An introvert’s guide to solo travel: 5 rules to a successful adventure

I posted this on my Medium page, not knowing if it falls under “Travel Writing” or plain essays. In any case, I’ll cross-post here and hope for the best!

There’s something of an art to balancing over-planning a trip and have it be so much I’ll just wing it that the trip becomes a logistical nightmare once you arrive. And as I didn’t do a wrap-up post for my Southeast Asia Adventure, I’ll let this one stand in its place.

It begins like this…

I’ve just returned from 3 weeks in Southeast Asia. It had been a rough few months at work, with an overload of “on”: meetings and projects and deadlines, and too little of the quiet, nature-filled and people-free moments that enable me to adequately recharge my batteries. So when the opportunity to visit my uncle in Bangkok over the holidays presented itself, I seized the day, as it were, to carve an itinerary around that visit.

I’m also the textbook definition of an introvert: I avoid parties and am exhausted by small talk and crowds; I’m very careful about who I share my thoughts and feelings with, and I need my “alone time” to recharge and feel human again. I plan and read and write and consider…and I often find destination inspiration from mythology or historical fiction or travel writing. And it seems strange, but I tend to bump into my kind of people when I’m travelling. Once away, there is little time for small talk, and there are usually mutual reasons for being in that place; so conversation, even with complete strangers, doesn’t feel like a burden or a chore. I don’t feel judged or awkward or out of place because, well, I am out of place…so that thing is an immediate known, and it is therefore immediately off the table as a source of anxiety. This is the contradictory and backwards logic which rules an introvert’s life (yet confounds many an extrovert), but also that which makes so many other things accessible in far-flung places.

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Head, meet heart, meet mouth…

I write; pretty much every day. I write to release the shitstorm of words in my head. I write to explain what goes on in my heart. I write to make some semblance of order of my dreams. I write to make sense of the jumble of ideas. I write to figure out what to do or say or make or try next.

Some days, the heart words and the head words jockey for first position. It is on these days that I should very much heed my inner barometer, my inner jumping-up-and-down-guy, waving his hands, trying to tell me to just SHUT THE F*CK UP. That inner guy says, DO NOT SEND THE EMAIL. AND FOR f*ck sake DO NOT LET THE WORDS OUT OF YOUR MOUTH.

So of course, the words get put on paper to try to explain the head and the heart and their perpetual duel; more words, later released from the keyboard, then mouth, in order to explain the between-the-lines meaning of the written words. Neither of which do much beyond muck up an already feet-on-eggshell-esque day, weekend or week.

We say “put on paper” as if invisible ink could or would dry up our electronic words or that which their unintended implication, sting, obfuscation or misalignment(s) have wreaked.

And then we finally shut up — the mouth, the fingers on keyboard, the pen on paper — only to bottle up what Might Come Out if we dare ever open our lips to speak again. Here, in the Brain, during the quiet, the words begin to pile up again, emotionally-charged adjectives and nouns and Pronouns. Many exclamation points and perhaps even more question marks.

I have learnt over the past few years that this is normal. That we of introverted constitution have these internal cacophonies of thought and words, these out-of-tune 6000-piece orchestras (accentuated by flute and tuba duets, par example) blaring their discordant tirades on a near-consistent basis in our minds. Small, yet weighty, bits are let out to play each day; the rest of the words kept in check for future use…

[cross-posted to my Medium page. Check that out here]