The characteristics associated with ‘good travelers’ are usually those attributed to the extrovert. Someone who is high energy, willing to talk to anyone, anywhere, for any length of time. The sort of person who can spend five minutes with someone and walk away with a friend for life. A ‘people person.’
But introverts travel, too. We struggle with small talk and social exhaustion, feeling guilty that we’d rather have a quiet dinner alone than explore Berlin’s nightlife scene. We struggle against our extroverted counterparts, the outgoing, talkative travelers who are always trying to drag us out and convince us we’re missing out on life because we’re not living it exactly as they do. And while we appreciate the energy and stream-of-consciousness commentary extroverts provide, sometimes we really just wish they’d let us keep to ourselves instead of pushing every single one of our buttons.
Ask why we’re so shy.
The biggest misconception about introverts is that we’re shy or anti-social. We don’t necessarily suffer from social anxiety. We just find small talk tedious and fighting to be heard in a crowd exhausting. Because of this, we get pegged as aloof, reserved, or rude. Where extroverts thrive on the energy of other people, introverts often feel drained by it. The group dynamics and the incessant talking, while enjoyable in small doses, can quickly become overwhelming.
Take our need for alone time personally.
We need to be alone. Get over it. Our need for quiet time to decompress and process the events of the day has nothing to do with you. It doesn’t mean we don’t like you, it doesn’t mean we don’t ever want to be around you, and it doesn’t mean we’re mad. It just means we want to be alone for a little bit. So if we insist on going for a long walk or grabbing a cappuccino alone or putting on our headphones while riding the train, please just let us go. And don’t take it personally.
Ask if we’re mad.
WE’RE NOT MAD.
Introverts need extra space. We circle carefully around new relationships, particularly new travel relationships, before committing to anything and are reluctant to travel with others who don’t understand or respect our need for quiet time to recharge. If we act a little noncommittal about a spontaneous week-long trek in Tasmania, it’s probably because we’re still weighing out how likely you are to talk incessantly or be offended by our need to be alone.
We’re not always capable of tuning other people out and are prone to feeling smothered by the extrovert’s need to talk every little detail through. We may really, really like you, but sometimes we just wish you’d stop talking for a few minutes so we can think.
Tell us we need to learn to speak up.
We are not shy. We are only turned inward, processing things slowly and deliberately. When we have something to say, we’ll say it. The best way to guarantee silence from an introvert is to push them to speak. We’ll talk when we’re ready to talk. Pressuring us to speak and putting us on the spot only succeeds in making us so uncomfortable that we don’t want to speak at all.
Push us into commitments.
Introverts need an emergency exit for every social situation. We need to know that if we become completely overcome with social fatigue at 10pm in the middle of a nightclub and need to get out immediately, we can. Because of this we can be a little reluctant to commit to a situation where we might get trapped. The prospect of not being able to leave exactly when we’re ready to go is enough to make us want to stay home.
Tell us we’re missing out on life.
Just because we prefer a different type of travel, a different type of experience, doesn’t mean we’re missing out on life. We’re not much for clubbing or staying out till 2am screaming drunk with a bunch of strangers, and we’ll never be the sort of traveler to become best friends with the shopkeeper we just met, but we’re observant and studious, soaking in quiet mornings and watching towns come to life. We find the best cafes and keep meticulous trip notes, and just because we’re not gushing about how much we love Paris doesn’t mean we love Paris any less than you.
Put us on the spot.
Hand us a microphone in a karaoke bar, pull us up on stage, insist we stand up and dance. We’re happy to cheer you on, but despite what you may think, we aren’t secretly wishing to be up on stage and we don’t want you to drag us up there. It’s not that we won’t belt out a tune in public or give a wildly witty toast at a party, it’s just that we don’t like to get thrown into things without warning.
Tell us to cheer up or stop being so serious.
We’re thinkers, processors, people who thrive on reflection. An introvert sitting quietly alone is not necessarily angry, depressed, or completely incapable of laughing. We’re just thinking. Please stop asking us what’s wrong and suggesting that maybe we should talk to someone about it. We’re fine. Really.
Tell us we need to come out of our shell.
After social interactions and group settings, introverts need to retreat to their shells. We need to be alone and we need down time. This isn’t a sign of depression or social anxiety. It’s just how we function. The best thing you can do after dragging an introvert to a party is to give us time to withdraw and re-energize. Happy introverts are those who find friends (and travel partners) willing to give us this space, knowing that this is just part of how we process the world and the people in it.