3 Things I Learned As An Introvert Traveler

3 Things I Learned As An Introvert Traveler

I had one reason why it took me so long to try traveling solo.  I’m not worried about getting lost or getting mugged and starved to death. No, what worried me most is getting out there and be with strangers. I consider myself as an introvert traveler. I’m the most socially awkward person on earth. I don’t know how to talk and make friends with strangers. It’s a painful process for me to keep thinking what to say next when I’m trying to make a conversation with the person that I just met.

Don’t get me wrong, I have no qualms about being alone. I can spend hours in a coffee shop just sitting and reading a book all by myself. But traveling alone is a different story. I’ve read enough articles about the backpackers world and I can’t imagine myself sleeping at hostel dorms with people that I barely know. I’m not good at small talks. I can barely even approach a stranger to ask for directions. I’m worried that I might not enjoy the trip and end up locking myself in my private hostel room. I know, I probably sound lunatic but if you’re an introvert, you would understand that these are real challenges for us.

Introvert Traveler

I love traveling with my friends but I can’t sit around waiting for someone to be available to travel with me. I gotta learn how to do this by myself. What’s the worst thing that can possibly happen to me? After finally doing it, I want to laugh at myself for worrying too much. Here are the 3 things that I’ve learned as an introvert traveler.

Introvert Traveler

It’s okay to just be yourself

It’s okay to be shy, you don’t have to pretend that you’re an outgoing person if you’re not. People will not judge you for being shy. If you’re worried to be seen as an outcast, let me tell you this: people don’t care. They don’t know you, why would they bother to analyze your actions. In fact, it might surprise you how people can be so accepting. They’d leave you alone and just smile at you if they’d notice that you’re the type who likes to keep to herself.

When I volunteered at an elephant camp in Kanchanaburi, Thailand there’s a lot of other travelers and volunteers from different countries in the camp and it intimidated me at first. I think I was the only one there who doesn’t know anyone. To make the matters worst, I arrived late because I missed my bus in Bangkok since I waited at the wrong platform. I arrived at around lunch time so the owner invited me to eat, then I was introduced to my guide. He’s a cool English guy and he’s one of their long term volunteers. We talked a bit about the background and some basic facts about the elephants. I was quiet most of the time, he did most of the talking. Then I was introduced to the group, they were all just so cool and casual. I mean, nobody really bothered about me. Even the small talks we had weren’t forced and awkward at all. The best part was when we bathe with the elephants at the River Kwai, everybody was having so much fun and I was just standing there watching all of them and one of the volunteers asked me if I want to ride and bathe the elephant by myself and if I wanted her to hold my camera to film me. I said yes and I had the time of my life. It wasn’t so hard after at all. 

introvert traveler

You’ll forget about your inhibitions once you are completely in the moment.

I used to have a tendency to over-think things too much and that’s another thing that stops me from doing what I want. Sometimes I get ahead of myself. I worry too much about ‘what might’ and ‘what if’s’ but trust me, once you get lost in a moment nothing else will matter. It took me awhile to realize this. I was a control freak, I plan every little detail of my trip, I’m too worried about everything. Till I realized that my experiences felt scripted. Like, how I was supposed to feel haunted when I enter Tuol Sleng, or how it was supposed to crush my heart when I see the skulls in the Killing Fields, or how I was supposed to be amazed when I see the Temple of the Emerald Buddha. There’s nothing wrong about knowing what to expect but this made me even more closed off because I’m only reacting according to how I was expected to react.

So, I tried to let things go and let things be. When I entered this Harry Potter themed cafe in Saigon last year, I was so amazed that I cant stop talking to the waiter. I asked her so many questions and I told her how big of a fan I was. It really felt like I was in ‘The Burrow’ from the Harry Potter movies. I cant remember how many times I asked her to take a photo of me, which I don’t normally do because I only usually ask once or twice. I just couldn’t care less because I was too caught up in the moment. She was patient with me though and she allowed me to tour the cafe to take more photos, since it was a 3 story cafe. Sometimes, we just have to let the moment seize us instead. It’s the best way to experience things.

Smile is Universal

Introvert TravelerBefore I started traveling alone, I used to imagine myself getting lost in Bangkok. I love the thrill of adventure that it gives me. Until it actually happened to me. I was in the middle of a long highway in Bangkok, I didn’t know where I was going. There were no available cabs and Ive been walking under the heat of the midday sun for almost two hours without direction. I was so tired and all the road signs were written in Thai. I had a map and GPS on my phone but I still can’t figure out where I was going. I walked and walked till I saw two Thai women clad in their work uniforms who speak zero English. They were waiting for their bus. I had no choice, so I smiled and asked them for directions.

After so many hand gestures and repeated words, the other woman finally got a hint that I’m asking for the train station. She sincerely wanted to help me, she wanted to give me directions but she cant express herself.  We ended up laughing at each other. I finally understood that I’m too far from the MRT and that I couldn’t get a cab in that area. Their bus arrived and we said our goodbyes still laughing.  I thanked them and continued to walk in the direction that they pointed till I finally got a cab. This reminded me of what Dalai Lama said, ‘We may not understand each others culture, religion and languages but kindness and compassion, that’s something universal.’

Are you an introvert traveler too? What are your challenges while being on the road?


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