I was spending a week in the town I went to college in, visiting a couple of people, but staying at a hotel. I spent most of the time driving around, visiting the places I knew well from when I was an undergrad, including my Alma Mater. I walked into a Friendly’s one morning, the same one I had spent many nights studying in and hanging out with friends. I was seated, and I got coffee and OJ, and looked over the menu. Then I waited. And waited. Then waited more. No sign of my waitress. I finally drew the attention of one of the staff after 20 minutes, and she said, “Oh, I thought you were waiting for someone”. I was. My waitress. It didn’t even occur to her that I was eating breakfast alone. In our extroverted society, some people view traveling alone as so fundamentally wrong, they can’t even conceive of it.

I love traveling alone. One of my favorite ways to spend a day off is to select a point North, South, East, or West, grab my camera and fishing gear, top off the tank, and go exploring. Once in a while, I like to have a traveling companion, but most of the time, I go by myself. Traveling alone offers many experiences and advantages that you may miss out on when you are with others. It is also a very different experience than tourism. With tourism, you are kind of passing through, staying on the borders and periphery; when you travel, you are immersing yourself.

Here are some reasons for Intro’s to travel alone:

1. To come out as an introvert.

I spent too many years trying to be an extrovert, because I was told that was normal, and spending time alone and doing things alone was weird/creepy/unhealthy/pathetic. If you were not in the company of others people, you must be a loser. I never felt comfortable with crowds or strangers, or noise, but I made myself do it, because who wants to be a creepy pathetic loser weirdo? Not me. As I got older, I realized Introversion is not abnormal. It is not a form of psychopathology. It is not maladaptive or dysfunctional. It is a personality type, and a normal variation in preference of social activities. Spending a few weeks or months traveling alone will firmly announce your comfort with yourself.

2. So you don’t have to accommodate others schedules.

Everyone is busy with work, school and family obligations. People’s schedules don’t always coincide. That road trip, weekend getaway, or visit to another country that you have planned and always wanted to do has not happened because you don’t have a traveling companion available. Who says you need one? Go for it.

3. To enjoy and thoroughly embrace the experience.

By traveling alone, you can linger in an interesting place as long as you want, or move on when you wish, without trying the patience of others. I like to wander the aisles of unfamiliar supermarkets and food co-ops, drive around on back roads and see where they lead, looking for places to wet a line (go fishing) for an hour or two, or hoping to find an abandoned building to explore. These are not the typical travel activities. Of course you can find others who enjoy the same activities, but I can’t pay as much attention and get as absorbed in the activity if others are present.

4. So they don’t irritate extroverted friends and strain the relationship.

This is closely related to reason number one. Extroverted friends and family may not appreciate the same activities an introvert values when traveling.

5. To connect with new people.

Introverts do enjoy meeting new people, but deep people, and at their own pace. Once again, introverts are not necessarily shy. You may find yourself in a deep conversation with someone that you will never see again, or you may decide to exchange emails and meet again if you are in the area. Sitting at a café one afternoon, I asked a young lady a question, and we found ourselves talking for three hours; the conversation flowing with ease. She was an introvert, a fairly recent immigrant from Eastern Europe, and a more recent college graduate. We were both hungry for deep conversation. We ran into each other again in the same place, and again spent hours in conversation. These micro-connections with others are enriching.

6. To immerse yourself in the local culture.

If you spend even a week in a non-tourist spot, you may find yourself already assimilating some aspects of the culture. You can pick up some of the language and habits. I have noticed Quebecois dress better than a lot of Americans, even on weekends. In Montreal, jeans and black sweaters or T-shirts are the predominant style for men and women, and black blouses and skirts with black stockings for women. Dress like a local and you can blend in better. They also tend to be very polite. When you pass a stranger at night, you both greet each other with Bonsoir (Good Evening).

7. To engage in a confidence building activity.

It is just you. You will have to navigate, plan, and tend to any crises all on your own. To experience this can lead to improved self- confidence, and a sense of self efficacy, as you learn what situations you can adapt to and cope with effectively, and you also learn where your limitations are. This can be especially challenging for you if you are an extrovert. Successfully getting cash out of an ATM and operating a gas pump in Francais for the first time was an accomplishment for me.

8. For an opportunity to think in new settings.

Introverts are thinkers. By going outside of your familiar grounds, you can ponder the same issues from a different perspective. New solutions and ideas can emerge.

Traveling is an enriching experience. You can have a great time traveling with others, but going on your own is rewarding in different ways.

 

Written by David A. Porter, MA, LADC
Private Practice clinician
Adjunct Faculty in Psychology and Criminology
Freelance Behavioral Science writer