Traveling Overseas as a Sensitive Introvert

What do you get when you mix a sensitive introvert with international travel? A much different experience than movies and travel guides would have you imagine!

I just returned from a week-long trip to Scotland with my significant other. While it was absolutely amazing, and despite a few bumps in the road (food poisoning, anyone?), I thought it might be useful to my audience to talk about what it’s like to travel as a sensitive introvert, and offer a few words of advice for meeting your needs while in a foreign country.

Sensitive introverts are particular people. By making sure we are resourced and grounded while also gently stepping out of our comfort zones when it feels safe, we can guarantee that our travels will not only be memorable but also revitalizing.

Here are some suggestions I have to make your trips all that much more incredible.

Carry the Things That Make You Comfortable

As a sensitive introvert, there are things I need that my less sensitive, extroverted partner does not. For example, a fresh pair of socks each day is a must, as the feel of sticky, sandy socks on freshly washed feet in the morning can make my hair stand on end.

Between my comfort hoodie, my warm, fuzzy hat, and my ten pairs of thick, clean socks, I ended up taking up more room in the suitcase than my partner. Thankfully he was kind about it, and I didn’t feel too embarrassed as a result.

As sensitive introverts, we tend to be hyper-aware of inconveniencing others. Will our partner get angry if we take up more than half of the suitcase space? Will our backpack be so full of our comforts that a flight attendant gives us a strange look as we attempt to stuff it under the seat in front of us? I can assure you that there have been a great number of people who’ve traveled far more inconveniently than you and been completely unaware of it. Don’t fret. Bring what you need. Others can judge if they must, but that doesn’t concern you.

Other things that helped me during this trip: a notebook and pen so that I could write if I wanted; my noise-cancelling headphones and iPod; several eBooks and TV shows downloaded to my phone; a yoga ball for rolling out tight muscles; all my supplements and pills just in case of things like upset stomach or headaches; a bag full of gummy bears for preventing hangry sugar crashes; loads of energy bars for the same thing. And if I had had a second suitcase to take advantage of, it’s entirely possible a soft, cozy blanket would have followed me across the Atlantic as well.

Bring what you need, feel no shame, and enjoy yourself.

Don’t Be Afraid to Connect, Just a Little

While I’m not going to stay out till midnight drinking whiskey with foreign strangers in a sardine-style packed bar (I’m looking at you, my wonderful significant other), I have found that connecting with people during my travels, whether through simple conversation or mere people-watching, gives me something I wouldn’t get otherwise: a sense of shared humanity.

It’s scary to make eye contact with a stranger across a bar and say hello. I get it. Thankfully I have my extroverted partner to break the ice. I’ve found that if I use him as a crutch guide, I end up in conversations with the most interesting people: a local fisherman dressed in full fishing garb, tending the car-park at a remote loch; a local bartender who moved from England only three weeks prior to live in a new place; a woman from New York with the brightest personality and the most rewarding job (a nurse to premature infants). Each person I engaged with stretched my comfort zone, but it was so worth it.

Even though introverts crave solitude and quiet contemplation, I strongly believe that connecting with others is a universal human desire.

Take advantage of these moments, even if you’re traveling alone. A bartender or wait staff is one of the safest options if you’re nervous about talking with strangers. Take a deep breath, steady yourself, and then ask them where they’re from. If you’re lucky, they’ll provide you with the most fascinating stories.

And then, after braving that, you can go back to your hotel room and curl up with a good book and warm blanket.

Get a Few Moments of Solitude

My partner and I have gone on three international trips so far together, and we always seem to exhaust ourselves. On this particular trip, it was a bit worse for me, as I left home with sub-optimal health due to a lot of stress. I was concerned throughout the trip of driving myself into the ground. My partner was too, so often times he’d stay in with me when he really wanted to go out and meet people.

It is my partner’s and my tendency to fall into somewhat codependent patterns. But being aware of this after two and a half years of following these patterns without realizing it, we finally decided to make a change.

After much pushing and encouraging, I somehow managed to convince my partner to go out to the pubs alone to meet people and have a good time while I stayed in and rested. I had no idea the effect this would have on me.

When you’re in a foreign country, it feels a disservice (and a waste) not to do everything you can with every ounce of time you have. But by staying in my hotel by myself and doing absolutely nothing other than sitting on the bed and scrolling through various articles on the internet, I regained a sense of peace and health that had been slipping from me the previous few days. I felt rested and rejuvenated. Not only that, but my partner had the time of his life and made some new friends.

Don’t be afraid to take a break. You won’t really be missing anything, especially given that the rest you take will make your next experiences all that more invigorating. You’ll actually be able to enjoy them with your renewed energy.

Find Time for the Magic

Walking through a room of a ruined 13th-century castle, imagining the faces of the people who lived there 800 years ago. Reaching your hand out in the dark to comfort the ghost of a little boy the tour guide said lives down in the underground vaults you’re exploring. Slowly walking across the beach of a remote, rural island populated by only 180 people, imagining the joys and struggles of a simpler life.

These are the moments of magic that can be grasped if you slow yourself down enough to catch them.

Travel can be fast and exciting, but every now and then you come across an experience that stays with you for a long time after the whirlwind is over. Be sure to find these little moments that reconnect you with a sense of wonder, awe, and most especially, magic. They are what it’s all about.

Have you traveled overseas as a sensitive introvert? What have been your experiences? Share with us below in the comments!

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