7 travel tips for introverts

Guest post by Sarah Davis
Let's Go Adventuring

I’m on summer vacation and technically unemployed until my PhD starts in the fall, so I’m spending about a month traveling to see family and friends. I’ll be staying with my mom, my in-laws, my cousin, and three separate pairs of friends, all at their homes.

I love traveling like this because I get to see how different people live and try new things all month long. As an introvert, I find that there are a few things I can do, while spending time at various homes, to make sure I’m recharged in order to enjoy the high amounts of social time for the next month…

1. Keep/start an exercise routine

Physical activity is vital for me, and I find that I enjoy running every other day for about twenty minutes when I’m traveling. I’m not really a runner, but knowing it will help with other things (namely hiking and hockey) can help motivate me. It also makes me feel better getting all those good brain chemicals flowing.

I also use some apps (see tip number two below) to keep track of things and have other activities I can do. Even if running isn’t your jam, going for a walk can help you get out of the house and see the neighbourhood where you’re staying.

2. Use technology to maintain consistency

While running, I listen to the same podcasts so I can stay up to date with them. I also downloaded a few apps that I can play or engage with every day in order to track how I’m spending my time.

And keeping my other writing project on Dropbox or Google Drive helps me access my writing from anywhere. I find that sometimes writing in a different space after time spent with loved ones I don’t get to see that often provides me with creativity and inspiration I don’t get from my daily routine.

3. Pack light

I have with me right now a carry-on suitcase and a backpack. This allows me to move around easily, take public transport (which helps with costs), and fit in any room in which I’m staying.

4. Bring snacks

I don’t realize how much I eat during the day until I stay with others who have different eating schedules (I’m a grazer, eating many times during the day). So having a few granola bars is an easy way to make sure I have something with me if I get hungry. I’m also a vegetarian, so even though all my friend and family are usually more than accommodating, it provides a buffer zone for those moments when vegetarian food is not available. This little bit of planning ahead helps me be able to stay more spontaneous.

5. Say yes and try new things

While this one may be confusing as to how it helps an introvert like me travel better, it actually is very important. Sometimes I can be a little set in my ways. So when someone asks me if I want to do something, I try to say yes and go along with their plans or routines so I can see their daily lives up close.

I have regretted not doing things I’ve been invited to because I thought I needed alone time. Usually the best activities are the ones chosen by my hosts, and I think it’s part of being a good guest to go along with their ideas. (This is also something my partner has done for years, and I’ve always admired that about him).

6. Don’t be afraid to take time for yourself

Sometimes, I do need a break and need to take time for myself. By monitoring how I’m feeling, I can advocate for myself by taking a nap, reading, going for a walk, or doing an activity by myself that will recharge me and get me ready to be social again. This can be difficult to explain to someone who doesn’t need time alone. But if I’ve had a busy day doing a lot of things, taking one hour or so alone can ensure the evening’s activities will be enjoyable and not draining. But like I said in number five, I want to do it when something isn’t planned so I don’t miss out on a cool experience.

7. Be aware of your hosts

Sometimes the timing isn’t perfect, and I end up staying with people when they have other visitors, or they just got back from a trip or have to work or other life events. While it’s awesome to still be able to stay with them, I try to communicate with them about their schedule and assure them I am perfectly happy to spend time by myself exploring the city on my own. Honestly, sometimes just going to a coffee shop by myself works. Finding an event I can go to is also a good way to explore an area on my own.

I realize this may be difficult for some people, but if you aren’t used to traveling by yourself, this can be a good way to break out of that comfort zone and have new experiences.

We’d love to hear from other traveling introverts! How do you balance socializing, couch surfing, and alone time on trips?

Comments on 7 travel tips for introverts

  1. Oh, snacks! Good idea. I rarely bring enough snacks and then the social burnout can be compounded by the hangriness.

    Taking time for yourself can be especially important if there’s no guest room, since then you’re in a common area or on the floor of their bedroom. Coffee shops work, but I love visiting public libraries–no obligation to buy anything, and it’s fun to see how different places are laid out and what kinds of displays the librarians put together regionally. Introvert bonus: you’re not supposed to talk!

    • I agree with you about visiting public libraries! I usually like exploring them anyways and it’s a great place to get lost for a couple of hours without, like you say, feeling pressured to buy things. I think there are many places to spend time alone when travelling, and another one for me is museums because they tend to be quiet. I try to find free or discount days for museums to also help keep the cost down.

  2. Even though I’m a big introvert, I don’t find staying with family to be a drain on my system. I rarely stay with friends these days – most of my friends aren’t really the types to welcome a guest for more than one night at most.

    But my general tip to maintain comfort and familiarity while couch surfing and changing location frequently is to pack your favorite and most comfortable clothes (or whatever clothes make you feel most like yourself).

  3. Number 6 is the key. As a introvert, I need time to recharge your batteries every day. What I do is
    – find out about my hosts’ schedule or daily habits, and find a way to work around it to incorporate some alone time. Example: my mom goes to bed very early, around 9:00 pm, while I don’t sleep before 11:00. Knowing that allows me to spend as much time with her as possible when she’s awake, and keep some time for me-activities like taking a bath or reading after her bedtime without seeming rude.
    – if economically possible, try not to spend every waking moment with people. Take the train instead of carpooling, indulge one night in a motel/hostel instead of couchsurfing. I spent one month back home in July, and had to cover some long distances between hosts. I could have carpooled (very popular means of transportation in Europe) and chatted all the way with friendly strangers, BUT after spending nearly all my time with friends, and about to spend nearly all my time with relatives, I felt drained and needed a break. I took the train, turned on some headphones and relished in the fact that I didn’t need to speak to anybody for some hours.
    – if you feel your host is a fellow introvert straining themselves to keep you company while you both need some alone time, bring up the topic. This could bring much relief and ease some guilt from both parts.

  4. This is great! Frankly, I have never stayed with anyone as an adult and I can’t imagine doing so because I feel it would be just too troubling. I’m going to be honest, the people I feel most comfortable with are other introverts who don’t expect too much from me or think I’m unsociable! I’m definitely keeping these tips in mind if I ever do have to stay with someone, though.

  5. Great tips, and just at the right time for me. My mother in law just invited us to join her, my brother in law and his wife, and their 2 kids on vacation a few months. It’s unclear if we’ll have a private unit or if we’ll be sharing. Honestly I’m dreading it. My husband comes from a larger family who have always traveled together and are very flexible about accommodations. I come from a small family, and I’m very introverted (not antisocial). I need a fair amount of space and time to myself to recharge on a regular day, but it’s even more important when socializing with family.

    But my MIL does not understand this at all. She wants to socialize morning to night, does not require alone time, and thinks it’s rude if I need to go off on my own for awhile. While I do make it a point to stretch my social limits to keep up with hers, I have to advocate for my needs or it won’t be pretty.

    Doing daily exercise (that must be done alone, like gym time or running) is a great idea. It will give me an hour or so to myself. I can also go to bed early, even though I don’t actually go to bed early.

    • It can be difficult to explain your need for alone time to other people. But, like you say, going for a walk or run can be a good way to get some time alone to yourself even if it’s not really a habit at home. I also like the idea of going to bed early to get some alone time!

  6. Good timing, for me and useful tips. I’m in the midst of planning a trip to the US with my parents next year (I live in Ireland, they live in England). My Mother wants to see where our American ancestors settled and find out more about them. My Father is 82 years old and my Mother, whilst a good bit younger, has requested that I plan the trip in its entirety as she can’t face the stress of the planning. This is good for me as I enjoy this kind of planning (I am a project manager) but it is certainly going to be a challenging (and hopefully rewarding!) trip for all of us. My Mother doesn’t like flying so we are going to Chicago via new York as that is the shortest flight to the US. My Father, although in great shape for his age, can’t walk too far without taking a break and is also a very nervous car passenger (I’ll be driving from Chicago to Napoleon, OH). I am an introvert and so spending all of that time (2 weeks) with my parents is going to be very draining for me. I’ve already had a chat with my Mum to explain that on days where we are sight-seeing, I may need to go off on my own for an hour or two, to re-charge. I am worried about losing my temper and having a short-fuse with them. Not because of any major underlying conflict, just as a result of falling into the old child-parent roles which we do whenever I spend more than a few days with them. I know I need to devise some strategies for myself when I feel it coming on. Your advice about being prepared is bang on and I’ll definitely have some podcasts and snacks on hand!

    • It might be better than you expect, Heather. My mom and I went to Ireland and London last year. She fell into “parent” mode on the last day of our 2.5 week trip. She lasted a lot longer than I expected! A friend of mine joined us in Ireland for a week so I’m sure that helped, too.

      I think that it helped that it was her first trip overseas while I have been all over the world.
      Our roles were shaken up because of that. We actually had a lovely time in both countries and I would travel with her again.

      It could be that with your parents “depending” on you this trip to a foreign country that you won’t fall into old roles. This trip will be very different from spending a week with them at their home during the holidays.

      Have fun and welcome to the US!

      • Thanks, KT, I hadn’t thought of it like that. It is usually on ‘their turf’ that I am spending time with them (i.e. in the family home) and so it’s not surprising that we fall into the roles we had when I left home as a teenager. It will be interesting to see how it pans out with us both being in a new environment. Cheers! x

  7. These are all good tips, though Number 7 is for everyone that visits or stays with other people. While I am glad to have people stay occasionally (though more so before I had a kid), I hate it when people just sit there, waiting for me to entertain them. Not only am I an introvert who likes to withdraw to the bedroom to be alone now and then, I also can’t take a week off for everyone that comes.
    My MIL thought I didn’t want them here, because I often went to my bedroom for an hoir after a day of sightseeing. I love them, I was glad for my husband and it was all good, but the constant need for happy face and talking drained me…

    • I hear you about it being draining to be social, especially when being the host as well. I actually learned that taking time as a host for yourself is also important from a fellow introvert friend. At first I thought it was strange he would say he needed time to himself for one day, but I liked that it gave me alone time as well.

  8. These are great tips, but I think most of ’em apply to everyone, not just introverts! Having an exercise routine is a good excuse to get some alone time in, though, as is making plans to go see sites/museums/etc on your own or planning to be home for a bit while your hosts are at work. That’s the toughest part for me- I don’t want to be a boring guest, but I neeeeed some alone time.

  9. I am planing a trip with my introvert husband this November. As the family extrovert (2 humans to XXL kitties) I occassionally struggle to understand his introvert needs. Especially when we are abroad and I’m excited to do and see everything and meet all the new people.

    Any advice from introvert adventurers on how to best accommodate an introvert travel companion’s needs?

    • Good question! I would suggest writing down your plans (as loose as they may be) on a calendar so your hubby can schedule in some time for himself. For me, sometimes I don’t join in on all activities so I can have that time to explore by myself or however I want to spend that time. When my partner and I travel, we will often have “separate” days where we do our own thing. Obviously, there are some things that will be more important than others, but I think it’s important for both of you to feel okay with saying yes or no to events that pop up during your trip. Have fun on your travels!

    • Try to remember that being introverted isn’t the same as being disinterested, or anti social. I love visiting friends and socializing, it’s important and contributes to my overall happiness and wellbeing. But it also saps my energy, it doesn’t give me energy (like it does for many extroverts). So I need to retreat to my own space frequently while traveling (and at home) to rest and recharge. It can seem a bit odd sometimes that I’d rather turn in early or skip an adventure to read or rest (even if it means skipping something awesome), but trust me, if I don’t do that it will be bad news for everyone. I’ll get extremely cranky and I’ll me more likely to disengage entirely rather than engage naturally at my own pace. So, first thing is to not take it personally if it seems like he doesn’t want to spend time with you. He does, he just can’t enjoy that time unless he’s had time to fill his batteries first. Secondly, if you like to plan multiple activities in a given day, maybe let him pick one or two and plan to do the others solo or with other people. Introverts can often feel overwhelmed by too many activities, and it only adds to our guilt/frustration when others are frustrated that we can’t do more. Choose the most important things to you and ask him to participate in just those things. He and you will enjoy them so much more if both of you both have the energy for them.

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