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Tuesday, August 21, 2012

The Traveling Introvert

It's said that introverts get their energy from within, so logically it might make sense that external surroundings don't matter all that much.  Note the word "logically".  As someone who does travel from time to time, and seeing as though I am in Boston this week on company business, it makes some sense to explore this thought in greater detail.

Credit to   for the above graphic.

A few basic parameters need to be set.

First,  business travel is NOT glamorous, fun, exciting, a vacation, full of drunken debauchery, cool, etc.  If you think it is, then you obviously don't travel on business very often.  It is the equivalent of being at work 24/7.

Second, introversion does not equal shyness.  If you think it does, then you are a moron.   Sorry.

Got that?

The above noted, I find that being a traveling introvert is particularly difficult some times.  Here are a few reasons why.

External Stimuli - There is a ton of external stimuli to process.  While I like a change of scenery every once in a while, being in a new town means that I have to re-orient myself to my surroundings.  That takes time away from other things. It also means that I need to have my guard up even more than usual.  So much energy is expended on stuff like this.

Being "on" - When I travel,it is, sadly, not with the primary purpose of sitting all by myself somewhere working.  Nope.  Rather, I always end up having to extrovert to some extent.  It might be because I am teaching a class, running a meeting (or series of meetings), participating in meetings, or attending a class.  I have to interact with people I don't know.  I am forced to engage in that which I hate the most:  small talk.  Regardless, it always requires me to act extroverted for extended periods of time.  Another thing that sucks the life force out of me.

Many Choices - Traveling requires almost constant choices.  Where do I turn?  What do I eat?  How will I manage my time back at the hotel?  Making choices isn't an introverted trait, I know, but for me all these choices require thought and analysis.  They require me to sometimes make spot decisions.  My preference is to be able to think about what I want to do; while I can make spot choices, I'd prefer to have a routine in place whereby the choices can be made ahead of time.  Travel = no routine.  No routine = more stressful.

Away from people I care about - I don't have a ton of close friends.  Guess what?  This is okay.  I'm not coming to Boston, for example, to make new friends...I have come here to work and learn new "stuff".  While I am okay not necessarily making new friends, that doesn't mean that I treasure being absolutely alone in a hotel room either.  In fact, it is rather disconcerting at times.  I miss the regular routine that I enjoy with Ms Rivers.  Sometimes being away get's egregiously bad, such as last night when my youngest daughter had to go to the ER for some pain she was experiencing.  Yes, she ended up okay, but it was downright painful for me to be here, 300 miles away from her, feeling helpless.  Now I'm not claiming that introverts love their children more than extroverts, but I am going to claim that when the circle of people in your life is smaller, those that are in the circle tend to mean a lot to you. 

Bottom line?  Yes, I am blessed in that I have a job whereby I get to travel, but business traveling isn't all sunshine, smiles and rainbows.


Cheryl said...


Thanks for posting this!


Stephen Albert said...


I am glad you enjoyed the posting.

- Steve

Anonymous said...

Small talk....I call it shallow talk.

Gossip, let's talk about this for two minutes then jump to that, what about her, what's with him....very hard on introverts. We'd rather do deep subject, thoroughly discussed

Another thing that also bugs me...the "social skills" thing. An introvert asks someone a question and expects one of three answers: Yes, No or "It's a bit complex, let me explain." What drives me crazy is when you ask someone, for example, if it's okay for you to do something and they say, "Uh, yeah, uh, yes, sure that would be fine." So you do it, and the next thing you know you're being chewed out. "You should have KNOWN I didn't actually want you to do that! Geez where are your social skills? What's wrong with you?"

These days, I'm likely to reply "What's wrong with you? You said it was fine. I took you at your word. It would seem that you lied to me. Why didn't you just TELL ME THE TRUTH?" That really throws them. They are so used to being the "norm" that if you challenge that, it shocks them. But let's challenge that. Human beings are complex. "Norm" should be a very wide category!

KnightnDaze said...

Y'know, it never occurred to me that people might think surroundings don't matter much to an introvert. Not only do I recharge by turning inward, I have to feel (emotionally) safe to do so. That just can't happen (for me) in an airport stopover, even if I'm not interacting with others. Like trying to get a good night sleep at a rock concert ;)

Nice post!

Vicki said...

One thing hubby and I have learned - take your own pillow with you when you travel. The bed is still strange, the food is strange, the surroundings are strange, the decisions are realtime and the energy is wrong. But at least you'll get a better night's sleep with a pillow that doesn't kill your neck.
It helps a LOT if you can get a better night's sleep.

Stephen Albert said...

Thank you all for the comments!

By the way, I have, on occasion (and when it is possible) brought my own pillow when traveling. It makes a difference (although I can't really do it when flying).