I am a solo travel introvert.
Being an introvert and being a solo traveler are not mutually exclusive.
There are ways that we introverts can travel, techniques we can use, that help us get past our tendency to solitude so that solo travel can also be a social experience.
Solo travel is perfect for introverts as we need quiet time to reflect and recharge. That time is a natural part of the solo travel experience. But introverts also need the company of others. This can easily be planned into your trip.
At a dinner party not long ago, five long-term women friends and I somehow got onto discussing Myers Briggs assessments. And yes, I mentioned that I was an introvert. Despite having known these women for 10 years and more, a few heads swerved my way. They had become used to my solo travels and had lost their knowledge of me as an introvert. After a short pause they remembered when they first met me and there were nods and “oh ya”.
Solo travel may seem to be for those enormously confident extroverts who would naturally bound out into the world, but there are many, many solo travel introverts as well. In fact, it may be that introverts actually outnumber the extroverts. But in the emails and comments I've received, it seems that introverts are also often hesitant to go solo. They are concerned about being too alone.
Traveling Alone as An Introvert Develops Social Skills
Introverts are not necessarily loners. We like social situations. And, to operate comfortably in the world, at home and while traveling, it's important to develop certain social skills.
Solo travel can help. We can learn and practice skills that are not necessarily natural to us.
It was not until I traveled alone that I discovered that I had taken on some traits of my extroverted late husband. I had developed skills to help me socialize that I didn't know I had. The more I have traveled solo the better I've become at these extroverted skills. Now, they are there to draw upon when needed.
10 Tips for for Solo Travel Introverts
As an introvert, you will not want to be in social situations all the time. It's important to note that while the tips below will put you into social situations they are not permanent situations. They may last a day or an hour, it's up to you. After all, a solo travel introvert needs some time to her or himself as well. But for your social needs, here you go.
- Book your accommodation according to how social you want to be. It's not hard to book a hotel and keep to yourself but to book a place to stay that may introduce you to others takes a little thought. How social do you want to be? Perhaps an independently owned inn is right where you can have some interaction with the owners. Or maybe a B&B or hostel is better where you may have more interaction with other travelers as well. Get the details in advance. Some B&Bs actually operate like inns with separate breakfast tables rather than communal ones. If that's what you want, great. If not, find another.
- Try slow travel. If you stay at the same B&B, inn or hostel for a week rather than a couple of nights, you will find yourself entering into its social scene. As you're seen again and again, people will naturally start talking with you. They'll be curious about you, your travels, what you did that day and what you're planning for the next. It can make for pleasant chats of a few minutes or a companion on a tour.
- Learn to talk to strangers. This can be very difficult for an introverted person but it is quite possible. I like to start with an offhand comment. “What a view!” “This is spectacular!” “To bad the weather isn't with us.” Just about anything might start a conversation. Even a smile. Read Travel Solo and Talk to Strangers
- Book a greeter. The Global Greeter Network connects you with locals who volunteer to show off their city. I’ve used this service in Paris, New York, Kyoto, and Chicago and every time it's been fantastic. Read Friendly Paris: Exploring the Real Paris with a Greeter
- Take a class. Classes – cooking, language, art… – will put you in a social situation with a purpose. Everyone attending will have a shared interest. You will have something in common with them making conversation easy as you discuss the whats and whys of the class.
- Join a Meetup, even for a day. I'm a member of meetup.com but I don't use it at home. When I'm going to a city I check out the meetups for that city and join one or two that interest me and have events planned for when I'm there. I did this in Hong Kong and it nearly killed me. Not really. Read: Meetup.com Got me Hiking in Hong Kong: And it was #$@&%*! hard!
- 5W. This is an international community of 2,400 women in over 80 countries. They are mostly women over 60 who want to travel more often and meet locals, so they host one another for a tea or a stay as they travel. Read Women Welcoming Women: A Gateway to International Friendships.
- Take a short tour. Day tours, half or full days, are great ways to get a little social time. But you may also want to consider a short tour of a few days at the beginning of your trip. In addition to putting you in a social situation it can offer an introduction to a new destination. Take a short tour to learn how to navigate the country/city, its culture and currency. It will give you the confidence to then spend more time there on your own.
- Make good use of the lobby, common room or lounge. Don’t read while you're in a common space. That's like hanging up a sign that says “don't talk to me.” Instead, people-watch and enjoy the scene. Eventually something will happen that will open up a conversation for you.
- Repeat. If you are staying in one place for a while, go to the same coffee shop, green grocers, pub or restaurant consistently. You’ll be noticed as a new regular and people will eventually chat with you. This happened to me in the Lake District of England. I went to the same pub for four nights in a row. It was a really tiny pub. Yes I felt awkward the first night. But less and less so each consecutive night. And then, on the fourth, which happened to be Guy Fawkes Night, I walked into the pub and it erupted to greet me.
So those are my tips. What are yours? Please share your advice in the comments so that other solo traveler introverts can benefit from your experience.