When I found out I’d be travelling around New Zealand for two months with a bunch of other students this summer, my first worries were not money, hostel living, homesickness or anything of the sort. My first worries were how the heck am I meant to be surrounded by people 24/7 for two months straight. Now for other people, this may seem baffling. Or perhaps to some, it is a dream come true. But not for me. Why? Because I am the world’s biggest introvert.
What is an introvert?
Introverts are totally misunderstood. There are so many misconceptions about what it means to be an introvert and it can be really frustrating. People think introversion means being shy or anti-social, but that’s not the case at all (although it certainly can be true). People often assume I am an extrovert when they first meet me because I am confident, chatty and love meeting new people. But these traits have little to do with extroversion.
In short, introversion and extroversion are just a way of explaining where people get their energy from. They either draw their energy from other people and the outside world (extrovert), or from being alone (introvert). Basically, introverts need time away from others to recharge. On the other hand, extroverts feel more energised when they are in social situations and tend to get lonely much faster.
I can’t think of a single time in my life that I have ever felt lonely. The concept of loneliness is luckily completely foreign to me. Whilst it’s probably not seen as healthy, I can easily (and very happily) spend an entire week not interacting with another living soul. But hey, it’s the way I work!
Introvert travel: what makes it so difficult?
Us introverts need our space. We need peace and quiet. We need time alone away from other people. It can be hard to get these things when travelling in a group and staying in hostels. By nature, hostels are very communal, social places. They attract budget travellers and backpackers who are normally there to make friends (whilst saving their pennies too!).
You have to share everything in a hostel, including your bathroom, your kitchen, and your sleeping space. You’ll rarely have any privacy. Now I don’t know about you but that’s my personal idea of hell.
Plus, on a group tour, you also have to travel with and do activities with these people. In short, you can kiss goodbye to your sweet, sweet alone time. But don’t worry. If you’re also an introvert and the idea of group travel frightens you, I am here to tell you that it is possible!
Introvert travel: how can I survive travelling in a group?
Travelling in a group and making new friends abroad is awesome! You’ll already have things in common simply because you all decided to go on this tour together. And when you spend a lot of time with the same people, it is likely that beautiful friendships will blossom.
Here are my five top tips for travelling in a group as an introvert. These are all the things I did to make group travel just that tad bit easier and to make sure I didn’t hit burn out point (or at least not multiple times anyway!).
1. Stay somewhere alone for the first few days
Arrive at your destination early and spend some time alone ’cause trust me, you’re not gonna get any alone time once your tour starts! Use this time to adjust to the time zone, catch up on sleep and acclimatise to your new destination.
I spent five days alone in Auckland before my New Zealand tour and even as the world’s biggest introvert I was itching to spend time with other people by the time the expedition rolled around. This meant that I was in a really good place to meet new people and make a good first impression. I was making friends because I wanted to, not because I felt forced to.
If you haven’t got the finances or time to travel before the start of your group tour, instead try to ensure that you have had plenty of downtime before you go away. You’ll be starting your trip on a bad foot if you have just spent the past week with loads of coworkers, family and friends. You want to start your group tour wanting to see other humans. Starting the tour already craving time alone will not set you up for success.
2. Take any opportunity you can to be alone
It’s ridiculous how much of a difference just spending twenty minutes alone every day can have on your wellbeing. You may think it may be difficult to find this time but if you go out of your way to ensure you get it, you will. I recommend doing your food shopping by yourself. Just stick your earphones in and take your time perusing the aisles!
But the supermarket doesn’t have to be your downtime if that doesn’t work for you. If you’re lucky enough to stay in a single location for a decent period of time, find your quiet space. This could be a library, a museum, a park, a cafe or even that reading/media room at each hostel that hardly gets used.
Perhaps I’m clutching at straws but another opportunity for alone time is in the shower. If you like having long ass showers anyway (girls and guys, I can RELATE), this is perfect for you. If your hostel isn’t too crap and the hot water lasts more than five minutes (someone’s hit the jackpot!), make the most of having long showers. That way not only will you smell and look beautiful, which is a difficult feat to achieve when you’re living in hostels, but you also get some much-needed alone time.
3. Stay in smaller dorm rooms if possible
If you’re travelling as part of a pre-booked tour, as this blog suggests, choosing your dorm size may prove difficult. However, some nights on our tour there were rooms available for just four people and others that were for over ten people. Then we’d have to split ourselves accordingly between the group. If you can be persuasive, try to nab yourself a bed in one of the smaller rooms! Odds are you’re not gonna be able to stay in a private room, so this is your second-best option.
4. Make the most of long journeys
If you are travelling in a big group as part of a travel tour, you’ll likely be moving from place to place very regularly. Your time on buses or trains is the perfect opportunity for some alone time. Why? Because, believe me, everyone else will be completely shattered from all of the travelling. And even the extroverts in the group will probably use this time as downtime.
It may not be the case for the first two days but by the end of the tour, it definitely will be. So stick your earphones in, watch a film, read a book or just be alone with your thoughts. It’s up to you! If you haven’t already figured out what it is that helps you recharge then this is the perfect opportunity to do just that.
5. Be open-minded – you may just surprise yourself!
The most important piece of advice I could give to an introvert embarking on a group travel tour is to be open-minded! I never took time off simply for the sake of taking time off or because I knew that is what I would normally do in such a situation. I only took time off if I thought it was an absolute necessity.
And because I took this open-minded approach, I ended up surprising myself (and all my family and friends back home!). Somehow on this trip I, wait for it…, temporarily got a taste of the extroverted life. *crowd goes wild*.
It is mad how quickly I adjusted to this new environment. I was shocked to find that spending time with everyone was by far my favourite part of the trip. Somehow the biggest introvert on the planet suddenly couldn’t cope being alone anymore.
Over the course of six weeks, I only hit a wall once where I spent the whole weekend in bed watching Netflix by myself. But that was it. Just a single weekend! And if, or when, you do hit a wall, I promise that people will understand. You’ll be with a whole host of different personalities from all kinds of backgrounds so there will always be someone who understands your situation.
Granted, I reverted to my typical introverted self on returning to ol’ Blighty. But at least I know that if I ever find myself in an environment where I am forced to be a temporary extrovert, I can and I will. And you may just surprise yourself too!
Are you an introvert or an extrovert? How do you think this has impacted the way you travel? If you have any questions related to introvert travel, hit me up in the comments section below!
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