By Tom Crawshaw
Guest Writer for Wake Up World
It’s likely that, at some point in your life, you have come to the conclusion that you’re either an introvert or an extrovert, and you’re reading this post precisely because you have identified yourself as being an introvert. So what does being an introvert mean to you? Does your mind conjure up an image of that shy, quiet guy, sitting by himself in the corner of a cafe, reading a book? While such a scene may illustrate a classic introvert behaviour, making that assumption is not always accurate.
Being an introvert simply means you require more time alone to recharge your batteries than an extroverted person requires. Social situations often drain our energy. It’s not got anything to do with social anxiety or a lack of self-confidence; these situations can zap the energy from even the most outrageous extroverts.
The difference is, extroverts can replenish their energy from being around other people. While this may make them appear to be more confident, they often suffer from the same social insecurities most introverts have.
Personally, I don’t believe that we are either wholly introverted or wholly extroverted. Instead, I believe that we all fall somewhere along the introvert-extrovert spectrum. For instance, I’d consider myself to be roughly 70% introverted and 30% extroverted. Why? Because although I do enjoy spending a considerable amount of time on my own, I also love socializing with other like-minded people. It’s possible for me to get fully energized when engaging with someone who shares a similar outlook on life and core values with me.
I’ve noticed that the major difference between introverts and extroverts is that Introverts seem to be more sensitive to both the number and the personal characteristics of the people they are around. If it’s a small group of people whom they’re comfortable with, they can really thrive from social interaction. Whereas extroverts don’t really seem to be affected by the number of people or whether or not they share similar values.
Considering you’re probably more introverted than extroverted, like me (which is why you’re reading this post), how do you approach something big and scary like travelling the world on your own and making friends in a brand new city?
At first glance, it may seem like a tall order to head out into a new city and attempt, awkwardly, to speak to people on the train or at the cafe. Don’t worry, all is not lost, I’ve got your back on this one. I’ve been travelling solo, primarily, for nearly 3 years, and I’ve figured out some ways to meet awesome new people and have a whole lot of fun in the process.
8 Ways You Can Get The Most Out Of Your Travels and Meet Awesome New People
Be Okay with Being On Your Own
As an introvert, spending time on your own should be no big deal. But when you’re in a new environment with no friends, the feeling that you’re missing out on something can start to rear its ugly head. Just remember that sitting by the pool reading a book or having dinner on your own is okay. You don’t need to make new friends instantly to share your new experiences with. Be okay with spending time on your own.
Take Up a New Hobby or Sport
One of the most amazing things I discovered after taking up freediving and paragliding was the existence of their ready-made communities. Now I plan my trips around good areas for these super-fun activities, which makes it easier for me to meet like-minded people. If you don’t currently engage in an activity that involves other people, now might be a good time to look at your options. One of the easiest activities to start with is yoga. Pretty much every place you go will have a place you can do group yoga, and chances are that most people in the class will have similar values to you.
You will often find that the people you meet when you engage in your favourite sport or hobby will become good friends. Your shared interest automatically builds the foundation of your relationship and opens the doors for a deeper connection. This is my preferred way of meeting interesting new people.
Join a Tour
If you’re up for doing some touristy stuff, you can always find a tour to join. One of my personal favourites was a day trip to take care of some rescued elephants in the jungle of Chaing Mai. I jumped on the bus and was enthusiastically greeted by eight other tourists, all of us excited to be able to help some majestic elephants.
You can meet some pretty amazing people on these trips, but at the same time, it’s always best to enter the experience with an open mind and absolutely no expectations that you’ll meet your soul mate, or even make one new friend. Sometimes, you’ll find you just don’t click with anyone on the tour, and that’s okay, too. The tour will end, you’ll head back to your condo, and prepare to try something new!
Smile At Strangers
If you wander around in your own little world with your headphones on, how likely is it that you’ll meet someone or have a brief conversation with the barista? Almost zero. No one wants to interrupt you if it appears you’re closed off from the rest of the world. Instead, take the headphones off and smile at the people around you. Something as simple as a genuine smile at a stranger can really boost your vibe and establish a sense of connection to everyone around you. It’s even easier in Asia because everyone will be smiling at you, regardless!
Small Talk Can Lead to Big Things
As an introvert, small talk doesn’t really get our gears going, nor does it generally come naturally or easily. What we’re really good at is picking up on the topics we can go deep on. But, the fact is, almost all conversations start with the usual small talk, especially when meeting other travellers. Even if the conversation doesn’t really go anywhere, it’s always nice to engage the people around you. Even if I am on my own in a city, just a few short, “Hello, how are you?” conversation openers actually help me relax and feel more connected to those around me.
Don’t Force Things
All humans have the innate desire to connect, but social anxiety can often become an unwelcome barrier. We see all these people around us, but at the same time, we feel so disconnected. This experience can often be overwhelming and frustrating because we feel like there is an invisible hand holding us back. It’s in these moments that we just need to breathe and relax. If you don’t feel like going on a tour or to a meetup group, don’t force it. Life is full of opportunities, so there’s no point to second-guessing yourself about what you “should” have done. Sometimes it’s okay to stay at home alone and watch a movie!
Focus On Your Vibe
This should be your priority each and every day. I’m a firm believer that we attract people and experiences that match our vibration, meaning that if we feel happy, curious, and open to new experiences, we’re going to attract opportunities that align with our vibe! When you stop to consider that everything consists of energy, it’s no wonder you can pick up on the negative vibes when you walk into a room where an argument or unpleasant situation has just taken place. Other people can pick up on this energy, too. When you elevate your vibration, by smiling at everyone around you and viewing life through a lens of curiosity, you will always have a fun time, even if you’re on your own!
Remember, you’re not going to click with everyone you meet. Relationships take time to build and grow, and if you’re only in a city for a few days or weeks you might not find anyone who you want to keep in touch with. At least that has been my experience. But when you do hit it off with someone, make sure to check in with them every week or two, even if you’re not in the same place. You never know when you’ll run into them again, and it’s always fun to have friends in a lot of different countries!
My final point here is that your happiness should never be predicated on events in your external world. If you’re having dinner on your own in a busy restaurant you either can choose to enjoy the experience, chat to the waitstaff and savor every bite of your food, or you can look around and compare yourself to everyone having fun with their friends, feeling like you are missing out. It’s always your choice. I’ll raise my hand and admit I’ve felt anxious and awkward many times when visiting a crowded restaurant on my own. If you approach life with an open mind and an open heart, however, it’s inevitable that you’ll cross paths with some amazing souls, usually when you least expect it. So stay curious my friend, and enjoy your travels!
About the author:
Tom Crawshaw is the author of the blog Dabs Of Reality. He considers himself to be an adventurer, entrepreneur, philosopher and student of life, blending science and spirituality to help raise the level of consciousness of humanity one person at a time.