Traveling with another person when you’re a self-confessed introvert is difficult. Even if you think you’ll be compatible travel companions, everything changes when you’re forced to spend your entire day and night together in a foreign country.
I’m writing this in a piazza in Florence. I’ve just gorged myself on pasta and have sent my travel partner off to explore whilst I chill for a bit. I did it under the guise of being too full to move, which is true, but mainly I just needed time alone to recharge before we’re forced together again. Unfortunately, I am the only one with a working phone and any sense of direction, so my much needed rest will be over shortly when my companion decides that they need Google Maps again.
I think my main problem here is not only that I’m an introvert, but I’m an introvert who is too nice for her own good. I don’t want to rock the boat. I just want things to run as smoothly as possible and if that means doing everything with another person to avoid upsetting them, then so be it. As an introvert, I‘ve always believed that I was the defective one. People are supposed to want to be with other people, right? We’re social creatures. Yet here I am, in an amazing city with someone I consider* a friend, yet all I want is to be alone on a bench rather than discovering the city together. I’d rather sit and stare at the same gelato store and listen to the same constant drilling noises than have to make any more polite attempts at conversation. And I feel like this is my fault. This shouldn’t be the option I choose. But it is, and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with it.
I see lots of solo travellers from my little stone bench, or maybe they are people like me escaping social interaction for a while. I have often wondered whether solo travel is for me, and this trip would seem to confirm these suspicions. However, I don’t necessarily think I should be confined to experiencing new places alone just because I need time to myself every once in a while. Instead, I’ve been thinking about the best way to go about such a trip in the future. A Guide To Traveling With The Overly Cautious Introvert, if you will. A way to do things differently, so both people on the trip have a good time.
1. Make it clear you are an introvert (and what that entails) before you agree to travel together
I thought it was pretty obvious that I was introverted, but you can never expect an extrovert to know the full extent of your mental psyche. But on the other side of the argument, I never fully anticipated just how much not having any alone time would affect me. You need to make this clear to your partner before you do anything else. Even just a simple “hey, I might need to just hang by myself for a while, is that okay with you?” should suffice. Before this trip, I genuinely didn’t think I would be expected to do e v e r y t h i n g with another human being, so that’s definitely something we both should have clarified with one other.
2. Don’t be a pushover about your needs and feelings
If you want your alone time, say so. There have been times on this trip where we’ve been stuck in a dance of “so what should we do now?” “I don’t care” “me either” repeat ad infinitum, when all I’ve wanted was to scream “I JUST WANNA GO TO X AND DO Y, MAN. WITHOUT YOU”. What ended up happening, however, was I would spend the next few hours doing something I didn’t want to do, thus putting a downer on the whole trip. Your extroverted pal doesn’t get a monopoly on your happiness whilst traveling. They’ll be fine going to explore by themselves for a bit whilst you grab a coffee.
3. You do you, boo
Like I said before, you aren’t the defective one. If your fellow traveler wants to get lost in a crowded market place and the idea of all those people makes you want to kill yourself, say something. Just because they’re the “normal one” it doesn’t mean that their idea of how to spend time in a new place is the right one. The idea is to enjoy yourself, and that means you too. If you want to find a cute cafe and people watch for an hour, then great, that’s just as right of a way to spend your vacation as an extrovert’s way is.
And if all else fails (or like me, you avoid confrontation at all costs)…
4. Go to a museum
You don’t have to talk to each other if you’re looking at art. It’s the best of both your interests.
* After this trip, it’s definitely become considered. I was waaaay too kind in this post. But I’m sure this advice will still work if you’re traveling with reasonable human beings.