1. Getting to know someone romantically, and then being called “intense.”
If you’re like me, getting to know someone on a romantic level takes a good amount of work. My feelings and life aren’t all out there in the first conversation; rather, things tend to be revealed as time goes on. I also have no problem sitting in silence for long periods of times, especially on road trips or in transit, which perhaps leads to being labeled “intense,” as I’ve been told many times by men. It happened to me once in Ireland, and then the man followed up with something like, “these long silences with nothing to talk about.”
I was stunned. For me the silences weren’t uncomfortable; they were blissful. I really didn’t realize that someone else would see it differently.
2. Asking someone for directions when you’re lost.
On Lesbos island in Greece, Lena (my German WWOOFing counterpart) and I got hopelessly lost when trying to return our rental car to its office. We saw a taverna filled with people, and since Lena was driving, she urged me to go in and ask for directions. My heart immediately flip-flopped. I got out of the car, entered the taverna, and asked a random table of people how to get to the main street of Mytilini. Of course, hardly anybody spoke English, and I stood there babbling and embarrassed until a cook emerged from the back of the building and told me what to do. A part of it has to do with not wanting to bother anybody; another part of it has to do with the terror of simply starting a conversation with someone.
3. Approaching that table of travellers already having a really good time.
On my first night in Athens I went to the rooftop common area of my hostel and perched on a stool at the bar like a bird about to take flight. I wanted company, and conversation, but everyone around me already seemed to be doing quite well with it. I figured a pint of Mythos would help loosen my tongue, but it was actually Anna, the Finnish bartender, who first engaged me in conversation. When an introvert is in the mood to meet people, sometimes just showing up is all you can do.
4. Staying in a hostel, or Couchsurfing.
Even if you’ve got a private room booked at a hostel, at some point you’re gonna have to be around people. Or you’ll be privy to the shenanigans of other guests, or you’ll be frustrated by the noise in the kitchen when all you want to do is cook a pack of ramen noodles but those dudes playing beer pong just won’t go away. Couchsurfing is a whole different ballgame. You’re literally occupying space in someone’s home, for FREE. You owe it to your hosts to be friendly and conversational, and switched on. And for introverts, that’s not always available on demand. You’d be missing out, however, if you didn’t try it a few times.
5. Dealing with EVERYBODY ELSE on a group tour.
If you’re an introvert, group travel is probably not for you. On the other hand, if you have trouble meeting new people thanks to your introversion ways, group tours are a godsend. Finding a balance? Necessary. I once did a Contiki tour through Prague, Budapest, and Vienna. The group I travelled with was overwhelmingly outgoing — there was a group of YouTubers who spent one afternoon filming a chase scene through Budapest’s busy downtown core. I loved those people and their entertaining ways, but I requested a private room so I could have the downtime when I needed it.
6. Striking up a conversation with a stranger.
Perhaps the single most terrifying thing about travelling as an introvert is just putting yourself out there. When you actually want to, that is. Even introverts get lonely every now and then. I remember watching amazed as my friend approached a sketch artist at a café in Reykjavik, Iceland. The two struck up a conversation about art and music, and the Icelander eventually ended up at our accommodation for a guitar session. I was grateful for my friend’s boldness; without him, the relationship with a local would never have happened.
7. Finding that downtime after you’ve been socializing all day.
If you’re out sightseeing and exploring, chances are other people have surrounded you for most of the day (unless you’re on a trail somewhere, and even then…). I will often book a hotel room for a night or two when I’m travelling, no matter how extravagant the purchase may seem on a budget. There are few things more comforting to an introvert than spending an evening locked into a cozy hotel room, watching television or reading or binge eating on Doritos and local pastries. The key is to give yourself a day or two during a whirlwind trip to do so, otherwise burn-out is imminent.
8. Being avoided by people (or told you’re unapproachable) because you’re lost in thought.
I’ve been told that when I’m lost in thought or concentrating really hard on something, I look like the least approachable person in the world. My eyebrows furrow; the crease between my eyes deepens. Every time I’m in yoga class and my instructor tells us to relax our jaws and our faces, I’m surprised by how tensed up I really am. Introverts don’t tend to think about how their body language is perceived by others — we get lost in moments instead.
9. Getting to know what the local nightlife is really all about.
As I prepare for my 2015 move to Berlin, my friends all tell me that the nightlife is amazing, that the music scene is fab, and that the 48-hour nightclubs are ridiculous and a “must do.” While I love nightlife and consider it essential to a travel experience, the thought of a 48-hour nightclub is only good in theory. I’d last maybe 20 minutes in such a place before a younger person jostles me just hard enough to make my rage bubble over. I’d rather sit at a quiet pub and nurse a Guinness, thank you.
10. Being on a crowded subway train, or a bus, or flight.
Some introverts will literally do anything to avoid crowded public transit. I am one of those people. I have not used the public bus in my hometown of St. John’s for over five years. I used the subway system in Montreal just ONCE the whole time I lived there. The thought of being pressed against so many bodies inside a tiny train car makes my palms sweat. The plus side: I walk everywhere. And that matters when your ideal vacation is eating nothing but halva the entire time you’re in Greece.
Image by Lulu Lovering