I love the article Confessions of An Introverted Traveler. Finally someone has written something that dispels the myth that all introverted personality types are socially awkward loners and therefore bad travel companions.
I’m an introvert, which is a fact that most of my friends find hard to believe. “But you talk so much!” is their usual response.
I think that their dismay has a lot to do with the common misconception that all introverts are shy, when really, one has nothing to do with the other. Shyness is defined as ‘a fear of social interactions’, which can just as easily effect extravert’s as it can introverts. The only difference is that a shy person might avoid a noisy, crowded party because she is afraid to interact with people she doesn’t know, whereas an introvert might avoid it simply because she prefers the quiet company of a few close friends instead.
I’m not shy. I don’t hesitate to talk to strangers. And I’m no more nervous before speaking in public than anyone else. I’ve acted in plays, spoken in front of thousands of people and every job I’ve had to date has been in the customer service or hospitality field. I’m also the girl who sings karaoke stone-cold sober…and loves it.
And yet, I always have to schedule in alone time; a chance to unwind, or otherwise my brain feels so overstimulated that I get stressed and can’t think straight. When I worked on a cruise ship, for example, I had to talk to strangers all day long. Being an introvert, I detest small talk, and it always amazed me how quickly conversations with the passengers would go from “So is this your first cruise?” to “How did you feel when you woke up in that overturned car and thought you were going to die?” In other words, conversations had a way of turning really intense.
But everytime without fail, at the end of my 12 hour shift, I’d find that all of my mental and emotional energy was completely sapped. While my fellow crew members would head to the crew bar, I’d go back to my cabin, crawl into my bunk bed, turn the lights down and just veg out. I’d find myself so drained that I didn’t even have the energy to read or watch TV.
But as difficult it is at times, I love being an introvert. I love that I’m a deep thinker, analytical, creative, independent and autonomous. And I love to travel with people like that, too.
In the article the author, Sophia Dembling, discusses how much she hates the bed and breakfasts where you’re forced to dine with other guests and make idle chit-chat (“So where ya’ll from?”). I whole-heartily agreed with that and would even extend that idea to cruises. Even though I worked on a cruise ship (and loved it!), I would never, ever take a cruise as a passenger. Group-style dining in large, brightly-lit dining rooms? No thanks. Bingo? Group tours? Scavenger hunts? No way.
I think it’s a shame that introversion isn’t seen as more positive personally trait in the US. Outgoing, talkative multi-tasking extroverts are usually hired over their quieter, methodical, counterparts and that’s completely unfair. Introverted children are often labeled as ‘anti-social’ and grow up with the belief that their natural craving for peace and quiet is inherently wrong and something to be ashamed of. I was told repeatedly that because I was quiet and liked to read that I should become a librarian. A librarian!
It wasn’t until I moved abroad that I realized that this extroversion-favoritism didn’t exist the world over. In Japan, for example, being overly-chatty, assertive and loud are personality traits that are considered undesirable and even rude. The same goes for many Scandinavian countries where trying to engage in mindless small-talk with strangers will elicit dirty looks.
So I guess the point I want to make is that there’s nothing wrong with being an introvert. The world needs introverts. And the world needs thoughtful, introspective travelers as well. Some of the best travel writers are introverts, as were great thinkers like Einstein, Edison and Darwin. Steven Spielberg is an introvert and so is David Letterman, Steve Martin, Julia Roberts, Tom Hanks, Harrison Ford and Christina Aguilera. The list goes on and on…
For more information on how to embrace your inner introvert, read this fabulous blog: