How To Travel with an Extrovert When You Aren't One

I was first attracted to Jess because of her connection to people.

I’m an introvert. She’s an extrovert. 

She seemed then and is still intensely involved and connected with friends, family, co-workers and acquaintances. The ability that she has to do this amazes me, and exposure to her skill in making people feel connected has helped me to become a better person.

My own aloofness from social pressure, my strong and deep investment in only a few distinct individuals and my ability to be myself in all situations is equally inspiring and interesting to her.

Together, we both are stronger for the skills we teach and share with one another.

However, in times of stress the differences that make us a stronger whole can also become divisions between us; what usually keeps us afloat drags us down.

Spending 24 hours a day with my wife has been a serious change from the life we’ve shared for the last 4 years. It’s hot, it’s cold, people are speaking Spanish or Portugese or Kichwa. We’re eating new things, good things, bad things. We’re sick or elated, exhausted or angry. The sheer variety of experience that travel brings is a challenge for me. 

We’re each worn down a little bit more by the average day and we each try to recharge using our natural orientations.

The complicating factor is our social isolation; when Jess needs time to talk with people, to process her experience and tell stories of what the day held, I need the opposite. She reaches out and I shrink back.

The process can be cyclical. The more worn out we get by traveling, the more we need our respective recharging activities and the less each of us is able to get them from one another.

We are working on it. Being responsible for my part means figuring out how to meet my standards for caring for the person I love while also taking care of myself.

So here are 5 things to keep in mind if you are traveling with an extrovert but aren’t one yourself.

Make time for you.

If you've seen enough for one day, it's perfectly all right to head back home and recoup for the next day. 

If you've seen enough for one day, it's perfectly all right to head back home and recoup for the next day. 

This can seem a contradiction in terms. Aren’t you already on a trip? Isn’t what’s happening all about you everyday?

There’s a difference between the new experiences you are undertaking (which can be require more energy and produce more stress for an introvert) and how you take care of yourself and recharge. This may not be the case for your partner. New experiences may give them energy and at the end of a long day of new experiences they may be more excited than when they started, while you feel wiped out.

You need to make sure to make time for you. Be clear when you are tired and make time to do things that relax you, regardless of what your more extroverted partner might have planned. 

Realize you are not responsible for your partner's needs.

Though I wasn't up for interacting with this llama I could tell Jess really wanted to. I told her to take all the time she needed. 

Though I wasn't up for interacting with this llama I could tell Jess really wanted to. I told her to take all the time she needed. 

This is not the same thing as saying you shouldn’t be sympathetic, compassionate and caring when it comes to your partners needs. You should be. Presumably you wouldn’t be traveling with this person if you didn’t care about them or feel that they contributed to your experience in some way. Honor that, but also recognize that the dynamic of them needing people around and you needing time alone is one that can end up with them getting what they need while you don’t.

The important thing to recognize is something familiar to anyone who has been through relationship counseling: you are separate people and before you take care of each other, you have to take care of yourself. You can’t give without building resentment or care without keeping score if you aren’t balancing yourself first.

Travel is inherently isolating. Different cultures and languages and a lack of friends around can mean an extrovert is feeling starved for connection. It can be easy to feel like it is your job as their traveling partner to meet that need for them, to be constantly available even when you are feeing worn out. Remember that you are different persons and, though you can be sympathetic and kind about it, you each need to find ways to get your needs met without taking from the other.

Don’t add guilt to your plate.

Sometimes you need to play Civilization 5. Even when the mountains outside your window are really beautiful.

Sometimes you need to play Civilization 5. Even when the mountains outside your window are really beautiful.

If you are traveling with an extrovert you really care about it’s easy to feel like you are failing them or ignoring their needs. If you are already worn down, adding guilt is going to make it worse. It can lead to resenting your partner and being unable to enjoy yourself because you are so worn out. If you can’t keep up with your extroverted partner, let them know that and figure out what you need to do to help yourself recharge. Remember that they are responsible for figuring out how to get what they need, just like you are. A good partner will be responsible for themselves and their needs and give you space when you need it.

You may also feel guilty because travel is an inevitably rare time. Our trips are usually shorter than we would like and the urgency to be tuned up and tuned in everyday is higher than everyday life. Needing time to retreat to familiar things or be alone can feel like wasting a precious commodity. Remember that we travel to enjoy ourselves and to create great memories. You may want to push yourself more than you do at home, but being miserable or emotionally overwhelmed won’t help you get the most out of your trip. Don’t be afraid to put your headphones in and stare out the window for a while or stay in for an afternoon while your partner goes out. Be excited to experience the trip as yourself and feel good about being the person you are doing the things you need to do to care for you.

Be creative about how you recharge.

Don't rely on Netflix alone! Most veteran travelers carry at least two hard copies of Finding Nemo with them at all times. 

Don't rely on Netflix alone! Most veteran travelers carry at least two hard copies of Finding Nemo with them at all times. 

I’m astonished how dependent most of my recharging activities were on my house, my friends or other aspects of my at-home life. It has been a challenge to figure out new strategies and hobbies that are location independent.

Take some time before you go to think analytically about what you do to recharge. Try to come up with alternate strategies that you can recreate while traveling. Be sure to bring supplies that you might have a hard time obtaining on the road. A stash of colored pencils, a hard drive of movies or even a small stash of spices for cooking can all be vital supplies in maintaining your well-being.

Get out of your comfort zone.

After spending 24 hours a day together for several weeks, I was nervous to go on this market/fruit tour in Medellin. It ended up being one of my favorite experiences in Colombia.

After spending 24 hours a day together for several weeks, I was nervous to go on this market/fruit tour in Medellin. It ended up being one of my favorite experiences in Colombia.

I often feel like I have less bandwidth to handle the chaos that comes with our traveling. I can feel overwhelmed and just want to stay in the room. I have to remember that I am traveling for a reason. I need to make constructive and consistent efforts to produce great experiences, even if they tire me out. I know that my natural tendency to stay put and work and think only about the things inside of or related to me can lead to missing out on the things I travel to experience.

Give yourself a little push when your normal day-to-day brain says: “That sounds stressful.” Traveling with someone who has a larger appetite for new experiences can be a real gift. Their enthusiasm and energy can spur you to do and see things you might otherwise have missed.


Have you traveled with someone whose orientation was the opposite of yours?

What was it like?

How did you make it work?