Being an introvert and an extravert in a relationship together has its challenges. One of us is unbelievably chatty (that's me, Amy), and loves to share every thought that passes through my curly little head. Then there's Nathan: reserved, quiet, contemplative.
I was a musical theatre major in college. I thrived on singing, dancing, and performing before an audience. Themed costume parties every weekend with my loud, boisterous classmates. Improv comedy class? Sign me up. Nathan was a history student. A writer and a deep thinker, he had a small group of close friends and relished time spent alone.
An Introvert – Extravert Travel Couple
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But introvert and extravert are simply labels. Though Nathan and I are on separate ends of this spectrum, we are not complete opposites, and our tendencies often overlap. As well, introversion and extraversion are not just about socializing, as is commonly thought, but have a greater significance relating to the way we deal with the world. Indeed, these qualities affect nearly everything we do, including travel.
What is an Introvert?
An introvert is a person who deals primarily internally with things. They typically have an active mind of great depth and enjoy spending time in solitude. This is because introverts have a rich inner world which keeps them occupied and delighted. Socializing or spending time in groups tends to drain the introvert, who has to use a great deal of energy to engage outwardly. Introverts may or may not be shy, but no matter how social they are, they need time to recharge. Spending time alone and doing solitary activities is the best way for an introvert to feel at their best.
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What is an Extravert?
Extraverts aren't always social butterflies, but they do find that connecting with others gives them energy. These folks relate externally with the world. Extraverts are likely to be talkative and energetic. They may need human interaction to feel vibrant and to have a strong sense of self. Although they may enjoy spending time alone now and again, most extraverts don't require it. Much of the time they would prefer to be sharing moments and memories with those they love.
Based on the descriptions above, Nathan is a true introvert and I a true extravert. But people are unique and more than just a description. As an extravert, my personal quirk is that I process my thoughts out loud. Thus, I talk probably 95% more frequently than Nathan, who considers things privately in his own mind. He has to bear with me when I've got a lot to get out! Of course, there are no cut and dry rules and both of us drift into the opposite territory now and again. Nearly everyone possesses characteristics of both extremes.
Traveling as a ‘Vert
As a traveler, it may be easier to be an extravert, particularly if you're traveling alone. Meeting people is often more doable when your inner energy is driving you to connect with others. Then again, traveling alone might be the dream for an introvert. Total freedom, total anonymity. It's alone time all the time.
But whether you are an introvert or an extravert, travel is for everyone.
When traveling as a couple, there are many challenges that come into play. Add to that the balance of extraversion and introversion and you've got another quandary to contend with.
How do you travel successfully as a couple when one of you is an introvert and the other is an extravert?
After more than 3 1/2 years together, we've discovered several key ways to make sure your travel experience is fulfilling and wonderful… for the both of you.
The best way to ensure your needs are met at home or on the road is to know what those needs are. This has been especially important for Nathan as an introvert. After days without any time on his own, Nathan knows he needs that break. Even I, his favorite person, can drain him after awhile. I've learned not to take that personally, but to realize that this is simply the nature of the introvert.Nathan knows he needs to have this time alone, so he has to plan for it. It's easy to ignore that yearning to dive into a book or go for a solitary walk, but if he neglects his needs, he starts to get distracted, irritable, or even stop talking altogether.
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When traveling as a couple, it's a good idea to take time by yourself every couple of days, particularly if you are traveling long term. While I personally don't usually feel a pressing need to do this, when Nathan goes off to recharge, I find that I, too, treasure this time on my own. I can shop all afternoon, go on a long, thoughtful walk, or sit around the hotel room and belt out showtunes to my heart's content. And admittedly, singing loudly is sometimes what I need to recharge!
Balance Your Activities
The most successful relationships are those in which both people are willing to meet their partner's needs, even if occasionally that means their own play second fiddle. Though Nathan is not as keen on constantly meeting new people or making rambunctious travel Snapchat videos with me (psst! follow us at twodrifters) he will do these things. Why? Because he loves me. While at times we may spend an afternoon or several hours on our own, mostly, we like to be together. Everything is more fun and more memorable when it is shared with our fellow drifter. So, now and then, we choose to give of ourselves for the other person's happiness. In long-term love, it's just what you do.
Since Nathan does it for me, I repay the favor. We ensure that our travel plans are pleasing to both of us. Fortunately, a lot of our interests are very similar, so we have plenty of activities we both want to pursue, but when our interests or preferences diverge, we make sure to include each of them in our trip.
It's all about balance. As the extravert in this couple, I know I have to remain attentive to how Nathan feels (although the real responsibility for that lies with him). If we are out and about or socializing heavily with new people, we have a code word we've agreed upon that lets me know Nathan is fading fast. Introverts can only give so much, and though our lively conversations may be invigorating to me, they may be stealing every shred of energy from him. When the code word is spoken, we know it is time to wrap it up. This may mean we bid goodnight and head back home together, or it might mean Nathan excuses himself and lets me spend some more time socializing with friends. Either solution is great, and ensures we both get what we want and need.
Have Fun YOUR Way
As an introvert, Nathan says he often feels a certain pressure to be more social or to want to be outgoing. These pressures can increase when a person is traveling. You feel pushed to “take advantage” of every possible activity and meet every other traveler. Isn't that what travelers are supposed to do? But most of the time, that isn't what Nathan naturally craves, and sometimes, forced social situations, or moving fast to see every single site ends up as nothing but stress. You know what? He's had to come to terms with the fact that that is okay. We are all unique and different and though he'd prefer to read in a coffee shop than party in a crowded pub or beat the crowds to the Trevi Fountain, that decision is completely normal and acceptable. And extravert or not, I am generally on the same page. Couches, lattes, and books are our jam.
Consider Accommodation Carefully
As we get older (cough cough, 30's) we know we'll stay in hostel dorm rooms less and less. When we were younger and single, dorms were fine. In fact, with a low budget they were ideal. But now we know we crave privacy as a couple, and would rather shell out a bit more cash to have the comfort and sanity of our own private room. Knowing that Nathan is an introvert, I can't imagine how he handled those crowded, noisy dorm rooms in the past. A moment alone is impossible to obtain in those situations. If you are an introvert, consider springing for a single room if you're on your own, or try to opt for the smallest possible dorm. Both solo and as a couple, knowing and meeting your needs starts to come first where travel is concerned. Saving a few pennies is not worth your happiness.
Most Importantly, Communicate
Nearly every relationship issue can be solved by simple, ongoing communication. How will your partner know what you need if you don't tell them? Even now, as well as I know Nathan, he has to let me know when he's yearning for alone time. And if I'm having a rough day and need to vent and cuddle, Nathan doesn't automatically know this. I just have to ask.
Keeping an ongoing dialogue about our needs is what ensures we travel happily and successfully together.
And the next piece? Compromise. A mature relationship is about working together as a team. When one team member needs us, we have to roll up our sleeves and help them out. This isn't always easy or pleasant (in fact sometimes it's a downright pain), but if you love someone, it's what you do.
And if you're both committed to doing your best, when its your turn to be down and out, it's your partner's turn to be your solid rock. Compromise and giving when its needed will ensure that your introvert/extravert travels–and your life together–will truly go the distance.
Amy is one half of Two Drifters, a couples travel blog that focuses on adventure and love. Alongside her fiance Nathan, Amy enjoys living a digital nomad lifestyle, working from home, and journeying wherever the wind takes them.
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