Photo: Contiki Travel /Sam McMahon

I'm an Introvert, but Taking a Solo Group Trip Changed My Outlook on Travel

Iceland Travel Friend Groups
by Jori Ayers Jul 9, 2024

If you told me years ago I’d be traveling to Iceland alone to meet a bunch of strangers for a group vacation, I would have called you crazy and laughed out loud.

Growing up, I traveled with my family; when I got older, I always traveled with someone I knew. Like most people, I had never tried out the solo group travel trend: traveling alone, but meeting other people to travel together on an organized group vacation.

The older I got, the more I noticed myself becoming introverted with group activities. It’s something I wanted to overcome, but I never knew how to do it on my own. I do enjoy traveling, but as someone who grew up in a small town and mostly hangs out with the same friends (and family) I’ve known since I was in diapers, it was a hard adjustment to agree to travel around the world with a dozen or so strangers.


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When it comes to socializing, I’m happy to talk to people, but I spend a good amount of time watching everyone while thinking of the next thing to say – and hoping I don’t appear awkward or weird. Taking a solo group vacation seemed like a big challenge for me, so I decided to try something daring and take a Contiki Tours trip as a solo traveler.

Contiki is a global tour company that caters to 18-to-35-year-olds. It has hundreds of tours across the world, from Europe and Australia to New Zealand, North America, South America, Africa, the Middle East, and Asia. I chose to visit the “Land of Fire and Ice:” the beautiful country of Iceland. It was always on my bucket list, but I’d never dreamed of traveling that far away without people I knew.

Truthfully, the trip started with anxiety

solo group travel- anxious traveler

Photo: Nicoleta Ionescu/Shutterstock

Pre-voyage, I spent most of my prep and packing time finding appropriate clothing for Iceland’s varied and extreme climate. But while packing, multiple thoughts crossed my mind over and over. “Will I choke up?” “Will I be awkward?” “What do I say?” “Will people like me?”

When I made my way to the airport on departure day, I was nervous about not being accepted by the rest of the group. I was able to calm my nerves a bit during the eight-hour flight, but when I landed, even the brisk slap in the face of Iceland’s frigid temperatures wasn’t enough to get the negative thoughts out of my head.

In my shuttle to Reykjavik, I sat with my thoughts, trying to stay positive and reminding myself that I made a good choice by pushing myself to try a solo group travel trip. Of course, the devil on my other shoulder kept telling me it was a bad idea – like many introverts, overthinking can be my downfall.

When I made it to my hostel in the early morning, I wasn’t yet able to check in. Instead, I sat in the comfortable lobby, looking calm but with my nerves all over the place. I focused on building the courage to approach travelers as they arrived who I thought may be part of the group.

But instead, owing to my red-eye flight, I fell asleep on the lobby couch. When I woke up, a group of people were beside me discussing the Contiki trip. I told myself to ease into the conversation, but I let my nerves get the better of me, and instead, stayed quiet. I wanted to ask about joining the tour of the city they were planning that day, but ended up just watching them walk out the door. It served as an early reminder that I would need to put myself out there more to avoid missing the social opportunities I was hoping to have.

But there was a hopeful sign on day one: When check-in time rolled around, one of my fellow travelers greeted me in my room for the night. We chatted and hit it off really well, and the conversation ended with me thinking, “Hey, maybe this isn’t too bad.”

Easy opportunities to get to know people began right away

solo group travel - women in hostel

The trip structure created effortless opportunities for socialization, starting at check-in. Photo: pikselstock/Shutterstock

As I got ready for our welcome meeting, I kept myself positive by thinking of encouraging affirmations. When I returned from showering, five other women were in the room, all part of the Contiki tour. Strangely, the casual conversation and friendly vibes made me the calmest I’d been in days, and my nerves and fear started to slip away as we got to know each other.

Part of my anxiety about solo group travel was concern about how I’d come off to people, but after this short interaction, I realized the only person who thought I was the “ugly ducking” or a weirdo was me. The encouraging chat with my roommates convinced me to spend the welcome meeting focused on being in the moment, letting go of my self-criticism.

Getting to know other travelers gave me an energy boost

Jori solo group travel in iceland

Photo: Jori Ayers

Anything that takes a large part of your time can eventually become draining and tiring, but I’ve always found social interactions even more so. At the end of every day on my solo group travel trip with Contiki, I felt drained from physical adventures. But I didn’t have any of the mental fatigue I sometimes get without enough time to myself.

I learned that being with the right people – those who love traveling and were interested in Iceland — made a big difference. Chatting with my fellow travelers energized me, and each conversation was a bit like learning to ride a bike, going a little further with each attempt.

Putting myself out there enough to introduce myself gave me a little dopamine boost, which made me want to keep chatting and learning about that person. It was easy to create conversation, since the nature of going on a group trip meant I had a lot in common with my fellow travelers.

Over time, I found joy and camaraderie in the shared experiences and group activities, as well as support. I opted to do a glacier walk, which made me nervous, given my usual clumsiness. But everyone was so encouraging during the adventure, keeping me in good spirits and letting me know it was okay to be apprehensive. Once I got out on the ice, I loved every moment and now have memories to look back on with my new friends. Without the encouragement of the group, I never would have done it.

Solo group travel improved my communication skills

friends taking photos on solo group travel trip in iceland

Photo: Vova Shevchuk/Shutterstock

Taking this trip was the best thing I’ve done as an adult to improve my communication skills and confidence.

Once I got past my initial nerves, it got easier and easier. I became more open and confident day after day. Soon, it felt like I was traveling with my usual long-time friends, not people who were strangers just a few days earlier. I was starting to be myself, not the person I thought I should be.

By the last night, when we were all out at the bar celebrating a great trip, I found myself easily talking to people without fear. But I didn’t realize that until after I had returned to my room for the night – meaning I wasn’t overthinking it at the time. For me, that was a huge change. And now that I’m back home, I feel more confident chatting with friends, and introducing myself in general.

One of my goals on this solo group trip was to take away memories not just of exploring Iceland, but of doing it with fun people. And despite my own anxiety, that’s exactly what happened. A benefit of going with a group travel company like Contiki is that the itineraries are designed for easy socialization and connections, and I’m hoping to stay friends with plenty of the people I met.

Stepping outside your comfort zone can be daunting, and it’s easy to say it’s something you’ll do next year or later in life. But it was a rewarding experience in the end, and given how enjoyable and beneficial it was, my only regret was not doing it sooner.

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