You know, I was thinking about starting a blog called Travel for Introverts but I'm not sure if there's that much to say beyond a few blog posts. I guess, I could go into specific locations but the only place I've travelled in the past few years is Japan.
Anyway, because I've made all the mistakes, I thought I'd give a list of the worst things introverts can do when travelling. There are some situations that you'd never want to be in if you are an introvert - dealing with people you can't escape from and noise... well you can imagine. But, if you have to endure the introvert's hell, there are some ways to cope.
1. Group Tours
You'd think this would be a no-brainer, wouldn't you? I mean, talk about an introvert's hell. Getting shoved together into a group that you have to be around 24 hours a day for the entire time of your holiday.
Yep, I did this. I was younger and had much less self-knowledge than I do now - although my friends all knew, and ran a book on how long it'd be before I hated everyone on my tour (it was 3 days - longer than anyone expected actually). I wanted to go to SE Asia and the thought of going alone seemed very overwhelming. I'd never travelled alone before.
Then a local community radio station announced their annual travel tour with Intrepid Travel. I figured it'd be okay because firstly, they'd have good taste in music and secondly, it was with Intrepid who are less fusty than other tour groups. Plus, it was a really good deal with airfares included and went to all the places I wanted to go.
We started the tour with a few night on a converted barge travelling down the river. This sounded very relaxing. It wasn't. You are on a boat with a bunch of people and you can't get away from them. Ever. Plus we had to sleep in one big room downstairs on the boat. It was hell.
Then there was a girl on the tour who never shut up. Ever. Even if I put my headphones on, I could hear her voice like nails down a blackboard. We had a 10 hour bus trips. She did not shut up for the entire 10 hours.
Also, the group wanted to do everything as a group. Obviously, as a tour group. we had a lot of activities together and, in SE Asia, eating as a group is the way to go. But, even outside those things, it was like they could not do things alone. My best memories of that trip were the times I buggered off from the group and did things on my own. Even then, some of them thought I was weird (I mean, they said it to me not that I projected it onto them).
To make it worse, when we got home, they kept wanting to meet up. Maybe they still do...
I'm not knocking group tours. My sister, who is an extreme extrovert, spend over a year travelling the world recently, and she often joined up with tour groups for a week or so. If you enjoy spending time with other people and like having all your travel arrangements taken care of, it's a good way to go. If you have limited vacation time and don't want to waste it, it can also be a good idea.
If you are an introvert and you still want to go on a group tour, here are my tips:
- Pay the extra to get the single room supplement. On my tour, I had to share a room with a crazy chick. She was seriously clingy and, if I decided to opt out of an activity to have time alone, she'd opt out too. I got no alone time. Having your own room so you can escape is worth the expense.
- Don't be afraid to say you want to do something different to the group. On our tour, the group went on a day trip to the tunnels near Saigon. I decided not to go and spent the day wandering around the city on my own. It was awesome.
- Be assertive about people cutting into your space.
- If you are thinking about booking a tour because you aren't confident enough to travel alone, realise that it's not as hard or scary as you think. You do have the ability to cope.
I've stayed at a number of hostels before but never in a dorm. The thought of sleeping in a room with strangers makes me die a little inside. Getting a single room at a hostel can be a good idea in some places but I've found, in Europe, it can be more expensive than getting a hotel room.
Some places can be hell. I stayed at a backpackers in Tokyo with walls so thin, I thought I'd get pregnant from the couple rooting in the room next door and had drunken dicks cooking up foot in the nearby kitchen at 2 am.
On the other hand, I stayed at a really quiet place in Kyoto but it was like a prison cell. It even surpassed my need for quiet and control. I got glared at for using the bathroom at 9pm.
The final straw for me was during my trip to Auckland. I scoured the Hostelworld listings trying to find the ideal place and ended up booking into one that claimed to be 'not a party hostel' and very quiet. They lied. The place was filled with long-term residents who sat outside my room, drinking and partying until late into the night. I really wished they had gone out and partied somewhere else.
Having said that, staying in the right hostel can be great. You can interact with other guests and actually get some human company then, when you've had enough, retire to your room alone. Even introverts need some human contract.
If you are an introvert and want to stay at a hostel, here are my tips:
- Never book a hostel that has the word "party" in their description or reviews. Or "fun". What this really means is it's filled with drunken dicks who make noise all night.
- Get a single room so you have space to yourself (check the price against hotels and other accommodation to make sure it's actually going to save you money). Also, check that the single room is actually single. I stayed in a place in Seoul that was converted apartments so you had to walk through the dorm to get to your room and the shared bathroom was right next to me.
- Realise that you can't control everything. Even if a hostel is normally quiet, you could get a group of dicks who ruin the place.