The idea for this blog post came to me as I was quietly showering earlier this week, minding my own business. As it is a public shower room, another student entered the cubical next to me and proceeded to unleash her inner Hannah Montana. As her voice bounced and echoed across the tile ceiling, I was literally frozen in shock thinking to myself “we are literally separated by two feet of steamed air and an inch of plastic stall door and you’re belting ‘My Heart Will Go On…’ I AM RIGHT HERE!” In that moment I recognized the need to address how fellow introverts should mentally prepare for social interactions overseas.
1. Remember not everyone is an introvert (exhibit A presented above)
This is an obvious one. It’s cliché, but you’ve got to learn to go with the flow. Realize that not everyone is going to understand your bubble, your need for “recharging” time, or why you’re perfectly fine wandering around a museum by yourself for hours and showering in silence. Be even more flexible and courteous than you are in your normal life – traveling is stressful on all types of people. While the “duck-and-cover!” approach may work on your home campus when a definite extrovert has you in their sights, it doesn’t work that way while traveling (trust me, been there, it just gets awkward). People, all people, are your friends and you’re going to need to rely on them at some point. Like mama always said: it takes all kinds of kinds.
2. However, the world was not designed completely by extroverts!
Introverts unite! Bookshops, pubs, tea rooms, museums, and art galleries are the introvert’s havens and they are all over the place. People plan entire trips around gazing at Renaissance art, appreciating a distant, understood companionship with other introverts. There’s a beautiful, quiet world out there. Always keep in mind that your travel experience is about you. Want to sip tea and browse shelves of hardback books all day? You can! Want to spend six hours hiking with your headphones in? You can! Do what you want to do when you want to do it.
3. People watching is an acceptable hobby
When I first started people watching I was super paranoid that someone was going to be offended that I was looking at them. I averted my eyes, pretended to be reading billboards, ate three ice cream cones in one sitting to act like I wasn’t staring. Reality check: No one is actually paying attention to you paying attention to them. It’s literally like bird watching. Strangers milling about in the town square have places to be and things to do. Since you don’t, sit back, relax and observe.
4. Public transportation is your friend
Feeling alone in your introversion? Fear not! The tube, the subway, railcars, public buses, taxis, (although strangely enough not airplanes) are designated places of sanctuary for introverts. A ticket for any form of public transportation is like an unspoken invitation to the introvert convention. Don’t talk, it’s weird.
5. Personal space doesn’t exist in some countries, however it does in England!
They understand the bubble.