I didn’t identify as an introvert, specifically an INTJ introvert, until I read Susan Cain’s Quiet:The Power of Introverts In a World that Won’t Stop Talking. In 2013, I tutored at-hope youth (thanks for guiding me about changing the ‘at risk’ terminology Kim Scott!) at Burbank High School in San Antonio, Texas. The job required me to be “on” constantly, and to mentor students from 7:45-5:45 each day. Looking back, it’s no wonder I felt exhausted. As an introvert, I craved being alone throughout the day, while my extroverted coworkers planned team hangouts.
Working with people drained my energy. For my coworkers, working with others gave them energy. After reading Quiet, I learned that introverts aren’t necessarily shy. They don’t hate people. They just need time to recharge. We are very introspective people. While I enjoy going to parties, I’d rather spend quality time with one or two people. Group hangouts can overwhelm me because I’m an attentive listener, but it’s hard to focus on one idea when conversations are criss-crossing one another at the dinner table. While this list definitely has extrovert qualities as well, here’s how I see travel as an introvert:
1. Solo travel isn’t scary.
In June 2013, after my job in Texas ended, I drove from San Antonio to Los Angeles in two days, then flew to Japan. I wanted to be in a completely different place, where just walking down the street would be a challenge, because I couldn’t read the signs. I had to just sit back, watch and listen. I was comfortable trying roasted squid on a stick in a Tokyo market , but I also enjoyed meeting up and staying with my friend Kaori, owner of Colori Caffe, the only queer café in Kyoto at the time.
2. Non-verbal communication is important
In Japan, when I wanted to ask how to get to Colori, I stopped by a konbini (convenience store) and asked for directions. The cashier was confused, but I could tell he wanted to help. I took out my journal, and began drawing a sketch of where I thought the café was. Then, he grabbed my pen and drew my destination in. After that, I knew where to go.
3. I prefer making a few solid relationships
I’ve been in Nicaragua with the Peace Corps for 14 out of 27 months. Although I do live here, I still consider myself to be in a state of travel. Each week is different, and there’s so much in this tiny country that I need to see. I have my Peace Corps family, but I can honestly say that I’ve made 2 good Nicaraguan friends, Rosa and Abigail, who are in their 30s and 40s. Rosa is a single mom who has seen me at my lowest points, such as after a long distance break up. Abigail has also seen me at my worst and at my best. I appreciate her so much that she was the subject of my first acrylic portrait ever!
4. I take advantage of free time
Back home, I would run out the door every morning, careful not to spill coffee on my shirt on the way to work. I’d teach math and science from 8:15-5:45, go to the gym, then come home and look at Buzzfeed Travel articles. Or, I’d look up pinterest recipes to give my every day lunch some sort of variety. When my student asked me “Miss Stoever, do you have a boyfriend?” I wouldn’t say “No, I’m gay”, because I didn’t feel comfortable coming out to them. I would just say “I’m too tired to date right now. Sometimes I take naps before I go to sleep!” They thought I was kidding. I wasn’t.
Now, living abroad has given me more down time than ever. I’m more energized. I have time to use my French Press to make my morning coffee. I’ve had more time than I ever thought I would have to reflect on how much I’ve grown, and to paint the portraits I never thought I’d be good enough to paint. Now, I write about my travels instead of just reading about travel.