I found that whenever I traveled solo as an introvert, I tended to repeat the same behaviors each time. The more self reflection I did and when discussing with my other introverted traveler friends, I discovered that we had similar reactions. When I first started traveling solo, I had no idea how to speak to random people and start an engaging conversation. I’ve worked in retail before so I was comfortable in that setting and knew how to be a social butterfly then, but being in a completely different setting and trying to find ways to entertain myself was not my forte. Therefore, I decided to make a list of all the things that I have done that can help you feel more comfortable and make memorable experiences.
This is a simple list of things that any introvert can do to feel more comfortable on their trip and even to assist in meeting new friends!
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Bring a (physical) book: There is something about having an actual book in your hands can feel so therapeutic. I personally recommend a physical book due to some travelers’ concerns about their electronics (phone, Kindle, etc.) being stolen while abroad, and the potential of damaging one’s eyes due to the screen light. Most likely there will be a bookstore or even a second-hand store that sell books – even English books if you’re in a non-English speaking country! These tend to be the most affordable option, especially if your hostel doesn’t have a book exchange area.
Listen to a Podcast: One of my favorite things to do while in a new location is to listen to my favorite podcast Missed in History‘s episode about said location. This worked out perfectly when I traveled to Dublin and went to see the Book of Kells at Trinity College while listening to an episode of the podcast by the same name. It provided a lot of context to the artifacts that were not fully discussed during the tour.
Do Something That Scares You: I know that everyone knows this and it has become cliche, but pushing yourself out of your comfort zone does not always mean going to the extreme like bungee jumping. It could simply be walking up to a stranger and striking a conversation may be enough or going to a restaurant on your own and having dinner by yourself (which I did during my trip in Switzerland and it was definitely nerve-racking, albeit worthwhile on expanding my comfort zone so I know its okay to do things on my own).
Talk to the Front Desk: No matter how much research you do on things to see and do in whichever place you are going to, you will likely not know where to find a great affordable cup of coffee but the hostel’s front desk workers might! They are there to help you enjoy their city and are happy to help you find the hidden secrets that only the locals know about. So to my introvert friends – take a deep breath and talk to the front desk!
Parks: There are practically parks everywhere in each city that I have been to during my travels. While in Madrid, I visited the Plaza de Oriente in front of the Palacio Real de Madrid where everyone, especially tourists, went to lay out in the sun and enjoy the beautiful weather. These places can be great ways to meet others, like when you hear others speaking your language or a language you know, then you have a reason to start a conversation with them. If chatting to strangers is not your thing, then parks can be nice places to relax and read that book you brought along!
Drinking: It will likely be common knowledge to some of you but new for others – be aware of how much you drink if you are going out with people you just met or on your own. This can simply be so you do not lose important items (phone, passport, money, etc.) or even get taken advantage of while intoxicated. I am not saying that you should not drink – alone or in a group, only to be careful when drinking with people you have recently met.
Find Group activities: I know this may sound counter-intuitive for Introverts, but joining an activity that includes solo travelers and pairs can make a new adventure feel less daunting (if this is their first time traveling alone and they are nervous) or to assist in meeting new people who are in the new boat. Personally, I like joining guided history tours like Sandeman’s New Europe Tours – especially because they are FREE.
Transportation: You would not believe how many times I have taken a bus or train and overheard someone speak English only to start chatting it up with them on where they are from or what they plan on seeing. For me, this was a way to begin feeling more comfortable to start conversations with strangers, and it especially felt more comforting to chat to someone who I knew I had something in common with. Similarly, when my dad lived in Germany and traveled around Europe, he would sit in the Coach section of the train to meet new people and at least hear some fun stories or chat with others. Some of his crazy stories started with meeting someone on the train and then doing an activity with them later on!
Museums: It is always a smart idea to research what museums are near where you will be visiting – if you are someone that enjoys museums, whether about art or history, then you likely already do this. I found out the hard way that not doing some prior research, I was in Zurich for a two days and was unaware that the FIFA Museum was there until two hours before I had to catch my train. As an avid soccer fan this was especially upsetting that I had not done any previous research and discovered information on the museum.
Google Maps: I’m sure many of you do this already, but download the map of the city you are visiting so you know where you are going at all times (especially if you only use WiFi). This can be additionally beneficial if someone comes up to you and asks for directions! I like doing this for when I wander around to get the vibe of a new city and explore great hidden shops, but do not know how to get back to my hostel.
Is there anything that you can think of that I may have missed? Or is there anything that you specifically do as an introvert to make new friends on your trips? I’d love to know more so feel free to leave a comment below!
During the Winter, I visited Madrid to see a longtime friend who was living there. She had just moved there a month prior and knew some of the best places to eat, drink, and be a tourist. I was able to experience both the tourist-y side of Madrid and act like a local.
As someone who has started travelling alone throughout Europe and is a known extroverted-introvert, being in a new place with a friend is very comforting and stressful at times. While I had so much fun with my friend after not seeing her for months, my social meter seemed to get low very quickly.
Therefore, the following recommendations are not specifically for introverts, but can be options for introverts to choose to do by themselves or with friends (new or old!). I’ve found that when I want to be social but am unsure of how to talk to a random person, I just go to a social setting where other solo travelers will be. This is particularly resourceful at hostels and on tours. Usually an extrovert will begin talking to me and then the conversation becomes more natural and I’m able to make a friend, whether for most of my trip or just for the brief time. Also, you could get another Insta follower and that never hurts! (JK!)
Uber: I do not recommend Uber-ing around the city as everything is fairly close and within a walkable distance. Also, Madrid does have a metro system which is super convenient. I used Uber only to and from the airport as recommended by my friend, but that was ridiculously price-y (€40 to my friend’s place and €20 to the airport). You’re better off taking a bus or the metro into the city center.
Metro: Madrid’s metro system is SOO convenient and relatively inexpensive. Depending on how long you will be in the city, I highly recommend a 10 trip card if you plan on visiting all over the city. It costs roughly €18, but does not work for traveling to or from the airport which requires a different type of ticket.
Sandeman’s New Europe tours: The first time I used this tour service was in Madrid! My friend searched for “tours in Madrid” and came across this FREE tour (you do tip them at the end, I recommend 5-10€/person depending on how good you view your guide). Usually the tour is 2.5-3 hours long but it is a more affordable way to see the city and receive a fun history lesson as well (if you enjoy history as much as I do!). They have locations in many cities across Europe, which you can find here and the free tour for Madrid here. TIP: If you already have their loyalty card make sure to carry with you – ideally in a bag that you always have on you – as getting a new card will make it WAYYY more difficult to consolidate your stamps later. This is my only complaint with the company, I’ve mostly had great guides and an overall great experience with them.
Affordable Things to See
Parc de El Retiro: This park has everything from a large pond where you can row around to an art museum. The boat riding was the highlight of my visit as it was 72F/21C degrees out and large enough to explore all day. The line gets busy quick if the weather is nice, so make sure to get there early! The cost for one boat for 45 minutes is 6€ during the weekday and 8€ during the weekend. Also, if you enjoy running then I definitely recommend coming here to do just that, as it is only 1 mile/1km from the city center. Definitely visit the Palacio de Cristal and Palacio de Velazquez during your stay, as they always have new exhibits every few months.
Palacio Real de Madrid: The Royal Palace is definitely a must-see when you visit Madrid! It reminds me of Versailles with the hundreds of rooms, and the large garden just behind it. The gardens are free to the public, as is the plaza just in front of the palace where you can walk around and relax on a sunny day. To enter the palace the cost is 10 euros, but the price can be reduced to 5€ if you are a student in the EU and under 25 years old. The list of criteria can be found here.
Museo Nacional del Prado: If you enjoy art museums then definitely visit the Prado! They have art from almost every century, and you could likely get lost in there as it is one of the largest museums I’ve ever been to. Entry to the museum is FREE Monday – Friday from 6-8pm and Saturday – Sunday from 5-7pm. TIP: get to the building at least 30 minutes before the start of the free admission time period.
Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia: Another amazing art museum if you enjoy modern art. They also have FREE entry after 7pm and is free for students under 25 if you’re studying in Europe. My father recommended it to me and encouraged me to find Picasso’s “Guernica” painting which covers a whole wall in the museum (granted I could not find it so I plan to go back soon and try to find it!). Dali is also featured in here and is definitely worth the visit as well. TIP: As the free entry is well known to locals, make sure you get there 30 minutes before the free admissions time period.
Let me know what you think about these recommendations! Also, if you think I missed some other amazing places then feel free to leave a comment below 🙂
Full disclosure: I did stay at my friend’s place and did not stay at a hostel. During my next visit I plan on being in a hostel and will write about those experiences in a future blog post.
Hello, I’m Blair and welcome to my travel blog Expedition Introverts!
I decided to start a travel blog as a way to document my travels, along with providing other like-minded people advice on places to stay, things to see, and general travel tips. This will typically be aimed at Introverts, but can be for everyone. My goal is provide multiple types of advice (book recommendations, best food spots, fun things to do alone, etc.) in order to provide a variety of options instead of the same things that you can read somewhere else.
A little about me: I was a Masters student in the UK and traveled around Europe for the past year during my breaks. I hope to visit Asia, Africa, and South America more in the next few years. My favorite destination that I’ve been to so far is Madrid! The next place on my destination wish list is Prague, followed by Vienna.
Keep an eye out for a new blog post every week! Feel free to sign up for notifications on when they go live.