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The Introvert Traveler

I channeled an extrovert to get this signature.

Rick Steves is one of my travel role models. His guidebooks taught me how to travel in Europe and have continued to inspire my travels since then. He is one of only two people that I’ve been bold enough to get a signature from in my adulthood. I agree whole-heartedly with his travel philosophy. But even our heroes are sometimes wrong.

In Rick’s “Back Door Travel Philosophy,” he proclaims: “Extroverts have more fun.”

The lawyer in me says, “Define ‘fun.’”

As a card-carrying introvert, I can assure you that going into a bar full of locals (for example) and striking up conversations with them is my definition of a nightmare. I would have to travel with Xanax.

Now, I agree with the sentiment behind his proclamation, which is that you can’t have meaningful travel experiences if you’re cloistered inside your hotel room and refuse to talk to anyone. But if extroverts are the journalists of travel, introverts are the anthropologists: we observe, and absorb, and only occasionally fraternize. I love sitting at a café or on a park bench – sometimes for hours – and watching the humanity swirl around me. I’m equally happy to spend a day with a local guide, who can both tell me about the sights and offer a window into what “local life” is like.

As I’ve written before, we get the most out of our travels when we experience them as the truest versions of ourselves. Sure, I can channel enough extroversion to meet a few new people here and there, but trying to make myself into an extrovert for the duration of my travels would be both futile and counterproductive. So for my fellow introverts out there, I give you permission to embrace your introversion when you travel, and experience the world in your own way.

To be fair to Rick, in his very next sentence he advises: “If your trip is low on magic moments, kick yourself and make things happen.” This is good advice for everyone, regardless of your personality type. The “things” you make happen are going to look different if you’re an introvert – but we know when we’re having fun!

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