Being an introvert and a traveler is not as hard on the mind or the wallet as you might think. I’m a pretty hardcore introvert, avidly avoiding too much social interaction (especially unplanned) and large crowds. I crave being alone and having downtime to just curl up with a book or a movie with no interruptions and no other humans about (animals, on the other hand, are a-ok!). Introverts need this to re-energize before going back out in the busy world. Travel can be all about fighting the crowds at major tourist attractions and trying to fit as many sites and activities into your trip as possible. For budget travelers, the cheapest room around is often a dorm at a hostel, where you have to share your space and there are always tons of other boisterous travelers around socializing with each other. Even if you are on a budget, there are ways to have a fabulous travel experience as an introvert. Here are my top 5 tips for introverted travelers.
1. Treat Yourself to Privacy
For introverts, privacy is paramount! I feel so much better when I can close a door on my own space and know that I will not be interrupted. Hostel dorm rooms are usually the cheapest option for accommodation, and, sure, you can stick in some noise canceling headphones and try to focus in on a movie or drown out the crowd with some music while you read. This certainly helps, but I still find myself tense and on edge, alert to every sound and movement around me, so I can’t truly relax. Why do that to yourself when there are other options?
I say it is well worth it to treat yourself to some much-needed privacy. Most hostels have private rooms in addition to their dorm rooms. These will cost you more but are still cheaper than most hotel rooms. I’ve often found, however, that the cheapest private rooms around are actually ones people rent in their homes through Airbnb and other peer-to-peer renting websites. You can also rent entire apartments or guest houses very inexpensively. Learn all about how that works in my Beginner’s Guide. If you’re new to Airbnb, you can get $40 off your first booking by clicking this link.
On a super tight budget? My post on 5 Ways to Sleep for Free goes into some of the best ways to catch some ZZZs for absolutely nothing. My favorite of this, and the best one for introverted travelers, is house sitting. I go more into depth in my post 5 Benefits of House Sitting but basically, it is an exchange where you take care of someone’s house and probably their pet(s) while they are away and get a free place to stay in exchange. It’s a whole house or apartment to yourself for free! So nice to come back to a homey atmosphere and complete privacy after a day out exploring a foreign place.
2. Plan a Slow-Paced Itinerary
When you shell out the big bucks to travel to an exotic and exciting new destination, it’s tempting to try to see and do as much as possible. You want to experience everything after traveling so far and make the trip worth it. But if you are too tense and exhausted to enjoy it, is it really worth seeing so much? If you have the time, give yourself a few days or weeks in each stop on your trip. This way, you can spread out all the things you want to experience so you don’t get overwhelmed.
If you are short on time and money, I still wouldn’t overpack your itinerary. Research all the things on offer in your destinations and pick the one or two you are most interested in. Give yourself plenty of time to do these. If they don’t take as long as you thought or you still have plenty of energy when you finish, pick another attraction or activity and, by all means, have another experience!
I also like to pair a busy experience with a more laid-back one. I’ll plan to visit, say, a famous museum in the morning, then go to a park or garden in the afternoon. I’ll brave the crowds to see the popular attraction, but then give myself a break by wandering in nature or even taking a nap in the grass. Build in time to stop and smell the roses. If you are planning to go out at night, return to your accommodation mid-afternoon for a few hours to re-energize before heading back out.
It’s all about balance. You might not check off everything on each destination’s “must-do” list, but your overall experience of the place will be so much more enjoyable. Quality over quantity! Plus, if you don’t do every last thing it’ll give you an excuse to come back in the future ?
3. Explore on Foot or by Bike
Renting a car or taking cabs and Ubers can add up quickly! I usually opt for public transportation instead, but especially during peak travel times, this can mean a crowded and noisy journey – not a favorite introvert experience. Thus, if my destination is less than two or three miles away, I tend to walk. Walking may be slower, but you see so much more. It gives you the change to get a good look at your surroundings and take everything in. Whizzing by on a bus, you might not notice that beautifully carved door knocker, or be able to stop in at the cute hole-in-the-wall shop or cafe. You can control how you get places when you walk, taking less crowded streets or veering through parks. I enjoy actively getting lost, just going where my feet take me. You never know what hidden gems you might discover this way!
You can increase your range and speed, while keeping to these same ideas, by renting a bike. A lot of big cities have stands where you can take a bike from one location and return it to another. You pay for the time you use it. This makes it super easy to get around. If this isn’t an option, look online for a shop that rents bikes by the hour, day, or week. Some hostels might rent or sign out bikes to their guests, or you can rent one from a local through a peer-to-peer site.
4. Visit Small Towns
It’s very tempting when traveling to hit up the biggest cities in whatever country you are visiting – London in England, Tokyo in Japan, Johannesburg in South Africa. Of course, the big cities are usually the easiest to get to and have the most attractions and activities. But they are also crowded and busy, and sometimes only represent a portion of the locals. While I certainly like to check out the main hubs, I also make a point to visit small towns where it’s easier to be comfortable as an introvert. These are often quaint, picturesque, and less busy. They give you a more well-rounded idea of the culture and lifestyle of your destination by showing a rural side of it.
I’m headed to Prague, Czech Republic tomorrow (which is a very cool and picturesque city by the way) but after spending a few days in the big capital I plan to take the local bus to a small town of Cesky Krumlov, near the Austrian border. While this is still a know tourist destination, it’s nowhere near the size of Prague. I look forward to checking out a less crowded place at a slower pace and see another side of Czech life.
5. Get Out in Nature
I always feel recharged when I’m outside. There’s something about taking a walk in old, green forest, relaxing on a sandy beach, or admiring the view from the top of a mountain that appeals to my introverted nature. I can take a deep breath an smile. There are tons of fantastic destinations where the big draw is nature – the fjords of Norway, the Alps, African safaris, or the beaches of the Caribbean. Typically, I prefer these destinations to bustling cities with sprawling populations. I recommend introverts consider choosing a more nature-centric place to travel to in the first place, or to make sure to add some nature to a city-based itinerary. Plan a few days in the big metropolis, then take a bus or train outside the main area to a hiking or boating region, even just as a day trip. If you’re really pressed, I find even a few hours meandering in a nice city park or botanical garden will help give me a break from city travel.
So, if you’re an introvert out exploring the world or planning a trip, I hope these tips will help make your travels easier, more enjoyable, and leave you with positive memories and the urge to travel again!
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