1. To explore the globe whilst maintaining a reserved or shy personality.
2. The inner battle of disliking large groups whilst having to stay in dorm rooms.
Ok, I may have coined this word, but it’s something I have to deal with on the regs. Being an introvert, I naturally avoid crowds and hate awkward social interactions and need a lot of alone time to stay sane. Things that are completely opposite to a life of backpacking. But don’t let that put you off, it’s totally possible to be an introvert and travel the world as you please. You just have to take a few things into consideration.
Before I kick off with my secrets and tips to successfully introvertravelling, here’s how to tell whether you are in fact an introvert:
- Cancelled plans is the best feeling in the world
- You would never describe yourself as a ‘people person’
- You’re usually the last person to speak up in a meeting
- You always think before you speak
- If you live with people, you will usually make an effort to get some ‘me-time’ away from it all
- You like socialising but only with a few people at a time
- But your idea of a good night is a blanket and pasta and wine and Netflix (and a cat if you have one)
It’s ok, me too.
But hey, this shit doesn’t mean you’re some boring recluse that just wants to be at home. You’re travelling the damn world, son. (Although let’s face it, home is the best).
So how exactly are you meant to make friends on the road when you hate going up to people and introducing yourself? How are you meant to go backpacking on a budget if the idea of staying in dorm rooms with no privacy fills you with dread?
Well, here’s how I’ve managed to do it and stay sane, pal.
Travel Tips For Introverts
Go On Tours
This is my biggest tip for introverts or in fact anyone travelling solo, book yourself onto a tour for your first week. Not only does this minimise culture shock, it puts with lots of like-minded people in the same boat.
As an introvert I feel like I make a bad first impression. I’m quiet and reserved and on top of it I have chronic resting bitch face, so people generally tend to think I’m a dick when they meet me. But I’m a grower. If I spend a few days with people, I tend to open up, be more myself and become more approachable. So when I’m forced to spend a week with people on a tour, I magically make new friends.
This has been so good for me in the past – I met my bestie Kate on our Thaintro tour in Bangkok and subsequently travelled Southeast Asia together for 4 months. When I went to Australia I made zero friends in the first week so booked myself onto the Aussie Wanderer tour up the Western Coast and met Sarah and Varri who I then moved to Brisbane with. It’s so good for introvertravel, I’m telling you. I mean, it’s not like we’re going to just walk up to a group of people and be friends is it? (Unless they walk up to us, but it’s dependant on other people so a bit of a gamble)
It’s also a good idea on shorter trips to try day tours. In Vietnam, I went on a day tour of Ho Chi Minh City and met 5 other backpackers I got on with. We then went for drinks that night, went to the waterpark the next day and did another tour of the Cu Chi Tunnels the day after that. We’re not lifelong friends or anything, but that was a really lovely 3 days where I had a cool group of people to hang out with. It works, bro.
Bring Your Home Comforts
Fuck the backpacker police that tell you to pack light, you need your home comforts to feel alright. I’m not saying pack your dressing gown and pillow and Game Of Thrones boxsets, but there are certain items that make me feel better about being in a new place. The kind of things that make a bunk bed in a dorm room feel cozy and more homely. I basically ‘nest’ wherever I go. Here’s what I bring with me…
- Laptop/iPad/Phone for escaping reality for a bit. When I lived in Australia, I had a small laptop I used for streaming my fave shows. It sounds like a weird thing to do when you’re travelling, but taking time out in the evening to get an hour or two of TV in really relaxed me and recharged my batteries to be able to socialise all over again the next day.
- A sarong as a privacy screen. Yes a sarong has multi-uses on the road and one of my faves is to tuck it into the bunk beds to create a lil privacy curtain for the bottom bunk. It can seem anti-social if you put it up as soon as you walk in your room, But at night, it makes you feel a little less ‘exposed’ and able to sleep in a dorm room without thinking people are watching you sleep.
- A couple of things to make you feel cozy. Whether that’s slippers or cozy socks or your favourite PJs, these things matter. I feel less out of my comfort zone in a room full of people when I have slipper socks on. That’s just me.
Make An Effort To Have Me-Time
When you’ve made your new travel buddies, or if you’re travelling with a friend, it can be daunting to spend 24/7 with another human. Especially if they’re not an introvert. Just as you would at home, you have to make time for some alone time, just to stay sane you know?
The way I do this is either to take an hour or two for TV time on my laptop as I mentioned above. Or to go off on a bit of a solo walk/activity. You can go on a coffee run for your pals or just take a walk around the new destination you’re in. Normally people backpacking understand if you want to be alone. It can get full-on in hostels so it’s only natural.
Something I used to do when I lived with the girls in Brisbane is to go to the farmers market on a Saturday morning. We stayed together in a dorm room so it could be intense sometimes and this is when I would get some me-time. They’d still be asleep and I’d make the 45 minute walk to the other side of town to the Farmer’s Market. I’d buy my veg for the week, look at the stalls of handmade jewellery, grab some breakfast and walk back in the sunshine. Then I’d be totally ready to hang out with my friends again and go out on the Saturday night.
Try To Get Out Of Your Comfort Zone (Just A Bit)
I realise this is the kind of advice an extrovert might give you – “Just put yourself out there, meet people, have fun!”. Don’t worry I’m not suggesting you abandon your introvert ways overnight. But there are little things you can do to make the extra effort.
On my solo trip to Iceland last year, I had just got back from a day trip in the evening, and even though every introverted bone in my body was telling me to run back to my private room and watch some OITNB, I went and sat at the hostel bar. And I didn’t have a book or a laptop as I would usually do when dining solo – just me, a beer and a cheeseburger.
Extroverts reading this be like ‘What’s the big deal here?’. Introverts be like ‘Hot damn girl, you crazy!’.
And it worked, I got talking to someone and had a really good night. And it wasn’t weird or awkward, and I didn’t have to make that much effort. I just had to be around people and be approachable, you know?
There’s you have it, my tools for success as a backpacking introvert. Or the art of introvertravel if you will. Is there anything else you would recommend for us wallflowers?
Let me know in the comments below or tweet me @HeelsInBackpack!