The Introvert’s Guide To Travelling With Strangers Wander Wonder

Introverted and about to embark on your first Contiki holiday? It doesn’t have to be so scary. 

As a self confessed introvert, I find joy in flying solo. I have no qualms eating alone, drinking at a bar on my own … and travelling by myself is always a welcome experience, because it means my time is completely my own. Selfish as it sounds, not having to accommodate friends’ itineraries is always a relief.

But even the most hardcore of introverts are not impervious to moments of loneliness. Or sometimes, it simply makes more economic and logistical sense to travel in a group, like the time I booked a day trip with a travel agency to check out the sights around Kanchanaburi in Thailand. I would not have been able to to do that trip alone, unless I was willing to shell out way more money to book a private driver to take me to all the sights around the region.

Indeed, some of the best moments I had as an introverted solo traveller actually involved interaction with other travellers. And if I, on the more extreme end of introversion, managed to do it, so can you. All it takes is a little strategy and open-mindedness.

Besides,  if you don't get over your fear of travelling with strangers,  all the pictures if you will be selfies.

Besides, if you don’t get over your fear of travelling with strangers,  all you’ll have to show of your trip will be selfies.

1. You become a different person when you travel

In my course of work as a writer and editor in women’s lifestyle magazines, I meet and interact with lots of people every day. This, however, did nothing to bring me out of my shell, mainly because these interactions were mostly superficial. The Denise these people saw was Denise, magazine rep – not the real Denise.

When I travelled on my own, however, a completely different side of me emerged. It was a Denise who saw no qualms in sharing a meal, personal stories and embarrassing anecdotes with someone I had just met earlier that day. When you travel on your own, a lot of the usual pressures you feel in day to day living are lifted, exposing your truer and more authentic self; you feel less guarded around people (barring dodgy characters, which you will inevitably meet along the way), so don’t be surprised if you become a friendlier, even more extroverted version of yourself.

2. See interacting with strangers as yet another step out of your comfort zone

Travelling on my own on a shoestring budget a few years ago meant that I would be sharing a dorm with strangers at some point on my trip. That happened on the Vietnam leg of my Southeast Asian tour a few years ago. Initially, I hated the idea of not having my personal space, but gradually, as it happened, that experience became just another minor road bump in a series of road bumps I encountered on my trip. I mean, if I could sleep in a pitch-black room with no electricity and hardly any ventilation, come face-to-face with leeches on a hike through the jungle, trust someone I just met to watch my bag as I made a quick toilet run at the bus station … I could definitely deal with sharing a room with five strangers.

In the end, choosing to stay in a dorm turned out to be for the best. Not only did I save a few precious dollars,  Hanoi is also a pretty scary place in the wee hours of the morning so I was grateful to have been walking back to the hostel in a group after a few drinks.

3. Bring props that’ll help you tune out of world

For those times YOU CAN’T EVEN, always have headphones, a wide brimmed hat, and your best resting bitch face to keep strangers at bay.

4. Intersperse social gatherings with solitude

One of the biggest misconceptions about introverts is that we are misanthropes allergic to any form of human interaction whatsoever. That is simply not true. Most of us introverts don’t actually hate people – we just need moments of solitude to recharge our batteries as social situations can quickly zap our limited store of energy. It’s all about balance, you see. After a night out at a bar hanging out with your new buddies, be sure to schedule to some alone-time the next day, whether it’s a solitary walk to the museum, or spending time catching up on your reading at a cafe. That’s the best way to prevent a “people burnout”.

5. Don’t feel bad taking your leave

The first rule of making friends while travelling: You don’t owe them anything, especially not your time and energy if you’re not up to it. Nomads are probably an understanding bunch of people anyway,  so they probably won’t pressure you stay late at the bar if you’re not up to it.

At the end of the day, travel is supposed to be broaden your horizons, and the people you meet will be part and parcel of that experience. So go forth, explore, and make new friends!

She may have been born and bred in Singapore, but Denise considers Chiang Mai her spiritual home and needs to make a yearly pilgrimage there to maintain her sanity. Competitive by nature, she enjoys combat sports and is currently obsessed with Brazilian jiu-jitsu, which she picked up just under a year ago. To no one’s surprise, the country currently at the top of her travel bucket list is Brazil.

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