Dear introverted, socially anxious, or shy solo traveler,
I know you. I know you because I am you. I love traveling on my own, so much so that I’m in the middle of doing just that for eight weeks. And I consider myself in turns introverted, socially anxious, and shy. (Yes, these are all different things. For details, please see .)
Some of you may be thinking, “An introvert traveling alone? Sounds like a dream come true!” Yes and no. It’s a fabulous feeling to wake each morning with a whole empty day stretching before you, waiting to be filled with your plans. You can sleep luxuriously late or rise with the sun; you can skip a meal in favour of a hasty granola bar or linger for three hours over a gourmet lunch. The time is your own, and no one else can lay claim to it.
But traveling on your own also comes with certain pressures and expectations. I remember one guy I befriended earlier in my trip telling me after a few days, “I didn’t think we’d get along.” When I pressed him to elaborate, he explained it was because the day we met, I was in my bunk reading in the mid-afternoon. “I, on the other hand,” he confided, “am trying to soak up everything I can out of this experience.”
Huh. Well, so am I. Aren’t I?
…I am, right?
Well, let’s see. Am I being social enough? Is it bad that I took a nap yesterday instead of continuing to explore? Have I met enough new people? Am I putting myself out there? I mean, really out there? Did I fly all the way here just to read?
And so it begins.
But, my dear introverted traveler, if there is one thing I want you to know, it is this: It’s okay.
It’s okay to feel the pressure. It comes from a variety of sources, implicit and explicit. Acknowledge its existence, reconcile yourself to the feeling, and then keep doing you.
It’s okay to spend an entire afternoon just sitting in a coffee shop or park. Read, journal, people-watch, write postcards, listen to music. This is a cultural experience too.
It’s okay to take 30 seconds to psyche yourself up before going into a social setting. I always stop 10 meters away from a social gathering and remind myself of my best friend’s advice as I embarked on this adventure: be good, be safe, be bold.
It’s okay to have entire cities where you don’t put yourself out there socially. After spending two weeks of my trip with my amazing family, I needed to take the next five days or so as introvert refueling time. I barely talked to anyone in Venice or Vienna, but I had an amazing time nonetheless. And I was ready to start meeting people again in Prague.
It’s okay to go take a nap. Is hitting one more museum going to be fun, or is it going to be a chore because you’re exhausted? Listen to your body. Travel at the speed of you. That’s the beauty of solo travel.
It’s okay to say “yes.” “No” is my default answer – I have a number of frustrated friends who will vouch for this. Surprise yourself once in a while by saying yes. Yes, let’s travel together; yes, let’s check out that park tomorrow morning; yes, let’s stay in touch. You may even find yourself starting to issue invitations of your own.
It’s okay to say “no.” Trust yourself. If it feels weird, if you’re approaching burnout, if you don’t want to abandon your hot date with a good book in the city park, “no” is okay too. Just don’t default to it. Listen, process, respond.
Introverted solo traveler: you are a rock star. Take your time, trust your intuition. You know how to make this the trip you’ve always dreamed of. Don’t let the pressure get to you, just keep being awesome.