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Unleashing My Inner Introvert

People often ask me what it's like travelling alone. "Don't you feel lonely? Don't you get bored sometimes?" Here's a summary after more than eight months of solo-travelling in a van: about my fear of being alone, about communication and a little bit of self-discovery.


Crossroads Without a Signpost


I still remember pretty well how I felt this time last year. 2023 took off with a break-up for me and I cried almost non-stop for days. Before that, I had spent many years sliding from one relationship into another and when asked about my biggest fear, I would always answer without hesitation: "I'm afraid of being alone at some point."


That this very relationship ended was not just good, it was long overdue. It put an end to my sliding and I was finally able to choose my own path again, independently of others. I well remember how convulsive and paralyzing all the crying was and I well remember the fear. There was this incredible fear of pursuing my own path, because although I only knew roughly where it was supposed to lead me, I knew exactly that I would use a road less travelled.


Communication: Finding My Extroverted Self


Be it an unpleasent look for an inappropriate sentence or the silence after a failed joke: these social sanctions for a lack of communicative skills are incredibly powerful. Unfortunately, I am quite familiar with the resulting shame and insecurity.


In the past years, I have mostly been perceived as extroverted, but I have worked hard and trained myself a long time to get there. From a certain age I've always deliberately put myself in situations where I had to communicate and practise communicating, because that wasn't always easy for me.


Now that I've been solo-travelling for more than eight months, communication has taken on a new role in my life. Communicating verbally is often no longer a part of my everyday life. Sometimes even several days go by during which I only say a few sentences to other people, for example to a gas station attendant or in the supermarket (and maybe not even in a familiar language for me).


This can be quite a challenge for someone who likes to speak. As a consequence, my voice messages often get longer (and so do my self-talks). Sometimes, if I'm honest, that's when I long for a good conversation. But that's the point: I don't crave just any conversation, I crave a good conversation. Because something else has happened to me in the meantime while travelling as well: I happen to enjoy being silent and I have learnt to enjoy the silence.


The Renaissance of My Introverted Self


Sometimes, in the past, I didn't just practise communicating, I actually forced myself to go out and speak to people. FOMO, short for "Fear of missing out", is certainly one of the reasons for this. Just don't get lonely among all these people, always be in a good mood, with a few easy-going sentences and a nice smile. . That's what I told myself for quite a while.


Due to my fear of being alone, I sometimes went for the other extreme: I over-socialised, overloaded myself meeting other people and clung to relationships that weren't good for me. But I had to learn during this process, that I can easily be lonely, even among people. I would be lying if I said that I didn't sometimes feel lonely when travelling alone, but I was rarely as lonely alone as I was among people sometimes.


Liberation


Verbal communication is sometimes no longer a part of my everyday life while travelling and perhaps this is my greatest liberation. I have learnt to be alone and to be enough for myself. I like being alone and I have rediscovered my introverted side, which I have also learnt to love.


I have learnt to surround myself with the right people and to value them. I have learnt not to take compatible humans for granted and to recognise them within a short time, because life is fast when travelling. Sometimes there may not even be a second day to meet again.


I have learnt to enjoy the silence. I find it incredibly difficult to talk when I don't like people or don't care about the topics. Then I simply value silence more. In the past, I would have wondered what was wrong with me. But I now know that there are people that I am simply not compatible with and, above all, I have learnt that I don't always have to be socially compatible.


In the end I got to know myself better, simply because I necessarily have to deal with myself when travelling alone, but also because I can do this without ties to old patterns. The only person, that I need to explain myself to, is me. With each new day I get to decide how to become my best self, I can be creative with my behaviour and I am completely free to choose my means. A few months ago, I wrote: "I am not travelling to search myself, but I found myself anyway." Or instead: I am still finding myself.



Photo: Fred Weigl (Tbilisi)

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