While we are out hiking the Camino de Santiago for the next few months, we’ll be featuring weekly house sitters here on our digital home. If you are interested in guest posting contact Shannon at firstname.lastname@example.org. And you can read all about our adventures on El Camino here. There’s comfort in traveling with people you know. Especially as an introvert, I prefer to be either alone or around people who ‘get me’. But I find that it’s often difficult to plan travel with someone I’m comfortable with due to conflicting schedules, budgets, obligations etc. So there’s a tendency to think in terms of all or nothing. Instead of choosing not to travel until your partner, family and/or friends can join you, I highly recommend going solo – with a twist. When done right, group travel can be a great option for introverts. It can offer you the freedom to be who and what you want to be (nobody knows you) and to get you out on adventures that you might not have otherwise had. My First Solo Travel: I was seventeen years old when Thomas, a tall Dane with an enticing accent and an eye-catching Depeche Mode-like look (it was the 80’s) inspired my first solo trip to Europe. We had met during a family trip to Denmark and I felt an instant crush. Before I returned to Canada, we planned my return for what would be our memorable backpacking trip together. So I worked and saved as much money as I could. Backpack, check. Plane ticket, check. Eurail pass, check. I was good to go. And then it happened. He found another girl. I remember my heart sinking in the silence of that phone call. So I had a choice – to go, or not to go.
Stubborn as I was, I chose to go. So at age 18, I left Toronto for Copenhagen with just a backpack and my sense of adventure in tow. I simply travelled where I felt like going: Denmark, Austria, Germany, Netherlands. No real plan. No one to have to compromise for along the way. It was a great adventure. The Change – Fear Crept In: Years later, after becoming a mom and now in my forties, I look back and think I was a bit nutty. I didn’t even have a cell phone! In fact I’d probably have a panic attack if my daughter told me she was going to do the same. I’ve recognized that, while I still have that sense of adventure and desire to explore and experience travel, I’m not as open to going totally alone anymore. All the fears seem to trickle in that create doubt and hesitation. “What if something happens to me? What if I get lost? Or hurt? Nobody will know how to find me. Nobody will be expecting me to show up anywhere or notice if I’m missing. My daughter will end up without a mother.” Blah, blah, blah. Solo Travel With a Twist – Groups: But the truth of the matter is that I don’t want to give up this part of me. So, for the past several years, I have travelled with groups (of strangers) who share the common desire to grow through adventure. Here’s the challenge. I’m an introvert. What that looks like is that being around people drains my energy. I’m friendly and enjoy people (preferably interacting with them individually or in very small groups) and wouldn’t necessarily say I’m shy (more like thoughtfully reserved). But I definitely need solitude in order to fill up, think, and reflect. What made me think that group travel was a good idea is beyond me. I tend to be pretty independent. But my desires outweighed the potential downfalls and I have since figured out how to make it work. In fact, my first venture into group travel was a sailing trip for women in the British Virgin Islands.
Sounds awesome – and it was. My growth and self-discovery came in many forms on that trip, not to mention learning how to survive with this group of women while living on board the sailboat for a week: sharing everything, including a small berth. My main challenges came down to a need for privacy, energy management, and handling the stress of overwhelm. What to do? Here are my tips for how introverts can survive group travel:
- Research: When you’re considering a group trip, get a feel for what kind of people, structure and schedule you’ll end up with there. What’s the approach of the person running it? Look for kindred spirits. You’ll get a good feel from the way the business markets its services.
- Go part-solo: Travel solo to get to and return from the destination where you will end up meeting the group. Trust me. This is a life saver.
- Basic self-care: To maintain your energy over the trip, make sure you eat properly, drink enough water, rest, and get some time in nature. If you’re used to doing yoga or other wellness routines, try to stick to them. Cover the basics.
- Pair up: If possible, separate into pairs or small groups occasionally. This will allow you to have more genuine conversations so you’re not spending all your time with small talk (which is draining) or zoning out from the overwhelm of too much time in the large group setting.
- Create opportunities for alone time: Just because you travel with a group doesn’t mean that you can’t also have time alone. You might want to discuss this with the trip organizer prior to buying. For example, on my sailing trips I would choose to stay on board alone at times while others went on shore for shopping. Or I would go for a snorkel as soon as we anchored, and take any opportunity to go beach combing on my own. All of these situations allowed me to get back into my own rhythms again. Another life saver!
- Give yourself permission to stretch: Stretch beyond your comfort zone. Remain open to do what others want even if it’s not what you would normally choose. You may be surprised at how much fun you have. For example, the extroverts in our sailing group were excited to boat over to a “pirate party boat/floating bar”. This was clearly out of my comfort zone, but I chose to go. And while it took a bit to settle in, I let myself relax into it and had a blast. Fun memories there (some not to be shared!).
- Schedule refueling days: Add an extra day or two (or more if possible) of staying alone after the group travel ends before you return home so you can create space for transition back into ‘reality’. If that’s not an option, schedule a day (or time over several days) when you return home for naps and other ways of filling up your energy bank.
The Bottom Line: If you’re an introvert with an urge for adventure but are hesitant to travel fully solo, don’t discount group travel as a great option. Get clear and understand what your needs are, do your research, and go with an energy management plan in mind. You’ll be surprised what you learn about yourself in the process. If travel and adventure tempts you, find a way to make it work. Free yourself from all the “I should” and “I can’t” and “what if’s” and go have some fun! Why not???
Marla Hunter-Bellavia is a freelance writer and a lifestyle coach for introverts, but ultimately all her work is about investing in women – to be brave, to be seen, and to create a lifestyle they love. Find her business, Wise Introvert, online at www.wiseintrovert.com or on Facebook, here.