Anti-social, quiet, shy – all words people have used to describe me throughout my life.
But people who know me disagree with this description. I am very chatty.
And not shy, anymore at least, around people I know. Anti-social? Perhaps, at times. But that also depends on the situation.
Just like everything else in this world, there are extremes and everything else in between. So too are introverts and extroverts. Throw in things like anxiety, and you can start to see that it is not so easy to fit a person into the box based on behaviour alone.
Some people say they are a little introverted, a little extroverted. Or an omnivert. Or that they have changed over the years. That can all be true.
So, then what is an Introvert?
I often use the explanation that an introvert derives their energy from being alone, from having space and downtime.
An extrovert derives their energy from being around other people, from high energy situations, activities.
Introverts can shine as public speakers, at parties and other events. But the next day you might find them curled up on the couch, watching Netflix, feeling a little drained from the day before.
So too can extroverts spend time alone, however, it won’t be long before they seek the company of others and some activity to feel re-energised.
Introverts and Hostels
It seems an odd choice for someone who isn’t entirely comfortable being around a lot of people to choose to stay in a hostel. I mean, a bunk bed in a shared dormitory sounds a bit daunting, I admit.
I thought I could never be comfortable in this situation. It turns out it’s not that bad.
At the age of 50, I finally realised I could travel for far less than I have been, be sociable if I want to be, or have my privacy as much as I need.
Hostels are not just for the young.
Yes, on one occasion, there were a bunch of 20 something travellers. Yes, a bunch of them were loud and noisy out in the common area until 1 am. But I had my comfortable bed, with my curtain for privacy and my earplugs to shut out the noise.
The only reason I knew they were up and noisy was that I continually wake up – hot flushes. The joy of being 50!
If you’re worried, book a private room. The difference in price for the hostel I stayed in Leon was €15. Initially, I enquired about a private room for €30, but I wanted access to a kitchen which they would only allow if I stayed in the hostel.
In the end, it worked out fine. I like to prepare my food if I can because of my gluten intolerance and other dietary issues.
For me, being an introvert means I am happy and content with my own company, most of the time.
What most introverts enjoy least is small talk. Most of us love a good conversation, but dribble about the weather and so forth will have us, or me at least, wanting to stab myself in the eye with a fork. Seriously, small talk is painful.
But there comes the point as it did on my trip to Verona, that I longed for company. A good conversation.
I struggled to strike up a conversation with anyone because I was staying in a hotel on my own.
Had I been in a hostel, there I would have had more opportunities to connect with other travellers.
On my last trip, I was walking the Camino, so I wasn’t travelling to sightsee. On the days I stayed in a hostel, and not an Albergue (pilgrim hostel) I was usually taking a rest day. It was nice to chat with other travellers, but I also made a lot of time to sleep and rest annoying feet and leg injuries.
If you find anyone to chat with, join a group tour. If you meet others you connect with, suggest going for a drink after the tour.
Or if you are like me, and like to cook, offer to share your meal with someone. Sometimes people took me up on this, gratefully. And other times they didn’t.
No need to feel rejected. Everyone’s different.
YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE: 8 Things for all Introverts to Consider before Travelling
On the other side of socialising is downtime.
As an introvert, this is crucial. I can be as chatty and friendly as anyone, enjoying a few wines and laughs, until I feel drained.
So, how do you grab downtime in a busy hostel?
Even if it’s in the middle of the day?
Head to your bunk, feign jetlag, put your earplugs in, download a Netflix movie or two and chill out until your ready to face the world again. My Camino friend taught me this one. Sometimes you just have to have you time. Alone.
You don’t need to make an excuse. People are on different schedules, and there’s no need to keep up with anyone else.
You can also use downtime to make travel plans, write in a journal, or simply have a nap.
Perhaps the benefit of being older is I don’t care what other people think.
Most people I have connected with like to pursue things on their own too. I guess introverts attract introverts. It’s nice to do some sightseeing with someone, and then go your own ways for a while to catch up later for dinner together.
Always read the reviews. You should be able to gauge if a hostel is a non-stop party or a more chill, relaxed place. You can check out HostelWorld as a start to your research.
Years ago, I stayed in a hostel in Germany, a 12th-century castle overlooking the Rhine. From the reviews, I knew it was popular with families. That was fine as I was travelling with my two kids. However, I should have realised in the school holidays it would be busy. Very busy and very noisy. I did not heed the reviews. Lesson learnt.
Even after all your research, if you are still not confident, book one night and see. If you like it, stay on (if a bed is available of course).
Not all hostels cater to young travellers. I know many older travellers that stay exclusively in hostels. Just do your research and read the reviews. Don’t forget to check out the photos; they should tell you whether it’s the place for you.
Many hostels offer a variety of accommodation. As mentioned before you can opt for a private room, some have mixed dorms; other dorms are gender-specific. The number of beds can vary too. I much prefer to be in a dorm with only four people than 16.
Shared Bathroom Facilities
I hate public toilets. Loathe them.
The thought of sharing a bathroom had me nervous. Very nervous. One reason is that I have a gluten intolerance. And there are a plethora of other foods that can send my digestive system nuts.
If that happens, I spend a lot of time in the bathroom. Not pleasant for me, not helpful for others who are sharing the bathroom with me.
How to deal with this?
It makes me stick to foods I know I can eat. I tend to stay healthier because there is an enormous incentive not to get sick.
I also make sure I find a toilet outside the room, giving me options. Sharing shower facilities, on the other hand, has not been an issue. I have not run into others when showering, to be honest. But that’s because of my next point.
Travel in Off-Season
Everything is quieter in the offseason. You are less likely to encounter lots of people travelling at this time of the year.
I travel in the offseason anyway. I like cooler weather, rain doesn’t bother me, and because I’m an introvert, I prefer not to be in crowded places.
I like not waiting in line at popular venues or for a seat in nice restaurants or not having to jostle with crowds in busy markets.
Fewer travellers mean hostels are less crowded, which means sharing a bathroom is not a problem.
However, travelling solo in the offseason can mean when you are ready to socialise there may be difficulty in finding other travellers, but it’s a bet I am willing to take.
You need to be open-minded staying in hostels as well as flexible.
You will encounter people from all over the world, of all age groups with different travel styles and habits.
I never thought I could stay in hostels. I want to kill anyone who even looks like they’re going to snore.
But I did adapt. I could even muster a smile in the morning for the biggest snorers in the room (mostly). Good earplugs are essential as is a good eye mask.
Remember, nothing lasts forever, and a bad night will pass too.
To find out more about Introverts, take a look at the video below. I have read Susan Caine’s book – Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking. I highly recommend it if you want to understand more about being an introvert.
Let me know if you’re an introvert and stay in hostels. Or if you haven’t, would you consider it?