Growing up, I always felt a little bit different from my peers. I was very shy around people that I wasn’t yet comfortable with but at home, they often called me a “chatterbox” because I could be just as chatty & outgoing as any kid when I was around my close friends and family.
Other kids labeled me “snobby” because I didn’t go out of my way to make friends– I was happy & comfortable with the friends that I had & didn’t want or need to be surrounded by a lot of people. Sometimes kids would tell me that I “just need to come out of my shell.” “What does that even mean??” I thought.
Once in high school, I was laughing disruptively in class about something a friend said– so out of character for someone so shy. A boy I had gone to school with since elementary school turned to look at me with wide eyes & said, “I don’t think I’ve ever heard you talk! In kindergarten, I asked my mom what was wrong with you because I thought you were mute!” At that, I laughed so I hard that I snorted.
We live in a very extroverted world. Society teaches us from a young age that being outgoing, socially competent, & always surrounded by friends are good traits to have. However, no one really emphasizes the importance of nurturing our reflective, inner souls.
Us introverts tend to get a bad rep because we’re misunderstood. Some labels given to introverts include socially awkward, shy, & loner, among others.
When I was a teenager, my mom gave me a book called “The Introvert Advantage.” Suddenly, years of inner turmoil made sense! Not only did this book give me a glimpse into why I always felt a little bit awkward, it even suggested that being ME could be a good thing– & what a good thing!
Since reading that book, I have had to intentionally overcome shyness to become a much more outgoing introvert. I also decided to embrace my introversion & use it to my advantage– a novel concept!
Today, I don’t think I could be the “glamorous” solo traveler if I hadn’t embraced & accepted my introverted side. In this blog post, I’m going to share 4 benefits of being introverted & how I have called upon these strengths to live a more glamorous life of solo travel.
Last year in Patagonia, I heard about a very famous 4-day hike in Torres Del Paine National Park of Chile. It was a hike I did not want to miss, but the logistics for acquiring reservations for campsites were very difficult. I tried to coordinate with another traveling friend so that we could do the backpacking route together. However, when the very nice owner of a hostel in Puerto Natales helped me to acquire the camping reservations for specific days & my friend had not yet arrived in town, I knew that I would have to do the trek on my own.
For the extrovert, spending 4 days hiking alone would be terrifying. Mind you, this route is very famous & I knew there would be many other backpackers on the trail to help me in the event of an emergency.
Extroverts might cringe at the thought of traveling anywhere alone. However, if us introverts are given a chance to flourish– thank you, mom!– we can become some of the most independent people you will meet.
We tend to rely more on ourselves to accomplish goals. Often, we work better alone at our own methodical pace. Missing out on the 4-day Patagonia hike was not an option in my mind & I didn’t have time to wait on my friend to arrive in Puerto Natales. I went for it. I met many people along the way & embraced & enjoyed all of the alone time with Mother Nature.
Going against society
When you have always felt a little bit different, you become accustomed to & comfortable with doing things outside of the box.
In a society that places high emphasis on extroversion, going against the grain to be my own person & live an unconventional life didn’t seem so daunting– this is just what I’ve always done. Extroverts tend to need approval from outside of themselves. Introverts look inward & are less concerned with the opinion of others.
It would have been extremely difficult to leave my great 40 hour per week job, salary, & benefits if I always cared about what others think of me. Instead, I had to ignore the remarks & criticism of many & trust myself & the people who know me best. In that way, I was able to embark on this glamorous journey.
Last year in the Amazonian city of Iquitos, Peru, I decided to travel by cargo ship down the river to the town of Yurimaguas. Cargo ship travel is a very common mode of transportation for locals, but much less common for solo, gringa travelers.
There are only 2 ways out of Iquitos– air travel (around $200) or cargo ship ($30 for 3 nights & days). Naturally, the cargo ship option sounded much better on my budget & I decided that it could be a fun adventure!
I was warned by many locals that this was no way for a gringa girl to travel solo but I could not be stopped. I did as much advance planning as possible & enlisted the help of the hostel owners at the place I was staying.
Being introverted has given me an ability to be confident that I can take on any challenge, no matter how daunting it might seem to others. I have learned to turn inward to rely on myself &, in doing so, know that I can handle almost any situation that comes my way.
This leads to the next benefit of being introverted.
Being comfortable with myself
I made it safely to the cargo ship port &, once there, reassured myself that I had made a good decision. I hung my hammock on the top deck of the ship at the end of a row of 15 other hammocks. There was nothing to do for 3 full days except lounge in the hammock & attempt to speak Spanish to the boys in the neighboring hammocks.
No one on the ship spoke English & my Spanish was less than conversational at the time. Once again, being introverted had its advantages. I spent my time reading, writing, & napping. I was as happy as a clam swinging in hammock, watching the beautiful Amazon River go by. My neighbors & I shared snacks & attempted to play cards. The understanding between us was very limited but, nonetheless, I felt that we were all friends by the end of 3 days.
Had I not been an introvert– had I not been comfortable being alone in a large crowd of non-English speaking folk– the cargo ship ride might have been extremely unpleasant. Mind you, it was unpleasant for other reasons, but that is a story for another time. It was certainly an adventure & a memory that I cherish.
Making deeper connections
One of my favorite things about traveling solo is that there are so many unique & interesting people to meet! If I were traveling with others, I might not have a need to step out of my pre-existing group to connect with new people.
Even the most introverted among us get lonely. Craving human connection & friendship is normal. Traveling solo allows me to remain open to meeting people rather than staying in my comfort zone, but provides me with opportunities to spend quality time by myself as necessary.
I enjoy thoughtful conversations over mundane small talk & superficial gossip. Almost every traveler has an interesting story to tell & being introverted has given me an ability to connect with people on a deeper level. I love to dig deep to find out what makes other people different. I enjoy listening thoughtfully & contributing to conversations as necessary. Because I have learned to embrace my own unique, introverted side, I have also learned to embrace the uniqueness in others. This helps me to feel deeply connected to almost everyone that I meet & find friends in the most unexpected places.
Nurturing my introverted side has pushed me into so many new opportunities– solo opportunities that might not occur my extrovert peers! I no longer sit & wait for friends to find time to travel with me. Instead, I use introversion to go after things on my own. I spent most of my childhood & some of my adult life waiting for others. Now I get up & make things happen for myself because I know that I am equipped with all of the necessary strengths to live this life.
For more information on introversion, I highly recommend this blog called “Introvert Dear” https://introvertdear.com/what-is-an-introvert-definition/.