Alone can be lonely. Image by Flickr user Marco Alioli.
Even the most introverted of introverts needs to be social to be happy.
I spend a lot of time developing strategies for finding time for myself in a world that is increasingly social, but sometimes I am so worried about carving out alone time that I spend too much time by myself.
When I am at my most overwhelmed by the world (often when traveling), I tend to isolate myself, and that isolation can have momentum.
If you are anything like me, then here are five signs you need to stop sitting by yourself and go make some travel friends.
1. You are excited when a fellow tourist asks you to take her picture.
I visited London for the first time for a short stopover trip on my flight home from studying abroad in Prague.
I had an amazing time. I walked along the Thames, stopping to indulge in my favorite solo travel companion: the crossword puzzle.
I avoided small talk with my fellow hostel-stayers, knowing that I would only be there for two days and wanted to spend my time doing exactly what I wanted to do.
Then, at the end of my second day soaking in the city, another tourist asked me to take her picture in front of Buckingham Palace. I said “yes” and then kept on talking, babbling about things in a way I rarely babble to strangers.
This was a sign I needed to find some social interaction. Pronto.
2. All of your travel photos are selfies.
There’s nothing wrong with selfies, but it’s nice to have a few pics with other people while out and about in the world. Or, better yet, photos of friends you made while traveling. These may mean more to you or evoke the feelings you had in the moment better than a shot of a landmark you could find on any old postcard.
Travel shouldn’t be about checking off a list of places or sites. It should be about engaging with the world, and that, dear fellow introverts, means engaging with people.
3. Your inner monologue is becoming a bit too familiar.
This is Stage Five Level of Social Isolation for me.
When I have spent too much time alone, I tend to devolve into familiar self-arguments about how I should be experiencing the world: Stop reading in your hostel and go out and do something, self!
In theory, this self-critical habit might help break me out of my internal zone and get me out and about, but, instead, it tends to paralyze.
However, being able to recognize that sinking into this stalemate means I am not embracing my introversion but rather letting my tendency for social isolation control me has been a vital stepping stone on the road to balancing my introversion.
4. The last few conversations you had were on Skype.
As an introvert, I value close relationships to the exclusion of casual ones.
When traveling, this can mean a tendency to avoid making new, transient friends and, instead, spending my social energy on reconnecting with loved ones back home via Skype, email, or phone.
Though staying in touch with close friends and family while traveling isn’t a bad thing, using those relationships as your primary social outlet can limit the possibilities of your travel experience.
5. Your travel journal has been your dinner date all week.
I am all about the travel journal. I write more for myself while traveling than any other time, and I love that aspect of my travel style.
However, it can be a crutch that prevents me from going out and telling real, live people about my day.
I would never give up the time I have with my travel journal, but if it has been my go-to conversation partner for more than a few days, I consider drastic measures — like sitting down at someone’s dinner table and asking if they’re up for a chat.