My name is Vanessa: I enjoy travel, staying in new countries, and eating exotic food – I am also extremely shy, and not made of money. On the other side of the world, in a lively Australian hostel I came to the realisation that I didn’t quite fit in with the majority of the outgoing backpackers around me, and this almost ruined my entire trip. Luckily I took to the internet, and a few changes helped to get me back on track, mentally, and curate my travels to fit my introverted lifestyle.
Lets rewind a little bit…You may be thinking, didn’t this blog have a different name? 10 points to Gryffindor! This blog was under the name Wanderness for over 5 years, however thanks to some lovely internet hackers, my blog was lost to me for over half a year. Losing so much hard work and memories was tough, and it took me a while to come back to the internet. When I did, I was able to find a way to restore my blog, however my domain was long gone.
I needed a new blog name. Travel usually brings to mind the happiest times, the times that make you feel the most alive. While I was staring at my laptop, the most vivid travel memory of mine surfaced. It occurred around half an hour after the photo below was taken – I was lying on a quiet beach in Byron Bay, wishing that the perfect white sand would swallow me whole so that I didn’t have to go back to my hostel.
I was half way through my trek up the east coast, and had stayed in a handful of hostels. Hostels by nature are a sociable place, where travellers can rock up for a few nights rest and end up leaving with their new best mates. However, I was struggling to make friends. My nature is quiet, timid, and shy – always has been. I have always found it hard to communicate to others in person. To cut a long story short – staying in hostels was my living nightmare, and we did not always have the availability of affordable private rooms.
Could it be possible that I was too shy to enjoy being a backpacker?
People give the internet a bad name (I was too when this was hacked), but I was able to gain a clear mind, pick myself up, and carry on.
How to enjoy travel, when you’re shy:
Join Facebook groups – During one of my really low moments, I made a post on the group We Are Travel Girls explaining how I was feeling, and that I wanted to return home. Within 10 minutes I had multiple fellow travellers in my inbox sharing their experiences. All of them reassured me that I was not a failure for wanting to return home, and that if that is what I needed then to do it without regret – however, that they had also felt similar. Even though they were not with me, knowing that I could actually open up to someone who understood made the world more familiar, and I was able to carry on feeling supported.
Research your hostels – I cannot stress enough the importance of doing this – read Tripadvisor reviews, blogposts, the ‘About’ sections on their websites. What kind of words do they use to describe the ‘vibe’ of their hostel? Are they trying to appeal to party people, or do they use relaxing words? Just like a brand would design clothes to attract a specific customer, hostels do the same. Some hostels will impose a curfew, some will have bars in them. Quieter hostels will usually allow you to keep your head down in a book without too many questions.
Wake up early – In Bangkok I wanted to visit the most popular site in the country, Wat Pho (the Temple of the Reclining Buddha), and the thought of getting swept up in the crowds gave me deep anxiety in the days prior. Turns out that tourists like their beauty sleep, and we arrived at the site the minute that it opened to guests. At first we thought that we were in the wrong place, because no one was there! The queues to see the Buddah that we had heard about were non existent – we were the only people there. For an hour we were able to wander around at our own pace, before any signs of crowds gathered.
Prepare to change up your plans – Doing a multi-stop backpacking trip? In one of your stops you might meet some people who can share in your shyness, who share your need to retreat and not be social. These might be people who you want to spend a little longer with, and if the feeling is mutual take the opportunity. On the other hand, don’t be afraid to cut your loses if you are in a situation that makes you feel uncomfortable – if you’re not feeling it, move on.
Remember why you’re there – Making friends is just a nice extra, not the primary goal of your trip. Travel to see more, experience more, eat more – go outside and explore. Do not coup yourself up in a room that you do not feel comfortable in.
Join an organised group trip for the long haul – If you’re planning a long trip, look into organised group travel. Not only does it take the stress of DIY travel out, but you will be with the same people for the entirety of the trip. This gives people time to get to know you, and people are generally more friendly if they know that you’re together for the long run.
Choose your destinations with yourself in mind – Hostels are not the only cheap accommodation for travellers. Camping trips and camper-van hires provide affordable shelters with the added bonus of giving you your own space. Destinations such as New Zealand and Canada may also provide more of a solo escape than destinations such as South East Asia.
I’m sad to be saying good bye to my old blog name, but honestly, I think this is more…me.