Quiet Traveler

I’m an introvert.

There, I’ve said it. (If you know me, this will come as no surprise.) Introversion affects the way I travel, I’ve noticed lately. Turns out I’ve adapted to suit my social inclinations. On the other hand, I suspect many extroverts do too (in an opposite sort of way).

Here are some of my business travel practices and pleasures that have evolved because I’m an introvert. How does your travel social profile fit with or differ from this?

1. Plans A, B and C. My nature, and I think that of most introverts, is to reign in the variables. It’s important to me not to rush. I allow myself plenty of time to get to the airport. (This makes my extroverted husband crazy!) My travel plans are well organized. I know exactly what to expect when I get to the airport, when I land, and when I get to my hotel. This helps me feel grounded, even when flying.

2. Cone of silence. In an airplane seat I am shielded from the traveling masses by an invisible cone of silence. Few seatmates, by travel social convention, penetrate this invisible cone. As a result, several hours in my own little world during a flight can be incredibly restorative. I often deplane feeling fully recharged. Conversely, I’m not shy (there’s a difference!), and sometimes the vibe of a seatmate will entice me to talk a little (assuming I, too, respect their cone), which can be very pleasant and interesting. I like that I have some control/choice over who I talk to on an airplane. That is not the case in everyday work.

3. Hotel [re]charges. After a day of meetings and people, people, people, an evening alone in my hotel room is heaven. In fact, as much as I miss my family when I travel for work, it is a sweet change to have a couple hours in a beautiful room alone (after a Skype conversation with them). Quiet is good for me, and I can’t remember the last time I turned on a hotel room TV. Yes, I do email, but I like to be alone with my thoughts as much as possible when in a hotel room.

4. Big-small talk. Like most introverts, the conversations I enjoy most are one-on-one, and travel offers lots of opportunities for this. Particularly enjoyable are conversations with people whose worlds are different from mine. I have had some amazing and deep talks with drivers, flight attendants and even front desk clerks.

5. Bar none. I rarely order room service, and I’ve tired of subsisting on a small bag of almonds in the evening as I answer email. Now my preferred dining-alone experience is the hotel bar. For an introvert? Surprisingly, yes! I hesitantly tried this first a couple of years ago, nervous because of preconceived ideas from my 20s about the bar “scene.” I was pleasantly surprised at how well the bar meal suited my personality. It’s a structured environment (crucial for us quiet ones), most bartenders are skilled at starting conversations yet have a sense of when to leave you alone, and enjoying a fine meal sure beats the almonds.

6. On the run. A solo run is a lovely way to get to know a city. Leave the crowded hotel fitness room to the extroverts. I always run early in the morning and by myself. So many cities have such beautiful places to work up a sweat. Some routes I’ve enjoyed recently are along Lake Michigan in Chicago, the Embarcadero/Marina District in San Diego, the Emerald Necklace in Boston, and Central Park in New York. Similarly, I’ve discovered that where it’s hot and humid even at 6 am, swimming laps in the hotel pool instead (if outside) is a peaceful way to enjoy the sunrise: alone.

Do you know if you’re an introvert or extrovert? An easy test is whether being with friends/strangers energizes you (extrovert!) or drains you (introvert!). For insights, I highly recommend Susan Cain’s book, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking. While I’ve been well aware of my introversion for years, I had not put together some of the elements in the full constellation until reading this book. And introverts, we love to figure things out by reading! (And then to express by writing….)

So, when it comes to travel, how about you?  I’m curious: Does being an introvert or extrovert affect how you behave on the road?