogspot.com maya

    thanks for this article! especially as a student studying abroad, i feel a lot of pressure to “meet new people” and “go out”, and face a lot of disappointment when i don’t conform to the norms of the extroverted groups! it’s taken me a long time to figure out that what pleases other people isn’t necessarily what pleases me – and i’m glad to see that i’m not the only one for whom this is the case!

  • http://carlo-alcos.com Carlo

    Very true about the “healthy” image of being an extrovert. Just because someone doesn’t want to talk (or be involved in, as Julie A says, bullshitting) or wants to just sit and think/reflect by themselves doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with them. I think many times it’s the opposite, where the extrovert may be compensating for other deficiencies by being aggressive, loud, etc…”showing” everyone how funny/cool they are.

    • http://www.holisticwithhumor.com/ Christine Garvin

      I agree, Carlo. But what you said also made me think that in some ways, the extrovert has more pressure on them because they are always expected to be that way, and may, on occasion feel like being more quiet. Yet then they are often peppered with “what’s wrong?” by all the people who know them to be chatty. Guess both sides have their issues.

  • http://yaramaz.livejournal.com maryanne

    I’m quite introverted and quite shy and I’m an only child. My first few years of traveling were mostly spent with me wandering around with my headphones on, with a book and diary in my day pack, just watching the world go by. I was (and still am) fine with hostels because I’m good at creating private space where there is none. However, I’ve never been comfortable with striking up conversations with strangers, especially in languages I either barely speak or suck at (it took me 4 years in Turkey before I didn’t feel like I was having a heart attack if I had to carry on an extended conversation in Turkish with, say, a cabbie).

    So many travel articles talk of going out and meeting the locals or striking up conversations on buses and trains— I always felt like a huge loser because these were not things that appealed to me. Sure, if I meet people and things click, I’ll talk and grow more comfortable slowly but I rarely if ever will make the first move. Thank you for writing this.

  • http://www.yelkaye.net Caitlin

    Interesting article… I was thinking of blogging on the exact same topic. I, too, am a mix between introvert and extroverrt. People who first meet me assume that I’m an extrovert because I make friends easily and can be loud, but I also crave alone time and often find that I can only really soak up atmosphere when I’m by myself.
    I just had to tell a friend I wasn’t going to continue traveling with him for the time being because I want some time on my own. It’s tough… sometimes people don’t get that.

  • http://www.deliciouschaos.com/ Nick

    Interesting piece and interesting comments. And have you noticed how no-one has come on to post a comment, loudly proclaiming to be an extrovert? (Random aside, does an extrovert know they are extroverted?)

    I think Abbie sums it up the best. People travel for all sorts of reasons, and there is no right or wrong way to travel. Meeting locals and connecting with other travellers is cool; people-watching and dining with only your journal is also cool.

    Maybe the important question is, are you travelling (living?) how you want to? It’s only a ‘problem’ being introverted if you want to meet people along the way, be more of an extrovert. I guess travel will help you to be more comfortable doing that. It’s only a ‘problem’ being an extrovert, if you’d really rather spend more time with yourself.

    I don’t know what I am. Sometimes one, sometimes the other. Which is probably how most people are. (Though living in Cairo does teach you to talk to anyone who crosses your line of sight.)

  • gaoblai

    is the article half finished?, i was expected an article about the benefits of being introverted (or defense of), but instead it’s just a personal anecdote about an extroverted traveler..oh well…why do so many matador articles seem to make up for the lack of editorial with a “what do you think?”

    anyway, it’s something i think about a lot, i do a lot of volunteer work and i know that i’ll never reach the top of the ngos, because the industry is based on chatty people who can strike up conversations with anyone…it’s fine though…i love what i do…even some of my students have said..”you’re different from the other (western) volunteers”. as volunteers tend to be (jazz hands) and chatty people…nothing wrong with that, but it’s just not me..

    at the end of the day…in true cliche fashion, i’m not antisocial, just shy…i’ve learnt that you will click with people within a minute or not at all. i’ve met some great people…but at the same time had to endure countless “where you from?” “how long you been out here” borefests…sometimes you just can’t be bothered…:P

    another thought..i can’t login at the moment..cause the country i’m in has banned half of this site…why?

    • http://www.holisticwithhumor.com/ Christine Garvin

      Thanks for your comments, Gaoblai. At Matador, we publish a wide variety of articles, some of which are longer and read as an in-depth personal narrative, while others are shorter and meant to stimulate community discussion rather than going into the author’s long personal take on the subject. This piece is an example of the latter – I wanted to see what the readers thought about how introversion vs. extroversion plays out in the world, and more specifically, in travel.

      I’m not sure why half the site would be banned – what country are you logging into the site from?

      • gaoblai

        ok, point taken,

        the country i am in is a beautiful south east asian place known for it’s dhanaka, betel nut, pagodas and longyis…

  • http://yaramaz.livejournal.com maryanne

    That bit about blogging being valuable for introverts really rings true for me. I am introverted and shy when faced with new people and crowds but I’m an avid blogger and online diarist and I think this allows me to put myself out there without the mental taxation of, well, putting myself out there. I really feel awkward talking about myself and answering questions about who I am and what I’m doing (and all the other small talk inanities) but writing comes quite naturally to me. I can make connections now at my own pace.

  • http://matadortravel.com/travel-community/anne137 Anne

    This is a great article which has sparked such a good discussion, just like Dembling’s World Hum piece.

    I was a textbook introvert when I was younger, and I think travel (especially solo trips) helped me become more comfortable reaching out to strangers and sparking up conversations. I’m now in the middle like Christine, and am equally happy chatting up new friends as I am having a solo day with my diary and camera as company. It’s great to hear there are so many other non-extroverted travelers!

  • Kim

    I remember coming home from my first trip abroad and practically collapsing from exhaustion because I’d had to do so much interacting during the trip–asking for directions, placing orders, haggling, chatting with people who approached me and trying to make the most of it. But I do feel it was worth it. I learned a lot and had a great trip.

    However, I have felt the benefits of being an introverted traveler. When loud and rowdy Americans are going through the drama of walking out of shops, then returning, insulting merchandise they really want, and trying to get 20 of some knicknack for $5, I have quietly approached a shopkeeper, talked about where I was from & about their business, asked to buy just one of their wares, and gotten it for free with a kind smile. No matter where you are you can find people who appreciate a softer spirit.

  • http://matadortravel.com/travel-community/alainaob Alaina

    I’m definitely in the middle, too. I enjoy sharing a few drinks with people, but all sight-seeing and traveling I prefer to do on my own.

    Thanks for the post. I feel less like I have to defend myself to my friends when I run off for the weekend alone!

  • Nicole

    Thanks for this thoughtful article! I am an innie and had blindly accepted the idea that when on the road if you are not outgoing you are doing it wrong. But the truth is I find learning about the history and soaking in the culture and atmosphere of a new place to be the most fulfilling part of my own travels. I think on my next trip I won’t put as much pressure on myself to morph into a more extroverted version of myself. I can just be me at home and abroad and meet new and interesting people as they stumble across my path :-).

  • Rachel

    I’m pretty introverted and I can’t handle hostels for longer than a night or two, I’ve had a lot of success with Couchsurfing though. But I’m fairly circumspect about who I’ll request a couch from, I write a personalised email to 1-2 people I really like the sound of and about 80% of the time it turns out really well. Of course, I have to spend energy connecting with my host while I am with them, but I find that couchsurfing often provides its own structure; you have together-time one to one with your hosts in the evenings and very often don’t see them for a long stretch in the daytime while they are at work or you are between hosts.

    In terms of life skills, I agree that getting to the top of NGOs is probably an extrovert thing, as is volunteering, but my degree is in Arabic and Hebrew and I found that the best linguists tended to be introverts; extrovert types get very good at speaking but often don’t have the patience to sit by themselves and sort out their grammer, etc, so do badly on other skills. Even if you’re totally fluent, being semi-illiterate in your foreign language is not ideal for anyone!

  • L.J.

    I’ve spent a lifetime in travel and the extrovert types most often are the ones who talk a lot and say nothing, go places and see nothing, have experiences but learn nothing. They’re the best argument for the rest of us to get in touch with our inner sociopaths.

  • Makesha

    I’ve traveled with both dispositions. Either way, there are drawbacks that come with the benefits. It’s nice to be left alone, but if you don’t know the place, you’re probably not going to eat as much great food unless you rendez-vous with locals who know where to go and what to get.

  • vareeja

    Wow! What a series of interesting discussions..Its been researched that most people on our planet are introverted and more trustworthy..However, as you said being an

    ambivert is the best..Being too much of an extrovert can get you in the company of unwanted people and being too much of an introvert can leave you feeling “left

    out”..A balance is absolutely necessary! Being an ambivert is great if you are a traveler!

  • http://theglobalnative.blogspot.com/ Nate

    Well-written! It’s funny, because in all those ‘tests’ (which I think use Jungian personality types) I always come up about 51% introvert and 49% extrovert, so I’m also right in the middle. I have found though, that my life has been such that I have learned to be an extrovert and it has ALWAYS stood me in good stead. I think your examples of the guy at the concert are right on the button, as it is very useful to be able to strike up conversations and make connections, especially when in unfamiliar and possibly stressful situations.

    That being said, I am so quick and ready to slip into my introverted self when the occasion presents itself. Give me a quiet patch of sunlight and a book and I’m the happiest man in the world.

    It’s been said before, but I’ll say it again: balance is the key!

    “More important than being strong, is remaining flexible”

  • http://monica-travelling.blogspot.com/ Monica

    I can identify my self with the text, as some days I feel extremely extroverted and others I just want to sit on a bench watching the world pass by.
    As I travelled Morocco a few weeks ago, I realized most people there, guys mainly, thought it was very strange that I was a woman travelling alone. As soon as I sat down somewhere someone came up and asked why I was alone, and told me I should get some friends so I didn’t have to be alone. As if it was something negative.

    I can be happy by my self, and I was happy to read that I am not the only one.

  • Rachel Maer

    Hello!

    I liked that this article was put up and that it causes people to question why it is that extroversion is seen as positive while introversion is looked down upon. I myself am like you in that sometimes I’m in extrovert mode and I can talk with strangers or have a good time with people, but sometimes I’d like to have some time to myself. I have felt the nudge from people to act more extroverted when I’m not feeling it– I’ll be at a party or something, listening to the conversation, watching the interplay between people, thinking my own thoughts, and someone will pipe up with something like, “Well, you’re a quiet one, aren’t you?”, or one that I really hate, “Smile!” If I had felt like saying something or randomly smiling to myself I would be doing that. No need to “remind” me.

    In a traveling situation I think being by myself can be great- no comprimising, no schedules.. If I see something interesting, I can go check it out right then. If I change my mind on something I had wanted to do, I’m free to do it. Also, no one is next to me to complain about how much we’ve been walking or anything like that. That was one thing I was bummed to not to see in this article was why it can be good to be an introvert at times.

  • John Stephen Hoffman

    Imagine the opposite. That there are no people to meet, only places to see. It would be such an empty, dismal experience. The only reason I could understand why a man or woman would want to travel yet meet people only in the most superficial of aspects is if that traveler doesn’t want incessant advances made to her or him… Me, I’d never have to worry about that one!

    • Steff

      I know you wrote this ages ago but I just wanted to make one thing clear… being introverted doesn’t me you’d prefer an empty world, it’s more that introverts prefer to observe e.g. people watching. Yes, we do like being alone, but you can be alone in a crowded room and just listen and watch. I hope you can understand. The dream world of an introvert isn’t one without others, it’s just one where they can sit alone with their thouhhts without fear of being thought of as a ‘loner’ or a ‘weirdo’. Not too much to ask I think :)

Blanca loves Chester like a son, and accordingly, me like a daughter in-law. American...
MatadorU student Hope Nardini sidesteps Quito's backpacker ghetto to check out the rest...
Art Deco movie palaces, futuristic big screens, movies on the roof, and in a cemetery.
Living overseas often teaches us surprising things about our own cultures.
During the season of the dead, Christine Garvin uses ritual to try and understand a bit...
Does purporting to protect traditions actually put them at greater risk?
Darley shares about producing an Emmy-winning travel show, how horses have allowed her to...
The Year of the Rabbit kicks off on February 3, 2011. Here are 15 photos of Chinese New...
I spent the whole week preparing emotionally, financially, and even gastronomically.
Natalie Grant just made your resolution-making decisions easier.
If we don't open ourselves up, how can we expect to grow?
Unlike the San Diego psychic who conformed to my gypsy oracle stereotype, Mr. Furuda wore...