Surprise, surprise, I used to be super shy…like cling to my dad’s leg and not let go kind of shy. Fortunately, my high school history teacher threatened me with a B if I didn’t participate in class, so I learned to speak up a bit. Plus, since I’ve started traveling solo, I’ve gained a ton more confidence and shed some of my shyness.
However, I definitely do still have some introverted tendencies, so I figured I’d put together a guide on solo travel for shy people. Basically, if you’re introverted, you should 100% embrace solo travel since it’s pretty much made for you. Here are some things you should know about solo travel for introverts and shy people.
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1 | Choose a social accommodation
When you’re booking your accommodation, definitely consider looking into a hostel. I actually LOVE staying in hostels since it’s so ridiculously easy to meet people. Even if you’re shy, you basically have to talk to people. You’re sleeping with new people every night (get your mind out of the gutter…not in that way, but in the sharing a dorm room way!), so you’ll usually get to know at least your roomies. Try and book a hostel with plenty of shared spaces like a bar, kitchen, living room etc. I’ve met some awesome people in hostels, and 100% recommend it. Plus, look for a hostel that hosts events like bar crawls, family dinners, or cooking lessons so you can mingle.
However, if you’re traveling for a little while (for me, anything longer than about a week), you might want to book yourself a private room. It can even be in a hostel, but think about indulging in a couple nights in a VRBO vacation rental or a hotel just to decompress. It helps to rejuvenate me, and after even just one night of pure “me time”, I’m ready to rejoin the crowd! If you do choose a hostel, check out this guide on what to know for your first hostel stay. Don’t forget these essential hostel items: ear plugs, padlock, travel towel, shower shoes, and a portable battery pack.
2 | Get outside your comfort zone
After you’ve made a friend or two in your hostel, try inviting them for dinner or to visit an attraction. I love doing things on my own, but it can be a unique experience to make travel memories with a new friend. Personally, I’ve made some friends while traveling that I still keep in touch with years later. It may feel awkward initially inviting someone on a “friend date,” but try it once before you knock it!
3 | Take a tour or class
Tours and interactive classes are surefire ways to make friends. Even if you somehow end up in a group where there are no English speakers (this may have happened when I went canyoning in Portugal), people are typically inherently friendly. At the least, you’ll have someone to play a very long game of charades with!
4 | Find quiet spaces
This one is huge for me. Although I’ve grown to enjoy being around people, I gain energy in situations where there’s fewer people and more nature. Cities are awesome, but after about 3 days, I’m drained from the constant noise, lights, trying to remember to smile at strangers, and even just figuring out how to use the subway. I know I need space to stroll around and not worry about people, so every few days, I try and pencil in a day with nature or even just a small town. This is incredibly rejuvenating, and puts me in a great mood for the next day.
5 | Go out alone, but keep an open mind
Solo travel for shy people is a daunting task. Sometimes it can be easier to go out alone than to try and make a friend. My advice is this: keep doing that solo travel because you’re probably killing it. However, keep an open mind and be friendly (but not too friendly!) with everyone you meet. Hang out in your hostel’s common room, try communal tables at restaurants, or simply befriend your dinner neighbor while dining at the local bar. Side note: I tried this in Reykjavik, and it resulted in me trying puffin from my new friend’s dinner, which was surprisingly delicious!
6 | Bring your own “quiet time” with you
I LOVE books a lot (serious Harry Potter lover over here!) For you, your quiet time might be music, movies, drawing, or whatever floats your boat. Occasionally, hop in bed or pop over to a quiet nook in the common room and recharge your batteries. Try booking a hostel that has the privacy curtains around the beds, or if you don’t have this, everyone recognizes headphones as the universal symbol for quiet time.
7 | Pretend not to be shy
Fake it until you make it! You’ve never met these people and they know nothing about you, so the first impression is all up to you. Put on a confident face, introduce yourself, and make some friends! I know that after I get to know people really well and they learn about my introverted tendencies and need for quiet, they always tell me “But you didn’t seem shy!” Also, I’m a terrible actress, so if I can do it, you can too. In all honesty, I’ve definitely become less shy over the years, and I credit travel with a lot of that. I still appreciate and need quiet time to recharge, but I’ve learned to appreciate meeting new people.
8 | Make friends along the way, but don’t be afraid to take your own time
I now love making friends and doing things, but I need my own time to explore and do my thing. One of the beauties of traveling solo is you can decide when to be with people and when to be on your own. There are WAY more solo travelers than you’d ever guess, so there will be plenty of people in the same boat as you. On my first solo trip, I thought I’d be the odd woman out, but solo travel was actually super common in hostels. I now really enjoy partnering up with other travelers for (some) day trips, and even my first day in the city to figure out public transportation.
Friendly destinations for solo travel
Here are some of my favorite travel destinations for solo travel so far, and I’m sure there are plenty more to add to the list:
- Prague, Czech Republic – This was one of my destinations on my first solo trip. I had an insane amount of fun cavorting around the city, and absolutely loved my hostel there. Huge shout out to Hostel Downtown for their pub crawl, delicious dinner, and terrible games of beer pong.
- Iceland – Iceland has ridiculously beautiful landscape that looks like it belongs on another planet. I felt so safe traveling solo around here, and it was incredibly easy to meet other travelers, but also escape from the hustle & bustle to enjoy nature.
- Portugal – So I can’t pick just one place in Portugal that I love. Portugal has amazing food, a beautiful wine country, a nearly deserted island in the middle of the ocean, picturesque little towns, and my favorite hostel I’ve ever stayed in…drum roll for Yes! Hostel Lisbon. Not only does it have a fantastic location near Lisbon’s main sights, but it’s incredibly clean and has such a social, fun atmosphere.
- Washington DC – DC has a ton of awesome attractions, and you can easily amuse yourself for probably about 3 months straight with the museums alone. Aside from the cool history, there are plenty of tours where you can meet other travelers, and the bar scene is a lot of fun.
- Mexico City – OK, so I actually came to Mexico City with a friend, but I think it would be an awesome spot for solo travel too. There are plenty of cheap, social hostels in the city center (Hostel Mundo Joven Catedral has a rooftop bar for the win), and an abundance of day tours to choose from.
Solo Travel Resources
- First Timer’s Guide to Hostels – Discover everything you need to know about hostels, how to choose a hostel, and what to pack.
- How to Talk to Your Family about Solo Travel – I’m 27, but am still nervous to tell my parents when I travel solo…if you can identify, this might help you out a bit.
- Solo Female Travel Tips – Learn how to keep yourself safe and be prepared as a female traveler.
And there you have it, my guide on solo travel for introverts. For the introverts of the world – what other tips do you have on how to make the most of your trips? Any other awesome solo travel spots for me to check out?