"Being a little different is no longer the terrifying disaster it was growing up, and a big part of that happened for me when I started traveling."
“I don’t know, they’re just kind of quiet. A bit of an introvert.” *scrunched nose in disapproval face*.
Message received. Over and over again since birth. Being quiet, introspective and happy to be alone is bad. Being outgoing, gregarious, and social is good. Gotchya.
I get it. A movie wouldn’t be all that exciting if it was about someone reading books all the time and dealing with their emotions privately. How would a plot be driven forward without some sort of dramatic overreaction that could probably be solved 9 times out of 10 with one quiet conversation? But to prove the point and paint a picture, extremes are taken. Psychopaths and murderers are very often portrayed as withdrawn and introverted. Big personalities on the other hand are colourful. Powerful. They motivate the masses with harrowing public speeches. They beguile love interests and save civilizations.
If you’re not naturally this outgoing, it does not bode well for the ol’ self esteem. Even if you can fake it pretty good or like to be social *sometimes*, the constant extrovert ideal image being driven into every aspect of life still tends to leave you feeling ‘less than’. Why am I not the discussion leader that teachers want? Why am I not the ‘people person’ that employers want? Why is my best friend/sister/fill-in-the-blank blessed with the gift of gab and I’m not? After a while, you just accept that somehow you’re ‘weird’ and there’s nothing you can do about it.
Fortunately, I have learned to appreciate being ‘weird.’ Being a little different is no longer the terrifying disaster it was growing up, and a big part of that happened for me when I started traveling.
When you’re taken out of your familiar frame of reference and introduced to new ways of doing things and different versions of ordered society, you begin to change and see things in a new light. You come to understand that these other ways of operating in life not only work, but in some ways function even better than what you know, and this begins a shift in how you see yourself, too.
Like maybe being reflective is actually pretty useful when you’re introduced to new cultures and societies. Or perhaps listening more than you speak can be pretty valuable in certain situations. Probably the most profound realization is that there are millions of people out there living life in different ways and the formula for success that you’ve been shown time and time again is not the only one there is.
Of course, there were little glimpses of this message delivered in books and in entrepreneurial feats.
But it was the great size of established concepts being turned on their heads that finally reached me. Economic systems, social hierarchies, governmental organisations… things that before seemed as unwavering as temperament.
And then the individuals that drove them.
People actually create their own exciting paths and are not held back by anything considered to be the ‘preferred’ way of doing or being anything. They just do. In all of their authentic glory. And the results are pretty fantastic.
So, for all of you introverts out there, I encourage you to go traveling, see the world in all of its varied majesty, and get to know your strengths while you do it. And when you do, keep these tips in mind.
1. Carve out the alone time you need, no matter what.
2. Plan your travel details to suit your temperament.
3. Recognise your weaknesses.
4. Benefit from your extroverted pals.
5. Be unapologetic, but be a good friend.
6. Use your strengths to help others.
7. Use your strengths to help yourself.
Author - Meghan Advent
Meg is one of the co-creators of Travelher and lives and breathes travel. She is proud to have reached her goal of visiting all 7 continents and enjoys writing about travel every day. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.