Am I An Anti-Social Backpacker?

Lots of people have told me that traveling is so much better with someone else because you can share your memories with them. Huh? I don’t get it.

If a hostel has a bar, is in Lonely Planet, or has the word “party” anywhere in its advertisements, I will avoid it like the plague. Why? Because I am an introverted traveler.

Wellington, New Zealand mountain beach

on the edge of the world

Everyone’s style of traveling differs. As a long-term traveler, I think I have different interests and goals than many, as this is not my vacation but my lifestyle. In my mind, lots of backpackers morph into the same person. It seems that they’re traveling to get a tour of the world’s bars and a few sites, buy lots of souvenirs, and only meet other travelers. In fact, so many backpackers seem to be about nothing at all. I get tired of having the same conversations over and over. I find small talk to be tiring, irritating, and not worth the breath.

I also think that traveling has made me more inflexible in some ways. I am attracted to some people like a moth to a flame, and I am able to form deep connections quickly with such people. On the other hand, I fail to think it’s worth the energy to engage in conversation or simple pleasantries with someone who I obviously don’t have a connection with. Maybe some people think I’m unfriendly, stuck up, or a bitch. I don’t care. I know who I am, and the people who know me know who I am, and that’s enough for me.

One of my favorite things about being on the road is that I don’t have to have those boring, day-to-day conversations that come with stability and permanence. How was your day? How was work? What did you do today? What time did you go to bed last night? I believe it is an aspect of my social rebelliousness, reflected most eloquently in this quote by Isabelle Eberhardt:

To have a home, a family, a property or a public function… to be a useful cog in the social machine, all these things seem necessary, even indispensable, to the vast majority of men, including intellectuals, and including even those who think of themselves as wholly liberated.  And yet such things are only a different form of the slavery that comes of contact with others, especially regulated and continued contact.

The truth is, I would rather be alone then spend time with people I couldn’t bond with. Right now, I’m staying in a brand-new hostel in Bogotá, Colombia. I chose to stay here because it just opened this month, and I figured that most other backpackers would be staying in other, more well-known hostels. Last night, I was sharing an 8-bed dorm room with one older guy from Denmark. Perfect. I stayed in the room all night, because I had gotten zero sleep on the crazy night bus from Medellin, and I just wanted to sleep and watch movies on my computer. Tonight, however, just as I was getting ready to settle in for another solitary evening, a group of 4 girls came into the room. MISERY! Ahh, que pena!

Having said that, I do enjoy meeting local people, and it’s always one of my missions while traveling. For me, the people are the country, and if I don’t know the people, I don’t know the country. Am I always able to achieve my ideal? No. However, the times that I do comprise my favorite travel memories. And that’s not to say that I never hang out with other backpackers, because sometimes I do. Every once in a while, I meet a like-minded person or people with whom I can have real, deep, meaningful conversations with, and I feel lucky to have come across them. But the rest? No thanks, I’ll stay alone. Am I an anti-social backpacker? A little bit. But I’m okay with that.

  • Tasha

    Sounds more like anti-“backpacker” traveler to me. Most sources I’ve read say that extroverts are the majority. It makes sense then that most people would label you anti-social/ bitchy, but that gives introverts a bad name! These people just don’t understand how introverts enjoy their selves.

    I heard the same opinions when I planned a sola getaway recently. People insisted I wouldn’t have a good time alone, that I needed to go with someone. Next thing I knew, they were trying to hook me up with people who could give me tours and take me to the popular restaurants. My whole vision of the trip became convoluted and I felt overwhelmed.

    I’m happy to see an introvert living out life how it feels best: deep convos,reflection, solitude.

  • I like travelling by myself too, it gives you a lot more freedom and independence. I don’t believe every travel moment has to be shared, particularly with strangers, when you can appreciate new things on your own. And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that =)

  • I like the idea that you get to travel all by yourself. However, I find it difficult in my case. And apart from that I think you are courageous enough to visit different places alone. And apparently, I think it’s OK to be alone and not to deal with other backpackers. It’s part of your personality and whatever and however you choose to do things, it’s on your own perception and choice.

  • I too love to be alone in the Road enjoying the weather and the nature.

  • Here’s a great quote I saw today.

    “‘A good traveller has no fixed plans, and is not intent on arriving.’ ~Lao Tzu”

  • Ben

    I’m travelling around Europe right now… I really can’t be bothered talking to anyone I meet. The how long have you been travelling, where are you from, over and over.

    I think I am anti-social. This trip isn’t what I thought it’d be like. I’m enjoying it, but the two occasions I have become chatty with the backpackers around me I’ve had a good time…

  • I’d say you can’t beat solo travel. While I’ve enjoyed many interactions with fellow travelers, i can certainly relate to many points in your post. As travel has become more accessible, the people choosing to “backpack” are often poseurs – just doing it as a rite of passage and getting it out of their system. Post-Uni summer travellers can be quite bad and European stag parties are the worst! Anyway, i appreciate your ‘confession’ and love the Eberhardt quote. Mind if I use it for a future blog post idea? :) Ok, that’s all – I’ll leave you alone now…

  • Go for it :)