An introvert’s approach to travel

 an introvert

A lot of people think they know me but don’t really know me at all.

People think that because I’m Trinidadian that I must be an extrovert. Firstly, they assume I’m loud.

Not loud or even Loud.

L O U D.

Bubbling with scandalous kya kya kya laughter.

Secondly, they think I must be easy-going, like a coconut tree on a breezy beach.

Thirdly, they think I must be a big time limer (party animal) because Trinidad and Tobago is the home of Kya-nee-val (Carnival, to the more refined folks out there) and that I’m comfortable with friends, acquaintances, and strangers wining on meh bumsee (gyrating on my butt) in public.

Sorry folks, I am none of the above.

I’m one of a rare breed: the introverted Trini who grew up in an extroverted Trini culture. I hate sweaty crowds so you’ll never find me in a fete or chipping dong de road on Carnival Monday and Tuesday. Even though I may seem talkative at a party, the day after, all I really want to do is go to the most deserted beach possible with my husband. No cooldown lime at Maracas Beach for me, thank you very much.

According to the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), a pretty well-known personality test, I’m an INTJ (Introverted, Intuitive, Thinking, Judging). INTJs are bookworms by nature. They think strategically and move through life as though they’re playing chess. Sore points: they don’t like small talk and hate the spotlight. Also, they can also come across as insensitive because they don’t allow their feelings to sway how they relate to people.

If you read a lot of travel blogs, there is a prevailing paradigm that travelers have to be super-extroverted and open to anything in order to maximize the travel experience. Travel bloggers, Two Drifters, have challenged this notion and applied MBTI to travelers. They write (tongue in cheek) about sixteen travel personality types.  That’s right: sixteen. And guess what? Not every traveler’s an extrovert.

Under their system, I  could be classified as an INTJ traveler. Here’s what Two Drifters have to say about the INTJ traveler:

The INTJ loves to create ideas and possibilities and then capitalize them. Not content with daydreaming, INTJs know how to turn their goals into reality, and they proceed with ambition and strategy. The INTJ is highly intelligent and insightful. This type works hard to understand everything they encounter, with keen observation and an interest in understanding inner workings and patterns. The INTJ travel personality is likely to be found exploring foreign cultures with depth and passion, moving past “touristy” distractions and seeking authentic immersion.

Spot on.

As an INTJ traveler, I like to quietly observe a place and its people. To do this takes time. I have had my most rewarding travel experiences when I have spent a long time in a country. Long enough to immerse myself and peer under the glittery, touristy surface.

As a student in London, nothing made me happier than walking along the Thames or exploring the city’s dusty churches and cobbled alleys. I would spend hours on my feet, sometimes missing meals because I loved to explore the city alone. I saw a side of London few tourists ever see: a money-grubbing city, a city swollen with cultural diversity, a historical city sometimes struggling to stay relevant in the 21st century.

Introverted travelers also tend to see a country from a different perspective. Unlike many other millenial travelers, my Instagram feed shows what the place actually looks like. You will never find a picture of me in a bikini on a boat over crystal-clear water looking dreamily in the distance while clutching my partner’s hands.

I like to travel (or specifically, live in a foreign place for an extended period of time) because it challenges my natural INTJ qualities. It forces me to stretch beyond my comfort zone. For example, when I’m abroad, I rarely pass up chances to have a genuine conversation with locals. Not questions about what I would like to buy or why I love their country but stuff that transcends the usual tourist/local spiel.

When I spent some time in Japan teaching English, I had a few opportunities to make real connections with strangers. Once, I was buying lunch in a busy bakery and there was only one seat left. A distinguished-looking older woman removed her jacket and motioned that the seat was available.

I was crunching down on a pastry when she just started talking to me. In English. I thought, “Oh well, here’s another Japanese person trying to practice her English with a foreigner.” Imagine my surprise when the conversation took many turns and corners and we ended up talking about waka poetry written about her hometown in Wakayama! If I had just sat there quietly, I would not have discovered a fellow poetry lover in a perfect stranger.

If you’re an introverted traveler, you’re not weird. Celebrate your difference and share how you see the world.

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15 thoughts on “An introvert’s approach to travel

  1. “When I spent some time in Japan teaching English” Ahhhh! #WheYuhNahSayToMe?
    But I never thought about travelling in relation to personality types though. This is a very interesting article.
    “they think I must be easy-going, like a coconut tree on a breezy beach.” BAHAAHA! The same thing happens in JA too where people think that everyone is loud and friendly and eccentric and happy all the time. Myths are meant to be broken man.

    — Bless

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I can totally relate to this as well. I am also an introverted traveller, needing time for myself every now and then. I love walking by myself in a New city, just looking at the architecture, the buildings, the People. getting to kno wthe spirit of the Place. Great article, I can totally relate 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I can totally relate to you. You speak what I feel too. I like that you have written this article because others expect travelers to be sociable. I have been to the beach all by myself a lot of times. Others have asked me why a lot of times. I feel like that I do not need to explain why. I just like to enjoy things on my own sometimes so that I can internalize.

    Iza c/o Kathy James (Walk About Wanderer)

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Nothing wrong with being an introvert, I’m an introvert myself as a traveler (and sometimes “in real life”, too). I think it helps to actually connect with the place and then write about it; I feel like we’re more “in the zone” than the ordinary traveler? Most of my travel writing comes from talking to people I meet on the road. It’s amazing the amount of stories you’ll have afterwards, much like the Japanese lady you met.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. What a great and insightful post. I loved your rich descriptions – “like a coconut tree on a breezy beach.” 🙂 It seems like there are two stereotypes to overcome – first, your heritage and what that means to people externally, and second, the idea that introverts will find it challenging to travel. I’m also an introvert, and the fact is, you can turn it on and off for different situations. The recovery period that you mentioned is critical.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. A stereo type Trinidadian would be an extrovert but I see that’s just a stereotype. I love your explanation of an introvert traveler! Whilst traveling things do just seem to happen like the old lady in the bakery.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I like that part where you mentioned about Instagram feed. I am bored of seeing bikini shots and not real travel pictures. Never mind. It’s my conscious choice too that I put travel above me in my blogs and my social media posts. As an introvert, I have faced problems approaching locals. After a decade of travel, I am still shy but its better than before, haha!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. To begin with, I did not know what INTJ meant, and I had to google it! So, thanks educating myself with something new, so, thank you! Though I’m an extrovert, my idea of partying belongs to the city and my idea of travel would always be as you said, a secluded beach with my guy! Plus I’m also someone who always hits the roads less traveled!!!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Now I’m disappointed to learn that you’re not easy-going, like a coconut tree on a breezy beach. 😉 It takes all kinds of people to travel the world. I lived in Guyana for several months and quickly learnt that all people from this part of the world aren’t easy-going, like a coconut tree on a breezy beach! Nor are they all L O U D and bubbly. There’s nothing wrong with that at all!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I can’t quite decide whether I’d be considered an introvert or extrovert or somewhere in between — I should totally take that test — but I definitely found myself nodding along with a lot of this post. Especially the Instagram thing. No bikini shots and very, very few photos of myself here! Just my surroundings, nice landscapes and buildings. I like to sit and watch, drink it all in.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. [ Smiles ] I think that the stereotype of the typical Trini needs to be smashed.

    We are not all vociferous.

    I would prefer to sit quietly underneath a tree outdoors.

    And, like you I avoid the large crowds on Carnival Monday and Carnival Tuesday.

    Like

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