Social Life and Personal Sanity Whilst Travelling. It’s a balancing act.
Let’s get this out of the way. “Introverts” is just one of those abstract, polarized labels very much like “hipster” or “vegan”, that even someone who identify with it are not entirely sure that it describes who they are — or want it to be.
I like to think that I’m 61% introvert, 39% extrovert, give or take. Then again that is probably the extrovert part of me trying to impose its dominance because “lately” loudness is a virtue.
Truthfully, I’m a classic introvert. While I adore interacting with people, many of the social interactions I’ve had does nothing but drain my energy. (Legit. I actually feel tired from it). Eventually, I resort to my cave for alone time so I can recharge and appear excited the next time I talk to someone.
A lot of times, introversion is confused with anxiety and shyness (or blurness in my case) where your brain technically tricks you into believing that whatever you do or say will make you look like a moron or that people will laugh at you. Seriously brain?!
I was born with the aforementioned conditions and I dare say I noticed it since I was 4, which largely have been self-medicated through sports, reading, and writing. And occasionally through not giving a rat’s a** the more trips, my body takes around the sun.
Speaking of trips, it may be an overwhelming undertaking when you’re exploring this earth — especially when you’re trying to do it SOLO, or even when you have a familiar friend with you, your inner introvert can at times be self-perpetuating.
Whether you are a blazing extrovert who wears your Myers Briggs acronym on your sleeve, a walk-in closet introvert who’s tired of fighting, or more of a free-flowing ambivert who’s social desires toggles between that of a Buddhist monk and one of those Coachella peoples (say it with the s). Here are several ways that help me balance my personal independence and meaningful human connection as I travel.
|1. Never force it if you feel like not doing something or hanging out with someone. Travelling is ever changing, a constant novelty, more places you want to be in and skip, more situations that will drain you and energize you. Give yourself a listen because your gut will tell you when is the right time to be that spontaneous social butterfly and when you should retreat to yourself for a bit.
|2. Cliché travel small talks are your friend. Silence makes me sweat in the armpit. If I meet someone new I will most likely be the first to ask them When was your last travel? Which countries have you visited? Most times, these questions naturally grow into meaningful and fun conversations. And if it means I get to know about the world a little more from another person’s perspective, no harm right?
| 3. Look for other solo travelers. Sometimes I feel intimidated by a group of travelers who already seem like they are best friends. If it was another solo traveler, it may just seem like you are both on equal footing and probably thinking of the same things as you. Like when I wasn’t sure if my train was ever arriving at Southern Cross station in Melbourne. I noticed a girl who seemed lost too and was looking back and forth at the announcement board, her phone and me. I got up and asked hey, you wondering if your train is coming through here? Apparently, she needed to get on the same train as me, so we decided to wait and hop on together. While waiting we had a long chat about her time in Melbourne until she had to get off at her stop.
|4. Day tours are like your go-to socializing snack. As I travel more, I value my freedom and prefer exploring in small groups and tend to avoid the big ones. But occasionally some company is nice. Plus there are many sights that you can’t access without a local. And since you are stuck in a group, eventually you are going to have to chat and socialize.
Going on a guided sea kayak or a guided hike at an active volcanic mountain is surely a great way to get to know people. The idle time in your transport vehicle is the best time to create a chat. Eg. What’s the smelliest and tastiest fruit in the world? Wow…Malaysians eat rice for breakfast?! All of a sudden you find yourself discussing and taking turns telling stories of what your country usually have for breakfast.
|5. Stay at a local’s place. One that doesn’t mind interacting with you and doesn’t mind showing off hospitality. There are many ways you can do this. Airbnb is a great place to start. Some hosts are accommodating and don’t mind interacting with you. (Read the reviews). Some even organize local tours for you to join. If you are able to find a decent host with a decent place to stay plus a tour organized by the host themselves, you are pretty much set.
Yes, it’s a smaller group then if you stay at a hostel but at least you get privacy and still get to socialize, interact and who knows, make lifelong friends.
If not Airbnb, make friends with an expat who is already living in the place you plan to visit. I’m being serious about this. You can join travel Facebook groups or even chat up the idea of you coming to town and that you need someone to show you around. With this approach, you won’t necessarily get free accommodation but you gain a friend you can look forward to meeting when you get there.
|6. Remember that your insatiable love-soul for planet earth is surrounded by its brothers and sisters. In my daily life (when I’m home), I probably only click with 10% of the people I meet on a level of where I think, “O yea, we could totally be friends!”
While I’m travelling, that number can easily be at 80% because we could all agree that we all have this insane crush on our huge, crazy planet and we are always curious about other people and cultures. What’s amazing is we have a resilient to handle the rough bits of travel too. We all have red ants in our pants and can’t really sit still. (I literally have red ants in my pants right now because my home is a jungle).
When you have this mindset and think of the similarities, the world won’t seem so strange anymore and strangers are just friends you haven’t exchanged Whatsapp info with yet.
So there you have it. Lots of innies and outies on the road and infinite ways for our travel lusting souls to sync. How and where is entirely up to you and the universe.
Travel on my friends!