Have you ever felt like you needed a vacation from your vacation? Do family members scold you for bringing along a book? (“You can read at home!”)
For some people, “vacation” means group activities, from snorkeling to sightseeing, and the chance to meet fellow travelers from around the world. For the introvert, though, “vacation” can invoke images of busses crammed with fellow tourists, loud conversations, stressful crowds and little downtime to recharge.
Introverts make up almost one-third of the population, but it can feel like an extrovert’s world, especially when it comes to travel. Most people have only one or two opportunities a year to get away because of limited vacation time and the expense of travel. That means many people squeeze in every tour, museum and Jet Ski rental they can find. But constant activity leaves the introvert feeling drained, rather than rejuvenated.
Nice to meet you — now I need to be alone
A common misconception is that introverts dislike being around people, but in reality, introverts’ brains simply work differently than extroverts’, and they can become overstimulated after interacting with too many people. They often feel energized when focusing deeply on a subject or activity that really interests them. After a full day of socializing, they might need a few hours to sit alone in contemplative silence or do something low-key.
Susan Cain, author of “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking,” points out that introversion is different than shyness. Shyness is the fear of judgement, something most people experience at some point in their lives. Feelings of shyness are uncomfortable and typically pass, where introversion is simply a preference for less stimulation.
Introverts crave solitude but are not anti-social. They prefer to focus on the details of activities and have time to reflect alone or with very small groups. Introverts need “me” time and must follow up stimulating events with focus on themselves. This doesn’t mean a trip to Vegas is out of the question, but the schedule must be flexible enough to allow time for introverts to recharge and reflect independently.
The introvert’s need to recharge can be frustrating for the extroverted travel companion to understand. That’s why it’s a good idea to communicate about different travel tactics in advance of any trips, so each person can have a great experience on his or her own terms. With the help of Sophia Dembling, who writes “The Introvert’s Corner” blog for Psychology Today and is the author of “The Introvert’s Way: Living a Quiet Life in a Noisy World,” we have put together a list of tips for the introvert and extrovert on vacation.
Tips for the introvert
1. Know your limits on personal space
Cramming five people in one hotel room might be fine for the extrovert, but the introvert craves personal space for seclusion and quiet to recharge after a long day of stimulating sightseeing and social interaction. Since lodging is usually planned in advance of a vacation, you’ll need to make your needs known early so they can be accommodated. This doesn’t mean you get your own room and four other people are forced to share, but rather that arrangements can be made for fewer people to share more rooms or for less expensive lodging options that let all travelers have their own space.
2. Schedule downtime
Travel sometimes equals high stress, and although you want to see as much as possible, you also need to take time to recharge. After a long day of sightseeing, take the next morning to sit at a local cafe and just enjoy the people watching or take a walk through a museum on your own. If you don’t schedule downtime, it’s easy to start feeling overwhelmed. “An introvert might find it helpful to set the alarm an hour or two early to take a short walk alone or sit quietly to reflect on the day ahead,” says Dembling.
3. Choose your destinations by gauging your energy level
If the thought of late-night partying and packed subways make you feel vaguely nauseous, maybe you should take places like Cancun or New York off your travel list and opt for quieter locations like the countryside of New Zealand. Consider a more off-the-beaten-path destination that lets you experience a new culture without having to worry about getting dragged from one social scene to another. Spend more time in one place instead of cramming every tourist activity into one or two days.
Tips for the extrovert
1. Don’t take your introverted travel companion’s need for quiet solitude personally
“Introverts crave solitude, and their need for this doesn’t mean they don’t want to spend time with you,” Dembling says. “It’s important to be respectful of their needs. If you’re more of a chatterbox, be aware that constant discussion can grate on an introvert over time.” Communication is key here. You should let the introvert know that if his or her tank is nearing empty, it’s OK to say so. Likewise, if you can feel the introvert begin to pull back, be respectful of that need.
2. Traveling with children? They can fall on the introvert spectrum too
Kids can end up feeling just as drained from overstimulation as any adult introverts. If you notice your child becoming grumpy, it might be time to switch off and let the introverted child sit in the front seat to stare dreamily out the window for a few miles. Vacations have a tendency to be overscheduled, and being sensitive to the energy levels of children can impact the overall success of the trip.
3. Take time for yourself
When the introverts of your party are getting their much-needed “me” time, it’s an opportunity for the extroverts to head to the hotel bar to mingle with locals and chat away. “There is no reason why you can’t enjoy your vacation too! Just be prepared to switch gears when your introvert friend or family member is replenished and ready for the next activity,” Dembling advises.
Get ready for takeoff!
Extroverts can encourage the introvert to try new things and get out of his or her comfort zone, making the vacation more fulfilling than he or she imagined. On the flip side, introverts can encourage quiet reflection on a new culture or activity that the extrovert might have missed before. Both can make for great travel companions as long as there are open lines of communication and mutual respect for the other’s needs. Bon voyage!