Since I was a child, the middle child at that, I've always cherished time to myself. After a long day of being huddled up with friends at school, I gleefully leaped off of the bus and ran to my room to be alone with my books.
At 26, not much has changed but the scenery. I've exchanged crowded classrooms for exotic beaches and yellow school buses for bullet trains and Amazonian fields. After a jam-packed day of exploring foreign lands, at the end of the day, I just want to be alone with a book.
People often ask, "How could you travel alone? I need my #squad at all times!"
I think traveling solo is the best thing since sliced grain-free vegan bread.How people think solo travelers feel vs. how we really feel when we explore alone. Photo: Courtesy of Travel For The Low
This is why traveling solo and being an introvert are a match made in heaven:
1. We don't mind eating alone
I actually prefer to eat alone. The most nerve-wracking time living in Spain were the drawn out communal meals. Just imagine 1.5 hours of staring at strangers in the eyes as they slop on paella, slurp on warm beer and release all types of cringeworthy sounds. TWICE A DAY. Eating turned into a treacherous minefield of mentally blocking out the ungodly noises, scrambling together some incomprehensible Spanish to defend my vegetarian eating habits and kindly turning down all animal-filled dishes passed my way. Not to mention my level of Spanish was so remedial that I barely knew what anyone was saying.
Eating in groups is the most uncomfortable time for me. Bring it, empty table.
2. We survive without being constantly entertained
My extroverted friends need a full schedule of quality time, 10 major landmarks to explore daily and hours of endless talking and attention from strangers. I get the most enjoyment from blending in with the locals as much as possible and silently comparing the minor differences of the last location with the new one as I walk down the street.Hanging out with a new friend in Finland
3. Alone and happy > annoyed with company
Just a few days ago, I was determined to see one of my favorite natural occurrences, the sunset on Cafe Del Mar in Ibiza. I grabbed my DLSR, strapped my tripod to my backpack and headed west with just enough time to go to the store, buy a box of wine and enjoy the slow stroll to Cafe del Mar. Halfway down the street, a housemate asked if she could join. A reluctant, "yes" slipped out of my lips before my mind could think of a nice way to refuse her company.
She coerced me into trying a new location for the sunset and why not listen to her? She lives on the island full-time. Surely she knows where a nice sunset spot is! Energetically, she led us east on a "short cut" to see the sunset from a new location. I skeptically followed along, licking my finger and putting it in the air as a compass. The compass said we were probably going to miss the sunset. 45 minutes later, still rapidly marching through dilapidated buildings, we missed the sunset. I was incensed. It was my last night on that side of the island and I missed all of my pictures. Fuming inside, I knew that I should have gone alone. I sat there fuming, while she obliviously talked 100 miles a minute, saying flippant things like "Oh well! We should have gone the other way. Why didn't we go the other way? Why don't you just take a picture of the sliver of light poking through these huge buildings? We should have gone west. Who cares, the sunset will happen tomorrow...blah blah blah blah"
4. We enjoy silence
Listening can be a strenuous task, especially when words become superfluous. Deciphering what someone is saying in a foreign language is even harder. Sometimes we introverts just want to sit back and revel in the silence.
5. Constant conversation isn't necessary
I often say that I'm not quiet, I'm just saving up my words for an important topic. Social introverts choose their conversations carefully and end up in amazing conversations. I've discussed 18th-century politics with a stranger on the street and the Vietnam-Cambodian war spontaneously at a festival. Every conversation doesn't have to cover a deep topic but rest assured we'd rather sit in silence than talk about the weather or Miss Piggy and Kermit breaking up.At peace in the flowers in Suomenlinna, Finland
6. We travel at our own pace
When I travel with friends who move at warp speed between six monuments in one day, check off 10 bucket list items, take 45 selfies and then backpack to the next city before dawn, I feel drained by day three. After many years of trial and error, I realize that I am a slow traveler. I can stay in a city for three months and not ever feel like leaving. I love to ingest the subtle nuances of a particular street, culture or city and that happens best when I am alone.
7. We actually enjoy being alone
The phenomenon called loneliness is one I don't know much about. People ask all of the time if I am lonely and my answer is, "How? I'm hanging out with my favorite person all of the time!" Introverts enjoy being with our thoughts. Many times I laugh out loud and have an amazing time laughing with myself about.
8. We're never really alone
People are attracted to solo travelers like a moth to a flame. Once people figure out that you are companionless, they usually stare, come and say hello or ask for a picture. If you oblige, they grill you endlessly about your motivation to see the world alone and then BAM! You aren't alone.
Being introverted can create an issue while traveling with friends but it is perfect for solo traveling. If you ever feel the need to have company, there are many ways to find someone to hang out with.[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="700"] I met other solo traveler, Gloria on instagram and we hung out all day long![/caption]
How to meet a friend for the day:
- Hang out at a popular hotel bar or lobby until you meet someone
- Use websites such as Couchsurfing, Meetup, UrbanBuddy or TripTogether to schedule dates on your lonely days
- Check out apps to share home-cooked meals with locals such as Eatwith, Feastly, Bookalokal,
- Make eye contact with other solo travelers and offer them chocolate.
- A tripod is a dead giveaway for other solo travelers.