~ Lauren (Carmen’s daughter)
I am not what you would call “out-going”. As a kid, I would beg my mom to talk to strangers for me if I needed something. Telling a waiter my order was a nightmare. I still cannot stand to call people on the phone or speak in front of any decently sized group of people. To compound my “issues”, ever since high school, I have suffered from panic attacks when faced with large crowds or other overwhelming social situations.
So how was someone like me supposed to face airport security and language barriers by myself?
As you have read in my mom and step-dad’s posts, I come from a family that loves to travel. Growing up, not only did I go on yearly camping trips, I also had the opportunity to travel to Washington D. C., Orlando, San Antonio, Denver, Branson, and several other cities. However, I never went by myself and I had never left the country. Four years ago, that all changed.
In the spring semester of my freshman year of college, I was presented with an opportunity: spend ten weeks in Orlando with about one hundred college students. We would be working in the city and learn how to teach the gospel to the thousands of tourists who travel there from all over the world. It sounded like fun, so I signed up.
Little did I know that just about everyone else on the trip was an extrovert. We were repeatedly told to get out of our comfort-zone and “take our cool jacket off”. So, I did every event, social and bonding activity they offered.
Trying to be someone I wasn’t brought on a panic attack.
After about two weeks, I had a panic attack during a pep rally event. The pressure of being an extrovert 24/7 was too much to handle. There I was crying in the middle of everyone celebrating, completely lost to reality. I don’t know who it was, but I would like to thank the girl who prayed over me during that panic attack. As she prayed, peace washed over me, and I was able to come back to reality and walk out of the room. The rest of the trip, I learned to balance myself by participating, but taking breaks when I needed to. I learned that, while all the activities and people are fun, I cannot pace myself like an extrovert. That’s just not who I am.
1st Trip Out of the Country
The next year my mom had the crazy idea to take a bunch of sixth graders and their parents on a tour of Europe and she invited me! There would be little time at home that summer. I cannot put all the blame on her though. I was the crazy one who convinced her to come with me to Guatemala that same summer for a mission trip. We ended up having two short weeks between the two trips. That was the first time I had ever left the country and I loved it. We traveled from London to Paris, Florence and Rome. Our ten days in Guatemala were rewarding like you wouldn’t believe. I’ll have to regale you with those adventures in another post. My travels didn’t stop there.
Italy- An Art Major’s Dream World
I fell in love with Italy two summers ago and last summer I decided to spend an entire month in Florence, Italy. It was the trip of a lifetime. I traveled throughout Italy, doing a wine tasting in Montepulciano and touring the marble quarries in Carrara where Michelangelo got his marble. I took two college classes while in Florence, a drawing class and an art history class. To study famous works of art while mere feet away from them is an experience I will never forget. As far as speaking to strangers, I had plenty of practice at that ordering gelato using my extremely limited Italian and asking for directions to the train station in Rome at 4 AM.
And, if you will believe it, I became the unofficial tour guide of a small group of study abroad students. It started off with me talking to one or two of my friends around me about what I knew about the monuments. Next thing you know, my friends told our other friends that I was the go-to girl for random art history facts. If they couldn’t hear the tour guide, people learned they could ask me. I still had to take breaks and pace myself. I’ll never be an extrovert. When I needed to be alone, I would wander around, getting myself lost until I found a quiet gelato place (I ate a lot of gelato) or a coffee shop where I could listen to a street musician play.
You would think that after a month away from home I would take a break, right? Nope. I spent a grand total of four days at home before getting back on the plane and heading to Bagaces, Costa Rica for a mission trip. That was an adventure in itself. My luggage was held captive by the airport security who did not trust the TSA approved lock I put on my luggage. I had a terrible sinus infection for the first several days of my trip. Since, I could not get to the medicine in my suitcase, I got to take what I like to call “mystery Costa Rican medicine” that my host mom gave me. It was all in Spanish so I have no idea what I took, but it sure worked.
With all of these hiccups going on, it was still an amazing trip. My host mom was convinced that I was starving to death and fed me the most amazing food you could imagine. I could barely speak Spanish and my host family knew even less English. That made for a very amusing and constant game of charades. My quick drawing skills also helped me communicate.
For someone who doesn’t like to be touched, Costa Rica pushed me way out of my comfort zone.
I am also not a fan of hugs or touching people in general. Costa Rica pushed me way out of my comfort-zone on that one. Everyone hugs everyone there. If they have an excuse to hug you, they will. It is not bad, just different. Even I had to accept and appreciate that this was their way of showing me love. I miss my host family and their love of hugging very dearly.
Traveling as an introvert is not easy, but it is an experience I encourage all introverts to do. Don’t feel pressured to do and experience everything. It is okay and healthy to take a break and relax. You’ll see other cultures in a way you might not see if you are constantly on the go and wearing yourself thin. To all you extroverts out there, be kind to your introverts. We want to explore and have fun just as much as you do. We just do it at our own pace and in our own way. I cannot wait until my next adventure. Are you an introvert or an extrovert? How has your personality impacted where and how often you choose to travel? Please comment below. We also love for you to follow us on social media and subscribe to our weekly newsletter. Thanks!
Murielle MarieMay 18, 2016 9:42 am
Dear Lauren, thank you for this great post and congrats on all your travels and stepping out of your comfort zone! I have loved ones who are introverts (I’m an extrovert) and yes I do know that getting out there, talking to people, making noise, and being visible can be difficult sometimes. So I really admire you for what you’ve done and for stepping out into the world like that.