Welcome to my little introverted mind. I’ve certainly used that line before.
But yes, welcome. It’s crazy up in here, but you wouldn’t see that from the outside. I don’t actually think many people know the true Ben yet, because what’s on the outside is so completely different to the inside. From a modern-days perspective you could say I’m Gunther on the outside and Phoebe on the inside. And yes, I’m sure you can also tell I’ve watched 2 seasons of Friends in the past 4 days. I’m certainly no extrovert, yet I’m a traveller. I’ve been halfway around the world, stayed in so many hostels and travelled alone for 3 months. I’ve made so many friends, and yet I’m still so far from being an extrovert. I never actually realised this until someone asked me how it was to be an introverted traveller.
Perhaps a better way to ‘label’ my social ‘security’ is to define me as an extroverted introvert. It’s certainly a valid phenomenon and definitely not uncommon. Why? Let’s face it, in this modern-age extroverts are favoured. If you’re the loud, confident joker in high-school then you’re the cool guy. Confidence is hot, apparently. But that leaves half the population who were cursed with introvertism out of the picture. Social standards rule that shy people aren’t cool. Quiet guys might do well in school but socially they’re ‘unequipped’ for the real world. And I say cursed because, as an introvert, it is a curse to be the awkward, quiet guy at the party. Introverts recharge through alone-time – it’s a fact, embrace it. But it doesn’t mean that we’re going to put up with being the lesser of the two groups that seem to define a person’s social ranking. So it becomes a task for us introverts to force ourselves to be the cooler guy. To be louder, more confident and become experts in self promotion.
Enter the extroverted introvert. He’s a reserved guy but loves being the centre of attention. Meeting new people isn’t so hard for him, but keeping those friends close suddenly becomes a huge effort. Not in the sense that he doesn’t want to keep them, more so, how can he keep them without coming across as overly obsessed and attached to these new friends. And then he retreats back into his shell of introvertedness and uncontrollably overthinks the situation when really, his new friends are just that. New friends. The extroverted introvert is no less than an extrovert in social settings involving people he is already comfortable with. In this case, he is the life of the party. But to get comfortable with someone may take days or it may take years. In his mind he creates situations that may or may not happen and picture himself being the main attraction. In his mind he is the cool guy. In the flesh, sometimes he is cool, mostly on accident, and sometimes he is his introverted self. But no matter what reality dictates, in his mind he will always strive to be more extroverted than he is. He may be quiet, but he certainly isn’t JUST an introvert. He has extroverted qualities but they certainly don’t flaunt themselves. And thus, the extroverted introvert is born.
I really believe that most travellers are extroverts. Travellers stay in hostels, have no troubles talking to strangers at the bar and seem to make new friends the minute they walk in. Before I even left I knew that I wasn’t this type of guy, so in this sense, it’s hard as hell to be an introverted traveller. If I’m honest, I spent hours reading articles and blogs on how I would be able to make friends while travelling. Every one of them said it was a piece of cake and it happens naturally, no matter who you are. But that didn’t stop me from overthinking the likelihood that I would never make one friend in the entire year I was away.
Fast forward 3 months. I’m travelling alone around Bali absorbing the warm sun and lush scenery (far out I miss Indonesia so much). I booked an impulsive snorkelling tour around 3 islands, making this the first activity I have done while travelling that involved strangers. Put simply, I had the option of making friends or being the loner on tour. Based on the explanation I gave on what it’s like to be an extroverted introvert, I’m sure you can guess which one I did not become. No way in hell was I going to be the loner on tour. No, the extrovert in me came out and I forced myself into an uncomfortable situation where I would either rise and shine or put my awkwardness on display to 15 other travellers. The latter wasn’t an option, but I quickly realised that it wasn’t just ‘not an option’, but more so, something that wasn’t likely to happen anyway. Those articles were all true, and I understood that making friends while travelling really isn’t hard. Yes, most travellers are extroverts. They talk heaps and find no difficulties in doing so. But secretly for us extroverted introverts, it’s a blessing in disguise. Extroverted travellers assume that every other traveller is an extrovert, meaning they’ll talk to everyone as if they’re an extrovert as well. Say goodbye to starting conversations friends, your life just became so much easier. So in this sense, being an introverted traveller is easy.
Perhaps the hardest thing for an introvert to do is engage in social activity with people they are uncomfortable with or simply don’t know. It’s a vulnerable situation, endangering and sickening for most of us. And yet the whole travelling culture is based around this trait or ‘superpower’ that extroverts are blessed with. In this sense, introversion and travel definitely don’t compliment each other. But I think this is where you can safely drop the two labels altogether. Introvert or extrovert, it really doesn’t matter. Travel shouldn’t be suitable for one or the other.
There’s this thing called a comfort zone. It’s a bitch. Introverts, extroverts, extroverted introverts and introverted extroverts all have a comfort zone. The borders and limits may differ between each person, but everyone has one. And it’s up to each individual to determine how much they’re going to let their comfort zone control them. I’m not going to lie, the comfort zone is a really nice place to be. It’s safe, secure and unobtrusive. There’s no vulnerability and certainly no pressure. I’m also not going to lie when I say that travellers’ comfort zone borders seem to extend to the limits of the earth. That’s not true though, because no matter how confident, cocky or extroverted someone is, they all have a limit. You too. But this is where it becomes your decision to determine how much you are going to let your comfort zone define you. It really shouldn’t, and if I can leave you with one thing from all of this, it’s to break down the borders of your comfort zone. As hard as it is, as violating as it can feel, the other side of your comfort zone is a place you want to be. Take this from an introvert who has experienced life on the outside of my comfort zone. Take this from someone who was too shy to engage in conversation with new classmates in year 8. I understand you. It’s honestly one of the hardest things that I have ever forced myself into, but the reward is worth doing it over and over again. Whether you are an extrovert or an introvert, the time where you’ll have to step outside of your comfort zone will come at one point in your life. But when you make peace with this, introversion isn’t a curse anymore. And being an introverted traveller isn’t such a plague anymore.