When You Don’t Want to be Open and Curious

That’s okay. It’s normal. Go ahead and hermit.

I stare resolutely out the window of my Uber at the windy Cape Town day, quite determined that any attempts at conversation will die a quick death.

As our fellow hostel guest in northern Portugal, a kind man from Tokyo determined to talk about marijuana at length, engages my friend in discussion about alternative cures for cancer, I stare resolutely at my book, quite determined to leave the onus of politeness on her.

A talkative-looking chap sits down next to me at a cafe. I pretend not to speak English, or Portuguese, or French, or Spanish…I stare resolutely at my coffee cup, quite determined to be Russian for the next hour or so.

I write so much about openness in travel, without giving any stage time to its inevitable counterpart: closedness.

No one can be “on” all the time.

For permanent vagabonds, this can be a slow realization. After all, aren’t curiosity, openness, and willingness to engage the key ingredients to meaningful travel experiences? Sure, but then, so is balance.

I love my alone time. Fiercely. I am probably less social, less inclined to long chats, and less of a people person than you are (and I don’t know who is reading this).

I write often about kindness, talking to strangers, being open to the world — and rarely about selfishness, ignoring talkative strangers, and withdrawing from the world.

But balance, right?

Lest you mistakenly conclude that a traveler must always be friendly, happy, and socially-inclined, let me assure you: I’m not.

Someone once told me that I like the idea of people more than I actually like people, and he was probably right. Humans are so fascinating! Culture, language, food, stories — I love it, and I want to soak it all in…50–90% of the time. The other 10–50%, I really cherish my own company (another key ingredient for solo travel), and I don’t want to share it.

Balance.

For those naturally inclined to solitude, there’s a spider-web-fine line — at which you may choose to stare resolutely while seeking to avoid conversation — between comfortable, uncompromising introspection, and exhausting, unrelenting openness. And if you can dangle from that line by your toes, in an incredible feat of mental acrobatics, you just might find the recipe for richly balanced, joyful adventure.

Maybe your travel soup will have some of the same ingredients as mine:

> Ample time to read, write, yoga, and think
 > Bizarre and fascinating interactions with strangers
 > Learning experiences of all variety
 > Wordless (heart-centered) communication with people and spaces
 > Silence in abundance
 > Dancing and other movement in abundance
 > Kindness
 > Selfishness
 > Outward-focused curiosity
 > Introspective curiosity
 > Creative exploration
 > Physical adventure

So happy travels, and happy soup-making — I hope you’ll find just the right balance.

Please share your favorite ingredients if I’ve forgotten any!

Photo: Author’s Own


Originally published at www.tobyisrael.me on April 29, 2017.