Traveling (solo) is a perfectly normal desire and pursuit, but it can be a little stressful – especially if you’re an introvert. Being introverted myself, I know how crucial it is to have your social needs met through human interaction, while maintaining your sanity with long stretches of solitude. Striking this balance can get a little trickier when you’re traveling.
The following seven tips have helped me a lot during my nomadic periods—I hope they help you, too.
- Find a practice to calm yourself in anxiety-inducing social situations. Remember that most of the people you’ll meet when traveling are in the same boat as you – they’re nervous, a little lost, and just looking for meaningful conversation and experiences. When you remember that other people are just as caught up in their heads as you are in your own, the whole process gets a lot easier. Of course, this is easier said than done, and anxiety has a way of skewing your perception in social situations anyway. If this happens, I’ve found that creating a mantra with which to steady yourself is extremely valuable. Something that I’ll often repeat to myself: my perspective is only one half of this experience.
- On select travel days, start and end your day early. A new city in the early hours of the morning is an introvert’s paradise. The air is fresh, the streets are peaceful, and the early-morning sun illuminates things you might miss in the afternoon bustle. Once, I woke up at 5 a.m. and spent the morning walking around Amsterdam: the canals were like mirrors, the pale morning sun made the buildings glow, and the entire city smelled like baking bread. Mornings are special and beautiful, no matter where you are. Plus, ending the day early means you don’t have to worry about bars or hostel common areas—places that can be pretty scary for an introvert.
- That being said, don’t let your introversion prevent you from enjoying the nightlife—hence select travel days. Just like the early morning reveals hidden treasures, so too does the late night. Bars, however, can be scary places for us introverts, especially when we’re traveling solo. A tried-and-tested trick to make them a little less terrifying: sit at the bar! Bartenders are always down to chat, and can offer valuable local tips. You might even get a free shot out of it!
- Find places to recharge. My personal favorites: churches, libraries, and parks. These are places where it’s socially acceptable to sit by yourself quietly, journaling, people-watching, or reading. (Here’s a book rec for the traveling introvert, while we’re at it: Olivia Laing’s “Lonely City” explores the oft-misunderstood concept of loneliness and its hidden, redeeming qualities.) Bonus: churches, libraries, and parks tend to be pretty beautiful places.
- Join a local guided walk. Guided walking tours are an introvert’s haven. Not only are they fun, informative, and often free, they’re also filled with other solo travelers. If you don’t feel like talking, it’s perfectly acceptable to stroll along peacefully, while having the benefit of being surrounded by people. Also, guided walks often offer nighttime counterparts in the form of group pub crawls—another way to get your late-night kicks, if you’re not super into the idea of solo bar-hopping. I’ve participated on free, guided walking tours in Copenhagen, Amsterdam, Melbourne, and London. Virtually every city has one.
- Try a meet-up app. A couple of years ago, some friends of mine started Friend Theory—an app that connects you with your friends of friends all over the world. You’d be surprised at the amount of connections you have, in the most arbitrary corners of the globe. (Turns out I’ve got three friends of friends in Tahiti, of all places.) Friend Theory is perfect for the inevitable moment you’ve had enough solo recharge time, and are in need of some social nourishment—but you don’t necessarily want to hang out with a total stranger. Plus, when you meet up, you’ve already got a guaranteed ice-breaker—your mutual friend. Some other meet-up app options: Meetup, Bumble BFF, or Friender.
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Molly is a writer and traveller currently based in Montreal, but who will probably be somewhere new by next month. Find her—with a coffee in one hand and a book in the other—at your local, free-WiFi-supplying café.
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