I felt my energy being drained by the man. It was as though there was an IV line between us and as he droned on, breaking the early morning silence that I so love and need, I could see the line fill with color as energy transferred from my introvert veins to his extrovert ones.
Oh, great. A talker.
He wasn’t even sitting beside me on the bus (in the seat reserved for my favorite extrovert, Gabriel). Rather, the man was behind me and, finding his neighbor asleep, targeted me as the easiest nearby prey with which he wished to discuss the political relevance of newly discovered archaeological sites in the West Bank and how they might be used as leverage in Israel’s fight for control in Palestinian territories.
Please, sir, I beg you… I haven’t even had coffee yet…
Gabriel shot me an apologetic smile and motioned for me to put my earbuds in whenever the man took a moment to breathe. The problem was, I couldn’t locate my buds. We had been living out of our packs for weeks — every night unpacking in a new hostel and every morning re-packing to head to a new city. That morning, when I woke up around 4:45 am to re-pack, I was simply out of energy. My brain in a fog, I stuffed everything into my pack wherever it would fit, not planning ahead on what I might need for the day.
It was a sign that I needed to re-energize and get my head back on my shoulders. But for an introvert on the road, that’s often easier said than done. Travel itself can be exhausting. Couple it with shifting, irregular routines and lack of personal space, and you’re bound for the introvert crash.
Here are a few tips to keep introvert energy levels up so you’re able to enjoy your travels to their fullest.
Utilize your electronics
Whether you’re traveling by plane, train or automobile, create a personal sanctuary with your electronics. Download a new e-book to read, but read it with your earbuds in. Even if you’re not listening to audio, it will help muffle background noise as you read — hopefully allowing you to escape within the pages of its narrative.
If you find you get motion sickness while reading in transit, try an audio book. Close your eyes as you listen to help you feel as though you’re re-energizing with authentic alone time.
Pro tip: It signals the extrovert sitting next to you that you’re not looking to strike up a lengthy political debate.
Splurge on a door
If you’re traveling on a budget, it’s natural to gravitate towards hostels or similar communal accommodations. But doing so can negatively affect an introvert’s entire trip. After going full-speed all day long, you need to find alone time to re-energize. This can be difficult (and even impossible) at a hostel. If an option, opt for a private room vs the standard dorm room with bunk beds. Sometimes, it’s only a few dollars more per night to upgrade. You might still have to share a bathroom, but at least you have a door to close when you need quiet.
Pro tip: Airbnb also offers budget-friendly accommodations that can be more private that hostels. Take time to properly research what options are available in the destination.
This doesn’t mean you have to travel alone, but rather not as part of a group tour. In some destinations, it is safer or makes more sense to travel in an organized tour group. But when possible, skip the group tours and plan your own itinerary — with or without a travel companion.
If you are seeking a companion, find someone who will go at your pace. This doesn’t mean you have to seek out another introvert — Gabriel prefers to explore loud markets where we hop from vendor to vendor and taste small plates. I love the energy that such places offer, but I prefer to find a corner and observe the bustle rather than be in the center of it.
Our solution? Find the balance. Some nights, we seek out that hopping marketplace for a flight of beer. Other nights, we opt for a more intimate and quiet sushi bar. We feel that, by going at each other’s pace, we get to enjoy a variety of local flavors and get an authentic feel of what the destination has to offer.
Pro tip: If you book a group tour, look for itineraries that offer days with self-guided tours or down time so you can explore on your own.
Skip the landmarks
“Get off the beaten path…”
“Explore and wander…”
These overused, cliché travel phrases have been worn out in recent years. But for an introvert, they still ring true. It’s easier to observe a culture if you’re exploring like a local vs visiting big landmarks. Often, the large tourist traps leave me feeling zapped of energy and disconnected with the culture and destination. Alternatively, discovering local traditions and flavors help me connect with a place and offers the opportunity for observation. Those with an “I” on their Myers Brigg test findings typically find it hard to turn down a good people watching location.
Pro tip: We’re not suggesting you actually skip the pyramids or the Eiffel Tower. If you’re in a high traffic tourist destination, visit a famous landmark but afterwards spend time meandering around quiet neighborhoods or experiencing more local activities.
Keep a journal
Find a quiet café or pâtisserie and jot down your feelings and thoughts about the day. It will buy you some undisturbed peace, even if you are not alone. More importantly, it will help you process and leave a record of your trip that years later you can read and reminisce about.
Pro tip: Ask your waitress for recommendations on nearby activities. You’ll get a local perspective that tourist centers, travel agencies and hotels can’t offer.
This is often the hardest to do, especially if you are on a multi-city or multi-country trip and have limited time in one location. I find myself stressed, afraid that if our schedule is not full, we are going to miss out on a unique, destination-specific experience. But what I’ve discovered over the years is that it doesn’t matter if I’m physically present if mentally I’m unable to enjoy what’s around me.
If you’re unable to block off a day for free-time, try blocking off one afternoon. If you can’t block off an afternoon, block off 30 minutes to an hour. During this time, tell yourself it’s OK to do absolutely nothing. Chances are, you’ll end up learning something about the destination or culture without trying to.
Pro tip: If all else fails… plan to take an extra day off work upon return from your trip. Turn your phone off and binge on Netflix or a new book and re-cooperate the way you do best!