I’m an introvert. According to most widely-understood definitions, that means I gain my energy from time spent alone, and I’m drained by social situations and interactions. Introverts come in all shapes, sizes, and personalities, but that need for “recharging” in solitude is the common denominator.
So, how do we fit into digital nomadism? Traveling the world, constantly meeting new people and being immersed in new cultures – just typing that has sucked my introvert energy dry. But wait – there are perks to location independence for our solitary souls!
The nature of leading a digital nomad lifestyle is a lot of moving from place to place, which translates to hours upon hours in planes, buses, trains, boats and any other local transportation option. For introverts, that means hours to read, listening to music, staring out the window and basking in our thoughts and aloneness. Introverts tend to be very introspective, and watching foreign countryside roll by is the perfect backdrop. (Note: choose your seatmate wisely.)
When it comes to work, the constant face-to-face socialization of a regular office setting can be exhausting for an introvert. As a digital nomad, however, those interactions are all happening through a screen or over the phone, which can be far less taxing. It also means spending working hours holed up in cozy cafes or coworking spaces with no obligation to be outgoing.
Introverts are not necessarily shy or timid, but many of us prefer to take a backseat at social gatherings than to be the center of attention. Being immersed in social situations in other countries can actually be perfect when you don’t speak the language! You’ll be in the midst of the party, but have the perfect excuse to sit back, smile and observe. No hiding in the bathroom necessary.
Digital nomads traveling solo will naturally experience a lot of time alone – which we happen to excel at. Table for one? Don’t mind if I do.
When you’re moving around a lot and trying to get the most out of each location, it can mean going about eating meals, visiting museums, sightseeing, attending cultural events or concerts, and shopping without a buddy or big circle of friends to run in. Introverts won’t have to adapt, because we already like to do these things by ourselves! When we do want some company though, it can be easier to find one or two other solo travelers to join up than organizing a giant, lively group.
Of course, not every aspect of Digital Nomadism is perfect for us. The remote worker lifestyle is often a very lonely one, no matter what kind of social life you thrive on. Many of your friends will likely be equally transient nomads, expats, or travelers, and it can be hard to form meaningful relationships with so much moving around.
Meeting people often involves my introvert nightmare: Putting Yourself Out There. Hostels and bars can be the perfect hub for extroverts to mix and mingle, but the rest of us have to smash out of that comfort zone and insert ourselves into the party. Luckily, the social vibe of many hostels and digital nomad cafes or coworking spaces can facilitate the ease of striking up a conversation for those of us who wish we were hiding in our room with a good book.
Tip: A great way to make friends on the road is to participate in a remote work program! Then, you’ll have ample time to yourself, but a built-in network of colleagues and travel buddies to get to know. Check out Remote Year, We Roam, Wifi Tribe or Venture with Impact.
Some cultures can seem completely unaccommodating for the introvert seeking peace and quiet, which is another Digital Nomad challenge. In many places in the world, personal space, solitude and “alone time” are not considered normal by cultural standards, so spending time in your bedroom with the door closed may seem rude to your native-born roommates, or sitting on a park bench people watching could be inviting to a stranger to chat with you. It’s important to keep an open mind and be willing to accept discomfort as learning opportunities. And, next time, find a better hiding place.
Every introvert is unique in how the need for “recharge” time is reflected in their personality – so every introverted Digital Nomads is going to have unique experiences! Whether your introversion helps or hinders you on your travels, it’s something to reflect on next time you’re basking in delightful, introspective alone time anywhere in the world.
Are you an introverted digital nomad? How does that impact you when you’re traveling? Share in the comments!
Brighid Carey lived in Colombia for nearly five years, mainly in Barranquilla, where she turned 90% costeña while managing a volunteer teaching program and playing rugby. She somewhat regrettably returned to the U.S. to pursue a Masters degree at SIT Graduate Institute, and misses Colombian juices, city buses and her friends dearly. She is currently supporting Communications and Partnerships for Venture With Impact.