After all, even if you’re an introvert who loves learning about new cultures and meeting new people, you may also lose energy in social situations, and need alone time to rally and recharge after outings. That can be harder to find when you’re on the road, out of your usual routine.
So BuzzFeed Travel spoke with Laurie Helgoe, Ph.D., author of Introvert Power: Why Your Inner Life Is Your Hidden Strength, about the best tips for introverted travelers.
As an expert in the field and an introverted adventurer herself, Helgoe had a lot of great advice. Here are her 17 tips.
1. Schedule downtime into your travel schedule.
If you’re traveling with a group, you may want to opt out of some of the activities (ideally, the least important ones). Like, maybe you don’t have to go to group dinner every night. Or if they are going to see something you have no interest in seeing, it’s fine to stay back and recharge.
“You may get FOMO, but allow yourself to deal with it instead of giving into it. Spending time alone replenishes yourself, and that’s really important,” Helgoe explains.
2. Explore on your own terms instead of doing group tours.
Group tours are great, for people who like group tours. “But most introverts are actually passionate observers, which means that they are fine being in the midst of people — as long as they are not part of the crowd,” explains Helgoe.
That means that you may actually prefer simply wandering around on your own and catching the overall vibe of your destination yourself, instead of having someone tell you all about it. Otherwise, if you’re worried about missing out on crucial info, try tour apps instead, like Detour and Field Trip.
3. And when you do, go local.
“Again, many introverts are really passionate about just observing — and it’s easier to do that in a local place than at a big landmark,” explains Helgoe. “Simply looking at the patterns of the way people walk in public spaces is an art in and of itself. You can really get a sense of what life is like in a different place,” she continues.
If you’re not sure where to find the local spots, find some local travel bloggers online and see what they have to say. Or check out these genius ways to find local food when you’re traveling.
4. If you’re traveling with an extrovert, make a point to do your own thing sometimes.
“Generally speaking, extroverts want to ‘do things’ and be involved, whereas introverts prefer to ease in and absorb the environment more slowly,” says Helgoe. That means that if you stay together for the duration of your trip, you may not be able to get the solo time you need to recharge — which means you may get unnecessarily grumpy.
“My husband and I usually spend the morning apart. He’ll go off and see something, and I’ll have my quiet time. By noon, we’re ready to be together again,” Helgoe explains. Of course, you don’t have to copy Helgoe’s exact schedule — you do you — but it’s important to find one that works.
5. Bring a journal.
“Introverts love to reflect and process what’s going on — we like to be there and know we’re there,” explains Helgoe. One great way to do that: Bring your journal to a cafe or a coffee shop, and just write down your thoughts of the moment. “What often happens when you’re on vacation is you actually feel depressed at first.
That’s because you’ve been super busy, and on a trip, you finally have room to feel things — so whatever hasn’t been dealt with might emerge. Writing can be a wonderful way to process that, and I think it’s crucial for travelers to be equipped with a journal to help make that happen,” she continues.
6. Stay in an Airbnb instead of a hostel.
Hostels are a great way to meet people, but many introverts aren’t super interested in all of that socialization — so staying in a private Airbnb is a great solution. “Plus, remember, introverts love to observe, so staying in someone else’s home feeds the observer in us,” Helgoe explains. “It really provides the authentic experience we crave.”
7. If an Airbnb isn’t an option, though, go for a bed & breakfast — but call ahead.
Bed & breakfasts are a great way to get a dose of the local culture — except when the hosts insist on showing you around too much, or trying to make you “feel at home” by talking to you all. the. time. Helgoe’s advice: Call ahead.
“I usually call in advance and explain that I’m looking for a place where I can be alone, and then ask them to explain how they work. Like, are there group breakfasts, or is it ok to eat solo?” says Helgoe. The hosts will usually be pretty honest with you, so it really is best to be direct about what you’re looking for right from the beginning.
8. Either way, try to stay near a good coffee shop.
Coffee shops are very attractive to introverts, as they’re the perfect spots for quiet observation. “I often base my travel plans on the presence of good coffee shops,” Helgoe reveals. “I love places where I can sit and write and observe and draw; I will look for those kinds of places where you can have a hot drink by yourself, and sit comfortably and eat.” And you should, too.
Also, pro tip: Coffee shops are usually filled with people who know about all the cool stuff happening around town. Ask your barista or even a patron about the best bookshops, or the quiet restaurant tourists don’t know about, and they are likely to have an answer.
9. Bring a familiar item, like a pillow, with you on your journey.
“Knowing that you have a familiar thing with you is generally comforting,” explains Helgoe. And that comfort translates to an ease of travel throughout your whole trip. “It can be certain slippers, or a cozy robe, or a pillow — whatever,” she says. Aww.
10. Bring a book, headphones, and ear plugs on the plane.
Look, you paid for your ticket, so you can do what you want — including ignoring your neighbor who’s gushing his life story to you (NOT NECESSARY).
So put on headphones, bury your nose in a book, use an eye mask, whatever — but remember that you’re not being rude. It’s okay to do your thing. “You can smile and be polite, but then go right back to your business, and don’t worry,” confirms Helgoe. If they keep talking, just no shame it and tell them that you’re busy reading, and they’ll get the hint. It’s not your problem, or your job, to entertain randoms (unless you want to).
11. Read literature about your destination before you go.
For example, before you go to Paris, read Hemingway’s A Moveable Feast. “Introverts are true idea lovers, so trying to find the places mentioned in the book and recognizing the cultural references truly enriches the whole travel experience,” explains Helgoe.
And that learning process is really important to your overall wellbeing while you’re away. “We think of vacations as somehow vacant,” she continues, “like a time when we are not supposed to think. But the richest experiences are often the ones where we are learning about the new world we’re immersing ourselves in,” she continues.
12. Take a nice camera.
Getting behind a lens is an easy way to interact with people without having to focus on small talk — a big ugggh for introverts. “Documenting a moment behind the camera is a great way to experience it without having to be fully there in terms of the social element,” says Helgoe.
Her advice: Choose an item you want to photograph, like cool doors or taxis, and take as many pictures of those things as you can on your trip. “Having something to keep an eye out for makes the whole trip more interesting,” explains Helgoe. Plus, you can make a sweet photo album or wall display of your findings once you’re home.
13. If you’re on a long road trip with others, listen to audio books.
"They’re a way to all be engaged in the same thing, but it diminishes the excessive small talk,” says Helgoe.
14. Go somewhere where you literally don’t know anyone.
Of course it’s fun to visit cities where you have relatives or friends from college. But it’s a true joy when you can walk into a shop or bar and legit not know anyone.
“There’s something really indulgent about being around a lot people, and not having anyone talking to you. It’s just a really cool feeling,” Helgoe explains. In other words, being on your own without even the ~possibility~ of a random bump-in is pretty much the most liberating feeling you could ever have.
15. Or just head into nature.
Generally speaking, introverts love being in the wilderness, because you tend to move more at nature’s pace — even though you may not necessarily do so in your daily life.
“When we’re around other people, we’re pulled into the pace of the people around us. We may talk faster than we want to … so traveling into nature helps us re-set our clocks,” explains Helgoe. Always good.