The introverted backpacker, part I: 5 reasons geeks and nerds should travel

14 Mar

This article is the first in a 3 part series about why traveling is beneficial for people who are introverted and/or nerds/geeks.

It goes without saying that many backpackers are pretty extroverted. They chat in hostels, go out bar-hopping, and have a large enough circle of friends that a good portion of the people they know will be interested in talking about travel with them, or in fact traveling with them. The atmosphere of youth hostels, especially the ones aimed at partying backpackers, is good evidence of this. People talking to each other, responding with things like “oh, I have a friend from that <city/country>,”, or “Wanna go out bar hopping with us?”. Then there’s always the guy who has loads of flag patches on their backpack, who pretends to be likable but really just wants to one-up everyone by showing that they have been to more countries. In the corner, there’s two drunk British guys moping around, and in the middle of the room, there’s a group of students who are taking their gap year. Tour groups come and go, people talk about their travel experiences, and people enjoy this all. The bottom line: it’s a communal experience in a hostel, even if the assortment of personalities is always changing.

Geograph hostel photo

But what about backpackers who are NOT extroverted? I’m an introvert, geek and nerd myself, and many of my fellow introverts are not as interested in travel as me. I still think, however, that plenty of introverts have good reason to travel. Some introverts shy away from the idea of solo travel, worrying it will mean they are seen as “weird” or “a loner”. But in reality, most people in a hostel won’t care and will happily chat with you, while going on about their lives.

So, without further ado, here are five reasons geeks, nerds, and introverted people should travel.

1) Travel is educational

Many geeks like to learn endlessly if the subject interests them. If you can get interested in any foreign country that you want to travel to, you’ll have plenty to learn about it at home and abroad, if visiting the country itself. I’m not denying that extroverted people can be smart, intelligent thinkers too. But let’s face it, the people who become major experts on a particular topic are more likely to be geeks.

2) It helps you break out of your comfort zone and expand your horizons

Whether it be your mom’s basement, the manga section of your local library, the comic book store, the strategic games store, Reddit, or Youtube, if you’re a geek, chances are you have a “comfort zone”, an area where your routine is uninterrupted and you can feel free to be yourself. The comfort zone is not even necessarily a physical place. Sometimes it’s an obsession. But many of the more socially successful people in life are willing to branch out of their normal interests, keeping them from turning their interest into an obsession. I’ve found that, if you need an “obsession”, travel is a good one, because it encompasses many activities. Backpackers often have slight preferences of the types of places they like to visit, but many are usually happy to visit museums, sports games, national parks, concerts, or any sort of major tourist attraction. When you travel, you should make sure you do a lot of exploring beyond what you think you’ll be interested in. You may discover something new you like.

3) It helps improve your social skills

A large number of geeks and nerds struggle socially, and many would argue this is an inherit part of being a “geek” or “nerd”. But social skills are important in education and the workplace. People shouldn’t have to feel they should be super extroverted, but many geeks’ social skills could still use an upgrade. For evidence, just look at the countless “but I’m a nice guy!” threads on the internet, filled with people who think women owe them something, or are puzzled as to why they don’t have much of a social life. When you force yourself to stay in a hostel dorm and talk to other travelers, you’ll learn more and more about how to socially fit in, while still maintaining a unique personality. In fact, few environments are better for this. In a hostel, people are a diverse, accepting, and tolerant lot, but people also need basic social skills in order to get along with fellow backpackers.

4) You’ll be more interesting to talk to than other “geeks” back at home

There are plenty of people who don’t like the “pretentious travel snobs”, including many people who travel. But there’s still a lot more contempt for the fedora-wearing neckbeards than the world travelers, and rightfully so. Even if you’re a bit socially awkward, travel will still be make you a more interesting person than playing World of Warcraft all day. Just get your appearance in order, and learn the basics, and you’ll make a lot more friends of all types than other “geeks”.

5) You aren’t expected to “fit in” when you first arrive in a new country

Last but not least, this is a big one. Now, you should definitely learn the culture and customs of a country, and being a foreigner is no “free pass” to behave however one wants. But unlike in your home country, locals won’t expect you to know every little social rule. It’s easier to get away with being “weird” as a foreigner than at home, because some people will assume your social quirks are a foreigner thing, not a “weirdo” thing.

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