A Guide to Solo Travelling as an Introvert

Solo traveller with a backpack exploring National Trust Brimhan Rocks
Ella Pilson

As someone who’s quite shy but who loves travelling, this is a concern I am familiar with, but hopefully this guide will show you that I don’t think your personality type should stop you or anyone from having these amazing experiences. One of the great benefits of travelling is learning more about yourself and seeing how you react in different situations. I think it’s a myth that just because you enjoy your own company, and draw your energy from being alone rather than surrounded by other people, that this necessarily detracts from your experience or makes solo-travelling more difficult. It’s true that sociability is important when solo-travelling, especially when dealing with unfamiliar places, people and, at times, having uncertain plans. Ultimately, I think solo-travelling just means having more of a balance, doing what’s right for you and approaching your travel a little differently.

Firstly, I think it’s important as a quieter and more reserved person to make a plan, or at least start somewhere familiar. This will help to lessen any anxiety and make yourself as self-reliant as possible. By starting somewhere not too dissimilar to home, you won’t be completely disoriented as soon as you step off the plane. Also, do your research and come prepared. Make sure you plan for any unforeseen challenges and pack the essentials: a torch, some cash, water and maybe even a padlock. Whilst you don’t want to over-pack or over-plan, make sure to give yourself room to explore and be spontaneous. It’s a good idea to build your confidence as you go. Take baby steps. Furthermore, when you’re planning, make sure you give yourself breathing room. Perhaps stay a little longer in one place rather than constantly being on the move. This provides more stability, allowing you to get used to the local area and its facilities. While this may not seem as traditional as backpacking where jumping from place to place is the norm, this is a more relaxed way of travelling and will likely suit a more introverted person. You can go at your own pace and prioritise the places you want to visit. 

Moreover, it’s no secret that introverted people tend to be more withdrawn, quiet, and reflective. Therefore, it is important to make time exactly for this, time to be alone and re-charge, even if you’re somewhere new and can’t wait to explore. You don’t have to do it all at once. Hauling massive backpacks on trains, constantly using maps and being around lots of new people on tours or in hostels can be quite draining and overwhelming. Perhaps find a nearby park and read a book, take a jog along the beach or listen to your favourite playlist while wandering through an art gallery. I think travelling as an introvert can be a more sensory experience, whether that’s people-watching or spending time in nature. While it may seem counter-intuitive, doing something familiar that you typically enjoy at home (and I am not saying stay in your room and binge Netflix) can ease the transition while in a new place. Why not download a film to watch in the evening or do some journaling? A journal is well-worth the extra weight, providing a place for you to offload and recount the days so far as well as the people you’ve met and where you’d like to visit next. This is also a really nice time capsule for when the time comes to return home with all the memories you’ve made. At a time when you’re experiencing so many new things, this can help make you feel a little less homesick and give you time to refresh before continuing on with your travels.

As much as time alone to rejuvenate is important, that doesn’t mean that you should totally self- isolate. Whilst it may be tempting for a more solitary person, the people you meet along your journey are also a key part of the experience. If you find connecting with people hard, joining tours and groups is a great way to do this. Again, this will help you get used to the local area, befriend some of the local people (also useful for any insider tips!) and just make the trip that extra bit special, with the potential for making some life-long friends. This also waters down any awkwardness, with everyone being in the same boat: travelling and trying new things together. Here, it’s important to also advise on accommodation. It may be an idea to factor in that extra expense for a room alone rather than with others. You could do both and see which you prefer, but a private room allows you to retreat when you want and rest after being around people all day. A handy website for solo travellers is ‘Hostel World’, which allows you to select the type of hostel vibe you want, with one of the options being a ‘chill’ vibe. This means there is no social obligation in the evening – it’s all up to you and an option worth considering if it means you get the balance you need. 

When planning your next adventure, consider travelling during off-peak times when tourist sites are less busy and flights tend to be cheaper, which is always a plus. Lastly, a more niche tip is to grab yourself a window seat. If you know, you know. Whilst it is definitely not vital, for someone travelling alone, it’s ideal. I find there is something so soothing about plugging in your music, resting your head on the window pane and gazing out at the passing scenery. Maybe it’s because it has a ‘main character’ feel to it. In any case, the window pane can serve as a head rest. For me personally, reading material is a must.

All in all, travelling is an enriching experience, albeit one that can seem daunting. Yet, embracing the challenge of stepping outside your comfort zone, trying new things and maintaining a positive attitude when things don’t go to plan is the essence of a fulfilling solo adventure. Travel will present its own set of challenges, especially without your usual safety network. Therefore, it is important to make sure you feel comfortable and know what is right for you. To sum up: being an introvert does not mean you always want to be alone, so do take advantage of group tours but try to find the right balance. Also, plan ahead, be prepared and just remember that travel looks different for everyone so don’t feel guilty about doing it differently. This is what you’ve been planning and saving up for, and looking forward to, so make sure you do what’s right for you. Other than that, there’s nothing else to do but wish you luck and encourage you to take that leap into the unknown. 

Ella Pilson

Featured image courtesy of Thom Holmes via Unsplash. Image license found here. No changes were made to this image. 

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