The evening has finally come, and you can go home. Ah, home—the safe haven for the introvert in all of us. You can relax, dispel the stress of a busy day, and cocoon yourself away with a snack and your favorite form of escapism.
Some homebodies can build castles out of their collection of books. Some can quote every line of their favorite shows and know the theme songs by heart. Some find both their peace and exhilaration in video games, creative pursuits, or music that drowns out everything else. It could be anything, really.
In the end, for a certain strain of people, the best place to be is where it is safe, comfortable, and usually shielded from social interaction.
It’s a big world out there. If all the wonder of what’s out of your reach seems scary, it becomes all too easy to root up a documentary, travel blog, or compendium of professional photographs that can provide vicarious satisfaction for your desire to wander the world. After all, it’s easier to get anywhere—be it Egypt or the Amazon—through a book or a screen rather than making the venture in person. From this safe distance, you can travel without any risk of discomfort, danger, or costs.
No matter how much this may appeal to you, it isn’t enough. A true experience of feelings and sights previously unknown has the power to change a life. No matter how good a documentary is, it just won’t cut it.
You’ve got to get out there.
There are many reasons why travel sounds as daunting as it does exciting. Anxiety, introversion, or a simple preference to stay home may play its part in this. But experiencing the world isn’t only for the adventurous! There is no standard for enjoying a trip, so don’t be afraid to personalize your experience and make it worthwhile to you when you do decide to travel.
In many Western cultures, the outgoing, bold, and spontaneous are held up as the ideal type of person—often to the point that introversion and reservation are cast in a negative light. If this has been your experience, reaching out into the world may bring you more peace than you may have expected. In many Asian cultures, an introverted or reserved personality is not only better understood but is also appreciated or even preferred. In these places, an introvert can live through new experiences without the discomfort and strain that may have kept travel from becoming a possibility before.
Consider South Korea as a particularly suited destination for introverts to start seeing the world. Other than the sites brought to your attention by the 2018 Winter Olympics, you may not know what South Korea has to offer.
An internet search may produce a “Top 20 Tourist Attractions in South Korea” article or a list of the most popular K-pop singles and Korean dramas. You may glimpse cities pulsing with life and light, beautiful beaches, and serene mountains. However, those few top internet hits aren’t everything. After all, as introverts well know, the little things can make just as much of an impression as the big ones, if you pause long enough to appreciate them.
Glimpse Everyday Life
In South Korea you can find your way around by train, subway, bus, and with your own two feet. There will be sights to take in no matter where you are. Too often the journey and the to-and-fro of traveling is ignored or found inconvenient, but during this time is when you can experience local culture on a day-to-day level. A trip isn’t only composed of destinations, but rather includes every step along the way.
If you feel as though your trip will be a failure if you don’t take all the typical tourist pictures and complete all the check-list experiences, take a step back.
Listen to the unfamiliar chatter. Get a little lost on purpose. Take in the smells. You’re there; that’s what matters.
If it all feels like too much, compare the pavement beneath your feet to what’s back home. Each step is something new, and that is the point.
Traveling offers a chance to see how other people live, a chance to expand your definition of humanity. Instead of booking a hotel, consider renting an apartment. The prices are comparable or potentially even cheaper. But more than that, imagine a life, a home, somewhere unfamiliar.
Take off your shoes at the door. Stand by the window—whether it’s humble or breath-taking, the view is yours to enjoy. Experiment with the stove; laugh at the layout of the bathroom; listen to the building and the people outside. You may find that your arrangements provide a typical Western bed, a futon, or, more traditionally, you might sleep on the floor.
Even if where you stay isn’t documentary-worthy, you’ll find that you can enjoy it as much as you let yourself.
On that note, if there’s one thing that all people love—and one thing that a documentary or a book will never be able to give you—it is the experience of eating authentic food. In South Korea, there are options that can make your meal a unique experience.
You could try a Korean hot pot, which gives you not only a spread of delicious options and a bubbling pot of your own, but also the opportunity and freedom to mix and cook your food to get just the taste you want. Or, if barbecue sounds tempting, you can grill up thinly sliced pieces of meat or fresh shellfish right at your table and eat them with a variety of sauces and side dishes.
But don’t despair if your travel plans keep you constantly on the go. You can (and should) take advantage of the delicious fare offered at food stalls and trucks on the streets and in the markets—they’re a tasty experience all on their own.
It does not take much searching in Korean pop culture to discover that a popular activity for a night out in South Korea is karaoke. This isn’t the potentially terrifying experience of standing on a stage in front of a crowd trying to keep up with the words to a song. If you grab a small group of friends and find your way to the nearest karaoke bar, you can nab your own private room and sing your hearts out. When you aren’t up to sing, you can order some food or drinks, which are often delivered straight to your room.
Or, if you’re too shy and think that even an intimate group for karaoke isn’t your thing, you can try a one-person room. If it sounds odd, consider that some karaoke bars in South Korea are designed for an individual experience, so you can sing whatever you want, as loud as you want. There’s no pressure. It’s just you and the music.
An Experience You Can’t Get Anywhere Else
A unique experience that may appeal especially to the introverted traveler is a visit to one of the many temples in South Korea. A tour of a traditional temple could spark cultural understanding and appreciation, but you can also make your trip a true escape by participating in a one- or two-day temple stay.
Temple stays are available at many temples in South Korea, and the experience includes educational and traditional activities taught or led by the monks who live there.
Embrace and appreciate your pensive and reserved side. Wear the temple’s simple cotton garb. Eat with the monks. Participate in meditation, prayers, and ceremonies. Sleep and rise with the sun. The beautiful and peaceful surroundings of the temple promise you a restful experience, perhaps even an enlightening one.
Step Out There
The reality is that travel is a personal experience. Perhaps you’ve never traveled. Perhaps you’ve had bad experiences before. A comfort zone can be such an easy place to stay, but don’t let travel scare you.
While traveling alone, the culture, people, and sights you will see can open your mind and heart in ways that you couldn’t have expected. When you take your life out into the world, you may be surprised to find that it isn’t as intimidating as you feared.