Do you consider yourself an introvert? I do. This may surprise you. It really shouldn't. Introverts tend to be thoughtful. Their travel experiences aren't packed to the gills with boozy bar sessions in which they interact solely with expat countrymen (an action that really confounds many Europeans). The introvert's thoughtful examination of culture is intellectually peppered with the fundamental question "what does this culture mean to me?" It's a writer's hook.
I met Tim Cahill once. Tim writes travel stories compiled under such extrovert titles as "Jaguars Ripped My Flesh" and "A Wolverine is Eating My Leg".
I was glad to discover that Tim Cahill was a quiet, unassuming man. He didn't have a swagger. Maybe a hint of a limp. He was teaching a writing seminar at the Book Passage Travel Writers & Photographers Conference.
You see? Even a writer who positions himself such that vicious, underfed zoo animals might sink elongated incisors into his flesh so he could write about the experience didn't have to be an extrovert to get it done. He just needed to play one in his writing. That's the hard part. Writers are nothing more than experts at the craft of telling lies using credible English. It's harder than you think.
The good part is: an introvert knows when to give himself up to the moment in order to truly experience it--while the extrovert finds need to control the moment. In that sense I'm happy with being an introvert. You learn more about yourself if you allow other cultures to stimulate your seething imagination.
(Don't get me wrong: extroverts are a very important part of the travel ecosystem. I search them out when I want on opinion, even one that is the opposite of mine. I admire the extrovert's ability to take over a room, to sleep where the bags fall, and to chew on and discard relationships as if they were candy. Let's face it: we all want to be extroverts, or at least I've never heard anyone say, "gee, I wish I were in introvert!" But then again--and here comes the point of this article if you missed it--there should be no shame in being an introvert, either.)
Introverts Arise! A call to Arms: Travel Far and Prosper!
The point of all this blather is to encourage you to travel, especially if you feel too introverted to tango. Now is the best time, as the economy droops. There will be seats in cafes for you. There will be single rooms in hotels available. Some tours are even dropping their single supplements.
Grab a notebook when you head off to that solo meal and pretend to be a journalist. You might strike fear in the waitstaff (or admiration). You might get extraordinary food. You might write an extraordinary article or restaurant review. (You might submit it to me and see it published, too.)
Heck, even if you travel through America you could be the introvert vegetarian writer who writes extrovert titles. How does "American Supermarket Tomatoes Crack My Incisors!" sound? Perhaps you can get rich using this idea. Have at it.
More Introvert Travel Resources
The inspiration for this article comes from Sophia Dembling's Confessions of an Introverted Traveler. Sophia is a very thoughtful introvert and travel writer.
For solo travelers, see my Dining Alone Tips.