Traveling as an introvert

Traveling as an introvert is its own special breed of adventure. I find myself one or two or no friends in every city instead of a group. I wander alone, noticing a lot (because I’m not distracted by and exerting energy toward my companions instead of my surroundings) and being noticed a lot (especially in a place like India where being alone, particularly as a woman, is still considered odd). I settle into a micro-rhythm for the days or weeks I’m in one place and get to know my small orbit well, taking comfort in it even as I miss out on the unseen wonders that could be literally just around the corner.

But am I really missing out? A recent article on the Matador Network emphatically tells me that I am. The article explained that introverts “make the assumption that everyone around us is watching every move we make—judging us, waiting for us to embarrass ourselves,” turn down opportunities only to be “left with a lingering moment of regret—of having missed out on a moment that you’ll never experience again,” and shouldn’t “settle for being an introvert.”

Perhaps the author was trying to empower introverts by putting all those awkward feelings out in the open. On a certain level, she’s not wrong; I’ve felt all of those things, abroad and at home, many times over. But after I finished the article I felt distinctly unsettled. Then I realized why: her words reeked to me of shame, suggesting that being an introvert was something to move past, not something to embrace. To her (at least in this article), traveling as an introvert is traveling in fear. As such, she advises her readers to “do the opposite of what your instincts tell you.”

What she misses is the self-care, the wisdom, the joy that can result from exactly the behaviors she suggests we avoid. I’m not saying that you should always leave the party and turn down the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity chance, or that you should never push yourself. I am saying that sometimes it’s better when you don’t. Because it saves your energy for the next opportunity that comes along. Because you relish the space to observe and absorb. Because, in my experience, trusting your instincts is paramount to safety. And most of all, because sometimes it’s what makes you happier.

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