During my childhood days, I was always THE SHY GIRL who preferred burying herself in books than talking to others. I was a book worm, and all my friends at school were just like me. I especially enjoyed reading adventurous stories and I would often imagine myself being the main character exploring exotic lands and finding treasures. Naturally, libraries were the places where my friends and I used to hang out – a perfect place to avoid having a conversation with people. I remember the times when being called up by our lecturers to answer questions at class, I stuttered, I blushed, and I felt my heart rate rising. I was feeling so uncomfortable having all the attentions from the rest of the class on me. I disliked being praised. I dislike interacting in a group. I was socially awkward and I did everything I could to avoid “eye contact” with others.
When I turned 18, I went to a foreign language colleague, it’s where I discovered a whole new world around us through books, music, documentaries, films and through our professors. My desire to see the world with my eyes had grown even stronger. On one special occasion, I went to a tourism exhibition, I acted on my impulse and bought myself a discounted plane ticket to Thailand with all my savings – it was my very first solo trip – I didn’t want to go alone, but I didn’t find anyone who could come along.
THIS TRIP TOTALLY CHANGED ME!!!
I was well prepared for this trip. My travel agency handled everything for me, hotels, flight, and itinerary. It was only when I arrived Thailand, did I realize that I could never be 100% prepared for a trip – there were just too many unexpected things – HUGE language barrier (Most Thai don’t speak English), local customs, food, weather, social etiquette rules…etc. I spent most of the time trying to explain myself, in a language they barely understood, so you can imagine a simplest thing became difficult there, like, ordering a meal, asking for direction, or even getting a taxi!
But strangely, the fact that I was a traveler, and I was alone, I came to realize that I needed to get out of my comfort zone, or my trip would be totally screwed. Because, after all, I spent all my savings to be here, and if I didn’t do any efforts and stayed in the hotel all day, I would miss a lot of things. It was hard at first, I would wait for someone to come me to offer his/ her help. Then it got better and better. At almost the end of the trip, while I asked for directions for a beach close by, I ended up meeting some group of local people of my age, who proposed to give me a ride to the beach together by car! Although we still had language barrier (they knew some basic English sentences), we were able to communicate and had so much fun laughing! We even went to a karaoke in the evening where I sang along some pop songs in Thai with them (I had no idea what these songs were about but who cares!) The moment I decided I had to open up to people, everything just got easier and better.
I remember the excitement I had after I got back from this trip. I felt I was a brand new person. I was liberated from my fear. I knew I wanted more of that and it’s exactly what I did – after a few more solo trips, my shyness was completely cured.
I’m not saying traveling solo will make you the most sociable person, but it will definitely help you overcome your shyness. Being shy should not stop you from exploring the world alone!
Now, I am not going to bother you with how I once invited a bunch of foreign backpackers and locals that I met on the streets to come to celebrate my birthday party in a bar and we ended up having a blast (of course, if you girls are curious, I’d be happy to share my tips!). I’m sure you probably all have better stories than mine! I thought it would be better to share some of my personal proven practical, easy to apply tips over the last 10+ years of solo traveling experience to help shy girls overcome social awkwardness and interact with people in the next article.