People often get the (false) impression that I’m an extrovert.
There are so many reasons for this: I’m talkative with strangers. I like being on stage. I frequently find myself taking charge of groups. I travel full-time. I’m constantly meeting new people. I feel mostly at ease introducing myself to someone new.
I’m also not shy.
And somehow the idea of shy and introverted have gotten tangled up together like they’re the same thing. But they’re not. Introverted means you get your energy from alone time. Shy is when you’re nervous or timid with other people.
So I’m definitely not shy. Which people assume means I’m also not an introvert.
And that’s where they’re wrong.
When it comes to energy, I need hours upon hours of alone time to replenish mine. I need quiet rooms with a snuggly Luna at my side and no one else. I need days spent wandering along hiking trails solo and I revel in meals eaten by myself.
I love meeting new people and I’m happy to spend time with groups. But they take my energy; they don’t give it. And to get it back, I have to sneak away.
Which might strike you as odd, since I’ve been traveling the world full-time for six years now.
Because I think people get the idea–from social media and online itineraries and travel blogs–that travel is a whirlwind of one thing after the other. It’s 10 museums in a single day. It’s 20 new people in the course of a week. It’s constant time spent in the company of strangers.
But the truth is that travel is a lot of things—and not just the things that lend themselves to extroversion.
Where one person may want to visit three countries in a week and spend every moment pounding the pavement seeing the sights, I usually find my own travels are much quieter and slower and very intentionally full of alone time.
Which is the point I wanted to make today.
I think there’s a lot of pressure that can come with travel. Pressure to see everything and do everything and not “waste” a single second because we only have so many moments in this place.
But the truth is that travel should be what you need it to be. And if what you need is a luxuriously quiet day alone in your lovely B&B room, why is that less valuable than shopping on 5th Avenue or taking a food tour through one of Rome’s residential neighborhoods?
If finishing your book in a hot tub alone sound good, why does that have to make you feel guilty?
When I first started traveling like this, I used to get messages almost every day from family and friends. “What did you do today?” They asked, excited, waiting for some epic story.
At first I felt bad when I answered. Because my life wasn’t full of epic stories. Most days, the answer was that I worked and I ate a weird, new kind of cereal and I lay in the quiet of my guesthouse room and let the relief that I’d really done it—I’d really left my old life behind!—wash over me. Some days I hiked along pretty, green trails. Some days I went shopping in Edinburgh’s old town. But mostly I just existed, just did normal everyday things that I always do—just doing them against a different backdrop, with a different cereal aisle, with a different hiking trail.
The beauty of it was all the space I had. The space to work or not work on any given day. The space to meander aimlessly for hours in a new place. The space to explore, yes. But also the space to give myself permission to be alone.
I read a blog post once about a woman in Paris who found that one day she just wanted to stay in her hotel and finish a novel. But she felt terribly guilty. After all, she was in Paris. Shouldn’t she be touring the Louvre?
And I found myself physically shaking my head at the suggestion.
Because there is no should.
There is no required amount of hours you need to spend exploring on your trip.
It’s okay to be an introvert who needs down time in between things.
Hell, it’s okay to be an extrovert who wants a little down time.
Which is, I suppose, what I wanted to say here:
Travel, and particularly full-time travel, isn’t just for extroverts. It isn’t just for people with long checklists of things to see. It isn’t just for fast travelers. It isn’t just for any one type of person.
It’s a pliable thing that you can form into whatever you need it to be.
For me, this means some days spent running around town seeing the sights, some days where I gather up my energy and head to a theme park or a full-day tour of some sight I want to see. It also means some days where I don’t leave the house except, perhaps, for a walk in the park or a quick trip to the grocery store.
And most days, it means something in between.
When Chad and I went to Assisi for our first anniversary, we’d explore a few hours in the morning, head back in the afternoon for several hours of napping and reading, and then head back out and explore some more.
When we visited Dinan, we took the mid-morning train, arrived just in time for a fabulous lunch, then spent about three hours walking the ramparts and wandering through old town before taking the early train back home to spend our evening hours in the quiet of our rental house.
In other words, we take breaks. We schedule in quiet time. We don’t force ourselves to explore from dawn ’til dusk.
And our travels work for us because of that.