Can traveling turn extroverts into introverts?
By: Julie L. Parenteau, Ph.D.
If there is such a thing, I am a certified extrovert. I’m the one who strikes up a conversation with who ever happens to be in the checkout line or elevator. I usually sleep on the plane, but if I didn’t, I would talk your ear off all the way to our destination. I have always been this way. In Puerto Rico, where I have lived for nine years, they would call me “bien presentá.”
I think part of this way of being stems from being the oldest of four and having to find ways to stand out from my siblings to get attention. It also comes from moving so many times. Every few years I found myself in new situations and cities, interacting with people from different cultures, however culture may have been defined at that time. Being afraid of meeting new people would have kept me from getting much needed information and would have kept me from making friends. It would not have worked for me at all.
Knowing what an extrovert I am, why would I purposely choose to travel on my own?
I travel on my own in part because I am a hugely independent, self-sufficient woman who gets tired of bending to the needs and desires of others while traveling. I don’t travel often so I want to see and do what I am interested in when I do travel. Botanical gardens, art museums and “off the beaten path” places are more to my liking at this stage in life.
Right behind seeing what I want to see is having the chance to escape both mentally and physically. Spending time by myself allows me to grapple with my own thoughts and think through things that I have filed away for times like this. Traveling on my own allows me to reflect on who I am, what I want out of life, where I might want to live next, and why I need to travel more frequently. It gives me the time to consider relationships with others and how I can strengthen them or move on from them.
This mental and physical break allows me to truly be outside the confines of my own little world and let my mind wander. Some of my best business ideas come when I walk away from the office and simply ride the brainwaves wherever they may take me. The little voice that often finds fault with and rejects new ideas gives way to the one that reminds me that the possibilities in life are limitless. I walk away feeling rejuvenated and energized to start turning those ideas into reality.
Being on my own during this process allows me to think clearly and deeply without interruption. While I can count on meditation practices to help me do this at home, physically removing myself from all the energy-sucking daily chores present in my house helps me reach further mental depths. In a wide open park in the middle of London or alongside the shores of Lake Zurich, with my eyes wide open, I find a level of inner peace that I do not know in my daily life. It makes me think that maybe there’s something to being an introvert…for a few minutes anyway.
How does this brush with the introvert world impact my day-to-day life?
The challenging part for me is finding a way to hold onto that inner peace, that calming wash of light that both centers and energizes me, when I return. Once I’m back in the daily grind of life, I feel a pull toward the laundry and dishes piling up, returning client calls, and running errands around metropolitan San Juan. And yet, there is also a pull in the direction of the shores of the Mediterranean and ancient Roman ruins where I found my spiritual connection. How to incorporate the two into my life–that is the question. I have not yet found the answer that works for me. However, I will keep searching for it because even this mega-extrovert needs some quiet time to process her thoughts from time to time.
Dr. Julie Parenteau is an intercultural communication consultant and language instructor living in San Juan, Puerto Rico. To find out how to work with her or contract her as a speaker for your upcoming event, visit www.global-perceptions.com.