Like I mentioned in June, I, and many bloggers I know, am an introverted extrovert. Or am I an extroverted introvert? Anyway, this does not mean that I’m quiet or shy. I love getting together and chatting it up with people, but preferably in small groups where you can have meaningful conversations rather than small talk. I find small talk exhausting, and usually boring. No offense. I just prefer really getting to know someone rather than having “conversations” that include a lot of questions that people really don’t care about followed by one to three word answers followed by silence.
Being an introvert means that I get my energy from within myself instead of externally. This means I have to have my Melanie time. I have to be alone to build my energy back up again. For more on introverts, see this Scientific American interview with Susan Cain, author of Quiet: The Power of Introverts.
While “me time” is easy to get when I’m home, that all changes when we have visitors or visit other people. There’s (often self-imposed) pressure to entertain, be “on” all the time, act as a tour guide or tourist, and plan multiple outings. What I’ve pointed out time and time again is how unnatural this is. It’s necessary, because these are people you don’t see all of the time and you want to spend time with them when you can, but spending several days and evenings with “extra” people isn’t the way we normally live. When you hang out with friends or family who live in your own city, you go out to dinner for a couple of hours, go home, and maybe you’ll see them again the following week. You don’t go out to dinner with your local peeps all day and night for five days in a row.
One of the things that can freak an introvert out for months in advance is an impending family or group vacation. Sharing your space and time with people other than the ones you’re used to for an entire week is the reason that fairies invented Ativan. Having just experienced a week long vacation with 15 people, I thought I’d put together a survival guide while it’s still on my mind, just in case you ever need it.
Know your limits when it comes to sharing space.
When Drew and I moved into this apartment, there was only room for us and Nathaniel. We have no guest room. If we did have a third bedroom (which we hope to have some time in the near future), it would be our office and there would be no bed in it. Houseguests are not for me. I LOVE when people come to Seattle and visit, but they need to have their own accomodations so I can wake up and go to sleep without extra people in my space.
Ask for what you need and take it. Only you can be responsible for you.
In the past I’ve had issues with feeling guilty that I should be more social or entertaining when I’m around people I’m spending several days with, but why should I the one to suffer? It’s okay to take a break. In fact, I’m sure your vacation mates prefer you claim some quiet time rather than don a perpetual grimace in all of the family photos. In turn, you shouldn’t expect everyone to get out of the house just because you need your space. It’s your issue so you need to resolve it.
Find a room with a door. Use it.
If you’re in the middle of a birthday party for four children under the age of five (true story…four of the kiddos including my own celebrated their few-days-apart birthdays on our recent trip) and you’re seconds away from shoving Spiderman cupcakes in your ears to drown out the noise, leave the room. This doesn’t mean abandon the party entirely, just take 10 minutes of silence and breathe. You’ll be back in time to watch them smear frosting on their toes.
Talk about it.
If you’re concerned about offending people, tell them in advance. You can even email this post to them before you arrive at your shared rental cottage. They still might not get it or understand, but at least you tried to explain it. You’ve done your part. You can’t control what they think or how they feel, so just lay it out and let it go.
Get a Hotel
Sharing living space, even for a few days, is worse than being forced to watch back-to-back episodes of The Swan for some introverts. If this describes you, your best bet would be to find the nearest hotel, camping site, or car and make it your refuge. Even spending the first and last few hours of your day alone or with your regular living mates can give you enough energy to be witty and engaging for the rest of your vacation.
That’s all I’ve got for now. I hope it’s useful! Do you have any other tips for staying sane in chaos? How do take a vacation from your vacation? I’d love to know. xo