“Extroverts have more fun.”

~Rick Steves

Travel writer Rick Steves tucks a page of wisdom in the introduction section of his guide books. He calls it his “Back Door Travel Philosophy,” his thoughts on the value of travel and how it impacts our lives. But it’s paragraph five that I think is the real gem:

“Connecting with people carbonates your experience.  Extroverts have more fun.  If your trip is low on magic moments, kick yourself and make things happen. If you don’t enjoy a place, maybe you don’t know enough about it. Seek the truth…See things as different but not better or worse.”

And there’s that word. Extrovert. As a comfortable 4 or 5 on the “oversion” scale of the introverted 1 to the extroverted 10, I’m always surprised how I begin to drift into the extrovert side of the chart when I travel. I can almost feel the shift, like I’m changing gears, asking strangers for directions, seeking out fellow travelers to take a photo, starting conversations with the people at the next table.

What is it about travel that makes us so willing to throw ourselves fearlessly into the domain of extroversion? Perhaps it’s the freedom of living so completely in the moment that any thought of rejection or embarrassment doesn’t have time to ruin our newfound joie de vivre. Or it could be the child-like curiosity of taking in new surroundings that brings out our true selves. Or maybe our inner extrovert is awakened by the overload of new stimuli – exciting sights, sounds, smells and the the thought that we literally don’t know what’s around the next corner.

The extrovert really seems to come out of hiding in travel photos. I’m positive all the visitors to Pisa who pose pretending to hold up the Leaning Tower with their hands are really mild-mannered sorts back home. And those antics trying to elicit a smile from the guards at Buckingham Palace would never play in Peoria.

I noticed this extroversion phenomenon in my own family years ago at London’s Madame Tussauds. Visiting a wax museum was not on my list of priorities, but it was the end of a long day and with a discounted admission after 5 pm, it seemed like a good option for two teenagers. I don’t know what was in the air that day, but our tired crew magically came to life, channeling our inner extroverts in ways we never had. It was an unexpected moment and, as Rick Steves would say, more fun than I could imagine.



On the road we are a little different, a little more open, a little more willing to step outside the proverbial comfort zone.  And once we discover that it’s not such a scary place after all, it’s pretty tough to go back.

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