Traveling While Introverted

I am an Introvert, capital 'I' intended. Not only that, but I tend to be quite shy to boot. These two things mixed together can pose a bit of a challenge when traveling full time. 

I love discovering new places and learning about different cultures, social norms, foods, aesthetics, you name it. I find it alternately thrilling and exhausting. One thing I've realized is some places take more energy from me than others. Initially, I thought it was variances in the number of outings we took, what sorts of things we would do, etc. And yes, that has an impact on me, but I'm coming to realize various cultural norms and ways of being have a potentially larger impact on me. 

Traveling full time requires a lot of energy. It involves a ton of stimulation, mental and physical, and can become overwhelming. There are some places in the world that are just more demanding and more overwhelming than others. That doesn't make me like them less or feel less comfy, it just means I get tired more easily and need to ensure I build in more time to recharge. 

I've been exhausted since arriving in Morocco and haven't been able to figure out why. My answer came in the wee hours of the morning, "Eureka! Morocco is the anti-introvert society". Not that they don't like introverts it's just that their society is not structured to live as such. Everyone is usually outside, in large groups, talking to everyone. We've seen no one walking the streets anywhere with earbuds in their ears. NO ONE.

This is actually a quiet moment on the streets of Marrakech's Medina

When you walk out and around the souks, shopkeepers yell to you from all directions. And you need to answer. Not responding and continuing to walk is considered rude and horrible behavior. You need to acknowledge everyone who speaks with you. Everyone. 

This usually leads to further questions or guessing of where you're from, how do you like Morocco, where you've been and almost without fail an invitation for tea. All this when maybe you are trying to get to dinner! People are kind and curious and want to share their stories and hear yours. But more often than not, they are trying to get you into their shop to sell you something.

Then there's the haggling that goes on when purchasing something. It's a must. This is an absolute cringe fest for me. Oh but it is sport in Morocco. They love it. It must be done and it must be done well. All this requires so much energy for an introvert.  I feel like I have been seeking refuge while in Chefchaouen and spending days in our room only leaving for meals and other small errands just to escape these many interactions.

Compare this with Japan; an introvert's paradise. While there, I remember exclaiming, "This is my place. It's so quiet. No one speaks!" It's the dead opposite of Morocco. Don't get me wrong, the Japanese are surely capable of being loud and gather in groups for picnics and karaoke and afterwork socializing. There's plenty of that. But no one spoke to me randomly on the streets. I had to actively seek out interactions. It was a shock when someone honked their car horn. Everybody turned to stare at the driver! Everything exists at different decibels. I was not exhausted but felt really good levels of energy exchange while in Japan. 

All this is not to say that Japan is better than Morocco. I absolutely have loved Morocco. I've learned so much while here and have changed more than I can probably even imagine. I haven't been this challenged by a place since being in SE Asia.

Maybe what I am trying to say is that it's a good thing to travel to places that challenge one's basic nature. It's good to travel to places that echo that nature as well. This mix is what keeps travel interesting. I just need to keep in mind that when I'm in a place that naturally requires more energy, I need to build in time to just escape from it all. Even if that means spending days in my room instead of constantly exploring and interacting.

Taking a peaceful moment in a riad in Fes.


Tell us - are you an introvert that loves to travel? How do you cope with places in the world that are super extroverted? Do you avoid them and just run for the beach?