August 8, 2013

Pitfalls of the Introverted Traveler. ~ Talley Beth Gale

An outgoing introvert is a tricky thing to be.

But there is nothing that better suits your soul than solo travel.

It’s a fabulous chance to meet people and have crazy adventures, yet still have hours and hours each day to spend alone with one’s own thoughts. But even introverts get lonely.

Where is the line?

I’m a college student and a theatre major. I’m constantly inundated with friends, roommates, cast mates and classmates. I come from a large family that loves big get-togethers.

In spite of being an introvert, I am rarely truly alone.

This is why I love to travel by myself. I recently spent two months in the United Kingdom. For the first six weeks, I was by myself. My family came up for the last three weeks, and we toured Scotland and the Lake District.

The six weeks I was alone consisted of an internship, a short course and several mini-trips to visit people I had met on previous travels. Even though I had plenty of social interaction with coworkers, classmates, and even friends, I was ultimately traveling alone. I often faced hours and hours by myself.

This was an excellent chance to go exploring, tackle summer assignments or simply do yoga. Although the introvert in me found this time rejuvenating and a chance to do some pre-senior-year soul-searching, the evenings could still get terribly lonely. I was ready to join up with my family.

Soon enough, I saw my sister, mother, father and grandmother walking into the coffee shop in Edinburgh where we had planned to meet. It was wonderful to see them! They could provide the kind of socializing that only a person’s family or closest friends can really give.

But then I got overwhelmed. I found myself getting tense, anxious, and annoyed. It was that I-love-my-family-but-I-can’t-stand-them-right-now thing. I got so annoyed at their wide eyes, their mispronouncing, and their failure to read signs and food labels. It was majorly frustrating to have to lead them through the crowded, winding Scottish streets.

After about five days, I asked if I could take a day by myself.

What was up? For weeks I had longed for them, but now that they were with me, I found myself desperately seeking my alone time.

I thought I had grown up a lot on this trip, but I was put to the test when I was finally with my family again. I became resentful toward them.

I could write a whole article about the lesson that while I was getting annoyed with my family, they were patiently putting up with my surliness and my arrogant need to be the family authority on all things U.K.

This soon dawned on me, and I got myself under control. In turn I began to find my family less obnoxious, too. Imagine that.

Beyond this, though, there is still the question of what I really wanted. I did want my family around. I also needed time by myself. Just as the jump from totally swamped with people to totally alone had been a shock, the jump from totally alone to never alone was also a shock.

Like I said, though, things did eventually get a little better. But how?

Well, first of all, it helped to remember all the annoying things I did that my family put up with. Including the fact that I couldn’t have made it so far on my own without my parents ready to answer the phone at 2 a.m. in U.S.A. Central time to send me emergency money or to book a last-minute hotel when I couldn’t get to a computer.

But it also was coming to understand that as an introvert, I truly needed alone time—for my family’s sake as much as for my own.

In the future, it may mean that the only cure is just to be ready for that shock to happen, and to not let it take me by surprise. It’s okay to say, “Family, I love you, but I need to take today by myself. I’m getting grouchy, and you don’t want to be around me.” This is especially important whilst traveling, when you often literally do not have a single minute to yourself (except for maybe in the bathroom, but even then, that’s questionable).

I’ll get over the fact that I might miss seeing the sight of the day and appreciate that my family will let me go my own way for a bit. I’ll stay in the room and do yoga. I’ll take a walk, and revel in the small nuances of foreign woods or streets. I’ll crash in a coffee shop with a book. Maybe I’ll meet a couple locals.

I’ll give myself time to think about how awesome my family is and how they totally deserve to be wide-eyed tourists. I’ll remind myself how imperfect I am, and how lucky I am to have a forgiving and accepting family.

And when I meet up with my fellow travelers in the evening, I’ll be rejuvenated and ready to journey with them in love, kindness, and a sense of adventure!


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Asst. Ed: Moira Madden/Ed: Bryonie Wise

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