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As an introvert, I struggle with spending far too much time in my own head, both second-guessing my own decisions and worrying about what others think of me. It can be paralyzing at times, but I have found one scenario where I feel a unique sense of freedom and belonging: solo travel. You might think solo travel in unfamiliar, high-stimulus environments would be an introvert’s recipe for disaster, but stick with me as I share the main reasons I recommend solo travel to all my fellow introverts.
Freedom To Be Yourself Without Judgment
It can be hard to let loose when you constantly think about what those close to you may think about how you act, how you’re dressed or the choices you make. Sometimes I avoid social interaction and get stuck in a cycle of being anti-social because of my tendency to overanalyze what people might think. Herein lies my favorite aspect of solo travel – you’ll be around people you will likely NEVER see again so you can be completely awkward and no one is going to care. Whatever fears that normally hold you back, you can leave those behind when you set off on a solo journey and just enjoy every moment!
Embracing Facets of Extroversion
Introversion and extroversion generally exist on a scale, so no one is completely one or the other; we all exhibit some characteristics of both. The thing I enjoy about solo travel is that I get to express more extroverted characteristics than I would in everyday life at home. For example, I took a solo trip to Croatia in 2014 and I ended up sharing a room in a hostel with a girl from Japan. While there, we connected with a guy from the Maldives who was also staying in the hostel and though we didn’t know each other previously, we all ended up having dinner and exploring the city together and continue to stay in touch to this day. Being introverted can make it difficult to make friends easily in everyday life, but solo travel provides a unique opportunity to make quick connections with others based on shared experiences.
Setting Your Own Pace
New connections can be fun, but you may not be interested in making new friends on your travels and may want a lot of alone time to just soak up new cities and experiences. There is no right or wrong way to experience solo travel; having the freedom to see as much or as little as you want each day and in each place you visit can be liberating. You can allow yourself plenty of time to recharge and relax on your own, but you can also join tour groups or choose to stay in a hostel if you do end up feeling lonely and want to have others around to go exploring with you.
Speaking Up For Yourself
If I’m with a significant other or friend who is more gregarious than I am, I will often zone out a little (sometimes out of laziness) and fade into the background while just letting that person take the lead in conversations with new people that we encounter. Do any of my fellow introverts do this as well? This can be good and bad, but during solo travel, you typically won’t have the option to let someone else speak for you, so you have to stay engaged and completely present in each situation. It can be a little tiring if you’re used to others taking the lead, but ultimately it is a good thing to be fully responsible for your interactions, at least for a period of time. You will learn when it is important to advocate for yourself, especially when it comes to your travel plans. If you’re delayed or have a flight canceled, politely speak up and ask what other options can be provided. Often the airline employees try to offer the least amount they can get by with but will agree to more compensation if you specifically ask for it.
Meaningful Connections With Locals
If traveling solo, some may opt to stay in hotels just based on familiarity, but I would highly recommend staying at either a hostel or Airbnb in order to connect with locals and/or other travelers. Hotels are great to just crash and disconnect for a while, but staying with those in the know about your destination gives you a much more authentic experience and view into the culture. I have found that hosts are eager to share tips and stories about their cities and some even provide you with free tours of the area – such a great way to immerse yourself into a new place. When traveling with someone, you will have to consider their accommodation preferences, but traveling solo allows you to just go with the flow and stay where you feel you will learn the most. Striking up a conversation with a stranger can be intimidating, but often yields rewarding connections. In some countries like China, this may happen more naturally since many people there are eager to practice their English with native speakers.
Developing an Independent Mindset
Traveling solo has taught me that I can accomplish so many things I would not have even dreamed of attempting on my own, previously. I learned to navigate around new cities by memorizing landmarks when I didn’t have GPS, and that was huge for me as I had become so reliant on technology as a crutch! Independence can also come in the form of learning to communicate using the local language, even if you only know a few words or phrases. Putting yourself out there when you’re not confident in your language skills can be challenging, but successfully ordering food in another language or having a basic conversation (even if you need to use a few gestures) is an effective way to begin to assert yourself and develop your skills as a self-sufficient solo traveler.
As an introvert, it is far too easy to become set in your ways and somewhat resistant to change. Living cautiously can certainly be beneficial in some circumstances, but when you travel solo, you tend to become more receptive to new ideas and new ways of accomplishing your goals, sometimes out of necessity. At times it is necessary to leave your own country or area of the world in order to realize that just because you’re used to something being done a certain way, doesn’t mean that it is the right way or the only successful way of doing it. One of my biggest takeaways from solo travel has been the ability to be flexible and adaptable instead of demanding things be done my way or in my timeframe. Maybe you’re usually starving at 6pm but the local tradition is to eat at 9 or 10pm, maybe there are no flights to your next destination so you try taking an overnight ferry, or maybe your kayak falls apart in the ocean and you hitch a ride on a catamaran. You never know what adventures await until you open yourself up to just going with the flow and letting go of the need to control everything.
Have you traveled solo before? If not, what is holding you back?
I took my first overseas solo trip with Intrepid Travel and absolutely loved it. You can read my full experience here. Contiki is also another good option if you’re looking for an affordable trip that will let you see a lot in a short time. Let me know if you have any questions about using either of these companies or any general questions about solo travel as a female and I’ll be glad to help!
Thanks for reading!