Tips about how to travel alone and how to learn to appreciate the solitude on the road are everywhere. As if not being alone is the most natural thing.
No one, however, speaks about how hard traveling with other people can actually be. About the desire to be alone with yourself while someone is ardently telling the story of their life; about the incessant requirement to be part of the conversation because otherwise people would consider you a weird fellow; about minding others every whim, mood, wish… In a world full of extroverts who want to share every moment with others, it gets harder and harder to be an introvert.
An introvert’s comfort zone is a lesson others learn to master all their lives – being alone.
If you are an introvert and all of that sounds familiar, then this article is for you.
In order to survive as an introvert on a trip shared with others, you only need a little:
Patience. Yeah, alright – a little more patience. Patience to hear out the pain of the old lady sitting next to you or to put up with the screams of the high school students in the next compartment. Patience to wait for those who are late again and not to go to sleep because the others want to have fun a little longer. But where does this patience come from? Taking a deep breath? Meditating? Taking everything as a joke? Try anything, something is bound to work. It’s hard but when you see hardship as a game or yet another adventure, it all works out somehow. And don’t forget that this will not last forever – soon the journey will be over and you don’t want to remember (only) the bitter and sulky moments.
Headphones. Music and books are an introvert’s best friends, especially in the hostile company of strangers. Putting your headphones is in itself a non-verbal cry to the others that you do not want to talk to them and you prefer to stay isolated with your own thoughts. Plus, the headphones neutralize the sound of the loud voices of other passengers or the ever crying baby on the plane that, why it always happens like that, is sitting right behind you.
Writer’s spirit. Just think about the stories you can tell later. About the characters you can soak up and recreate into words. An introvert’s typical feature is that they prefer to observe and listen rather than actively participate in whatever is happening. Imagine you are a writer “hunting” for events and characters. Or perhaps you would prefer to play by turning into a completely different person – open to the others, talkative and funny. Just for tonight. Just for fun. Just to see what it is like.
A few minutes of isolation. In the morning, before the others wake up and before the day takes its brisk course. Make yourself a cup of tea or coffee, go out on the balcony or even out on the street. Or just stay a while in the quiet shared room alone with yourself and your thoughts. Or go out into the fresh morning to buy your friends warm local snacks. Or whatever – as long as you are alone and manage to recharge with internal energy. Every introvert knows the secret little tricks of finding every morning the strength to successfully go through one more too socially-burdened day.
Positive attitude. Attitude is everything. The way we look at the world determines what it will be like for us in reality. Traveling is an amazing experience and you should not let anyone ruin it. Every mishap is a memory, every time you meet someone new – a story, every obstacle you overcome – experience, every time you overcome your introvert nature – wisdom. You are traveling with several extroverts – it can’t get better than that! They would gladly do the “dirty work” for you – they will talk to the receptionists, buy tickets, ask about the direction and speak with the annoying intruders in the hostel. You will just rub your hands together happily (and quietly) and feel blessed that you have friends like that.
Smiles. Smile at everything and everyone. Smile when you feel that the people around you make you nervous. Smile at strangers, smile when your travel companions smile. Even if on the inside smiling is the last thing you feel like doing, the outer appearance may fool even you. It is a proven fact that even the fake smile leads to the release of endorphin – the hormone of happiness, in the body. Who knows, the smile may become real without you noticing.
Reason. Often traveling alone is more expensive than traveling with someone. And it’s not only about the money. Driving around Europe alone or sharing the gas money (and the driver’s seat) with three other people so that you visit more places? To book a room in a hostel alone at the price of a hotel room or to share it with 8 more people, which will save you money for several more days on the road? To grab a quick bite, to have dinner alone in a restaurant while people are watching you in bewilderment or cook together dinner to share with people from different cultures, who in turn will offer you to try something traditionally theirs?
Desire for self-improvement. An introvert’s comfort zone is a lesson others learn to master all their lives – being alone. Traveling without other people is not a challenge for the introvert, it’s a desired holiday. Introverts rarely discover something new about themselves while alone, as usually they already know their internal world well. The outer world creates the problems. Traveling with others is a real challenge, taking them out of their comfort zone. But if you pass this test (which you will, no one has ever died of being an introvert), you will feel even more complete. Because we are people as well. We also love human company and often look for it intentionally. It’s just that we have a lower tolerance threshold and greater need to be alone with ourselves.