Confessions of an Introverted Traveler

Speaker's Corner: Sophia Dembling has a different style of traveling, and she's tired of hiding it

03.09.09 | 9:43 AM ET

Photo by Sophia Dembling

I was talking to a friend who is who intelligent, well-informed, worldly and well-traveled. He and his wife have visited every continent and have a robust interest in world politics and culture.

Still, he sounded a little sheepish.

“You know how people say that the reason to travel is to meet people?” he said. “Do you ... ?  I ... I don’t really ...”

He was reluctant to finish the sentence, but his filthy secret was out: He doesn’t buy into that style of travel.

“I don’t either,” I assured him. I felt liberated.

We introverts have a different style of travel, and I’m tired of hiding it.

Oh, I’m always happy enough when interesting people stumble into my path. It’s a lagniappe, and I’m capable of connecting with people when the opportunity arises. And when the chemistry is right, I enjoy it.

But I don’t seek people out, I am terrible at striking up conversations with strangers and I am happy exploring a strange city alone. I don’t seek out political discourse with opinionated cab drivers or boozy bonding with locals over beers into the wee hours. By the time the hours get wee, I’m usually in bed in my hotel room, appreciating local color TV. (So sue me, but I contend that television is a valid reflection of a society.)

This is not something I confess easily. I have long been shamed out of owning my introversion by the extroverts who dominate American culture. Extroversion has long been considered healthier than introversion, and introverts often try to push against our natural tendencies in order to fit in, to seem “normal” so people will stop scolding us. Extroverts are unintentional bullies, demanding that everyone join their party or be considered queer, sad or stunted.

Introversion and extroversion are inborn traits, and the difference between them is not that one is gregarious and at ease in the world and the other shy and awkward. Rather, extroverts are outwardly motivated and gain energy from interaction with the outside world while introverts are more inwardly directed and drained by interaction with others. Introverts’ thinking tends to be deep and slow, we require copious time alone, we prefer probing conversation to shallow chitchat, and our social lives are geared more towards intimate one-on-one interactions than “more the merrier” free-for-alls.

I’m friends with a couple who take annual yachting vacations to exotic destinations such as the British Virgin Islands, Turkey and Croatia with groups of as many as 12 people. This couple long ago stopped inviting me and my introverted husband, Tom, on these trips, though I can sense their puzzled disappointment over our persistent refusals. But the thought of 10 days in a small space with that many people gives me hives. Tom and I have tried to explain, but I’m not sure our friends get it. Telling me how nice everyone is misses the point. I’m sure each and every person is delightful, but there are just too darn many of them at once. Period.

We’re also not bed-and-breakfast people, if breakfast with other guests is mandatory. (“Where y’all from?” we joke to each other. The mating call of the B&B guest.) I once read about a B&B where the owner collected antique hats that guests were encouraged to wear to breakfast. Really? That sounds fun to people?

At the only B&B Tom and I have ever liked, in the Texas Hill Country, we never even saw the owners. Breakfast was left each morning in a basket on our porch. Perfect.

Extroversion is a powerful force in America and one that few other cultures share. When traveling alone in Finland a few years ago, with the scolding voices of extroverts in my brain, I tried to present an open, approachable demeanor. One night in a restaurant (dining alone is always a little stressful, even for loners like myself) I bravely plastered a cheery American grin on my face for the waitress, trying not to look as peculiar as I felt—a lone middle-aged American woman touring Finland as the cold, dark winter set in.

But Finns are not the indiscriminate smilers Americans are—one might even call them dour—and my waitress seemed a little discomfited by my insistent smile. Finally she gave me her best effort at returning it, and a more pinched and strained approximation of a smile I have never seen. I was touched but also embarrassed for us both. I wiped the silly grin off my own face and got down to the business of eating dinner and quietly observing my fellow diners.

Though I don’t need to talk to a lot of people, I love watching them. Many of my favorite travel memories involve sitting and watching. I spent hours under the midnight sun in the Vigeland Sculpture Garden in Oslo, watching people wander among the statues. In Venice, Tom and I returned several times to a café with tables under a huge tree where we passed some time over snacks and cold drinks, watching Venetians go about their business. In Rome my niece and I ended every day with gelato at a favorite spot outside the Pantheon. Sitting, eating, watching. Conversation optional.

I can think of only one time when my introversion was challenged by a trip and that was a two-week solo excursion through the Alpine regions of Italy, Germany, Austria, Slovenia and Switzerland—reserved cultures (except for the Italians), unlikely to engage strangers in conversation.

Halfway through this trip, when I reached Linz, Austria, I was getting lonely. So I settled into a lively outdoor café one afternoon and tried to look approachable. I gave encouraging glances to a couple with a small child sitting nearby, seeking the slightest sign that conversation would be welcome. Nothing. Even my waiter refused to engage in any chitchat. The night following that afternoon remains among the loneliest of my decades of travels. The hotel room in which I holed up was above a lively bar (I particularly dislike going to bars alone). I sat in my room listening to the party below and felt sorry for myself.

Near the end of the trip, on the train to Zermatt, a group of Americans entered my car, and I threw myself at them, begging them to talk to me. They warmly obliged and even extended an invitation to dine with them that night, which I gladly accepted.

So I ended up interacting with my own culture, which isn’t really the point, is it?

Nonetheless, for some of us, meeting people is not the sole purpose of travel. I travel for the travel. And I will be forever grateful to my friend for his confession. It’s good to know that I might be a loner, but I’m not alone.

Sophia Dembling

Dallas-based writer Sophia Dembling is co-author of the Flyover America blog and author of "The Yankee Chick's Survival Guide to Texas." She would love to hear your tales of America, so drop her an email.

120 Comments for Confessions of an Introverted Traveler

Valerie Conners 03.09.09 | 11:20 AM ET

I’m not typically an introvert, but there is something in the fiber of the B&B breakfast that gives me absolute utter and complete social anxiety. God FORBID I’d have to wear an antique hat, to boot!

Shellie - InnkeeperVA 03.09.09 | 11:34 AM ET

Excellent article! I own The Claiborne House B&B in Rocky Mount Virginia. I agree wholeheartedly that not all travelers want the communal dining experience, but many do! We offer breakfast delivered to the room in a couple rooms and if guests prefer they can take their breakfast on the porch.

Your “mating call of the B&B” cracked me up. The next question at the American table is “What do you do?” Which is actually “Ask me what I do!” We had British guests ask this question at our full table last Fall as they had it asked at every morning table from Maine to Williamsburg. No one would answer. They found it odd, isn’t this what Yanks usually talk about?

Upon check out they mentioned the dead silence at the table and had they done something wrong? I laughed a little and said “Oh no, nothing wrong, those other guests all work for the CIA.” I told the guests they now have a fascinatingly funny story to bring home from their US Travels. :)

All the best! Shellie at

Catherine 03.09.09 | 11:43 AM ET

I know exactly how you feel! I wrote about this a while back for Gadling. One thing I discovered is that traveling forces me to be less shy, which for me was a good thing.

JackieB 03.09.09 | 11:44 AM ET

Thank you, thank you!  Nice to know i’m not alone.  I’ve spent too much time acquiesing to travel companions’ desires to “meet people” while out on the road and therefore doing things that I hate- rather than just jumping ship and going it alone.  I will welcome interaction if it comes, but I’m over seeking it out for the sake of doing so.  I’m about to go on a short solo trip later this week and was feeling apprehensive about it (thanks to the choruses of “OMG you’re going ALONE?!?!?! Couldn’t you find anyone? How awful!”) and this just reinvigorated me!

Sophia Dembling 03.09.09 | 11:55 AM ET

I love the idea of giving people a choice of where to dine, although I suppose I would fear be considered snobby if I ate outside while everyone else shared their life stories.

The CIA story is hilarious!

We were at a B&B once where one of the guests went careening on a racist rant against Japanese people. The rest of us sat there like deer in the headlights.

And JackieB, do not feel funny about traveling alone. It’s a wonderful experience and IMO, when people are shocked, it’s only because the very thought of doing it themselves frightens them.

Sophia Dembling 03.09.09 | 11:58 AM ET

Catherine, I really like your tips for shy travelers, although I don’t consider myself shy. I think that’s a misconception about introversion. A shared dorm sounds like utter torture to me. By the end of the day, I need more than ever to be completely alone.

Jennifer 03.09.09 | 12:34 PM ET

So true!  Everything that you said in this piece is so true of introverted travelers!  Being a fellow introvert myself, I’ve always lamented the fact that I wasn’t the kind of traveler who could chat it up and become friends with almost anyone, anywhere.  While being extroverted can certainly add value to a foreign place, it shouldn’t be a requirement for a good time!  Thank you so much for saying this out loud for all of us introverts and helping us realize that we aren’t the only ones out there!!

Sophia Dembling 03.09.09 | 12:41 PM ET

I think the key for us, Jennifer, is to be open to encounters when they happen, even if we aren’t the ones to instigate them.

I also find that hiring a local guide is a great way to have a one-on-one encounter with a local that is less taxing than trying to meet someone. Sure, they are professionals but they’re also regular people and if you spend a day or half day with someone, you will eventually get into conversations that are off-message and real. I’ve had some wonderful, enlightening conversations with guides.

Betty 03.09.09 | 1:16 PM ET

If you’re avoiding B&Bs;because of social anxiety about the other guests you might encounter; be aware that you can book private retreats at places like ours where you can have all the privacy you desire. We won’t even make you wear a hat, that is unless you want to.

Betty at

Sophia Dembling 03.09.09 | 1:19 PM ET

Cool, thanks for the info, but it’s not social anxiety. I’m not afraid of people. Introversion is not a disorder. It’s simply another way of being.

Valerie Conners 03.09.09 | 1:33 PM ET

oooh yes, let me clarify - i was being pretty tongue in cheek with the “social anxiety” comment - it’s certainly not in the most literal sense. I just dread forced breakfast chatter with strangers!

Sophia Dembling 03.09.09 | 1:42 PM ET

Gotcha—I just have taken it as my mission in life (or at least this month) to dispel all myths about introversion. I have a big “I” on my t-shirt and I am rushing to the rescue of introverts everywhere. Online, anyway. I’d rather not leave the house, if you don’t mind.

I do have funny-hat-wearing anxiety, though.

To digress, one of the first rules my father taught me about flea marketing was, “Never buy anything from anyone wearing a funny hat.” He believed that if they need that much attention, their prices would be inflated.

Jenna Schnuer 03.09.09 | 1:44 PM ET

Beautiful piece Sophie.

While traveling (and, actually, in all of life), I swerve back and forth between introversion and extroversion. But I always fight against forced social interaction (so the idea of the hat-wearing B&B makes me cringe).

JackieB—The people who don’t get solo travel are also probably afraid of going to a movie or out to dinner solo. Three of the great joys of life.

Sophia Dembling 03.09.09 | 1:47 PM ET

I LOVE going to movies alone. My husband always feel guilty when I do—usually to movies that don’t interest him—and I have yet to convince him how pleasant I find it. And I much prefer seeing a movie alone to dragging someone I fear won’t enjoy it. In that case, I spend the entire time worrying about whether the other person is hating it.

Dave Brett 03.09.09 | 1:47 PM ET

thats exactly what i love about Finland, the people dont jump at you for a conversation and it takes some effort to interactive with them, but once you do there just the most interesting people to talk toand i love the lovely sunsets they have you talk about with the dark days, makes me want to go back there
: ), but i also time to time prefer to just enjoy a city on my own and prefer to do it this way and just sit at a coffee shop table and watch there world go by its so different and eye opening some times, im more of a day dreamer my self and love to think up ideas so sometimes i like to keep my self to my self and watch a train ride go by :D

Terry Ward 03.09.09 | 2:51 PM ET

Hi Sophia. Nice story. It made me reflect on my own intro versus extro self. And I think there are many shades of Americans (and others) who fall between the categories of those who prefer probing conversation to shallow chitchat and one-on-one interactions to more the merrier free-for-alls. While I am pretty extroverted when traveling, I can relate to the idea you present of extroverts dominating American culture and how intimidating that feeling of not being like the masses can be (though I think extroversion has more to do with the person than the culture, truly). Every time it becomes evident in a social situation that I really don’t like to dance (I am just way too shy in that regard), the pressure from people around me, wherever I am in the world, seems only to augment. And extroverted as I am in most social settings, all I want to do then is go hide in a corner and have a deep one on one conversation with another person who’s too shy to dance, too.

Sophia Dembling 03.09.09 | 2:58 PM ET

Oh, I absolutely agree that introversion/extroversion are inborn. In fact, scans have even found differences in the brain. I guess I think Americans tend to exalt extroversion more than other cultures, though.

I, too, can behave in an extroverted fashion but that doesn’t make me an extrovert because it completely drains me, whereas a genuine extrovert gets energized by interaction.

And you’re quite right that few people are all one thing or another. Like most traits, we all fall somewhere on a continuum, I think.

Chris 03.09.09 | 3:04 PM ET

Sophia, how do you get along there at the edge of the South where being friendly to strangers is supposed to be an inextricable part of the culture?

Sophia Dembling 03.09.09 | 3:16 PM ET

Great question, Chris. I did have to learn to make chitchat with strangers and it hasn’t always come easily. I really don’t mind it, though, as long as someone else initiates it. Such pleasantries really do grease the wheels of life. I do get annoyed at too much of it, however—supermarket checkers who tell me about their bladder problems and that sort of thing. But that’s more a TMI problem than a friendliness problem, I guess.

I have learned to be both pleasant and mostly non-engaging when in comes to chatting with strangers. I’m sure I am often considered rude or cold. I can live with that.

However, I am also consistently the person who gets trapped at parties, galleries, etc. with the biggest motormouth in the room. I have a very hard time cutting people off and escaping.

BTW, all my recent contemplations on introversion were inspired by a wonderful new book called Introvert Power.

Miss Expatria 03.09.09 | 4:35 PM ET

I am 100 percent with you on this one.  Thanks for outing us!  I am such a travel introvert, I even make my boyfriend and I take separate vacations - not all the time, but often, because as an ex-journalist he likes to strike up conversations with people and ask them about themselves and stuff.  And you totally nailed the B&B vibe *shudder*.

Mr. Jim 03.09.09 | 5:03 PM ET


Re: Going to the movies alone—this is something I have always cherished. I like going to the movies with friends, but that brings with it the stresses that come from such inter-personal interactions.

Especially when I have a day off…I love to go to the theater and watch a few movies (sometimes paying for them all). I’ve loved doing this for more than 12 years.

Not surprisingly, I’m also quite introverted. I talk to people when I have to. I don’t like spending time with people that I don’t have (or suspect I have) several groovy things in common with. For instance, don’t like spending any time with co-workers outside of work.

V 03.09.09 | 5:21 PM ET

As an introvert I found some of the things you said quiet on the mark but a lot of your remarks actually offended me. As much as I relish in my own time, wondering alone, and people watching, the point you made about introverts being “drained by interaction with others” seems pompous and condescending, not to mention a generalized assumption. As if talking to people is above us. In addition, striking up a conversation with a stranger may be hard to do, but I wouldn’t generalize about “introverts” because for some people that prospect although hard, is not unwelcome and “draining,” but a chance to connect with somebody else along the same path.

Eva Holland 03.09.09 | 5:27 PM ET

Loved this piece, Sophia. I go back and forth between introvert and extrovert, but when I’m in intro-mode, I can relate exactly to all of this. (Including being physically drained by interaction with others.)

Sophia Dembling 03.09.09 | 5:28 PM ET

Well, I certainly didn’t mean to offend and I am sorry to have done so, but the concept of being drained by interactions is actually the definition of introversion that psychologists use—I didn’t invent it.

Again, I am perfectly capable of talking to strangers and imagine most people who identify with introversion are, but it requires more effort for me than for people who are extroverted and it’s not always something I feel compelled to do or even enjoy. It sounds as if you find the effort worthwhile and that’s great.

therese 03.09.09 | 6:30 PM ET

hi sophia!
this was so timely, comforting and a great read. wes and i are pretty introverted (though i have gregarious moments). we are about to go on a working vacation to north carolina. da boss wants me to get models for stock photography. i am NOT comfortable going up to strangers to ask them if they would pose. in fact, i DREAD the prospect. but if we want to travel together, it’s pretty much the only way. who knows, maybe it will be fun (i doubt it) but i’m much happier just shooting landscapes and the occasional wildlife or doggie that wanders across our path (rather us across theirs!). i was so looking forward to our trip but now i’m totally conflicted. oh, bother. thanks for the insights…

Valerie 03.09.09 | 7:00 PM ET

Thanks for this piece Sophia. I find that I’m more of an extrovert when I travel but I do find it hard to strike up conversations with strangers and maintaining an extended conversation. It’s not that I’m antisocial, I just don’t always feel like spending boozy nights out on the town into the wee hours with people I just met or I can’t contribute to conversations about topics I know little about like Australian sports. It’s nice to know that there are other folks like me out there.

But some of my fondest travel memories have been spent with new people, like watching the fireworks in the Piazza di Michelangelo in Florence on the feast of St. John the Baptist and going out in Riga and Vilnius. And I do find myself getting lonely at times when I have no one to talk to.

Sophia Dembling 03.09.09 | 7:27 PM ET

Ah, Ms. T, I can’t express the level of fear loathing that man-on-the-street interview roused in me when I worked for the newspaper. Ugh, ugh, ugh. Just terrible for me. Just keep in mind how free you’ll feel at the end of the job, when the “film” is in the bag.

Valerie, I have to say that I rarely find myself feeling truly lonely. At times I am uncomfortable being solo—I still don’t particularly like eating dinner alone (breakfast and lunch are no big deal) but it’s mostly because I feel like I’m getting strange looks. I remember one family in Bellagio that actually twisted around in their seats to give me the once-over. And that was at lunch!

I do like enjoy traveling with a good companion, though. I don’t insist on being alone.

Joty 03.09.09 | 9:01 PM ET

Speaking of companions…Does anyone out ther have trouble finding people to travel with?  I am married but unfortunately my husband doesn’t share my desire for travel.  I don’t mind solo trips but it’s nice to have some company.

Sophia Dembling 03.09.09 | 9:27 PM ET

Joty, the Women’s Travel Club was founded for women with exactly that problem:

Grizzly Bear Mom 03.10.09 | 2:06 AM ET

I’d thought the definiation of introversion was one who lost energy by dealing with people.  Being an extraverted introvert I love to travel, dine, and attend movies alone because I get to see, vist, eat, sleep and do whatever I want without having to be concerned with anothers’ desiresm which could occupy half of my time!  I like talking to the people I met when I am out and about, if I choose to do so.  I encourage anyone to try the things they are interested alone if they can’t find a companionable partner.

Jennifer 03.10.09 | 7:38 AM ET

Sophie, again thanks for the great post and the tip about the book Introvert Power.  I’m definitely going to check it out as well as the link to the Women’s Travel Club.  As with most things, there is a spectrum of introversion/extroverison and everyone will fit into it in a different place.  As for me, your post was right on the money and I was not offended in any way!

Jennifer 03.10.09 | 7:40 AM ET

Sorry, SophiA!

Gary Ramberg 03.10.09 | 8:44 AM ET

Hey not all Inns & B&Bs;are Created Equal:  We personally don’t serve breakfast, we give you a coupon at a local cafe and let you go when you want.
But as an extrovert, that’s part of the reason I became the mayor, there is a reluctance by even some of us to go to old house b&bs;for lack of privacy.  So if you are thinking of going to that cute old victorian for that romantic anniversary then just call ahead and make sure they did what most inkeepers have done, put every last dime they could beg, borrow or… into lovingly restoring the darn place.  Also if you don’t want to engage anybody at breakfast just be one of the first there.  At that time even the extroverts are half asleep and not that talky!
No matter what your experience, it will be more memorable than some non-descript chain hotel.
Make it a Great Travel Experience!!

Jerry Haines 03.10.09 | 9:40 AM ET

Oh, I can identify.  My own solution to traveling as a shy person?  Marry someone who’s not.  I wrote about it a few years ago.

Of course, this assumes that one is actually troubled by being shy.  I’m not unhappy, but it does sometimes get in the way of what probably could be a better time.

Loved the piece, Sophia.

Kathleen 03.10.09 | 12:10 PM ET

Have to add here that some B&B owners are introverted themselves!  We have individual tables where you can enjoy your breakfast in peace.  We chat if you like, or….not! 


- in the very tiny and off the beaten path hamlet of Skamokawa in Washington, where the best part of visiting is the solitude you can enjoy on our local trails, or kayaking on our creeks and sloughs.

NJ 03.10.09 | 3:13 PM ET

I think this article provides a fantastic description of an introverted traveler.

Very few times have I been able to connect so well with anything that I`ve read. I am surely the kind of person who ‘travel`s for the travel’.

It was a very nice read.

James C 03.11.09 | 10:14 AM ET

How about this - an extrometer!  Its a watch, and there is a dial with settings :-

No. 1 - I can talk till the cow come home
No.2 - Hiya, want a drink?
No. 3 - Hi, I’ve got 5 minues to kill
No. 4 - Sorry, catch up with ya later
No. 5.- Leave me alone!
No. 6 - I have a bomb in my pocket.

You walk to the stunner at the bar who’s also wearing one, 10 feet from her you point your device’s infra red at her set and press a button to get a reading, your watch’s LED shows “5”. You slither off quietly. No guesswork, no red faces. You continue your preying at the pool side.

Of course you must set yours at No 1, just in case you miss one, and she’s the one pointing at you.

It costs only 50 bucks, bars sells it, hotel sells it, everybody on the beach is wearing it


Wear a T-shirt to the pool side. with the boxes besides No.1 - 6, just tick the appropirate number with a marker pen.

Ellen Barone 03.11.09 | 9:09 PM ET

“Sitting, eating, watching. Conversation optional.”

You’ve summed up my favorite way to experience travel!

Love this piece.


globalgal 03.12.09 | 7:54 AM ET

All I can say is thank you for writing this. I’ve always known I’m an introvert, a proud one, but for some reason I believed my travel style was all wrong. I’ve just got to remember to be true to myself. And thanks for defending introverts (and the highly sensitive) as people forget it is not actually a disorder!

therese 03.12.09 | 1:58 PM ET

wow- you really struck a chord, girl! do i see a(nother) book in your future?
i’m just sayin’...

therese 03.12.09 | 2:01 PM ET

i mean WOMAN! ;-)

Aunt Mimi 03.12.09 | 4:53 PM ET

Sophia, thank you for writing this article.  This is the experience my husband and I have on most of our adventures - willing to go out, try new things, people watch, but conversation is definitely optional.

Sophia Dembling 03.12.09 | 5:42 PM ET

Well, I see introverts have been just waiting to be outed! I’m so glad to have struck a chord with y’all. That’s how I felt reading Introvert Power—suddenly I knew I was OK. Whew!

Jerry, I would much prefer to wear a Spam shirt than a grasshopper pin. And I do recall one conversation during a trip that started because of my Krispy Kreme T-shirt.

Antonia Malchik 03.12.09 | 6:06 PM ET

Sophia, I laughed as I read this, especially the comments afterwards. I’m an introvert, and was so happy when I read Jonathan Rauch’s article in The Atlantic Monthly, “Caring for Your Introvert,” which finally taught me that I was not shy or awkward or a misanthrope—just a perfectly normal introvert. Chit-chat does indeed drain us. As I tell my husband, it’s not that I hate social gatherings, it’s that it takes me a day or so of alone-time to fully restore my energy levels afterwards.

If you haven’t read the article, you should. Everyone should read it, especially extroverts. Here’s the link:

I haven’t found introversion to be a problem at all in traveling—quite the reverse, as I think we observe a lot more than those who simply want to meet others. I have, however, found it a bit of a hump to get over for travel writing. After all, a crucial part of really good travel writing is interaction and dialogue. A few quality encounters can fill that hole, but I have to admit I have to fight the urge to get all my quotes from others’ books!

Sophia Dembling 03.12.09 | 6:12 PM ET

I have read The Atlantic piece but I forgot this line:

((Introverts are also not misanthropic, though some of us do go along with Sartre as far as to say “Hell is other people at breakfast.” ))


Sophia Dembling 03.12.09 | 6:17 PM ET

Oh, and Dr. Laurie Helgoe, who wrote Introvert Power, crunched the numbers herself and contends that 52 percent of Americans are introverted. So we may be the quiet majority.

Chris 03.12.09 | 10:25 PM ET

Sophia, do you get a prize from World Hum if your post hits 50 comments? :-)

therese 03.12.09 | 11:54 PM ET

if so…
yay! i comment you!

chuck 03.14.09 | 1:43 AM ET

Sophie frankly I’m a real traveler. I found your story interesting.
As for myself—my first real international trip was Puerto Vallarta,Mexico. When I returned I learned spanish on my own from a berlitz spanish book and it came in handy when I ventured to Catalonia,Spain a few years ago. A villa in the mountains outside Stiges just 45 minutes by train to Barcelona. I spent 3 weeks there and I went to Athens,Greece and cruised the Greek isles. Lost and returned my luggage. Got back into the states canceled flights via US Airways. This was actually my second trip to Europe. My firstr I went to London,Edinborough,Scotland and Paris,France. Since then I’ve been to St. Maartin,the Caribbean,Key West and Miami,Florida. At work I get the question: Where are you going to next? but I love to travel. I return home; and Vicksburg ms isn’t the same anymore. I sound like Anthony Boudrain with that last line but it feels that way sometimes.

Jean 03.15.09 | 2:49 AM ET

I haven’t done any solo travelling so far but I’ve stayed at a number of B & B’s.  Sometimes people will speak to each other and sometimes not.  I’m usually more interested in where people are from rather than what they do for a living.  Or where they are heading, what sights are not to be missed.  In Ireland while staying in the farmhouse B & B’s I often got tips from other diners on places to stay or good restaurants in the direction we were heading.  Of course the Irish are pretty gregarious so it’s hard to avoid a conversation with them.

I was in Paris last May and I have to say that some of my favorite moments were conversations with neighbors at dinner.  There was the couple from Australia discussing jetlag and the Norwegian couple with whom we discussed the way Americans handle silverware.  And the simple kindnesses of people toward one another, like trying to figure out which gas pump held the diesel when there was no attendant.  And how do you find out about how people live if you don’t talk to them?  Taxi drivers, waiters, and B & B owners can be very interesting. 

I guess I’m not an introvert or an extrovert because while I love a conversation with a few people a cruise with 12 doesn’t sound like my cup of tea either.

Susan 03.15.09 | 9:59 AM ET

Absolutely perfect.  I always knew in my heart I was okay but other people sure have a way of making you doubt yourself.  My daughter and I spent 4 weeks in Europe last year and other than our hosts at the apartments we stayed in, we had very little interaction with other locals or travelers.  If we had questions, we asked locals.  Some were happy to help, some ignored us.  It was the best trip ever.  You can learn, love and appreciate other cultures without forcing yourself into them. 

I’ve always been an introvert but life often requires an extrovert.  It is exhausting to try to embody a spirit that is not your natural spirit.  I am an introvert with strangers and extrovert with friends.  And it’s all good.

Thanks for the best travel related article that I’ve read in quite some time.

Jan Ross 03.15.09 | 11:52 AM ET

Oh, Thank God there are others like us out there! My husband and I travel often and are very introverted. We basically just enjoy each other’s company. We are the ones back in our stateroom early in the evening watching TV or a movie on our computer. It used to worry us but we have long since decided that each to his own and this is what makes us happy. Striking up conversations with perfect strangers IS draining!!

Jennifer #2 03.16.09 | 5:58 PM ET

What a wonderful article—I shared with several folks.  You summed up my thoughts much better than I would have and now I feel like I am not the “odd man out”!  And I do feel like I observe much more than if my goal was specifically to meet people—if it happens, great, if not, that is just more local flavor that I have been able to soak in.  And I appreciate everyone’s comments about traveling alone—I have a wonderful husband of 28 years who unfortunately has no wanderlust!

John Teems 03.17.09 | 1:39 AM ET

I want to say that I love the article! I am very much an introvert myself and can really relate to this article! I am also going alone to central Europe(northern Italy, Austria, Bavaria) for a week or so at the end of this summer. Did you really have a bad time? Are the people very unfriendly? Any tips you can give me?

Sophia Dembling 03.17.09 | 11:12 AM ET

No, no! I had a wonderful time! I just had one bad night, when I got tired of being alone and didn’t manage to make friends. People are not unfriendly, they are just, in general, not as outgoing as Americans. As a guy, you might be more comfortable visiting bars and beer gardens alone than I am and those are always good places to strike up conversations. If there are any big national sports events taking place, bars are usually very lively.

I also like hiring guides through the tourist board or taking tours (even an hour or two) if I get tired of being alone. Sometimes I strike up conversations on group tours of museum or other sights, and those can extend to a cup of coffee or something afterward.

Aya 03.18.09 | 9:01 AM ET

Brilliant article, Sophia!
I am a career solo traveler, after my first trip abroad was ruined by the unfortunate company I was obliged to keep.  It is refreshing to know that there are others who are not compelled to interact with locals simply because they are there, and I may not be such an oddity for giving only a smile as a greeting and going about my way. The next time you find yourself feeling lonely listening to someone elses party, just remember that you could have to attend that party, and make inane chit-chat with those folks.

AtlasRider 03.19.09 | 2:14 PM ET

Great article! This completely describes myself. I’m preparing for a 6 month trip through South America and friends often express concern over the time I’ll be spending by myself.

I particularly like how you articulated the emphasis on extroversion in America. Never really realized that that really was the case until I read what you said.

Shashikiran 03.21.09 | 6:31 AM ET

Can’t tell enough what a relief this article has been to me, a lone walker in strange cities, liking the walking, liking the loneliness, and always worrying that I’m traveling the wrong way.

Matt Parker 03.22.09 | 11:16 PM ET

Everything you said rings true with me. I can’t do bars and I’ve walked home from parties because the uncomfortableness is unbearable but I do love watching people interactions.  There is a lot more of us out there than you think and you can see it in their eyes when they are in a group that they would just rather be alone.

therese 03.22.09 | 11:23 PM ET

seriously soaf… write the book. quick! hell, it’s writing itself!

btw- my sign-in words were (SWEAR) ‘storm newswomen’s’.  you can’t make that stuff up.

Tim Patterson 03.24.09 | 7:55 AM ET

I’m eating dinner by myself in Laos right now.  Thoroughly happy.  Thanks for this great piece, the hat line made me snort.

Sophia Dembling 03.24.09 | 9:19 AM ET

If I have made someone snort in Laos, then my job here is done…

Cam 03.24.09 | 1:08 PM ET

Awesome article—I totally identify. One of my favorite travel memories is of eating the best steak tartare ever in a little cafe in Paris, alone, with a good book. This is despite people’s typical reaction: “Didn’t you feel WEIRD eating alone in PARIS??” Maybe a little weird, but it was a lot better than spending those few hours making awkward conversation with other diners.

Where is the B&B you mentioned in the Hill Country?

Sophia Dembling 03.24.09 | 1:36 PM ET

That seems funny—I would think Paris would be a perfect place to linger alone. Very Proustian.

Very sorry, but that B&B will remain a secret. Gal’s got to keep some things to herself.

Nancy 03.24.09 | 3:36 PM ET

Great article, Sophie,
I consider myself an “introvert with good social skills”. No one guess that I am. I LOVE to travel alone, but there are times like you mentioned when you smile and people look at you like you’re deranged, especially in Paris. But, whereever…we’re are who we are.

IndyMo 03.25.09 | 4:36 PM ET

I’m with Sophie, I do not travel to “meet people”, but to see what is over the next hill. I don’t go into chat-rooms to interact with those of the opposite sex for ‘tang either, just for actual chat!. I’m happily married to the same female homo-sapiens for the past 51 years. But I must confess to being a wide-open, blabber-mouth extrovert who really does get a little irritated with those of my opposite number who cannot manage a civil greeting to their fellow travelers. And I must confess gang, it smacks to me of a superiority complex and disdain of one’s fellow specie hiding behind such nice words as"introvert”. Furstehn? But that’s O.K., I generally get the message in two or three sentences with little or no reaction, and allow all you “shy persons” to have your space all to yourselves, cause I know it won’t take me long to run into another extrovert I can chat with. Happy trails.

Sophia Dembling 03.25.09 | 4:43 PM ET

Well, then everybody’s happy—you get your chats and we don’t have to. I don’t disdain anyone and I’m not shy, I just function differently from you and I couldn’t change if I wanted to. (Nor could you, I think.)  Live and let live.

Warren 04.09.09 | 10:38 PM ET

I’m an introvert, I think. I dread traveling alone for the simple reason that I won’t leave the room the whole time. My wife and daughter draw me out, helping me venture. I dislike crowds. When there is more than one conversation going on at the same time, I am lost. I’ve gone to parties in the past and sat by myself talking to no one. Am I an introvert or might I rather be an avert? I’m not antisocial but asocial. I think that I am not like you but more so like me.

Nancy 04.09.09 | 11:27 PM ET

A book that really helped me with the stigma of introvertion was “The Highly Sensitive Person” by Arons. She explains that thoughts, feelings and behaviors of we who consider ourselves shy, introverted, etc. are because we just have highly sensitive nervous system and are trying to protect ourselves by not being overly stimulated. According to the author it’s not psychological, but physiological in origin. You might like to read this book.

Jim 04.13.09 | 12:11 AM ET

This was refreshing to read, as I often find myself feeling the same way, but still take delight in nothing more than walking alone around a big foreign city, especially at night.

Also, I know exactly which gelato place in Rome you’re talking about- Della Palma- and it is easily among the best of the many I’ve been to. I think I also know the cafe in Venice you’re talking about (I lived there for 6 months and any mention of a tree in Venice tends to narrow things down significantly).

As a younger traveler, I stay in shared hostel rooms more often than not, and do enjoy talking with fellow travelers, but when the time comes to go out exploring, I don’t want to be tied to anyone’s itinerary but my own.

mike 04.14.09 | 12:30 PM ET

Thanks for letting us introverts know that we aren’t alone (though most of the time we’re ok with that!)

Now maybe I can forgive myself for NOT crashing that wedding in Positano a few years ago.

Sophia Dembling 04.14.09 | 12:32 PM ET

Ohh, I hear you Mike about that retrospective guilt. My husband and I went back and forth and back and forth about a birthday party we were invited to by strangers on a trip last week. We weren’t able to find the place and were equal parts disappointed and relieved. I still feel kinda glad, kinda OK about it.

Love2SeeNewThings 04.14.09 | 3:16 PM ET

Hi Sophia, 

I hope you don’t mind if I call you that.  However, your article caught my attention because of a discussion I had in class regarding if females travel more alone today.  I piped up with a “Of Course We Do!” since I have been to Ireland and Madrid alone and have enjoyed it.  I never felt alone in Ireland because people came out of woodwork - ready for a conversation!  Yet, to be honest - after two sour trips with close friends, I think I prefer to travel alone because I get so many more things done and actually meet more locals.

Nevertheless, I am commenting to ask your permission to share the link for your article with my class.  It is actually a “Women in Literature” class and I believe many participants will enjoy what you had to say.

Thank you, Mari

Sophia Dembling 04.14.09 | 3:40 PM ET

Mari, I would be delighted if you share the link! We always want new readers coming to our site.

The right travel companion is a great joy, the wrong one is sheer torture. I’ve had both.

Laurie Helgoe 04.14.09 | 5:00 PM ET

Hi Sophia—Thanks for letting me know about your blog. I so resonate with your travel preferences. When I wrote Introvert Power, the chapter I most enjoyed writing was “The Freedom of the Flauneur.” There is no parallel word in our language for “flauneur”—a French term meaning “passionate observer”—but the flaneur and flaneuse (feminine) clearly abound, as this conversation attests. We are people who enjoy being in the midst of people, but anonymous, mobile, and free to observe—to savor and find meaning in the surrounding images, sounds and movements.

On a personal note, I vowed to write Introvert Power while on a trip to the Amazon—with a group of high school students, teachers and parents. An introvert’s nightmare. Each day was structured, with group activities from early morning to evening. I survived by skipping some of the excursions and indulging in the quiet of the hammock room (which was invaded in the evening by hormone-infused teenagers). But still, I felt alien to all of these people who seemed unfazed by the one-sided (extrovert-sided) nature of the trip. I dealt with my lonliness by deciding to reach out to other “aliens” and, in the process, discovered that we (introverts) actually outnumber extroverts!

Every week, I am hearing about —and joining when I can—new conversations among those who draw energy from within (and don’t want to wear hats or compare careers at breakfast).  Introverts are talking, and things are going to change.

Happy (Solitary) Trails!

Sophia Dembling 04.15.09 | 5:44 PM ET

Thanks for chiming in Laurie! As you see, your book has become a cottage industry for me—it’s given me a whole new way of thinking and I’ve been writing about my new understanding of introversion every which way. It was a real life-changer!

I’ve learned to survive traveling in groups but I am adamant about not sharing a room. And my husband knows I will have little to say when I get home.

I have a trip coming up this weekend that will involve lots of interaction but I actually told the planners that I couldn’t attend a particular evening event because I would need the evening to recharge for the next day. Your book gave me the courage to do that.

Leah Cornwell 04.18.09 | 2:18 PM ET

My husband is an extreme extrovert and I the exact opposite.  Through the last 11 yrs of our marriage we find that our extreme’s have sort of rubbed off onto each other into a more balanced way of relating to our little sphere of influence. Me being more comfortable speaking out in larger groups of people and he relaxing a bit and learning that he doesn’t have to control/dominate the conversation.

I have not read Introvert Power, but have been delving into another book I’d stumbled across on the coffee table of my extreme-extroverted deaf cousin’s mother (who is her daughter’s extreme opposite and not deaf).  I found this book at a very opportune moment of being completely drained by my deaf cousin’s non-stop energetic tour of her hometown meeting most all of her deaf friends and my extended family. 

The book is called The Introvert Advantage, How to Thrive in an Extrovert World by Marti Olsen Laney, Psy.D.  I just wanted to throw a plug for this read into this delightfully entertaining and encouraging barrage of comments on your delicious article. I am 33 years old and I just started going to the movies by myself. I have a dream to travel alone but have not yet developed the courage to do so. I believe my next step toward this goal is to begin dining out in actual restaurants as opposed to driving through and getting a burrito and eating it in the solitary comfort of my locked car.  Your article has inspired me to try this lone restaurant experience as a step towards the independent travel I so long for. 

Thanks for the laughter and empathy!
And thanks for your courage to spread the knowledge that Introverts are not in the minority and not in “disorder.” 

Proud but not haughty
Introvert but not shy
Lovely in my own way

George 04.22.09 | 1:39 AM ET

I read this about the solo traveler right after the one on twittering in Buenos Aires. I can’t imagine wanting to use my iPhone while enjoying an evening in BA, after a good dinner and with a good wine. That is a city for the solo traveler to enjoy. Recently, I spent a good month in BA and Patagonia. The funny thing is that this solo travel often brings me out of my introverted self, particularly when one of the locals becomes curious enough to ask what the heck I am doing alone in the middle of their city or country.  When they find out I am an American who speaks Spanish and is actually willing to give it a try, I find new friends for at least a day or so. Never fails. I wish my wife were still alive as she was shy among strangers, but great to travel with.

Sophia Dembling 04.22.09 | 9:21 AM ET

George, you have clearly mastered one of the arts of fulfilling introverted travel: being open when others initiate conversations, even if you don’t always start them yourself. I sometimes make friends that way, sometimes get into good conversations—sometimes have to extricate myself, but that’s another good skill to develop!

ocean 04.23.09 | 12:44 AM ET

I think this article is wonderful.  Flashbacks to my oh-so-cliche summer backpacking Europe with a best friend who’s as extroverted as extroverted can be.  What I remember even more than the sights, sounds, and smells was the total exhaustion of being around people ALL THE TIME. 

Even the comments to this piece, though, seem to show some of the misconceptions of introversion vs. extroversion—even from some introverts themselves.  I feel as introverted as they come—I need hours of alone time a day, especially if I need to recuperate from social time, and a big party with lots of people I don’t know (and small talk) is basically the least fun thing I could ever imagine.  At the same time, though, I really do enjoy people, and can be very good at initiating conversations with strangers.  Though I was shy in my youth (and still consider myself a bit shy), there are probably few people in the world who would consider me shy anymore. 

Introversion isn’t shyness or social anxiety or difficulty talking to people, though it can (and probably very often) does go hand-in-hand with some of those things.  All it means is that socializing, while we may find it fun, is also draining.  The way extroverts reboot is to be with people, the way introverts reboot is to be by ourselves.  Simple as that.

It’s taken me a very long time to realize, though, that it’s just that simple—that nothing is wrong with us, that extroversion isn’t “better,” that we’re all just shy or awkward or standoffish.  It’s just the way we are!

I do find, though, that the most frustrating thing is trying to explain introversion to an extrovert.  One of my favorite articles about introversion (found here: opines that introverts can understand extroverts because extroverts wear their hearts (and thoughts and dreams and actions and goals and….) on their sleeves and so we introverts have no trouble figuring them out, but that extroverts will never understand introverts because they cannot understand how someone could actually prefer to be alone rather than with company.  I don’t know if I’d go quite that far, but I do think that it’s very easy for us to be misunderstood—but extroverts, by our culture, and by ourselves.

ocean 04.23.09 | 12:49 AM ET

Just realized that another commenter already posted the Atlantic article!  Sorry about the repost (but it really is a good one).

Kevin Evans 04.28.09 | 10:58 AM ET

My wife and I stayed at a ‘table d’hote’ in the Dordogne region of France a few years back. These places are typically farmhouses, and you eat breakfast and dinner with the family. This French couple spoke no English, and our French was pretty rubbish so I was imagining dreadful meal times full of trying to avoid eye contact and smiling embarrassingly when it did happen.

The funny thing was that this couple had travelled all over Latin America, as had my wife and I. And the food they served was a brilliant fusion of rustic French peasant fayre and more exotic asian flavours. My wife and I are real foodies so we were in gastronomic heaven.

In the end, we formed a really strong bond with these people despite the inability to communicate with. They let us help them make jam and took us for rides on their donkeys.

Lainie 05.06.09 | 10:49 AM ET

This is a great article, and is going in my collection, along with the Rauch article—which I sent to my family years ago, only to actually have one of my own brothers say, “We didn’t know you were an introvert, we thought you were just a bitch.” Thank you, Sophie, for saying it so well for all of us.

I think I’m actually discovering my love of travel rather late in life, in part because I never had any model for how to travel and be myself, and not succumb to the uncomfortable pressure to behave like an extrovert - and exhaust myself trying.

Sophia Dembling 05.06.09 | 10:52 AM ET

“We didn’t know you were an introvert, we thought you were just a bitch.”

OK, this may be my favorite response yet. I love it.

Soon to come on World Hum ... my six tips for traveling introverts. Look for it.

Irene S. Levine 05.06.09 | 11:29 AM ET


What a powerful, evocative essay and the great photo at top didn’t go unnoticed either! You certainly struck a chord here—-perhaps many of us introverts hang out in cyberspace where we have more control over our interactions :-) Also, in distinguishing between being an introvert and having the condition of social anxiety: If you had the latter, you probably wouldn’t feel comfortable going to movies alone because you might think that everyone else was looking at you.

Thanks for such honesty so well expressed!


Sophia Dembling 05.06.09 | 11:31 AM ET

Actually, Irene, Dr. Helgoe, in the book I so liberally quote, speaks quite a bit about how the Internet is an ideal forum for introverts. I found that extremely reassuring, since I am sometimes mocked for my robust online social life.

Anonymous introvert! 05.26.09 | 6:24 PM ET

Delightful and almost heart-warming story. Beautifully written too. I too am an introvert, though also have major anxiety fears and so on, but I agreed with all that you said. I particularly liked “I’m capable of connecting with people when the opportunity arises. And when the chemistry is right, I enjoy it”. Spot on. I am always told how engaging and charismatic a person I am, but only when the chemistry is right. And when I travel, I’d far rather sit and watch and observe than be thrown in the middle of the tourist humdrum - in what people insist will be “an experience”, usually one which will be “unforgettable”. But for me, and you, it’ll be unforgettable for all the wrong reasons.

Great article.

Dan G 05.27.09 | 11:53 AM ET

“Many of my favorite travel memories involve sitting and watching. I spent hours under the midnight sun in the Vigeland Sculpture Garden in Oslo, watching people wander among the statues. “

I’m fascinated.  I grew up about 5 miles outside of Oslo and have never seen the midnight sun.  Granted, it can stay light until after 10pm, but not midnight.  You have to be much farther north in the country for that.

Sophia Dembling 05.27.09 | 11:55 AM ET

Really, Dan? I swear I remember sitting in the sculpture garden and reading and realizing all of a sudden that it was 2 a.m. Is my memory that far off? It;s been many years… I might have to dig up my articles from that time (so as not to rely on memory alone) and check myself.

JennyM 05.27.09 | 6:30 PM ET

Thank you, thank you, thank you.  I want one of those “I” t-shirts, too!  When a Meyers-Briggs test at a company retreat outed me as an extreme introvert to the rest of my colleagues, one of the women I work with gasped, “But Jenny, you’re not shy! You’re so outgoing!”  And the facilitator turned to me and said, “This is a perfect example.  She’s not shy, and she has a lot of friends, but this is going to take a while to get over, isn’t it? I bet this weekend-long retreat is just about your worst nightmare, even though these people are your friends.”  And I was all, “Will you marry me?”

I’m definitely picking up a copy of Introvert Power.  And then next time someone says, “Wait, you’re going to the beach ALONE?” I am not going to feel sheepish at all about saying, “Yes, yes I am. And don’t offer to go with me.”

George 05.27.09 | 10:51 PM ET

One of the best things related to introvert vs. extrovert is the famous Myers-Briggs Test and their explanations. The test works great for any kind of group (including families) that is interested in how to get along with each other and how different people’s personalities can be.  One very important point, however, is that those giving the test need to be qualified to administer the test and then to explain the results to everyone in the group. The facilitator can make the results confidential, if that is deemed helpful, or let everyone know everyones results, as well as, different gradations of the giving out part.
    I took this test many times and found interesting the my “score” always stayed close to my first test. I definitely always scored high on the Introvert side. This helped me to better understand my personality and how I might want to act with others.
    For personal reasons, I was fascinated to learn the the late Ambassador Kennan was surely an introvert. Maybe that is why he became so knowing of how the Soviet Union really worked. He not only was the Ambassador to the Soviet Union for many years, but also had the personality to be able to slog through the writing of several very heavy-duty books. 
    My only regret on learning about all of this is that it came much too late in life to do anything for my career.  Still, it does make me at ease in many situations where before I might have been scared to death being with this group or that.

    If anything, I’ve moved slowly out of the grid and taken pride in my very own personality and having a fairly good idea of the personalities of others.  I, like other commentators, still make mistakes about others, although that can be fun too. I recently told a female friend that she is such an extrovert.  “Oh no,” she replied, “I am very introverted!” 
  Well, I based my opinion on the fact that in most of her spare time she is a singer and dancer. knowing that, I guess, I had also felt she was approachable and she is a good conversationalist. After that litle conversation, I did notice all the other things about her that pointed to her being quite far over on the Introvert side.
  Thanks for starting this wonderful line of comments with your great article.

Dan G 05.28.09 | 12:29 PM ET


The midnight sun is usually only seen north of the artctic circle, so you’d have to be around Tromsø to see it.  However, even in Oslo the sun sets around 11pm and raises around 3am so it stays light at ungodly hours compared to Jersey, where I now live.  I am jealous that you’ve experienced it.  I’ve only been north in the winter (when it is really dark) and have never seen it. 


Sophia Dembling 05.28.09 | 12:32 PM ET

Thanks, Dan. Maybe it was just 10 or 11 pm, which was still shocking in light of the light. It was a wonderful experience.

R. J. Kelly 05.31.09 | 6:39 PM ET

Thank you, Sophia, for a brilliant essay.  As a person passionate about traveling, my introversion, and my privacy, I have never “added a comment” (with my name “required” no less!) to anything on the web.  However, I often do wear a button to dreaded social gatherings.  It reads:  “Go fascinate someone else!”

Sophia Dembling 05.31.09 | 9:09 PM ET

R.J., I am touched and honored. And your button made me laugh out loud.

jaketaylor 06.01.09 | 4:12 PM ET

Wow, Sophia, thanks so much for this - I stumbled upon your writing today, and I’ve never felt more in tune with someone!  This must be what coming out of the closet feels like or something :)  I feel so liberated! 

My name is Jake, and I don’t particularly enjoy hanging out in large groups or “meeting new people.”  My ideal weekend morning involves having a quiet cup of coffee by myself while doing the crossword puzzle.  It does not involve talking to you about my plans for the day, hearing about how drunk you got the night before.  That doesn’t make me mean or rude, it’s just who I am.  On New Years Eve, I’d rather have a quiet dinner with a handful of good friends and spend the night playing board games until the ball drops then going to a massive party with tons of people I don’t know.  That does not make me antisocial. 

And don’t get me started on traveling.  Believe it or not, I find it miserable and an utter waste of time to travel with a large group and be subject to the whims of others.  If I’m spending a bunch of money and vacation time to go somewhere I’ve never been, I want to enjoy it the way I want to enjoy it, not the way you want to enjoy it.  And my way means peace and quiet and sightseeing and hiking and relaxing, not clubs and bars and shopping and crowds.

I feel so much better.  Thanks again Sophia!

Nicholas Allen 06.08.09 | 8:37 AM ET

Great article….it’s now out in the open!!  You might be interested to know that has developed a travel personality test to sort the Introverts from the Extraverts, Adventurers from Culturalists etc.  Clearly, this is a preferred style and you can step outside your travel personality given a good reason but you’ll typically return to your preferred style. uses the travel personality test to match readers with authors that they will most likely to resonate with!

Lauren 06.09.09 | 9:26 AM ET

I really loved your article, like many other fellow introverts have said it has struck a chord with me. I’m currently studying abroad in New Zealand, and did my first solo traveling before school started. I found it so liberating to be able to go where I wanted, do what I wanted to do, and not have to worry about someone else’s agenda or desires. I then spent two weeks travelling with a fellow international student during break, who is quite the extrovert and was always wanting to go to bars or pubs, which isn’t something I enjoy at all. Even though I had a fantastic time I’ve found that I prefer solo travel. I do enjoy interactions with locals when they happen, but its definitley not something I seek out, and I don’t feel its the point of traveling either. I also really love people watching. So thanks for a great article, and helping me realize its okay to be an introverted traveller!

Amanda 06.10.09 | 9:11 PM ET

Thanks for such a great article.  I’ve done a couple of group tours with friends, and vowed never again. I wouldn’t even go on vacation with my family (extended) whom I love…just not enough to spend a week in Ireland with 15 of them! 

I’m both introverted and shy…and working up the courage to take my first vacation alone, so thanks for the article, it’s giving me the confidence to just go for it.

Lindi 06.16.09 | 8:33 AM ET

This article is excellent! I’ve always wondered why I felt the need to go out and meet new people every time I travel. I felt like it was expected of me as part of the travel experience. At least I know now I’m not alone that there are often times I just want to sit and watch people go by. It’s a fascinating new perspective for me. One of my favorite memories of times I’ve spent in Vegas was taking the night off from partying and going to shows. I spent the entire evening sitting in front of the Bellagio water fountain watching the show and people walk by. I loved every minute of it. Thanks for the great idea!

Cathy 06.22.09 | 4:15 AM ET

Thank you for writing an article that really rings true to me. Living overseas, working as a teacher, and traveling extensively I’m often faced with extrovert-friendly situations and occasions and have been feeling boorish for demanding my own space and time. Regarding the midnight sun, having just experienced my first “longest day of the year” in Stavanger, Norway (about the same latitude as Oslo), I can report that the sun does set around 11 and rises again 4-ish, but the sky never really gets completely dark. The sun isn’t that far below the horizon when it “sets” in the northwest, and the light just swings around and comes back up in the northeast in the morning. You can easily read a book on my balcony at midnight this time of year.

Patricia Weber 06.22.09 | 1:20 PM ET

What a great article. I’m the introvert; my husband is the extrovert. We totally agree on the travel methodology when we are in a country where we’re at a language disadvantage - we hire a private guide. This way I get to avoid the “group” drain. And he loves it because we can go at our own pace.

Yes; lots of myths about introversion. I just posted a video at YouTube because I’ve got a mission to bust ‘em! Debunking Introvert Myths Introduction.

Thanks again for the great article.

Best Travel Blogs 07.04.09 | 7:18 AM ET

Some of us don’t always want to meet people when we’re on the road.

Lori 08.09.09 | 5:36 PM ET

I absolutely love your article..thank you for speaking out, it’s time someone did. I recently went to Ireland with my husband and the in-laws. I had just came off a summer semester in college and was working at the front office around patients because we were short staffed so I had been around people for 2 months straight with no break or time to myself. By the time we got to Ireland I was ready to be alone & my husband had booked mostly B&B’s to stay in. One morning I so desperately wanted time alone that I went into the bathroom & just sat down away from everyone, it did improve my mood for about half an hour. The next morning I skipped going out to breakfast because I just didn’t have the energy to engage in conversation. Well my mother-in-law assumed something was wrong with me & thought I was upset to make a long story short she assumed that I was angry and didn’t want her & my father-in-law to come on the trip with them. It made me feel horrible to think that she would think this because it just wasn’t true. I kept trying to explain to her that I’m an introvert and needed time to myself but she didn’t believe me. It created an uncomfortable situation that is still not completely normal. I wish people would realize that not everyone is like them and nothing is wrong with me! It is sooooo frustrating.

Nancy 08.09.09 | 6:45 PM ET

OMG! I can understand what you went through with your in-laws and so identify with this. I work as a therapist and I talk and listen all day. When I go home I want total quiet. When I used to go on vacation with my ex I would say, “I just have to relax for a few days.” Which meant to me sitting quietly somewhere sucking up the ambience. He never understood this.  Maybe that’s part of why he is an ex :)

I think sometimes the extroverts that we come up against are somehow feeling responsibile for their guest’s happiness and enjoyment and when they run up against us introverts, i.e.“Highly Sensitive People” they feel like they have failed in that we don’t enjoin with them in the scene.

It’s tough, but there is room for all.

Nancy Bartell 08.09.09 | 6:52 PM ET

OMG! I can totally understand the tension that must have developed with your in-laws. I’m a therapist and talk and listen all day with people. When I come home I want QUIET!

I remember going on vacations with my ex and tell him that for the first few days I needed just to relax and not do anything. Never happened…maybe that’s one of the reasons he’s an ex :)

I think sometimes that extroverts feel like they may have failed in their to entertain and be hospitable to us introverts (i.e.Highly Sensitive People)  if we don’t respond with enthusiam and excitement that they are expecting.

There is room for all.

Bri 08.31.09 | 1:47 PM ET

it’s SO good to see that the loners are not alone. :)

William Wallace 09.13.09 | 12:24 PM ET

It is maybe an old cliché but, “what is one mans paradise, is another’s hell”.  Never try to fit into a box that makes you feel uncomfortable, do what is right for you…..

Ashley Petry 09.16.09 | 4:28 PM ET

Thank you so much! I have always felt guilty about not “interacting” more with local cultures, and your confession is a breath of fresh air!

We just spent a weekend at a bed and breakfast where the owner gave a quiz each morning after breakfast: great works of English literature, famous American buildings, etc. The other guests loved it, but I thought, “Am I actually supposed to be social this early in the morning?”

I’m so glad I’m not alone!

Sophia Dembling 09.16.09 | 4:29 PM ET

((We just spent a weekend at a bed and breakfast where the owner gave a quiz each morning after breakfast:))

This made me laugh and cry.

Mara Gordon 10.17.09 | 8:54 AM ET

I enjoyed your article tremendously. As an INFP (Myers Briggs), I fit in with a mere one percent of the population. My happiest times are spent in deep conversation usually on a controversial topic. Recently, my husband compared my social awkwardness to Chloe on the Fox TV series 24. If you haven’t seen the show, trust me, he wasn’t comparing me to a social butterfly.

I have found that Social Media and writing are great ways to communicate with people throughout the world, and that I enjoy meeting people one at a time. It’s the groups that are difficult, and the having to be “on” that is so draining. Also, if I approach meeting new people with a goal in mind, for example, to write about it, or learn about a topic, then I am much more relaxed. It’s as if I hide behind a role. It works for me, a full time traveler.

Please let me know where I can find more of your writing. I enjoy your style very much.

Sophia Dembling 10.17.09 | 12:22 PM ET

Thanks so much, Mara. Yes, I also find social media particularly useful—and fun—for keeping in touch with groups of people. Otherwise, I like people in small groups or, like you, one at a time.

I turn up on World Hum from time to time. I am blogging about living as an introvert on the Psychology Today website. If you click my name on this comment, it will take you to Flyover America, a website I have with fellow writer Jenna Schnuer. I review fitness DVDs at a blog called Suit Up and Show Up, and when I have something random to say (not as often as I used to) I do it at

Mary Arulanantham 10.23.09 | 4:42 PM ET

I read your article when it first came out, and totally agreed with your viewpoint. I have just come back from a wonderful week in Hong Kong, travelling with a friend, and staying with one of her friends who lives there. The need to be constantly “on” with this very nice woman, who personally took us around to all her favorite spots did, indeed, prove to be draining, emotionally. I was grateful to have a room of my own to retreat to at the end of the day, to read, check my emails, etc. and go to sleep early. We were introduced to many of her friends, and as we were all essentially peers (in terms of age, family status, etc.), it wasn’t too hard to find light topics of conversation and still I found myself wanting to sit on the edge and just look around and process the experience in my own way. When I travel with my extroverted husband, I sometimes cringe as he makes friends with waiters and shopkeepers, but I also get the benefit of personal interactions that I wouldn’t otherwise seek out on my own. Vive la difference!

samsonite luggage 10.28.09 | 2:41 PM ET

I am a extrovert, completely.  I would hate to travel alone, and even more hate to eat alone, but I can respect anyone who can travel alone.  I always considered it a quality I wish I had.

guiadelosangeles 11.02.09 | 10:59 AM ET

I think there is NO only one reason to travel, people go on travel for different reasons.

Sophia Dembling 11.04.09 | 11:07 AM ET

To some extent, introversion and extroversion are inborn. Please see further discussion on my Psychology Today blog, The Intovert’s Corner,

SD 11.07.09 | 2:44 AM ET

A girl after my own heart!
I’m an introverted traveler too. And proudly so. In my defense, I say some places require introspection, quietness and solitude to absorb the travel experience in and the noise from extroverts just ruins the experience of travel for those of us who seek reflection in our travels. Here’s to conversations only when absolutely necessary! :)

Fran 11.08.09 | 12:50 AM ET

Great article and it really hit the nail on the head—for me, at least.

The feeling of having to be “on” is a great stressor for me.  I much prefer to be out there on my own not making empty conversation.  It makes me tense up when I hear people babbling on and on about things that are of no interest to me.  I don’t know what I’m supposed to say in response and would rather just live in my own head.

I’ve found that culinary tours are a great way for me to get out and travel because there is a commonality among the small group, I get to meet some interesting people and we don’t have to force conversation because we all have the same interest and a fallback for an introvert like me is the food.

And it’s absolutely imperative that I have a room to go to at night to decompress.

It’s funny, my family never got it when I was a teenager (or now, for that matter).  I’d go to a party or an event or celebration and they would attempt to “debrief” me after.  They just wanted to know how it was and I’m sur to make sure I had a good time, but I’d give them 1 word responses with a groan.  I had to take it all in.  Think about it, let it swirl around in my head and then a few days later I’d just start reviewing the event and spitting it all up until I’d recapped everything.  On my own time.  In my own order.

And that’s what I love about blogging.  It’s up to me what I write.  When I write.  And with what frequency whether it’s my food blog or my expat blog.  It’s a place for me to “get it out” without being pressed for info.  :)

James L. Moore 11.09.09 | 2:13 PM ET

I believe I am a ‘hybrid’ personality when it comes to traveling.

I am perfectly happy to travel in a group—- if it is a group of my choosing—- and I have done so dozens of times, but most recently using converted school buses and exploring Central America, ala the Green Tortoise.

On the other hand, I shy from the communal tables of B & Bs and absolutely do not go out of my way to chat up the locals, though I can hold a conversation with a diverse range of characters if the situation requires it.

Your post reminded me of The Accidental Tourist. . .

Sophia Dembling 11.09.09 | 2:25 PM ET

No, I’m not the accidental tourist. I don’t need to stay in an American chain hotel or eat nothing but familiar foods. I’ve stayed in pensions, mountain huts, I even slept on a gymnasium floor once because I arrived at Mount Rushmore during the big Sturgis rally and every hotel was full. (Oopsy doodle.) And I’m not a picky eater.

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