When people think of world travelers they tend to think of bold, gregarious folks with a refined touch about them. There’s an assumption that you need to be confident and outgoing to make a spirited go of things on the road.
This assumption is wrong. It’s perfectly easy to live as a digital nomad introvert. In fact, it might even be preferable to be an introvert if you want to travel the world while you work. So, join us as we take a look at how it’s done and what the advantages are.
What’s An Introvert?
There is a difference between being an introvert and being shy. Shyness (sometimes referred to as social anxiety) can be a crippling problem and if you are naturally shy, it’s a good idea to work on this before you travel the world as it can leave you feeling lonely.
However, an introvert is simply someone who finds being around people for long periods of time somewhat draining. They’re not afraid of other people. They’re not awkward around them. They just find that constant exposure to others sucks their energy.
Extroverts are the opposite. They find rooms full of people essential to energize themselves. They find crowds exciting and would prefer to be in them all the time.
It is quite possible to go from being an extrovert to an introvert during the course of your life or vice-versa.
It’s fair to say that during my 20s, I was very extroverted. I liked being around people all the time and it showed in my original career choice as a salesman.
Now, I’m in my 40s and I find being around people to be hugely draining. I’m a writer. I actively pursue solitude and quiet time to work. Distractions destroy my productivity.
It is also possible to be both shy and introverted, but shyness is still not an integral part of introversion.
How Could Being An Introvert Impact On Your Life As A Digital Nomad?
It’s probably best at this stage to remember that a digital nomad is someone who works and travels. These two activities are separate and thus, it’s best to take them separately when we consider the impact of being an introvert on the digital nomad life.
Digital Nomad Work And Introverts
It’s fair to say that if you’re an introvert, you ought to be the ideal employee for many remote work opportunities. You may also be cut out for freelancing or online entrepreneurial work too.
Why? Well, remote work means working from home (for most people) and that means not being in an office. Introverts find being around other people draining. That includes when you work in an office.
Therefore, you ought to find working by yourself energizing. This means you’ll be at peak productivity when you find yourself, as I do right now as I type this, working from a desk in a strange place in Vietnam.
Better still, when we work remotely – we can avoid meetings and many of the phone conversations of the ordinary work environment. These are activities that tend to leave introverts feeling exhausted.
Instead, they’re replaced by online interactions that don’t feel as draining. It’s a win-win for your average introvert.
Freelance and entrepreneurial life may not be as easy because you do have to get involved in sales and marketing. However, while this kind of work can be stressful, it’s not impossible for an introvert though it may be impossible for someone who is shy or socially anxious.
Digital Nomad Travel And Introverts
Let’s not confuse digital nomad travel with backpacking. Backpacking and sleeping in hostels in dorm rooms, especially, can be a horror show for introverts. It means being surrounded by strangers all the time – a recipe for insanity if you try to do it for any length of time.
Digital nomads are professionals. That means that although some (though by no means all, Megan and I don’t) do travel with a backpack, they don’t tend to live in dorms in hostels.
Instead, they hit up Booking.com, Airbnb or use their shoe leather in a new place to find an apartment or hotel room to stay in. A smart introvert always checks to see that there’s a desk available to them (or a kitchen table or similar surface) before booking their room.
That means whenever they want it. The introvert digital nomad has a quiet, sane space to work from.
But introversion doesn’t mean that the introvert digital nomad revels in social isolation, either. There has to be a time that you come out of your shell and socialize with other people. Introverts aren’t usually misanthropic; they just need their space.
Fortunately, there are plenty of opportunities for you to rub shoulders with others without compromising your lifestyle. When you work, you can always hit up a co-working space or a café if you feel in need of a little company. (I confess I can’t do more than 4 hours in a public space when working – I really need privacy).
When you’re not working, you can join organized tours if you want to see more of the place you’re in, join a club or society to get together with people with similar interests or you can do what I tend to do and go to the pub and talk to people there.
No Longer An Outsider
One of the nice things about digital nomad life is that there are a lot of other introverts out there. They may not be active members of social media groups but they’re out there all the same.
That means that it’s often easier to find like-minded folks on the road than it is at home. They’ll completely understand if you want to bail after dinner and before drinks because you’re exhausted. That’s because they often feel that way too.
Some Ideas For Introvert Digital Nomads To Better Enjoy Their Digital Nomad Time
I’ve put together some tips that may (or may not) make your life easier on the road as an introvert, I know that they’ve helped me but your mileage may vary:
- Take up meditation. Meditation can soothe the savage beast that is you. It helps with social anxiety and shyness, but it also makes being around yourself easier. Many studies have linked meditation with health benefits too. One surprising thing is that people who meditate are much more likely to have a purpose in life than those who don’t. Strange but true. Given that it’s easy to learn to meditate and it costs no money; it’s worth a go.
- Set your own targets. It can be easy to lose yourself on the road. If you’re new somewhere and don’t have close friends, you can start to feel alone and then drift into panic. The easiest way to stay focused is to set regular goals and targets. These shouldn’t be limited to work goals, either. It’s important to focus on having fun too. Goals for fun may sound counter-intuitive but in reality, it ensures that you set aside time to play. That’s vital to your sanity.
- Trust your instincts. One thing that I’ve learned over the years is to trust your instincts. If you don’t want to do something – don’t do it. If you feel you don’t trust someone and don’t want to be around them – don’t. It’s fine to walk away from situations at any point. Your choices matter the most in your life.
- Don’t overdo it. Sometimes, you find yourself with so many options for socializing that you try and cram them all into a day. This is a bad idea. It’s better to say, “no”, to some things than it is to exhaust yourself and turn your great day into a soul-destroying energy sapper. There will always be other opportunities to do things. Don’t let FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) driver your decision making.
- Say “no” any time you want to. It is not negative to say “no”. It is a sign that you understand your own wants and needs and are capable of communicating them. If you think somethings going to leave you tired and miserable, say “no” and do it with confidence. Nobody will think any less of you unless they’re an ass and then, you’ve learned something valuable about that person.
- Consider blocking the world out. Noise-canceling headphones are an introvert’s boon. Pop them on in any stressful situation and boom! The world retreats in front of you. You can wear them while working in a co-working space. You can pop them on during a bus ride from one end of Vietnam to the other. And so on…
I’d like to submit that a digital nomad’s life and an introvert’s life are perfectly compatible. In fact, it may be the best option for many introverts. When you can live and work on your terms and only socialize with others when you want to – you ought to be happier and healthier.
Working remotely is easy for most introverts, though we’d add a note of caution that you do need a healthy dose of self-motivation to hit deadlines, etc.
Travel can be easy for introverts too as long as you make decisions that support the way you want to live.