Attention, introverts: Tips for how to travel for your temperament

Nov 11, 2017
  • By Keri Wiginton
  • Special to the American-Statesman
Contributed by Keri Wiginton
Introverts can still have amazing travel experiences. Keri Wiginton for American-Statesman

I become overwhelmed if I’m out in the world for too long. Having to navigate crowds or schedule too many events can leave me both physically and mentally exhausted. Add in air travel and just getting to my destination can be tiring.

As an introvert, this makes traveling a tricky endeavor.

The basic definition of an introvert is someone whose energy flows inward. We are drained, not energized, by social interactions and external stimuli. Unfortunately, we can be labeled as antisocial when we leave an event early or say no to that cruise all our friends are taking.

Introversion — not to be confused with shyness — is part of one’s nature. It’s hard-wired and isn’t something that can change, writes Marti Olsen Laney, a psychotherapist and author of “The Introvert Advantage: How to Thrive in an Extrovert World.” An introvert is sort of like a rechargeable battery, Olsen writes. They need to calculate how much energy something will take and how much they need to preserve and plan accordingly.

My introverted idea of a good time is spending hours reading or traipsing through nature. I like socializing, but only for so long and with certain people. If I never go to a party again, it’ll be too soon.

If you’re an introvert, here are some tips to help you travel for your temperament so you can wander without the weariness.

Prep for plane travel

My noise-canceling headphones have been a game-changer for plane and train travel. I pop them on when I’m waiting at the gate and play some nature sounds from my white noise app when I need to drown out the crowds.

I keep my headphones on while boarding to head off any potential small talk from my seatmate. And I always travel with more than one book, just in case I get bored.

Pace yourself

If you’re a little jet-lagged and you’ve already been to two museums, think again before deciding to hit more sites and head to dinner without a break.

Not respecting your limits can put you in a bad mood and leave you with little energy if you push through your fatigue, warned Sophia Dembling, a travel writer and author of “The Introvert’s Way: Living a Quiet Life in a Noisy World.”

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“My brain starts to feel tired like a muscle feels tired,” said Dembling. “I just feel worn down or I start zoning out or I get irritable.”

Set aside some alone time throughout the day, suggested Dembling. Give yourself an hour in the morning to have some coffee in your hotel room, take a walk in the afternoon or sneak away to a quiet room or café.

“Sometimes all it takes is sitting in the bathroom for 15 minutes,” she added.

Pick the right activity

Travel spots aren’t one-size-fits-all. Some introverts love the wilderness and some love exploring a new city. While my favorite vacation spots are in the mountains or on the beach, I’ve also navigated the crowded streets of Hong Kong and mainland China while keeping my calm. (Pro tip: Find a quiet teashop.)

If you’re in a city with a lot of hustle and bustle, carve out some places in your schedule where you can recharge. If you have to spend three hours sightseeing, plan some time to visit a local botanical garden, public park or even duck into a bookstore for some peace and quiet.

“It really doesn’t matter as much about the place,” said Dembling. “It matters how you figure out how to take care of yourself and your introversion while also enjoying those places.

Communicate with your travel partner

If you’re traveling with an extrovert, explain your needs and set boundaries to preserve your quiet time. Discuss splitting up if your travel mate wants to check out the crowded museum while you people-watch in the park.

If you’re in an introvert-extrovert relationship and one needs to go out and the other needs to stay in, there needs to be a mutual understanding that each needs to do their own thing, said Dembling.

“No guilt-tripping. No pretending it’s OK, but it’s not really OK,” she emphasized.

And no, there’s nothing wrong with being an introvert

In our extroverted society, introversion is sometimes seen as something to overcome. If someone doesn’t understand that you get tired from being around anyone too much, not just them, it can lead to hurt feelings. The key is letting them know, “It’s not you, it’s me,” explained Dembling.

“When we get overextended, we’re not a lot of fun to be around,” said Dembling. “And so, if you start saying, ‘Look, I’ll be a lot more fun if you give me an hour to just sit in a closet,’ eventually it might get through to them.”