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An Introvert's Guide To Small Group Adventure Travel

  
  
  

by Ellen Barone

You don’t have to travel solo or stay home just because you’re an introvert—if you take along this advice. (As for the insatiable wanderlust that may result? You're on your own.)

Small Group Adventure Travel

Some of my most memorable (and solitary) travel experiences – sea kayaking with whales in Alaska, trekking to Machu Picchu, Heli-Hiking in the Canadian Rockies, photographing lions in Africa, crossing the Moroccan Sahara by camel, and snorkeling with Galapagos sea lions – have occurred on small group adventure trips.

For me, guided adventures, especially in challenging destinations, offer all the benefits of independent travel with none of the hassles or risk. But as an introvert accustomed to spending much of my time alone, it can be a challenge to balance my need for silence and solitude within the extroverted dynamics of group travel.

If the idea of sharing your vacation with others is keeping you from booking the trip of a lifetime, here are four travel-tested suggestions to help you maintain your independence.

 1. Carve out time alone each day.

Don't be surprised if you find yourself enjoying the company of your travel companions more than you thought you would: Adventure travelers are a convivial, globetrotting tribe. To avoid social overload, however, be sure to carve out time alone each day. Hang back on a trail hike. Enjoy a solitary meal. Skip a planned excursion for some solo exploration. Tuck away in a quiet spot with a good book. Carry an iPod and earphones to tune-out as needed.

2. Splurge for your own room.

If you’re not traveling with a beloved who understands and respects your needs, most tour outfitters offer solo travelers the option of single accommodations. It may (or may not) cost more than sharing twin accommodations with another tour member of the same sex. But believe me, it’s worth it. I’ve gone the roommate route and regretted it every time, no matter how much I liked the person. Having time alone to recharge at the end of each day, or a private place to retreat to, is vital to maintaining balance.

3. Develop the art of being alone in a group.

As an Introvert, I am not shy or anti-social, nor do I dislike people: Quite the opposite. I have good social skills. I am a popular speaker and teacher. I love to meet new people and engage in long conversations about meaningful topics. But too much external stimulation exhausts me. So I’ve learned to pace myself with mini meditative moments. Whenever possible, I mentally disengage from life’s periphery long enough to be alone with my thoughts, to observe the world around me and within me. Try it. It’s a portable and soul-nourishing habit that’s as restorative at home or work as on the road.

4. You don’t have to do it all.

By design, adventure travel itineraries are action packed. Active exploration of our amazing planet is what it’s all about. One of the biggest challenges for introverts, however, can be balancing the need for downtime with the desire to do everything on the agenda. Don’t be ashamed or embarrassed to opt out when you need to or to suggest alternative ways to experience a place or activity that better suits your style. On a Galapagos cruise, for example, I set out with the group for an island hike as planned but arranged to spend the afternoon at an isolated beach to photograph and journal alone; easily reuniting with the others on the return leg of the hike. It’s been my experience that unless what you’re suggesting is unsafe or logistically impossible, most guides and trip managers are happy to accommodate any requests that will enhance your vacation.

What about you? How do you, or the introvert in your life, manage to stay balanced in an extroverted world? Use the comments box to tell us.

Ellen Barone is freelance journalist specializing in travel and frequent contributor to the Adventure blog. For the latest travel news, tips, and reviews, visit her website at EllenBarone.com.

Related Reading: Quiet: The Power of Introverts In A World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain. A passionately argued and impressively researched book filled with indelible stories of real people, Quiet shows how dramatically society undervalues introverts, and how much we lose in doing so. Listen to the author’s powerful Ted talk

Photo of the author enjoying some alone time while Heli-Hiking with CMH Summer Adventures.

Comments

I never thought of travelling alone, until I went to India (with someone) but realized that even with a little help I can get by in a strange and new place on my own. I also never thought about going alone on a guided trip and having the chance to do some activities by myself. I'm the same - not a people hater and do very well speaking to others (I should be good at it - it's my job!)but I do really enjoy taking time away on my own to just centre and focus on where I am and what I'm doing. Skipping away to jounral and photograph in the Galapagos sounds perfectly wonderful. Hmmm...what to do with some leftover vacation time I need to use up....
Posted @ Thursday, June 07, 2012 12:55 PM by Becky CMH Reservations
I can completely relate. I need a definite amount of time alone, which can be challenging in groups. I do not like sharing a room at all unless it's with my significant other or family, and MUST have a certain amount of quiet/down time.
Posted @ Thursday, June 07, 2012 10:28 PM by Shelley
Thanks for sharing, Becky & Shelley.  
 
There are more of us who require downtime than many outfitters recognize, I think.  
 
I was in Alaska once with a guide who totally understood the need for stillness and included a quiet time out on one of his guided nature hikes.  
 
For ten or twenty minutes (can't exactly recall), people napped, watched the clouds roll overhead, photographed, and soaked in the silence. It was the most talked about time on the trip.  
 
Even extroverts can feel the power of being still.  
 
Thanks again for tuning in on the subject.  
 
Happy trails, 
 
Ellen
Posted @ Friday, June 08, 2012 2:21 PM by Ellen Barone
Thank you for a great article. I am a passionate adventure traveler but find the need for alone time on group trips. Many people feel they may be perceived as being rude needing time to themselves during group travel, but it is amazing how recharged and ready to participate with the group you can feel even after just an hour taking a walk or doing something independently.
Posted @ Thursday, June 14, 2012 6:36 AM by Katie
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