Posted by: Shanna Germain | 01/31/2010

Pg. 198: Intro Vs. Extro


When you get on a plane, what’s the first thing you do? Stick your nose in a book and throw on your iTunes? Or begin a conversation with the person next to you? Do you hope no one sits near you, or is your favorite part of traveling those conversations that happen spontaneously and the connections that are made? Do you like having a travel companion, or do you prefer to trek out into the world alone?

A lot of your answers to those questions have to do with whether or not you’re an introvert.

I, in case you may not have noticed, am an introvert. Through and through. For a long time, though, I didn’t know that. I thought there was something wrong with me. I didn’t really like parties. I rarely wanted to “go out.” Even though I liked people, a lot, I didn’t necessarily want to hang out with them all the time. Sure, dinner and a movie. Game night. Out for drinks once in a while. All great. But if I have social obligations more than once a week (or even less than that, to be honest) and I start to feel stressed out about going out yet again. Like I said, it’s not that I don’t like people . It was that after a while, I just start getting exhausted. I would be turning down friends and invitations, and always felt bad about it, especially when they thought that I didn’t like them, or didn’t want to spent time with them.

All those years, I didn’t assume I was introverted, though — after all, I’m a bit shy (okay, a lot), but I was social and had lots of friends. Thus, I was pretty sure there was something wrong with me.

After all, there is this whole idea in our culture that spending lots of time socializing is good for you. That those people with close extended family and friends live longer and are happier. Pshaw, I say! No, I’m kidding, of course. But I do wonder sometimes if socializing really is good for introverts, or if that’s just another one of those “Myths of Health” that get spouted around without much research. I love those that I love — and I love them just as much (sometimes more) when I’m not with them. I sometimes thought, “If I don’t become more social, I’m going to be unhealthy, unhappy and I’m going to die young.”

And then I heard someone say something along these lines: “Extroverts get energy from being around people; Introverts get tired from being around groups.” Bam. Oh. I get it. I am an introvert.

And I came across an article recently that reminded me of this once again. Although the article isn’t about travel specifically, I found it especially enlightening for that purpose: The Top 5 Things Every Extrovert Should Know About Introverts.

Here are a couple of key points that he touches on that are especially true for me:

  • Introverts dislike small talk. Totally. Bores me to tears. Tell me a story, break my heart, give me the nitty-gritty, talk about something that really really matters, please.
  • Introverts can do the same thing extroverts do — I can be charming, funny, and have a blast in a group — but only for a limited time. By the time the main course is finished, I’m ready to go home. Forget about drinks, dessert and dancing after.
  • Introverts need time alone. Lots of it. It doesn’t mean we don’t love you (we do, we do!). But trust me, we’re such better friends when we don’t get to see you very often. If that makes an iota of sense.

As to traveling, I don’t mind traveling alone. In fact, I like it a lot. But I also like one-on-ones. That, to me, is interesting and fun and doesn’t feel like an exhausting crowd. On the other hand, the thought of staying at a bed-and-breakfast where I’m expected to sit around the table and small talk with strangers — before I’ve even had coffee?! No thank you. And yet, I’ve traveled with friends and stayed with near-strangers (Hi, Nikki’s fantastic family!) who I adored, and who I’m so glad to have in my life.

So, what do I do when I get on an airplane? I stick my nose in a book and I throw on my headphones. Why? In retrospect, it’s probably because I am afraid of the small talk that is in the future. I know, I just know, that I’m missing out on meeting some amazing people — you never know who’s sitting next to you — but I just can’t bring myself to expend the energy. And the truth is, I’d rather spend that time doing what I love and recharging my batteries so that when I arrive wherever I’m going, I have lots of social energy saved up for those friends and family members that I adore.

Introvert? Yes. Anti-social? No.

I’m very much looking forward to spending time (in small increments, of course) with loved ones back in the Pacific Northwest. I’ll be the girl getting off the plane, tucking her book back in her bag and pulling her headphones out of her ears, preparing to break out of her shell. If only for a few hours.

Far and fast, s.


ADDENDUM: How cool is this? Forwarded to me from Nikki, who found it after she read my post. The Joys of Solitude.


PS — Me thinks a lot of writers are introverts. Case in point:

“I have never found a companion so companionable as solitude.” ~Henry David Thoreau

“Conversation enriches the understanding; but solitude is the school of genius.” ~Ralph Waldo Emerson



  1. hmmmm – can someone be both? At times I’m very extrovert, but other times very introvert – used to be more intro than extro and VERY intro when I was younger – having kids forced me to be more extro – I think I swing between the two – hahaha – what does THAT say about me????

    • I think you probably can, yes. I don’t see why not. I go through streaks myself, honestly. Maybe it’s that most people lean more to one side or the other?

  2. I absolutely agree about the energy thing and where people get theirs from. I have written about it, but no place you’d have seen it, so I don’t think I can take credit.

    I also vote for a mix. I’m both, but leaning more heavily towards introversion these days. The truth is, be who you are, just take it into consideration so you don’t make yourself crazy. Trying to force yourself into your polar opposite is a surefire way to raise frustration to hideous levels.

    I hope your people give you space! And if I see you with a book and headphones, I promise to look at you and smile. And then leave you alone!

    • Haha! I want to read your bit about it!

      Also, no, no. You’re one of the people that I would want to talk to. No leaving me alone! ๐Ÿ™‚

  3. WOW…I think I learned something today. I cherish my time alone. I was single til 35 and still wonder why I changed that. I love my wife and kids but oh my gosh, time alone, I’m totally satisfied. I’ve always considered myself an extrovert because my business is hospitality and tourism….you are on the front line. Maybe i was wrong and am really an introvert because that time is so much more fulfilling. It’s easy for me to go on stage but after a while it’s like “exit, stage left”.

    • This made total sense to me, Dean. Isn’t it odd how we can love both, but then really lean toward one or the other?

  4. Holy Cow… Thanks for posting this. This explains so much (as a used to be extrovert that is now, and has been for a while, an inny)

    I pretty much agree with dean.. it’s easy for me to interact when I need to, but after a while it’s time to step away and be alone.

    • Yep, me too. Alone time makes me such a better friend! And person. ๐Ÿ™‚

  5. I’m definitely an inny. I am so bad that I keep my headphones on even when they’re not plugged into anything. If someone yaps at me while we’re boarding the plane and taking off how am I supposed to gaze out the window and consider the city I’m leaving.

    Pacific Northwest – cool. If you’re like Seattle kind of north holler at me and I’ll buy you a drink or a cupcake. I’m in Victoria BC for all of Feb, but I readily get to Van and Sea.

    • Oh, ha, I do that too with the headphones. And sunglasses. A double-protective whammy.

      I’ll be in Portland for a bit. Will surely let you know if I get up to Seattle!

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