Traveling as an INFJ
I've oft been told I'm veritably self-aware. I have a constant swarm of thoughts about my thoughts and about the world, and I often get lost in it all and wonder if I'm strange. But then I read a sentence or watch a film in which someone articulates an obscure feeling far better than I ever could, and I breathe a sigh, and I smile. How sublime, to be understood.
I wrote this as a caption for one of my recent Instagram posts, and a friend and fellow INFJ commented, sharing that she could relate to these thoughts. After musing on the subject, it occurred to me that travel has been equally significant in affirming my thoughts and evoking new ones as literature and film have been. So, I decided to write a post on traveling from the perspective of an INFJ.
(If you don't know your personality type as defined by the Myers-Briggs Indicator, you can take a free version of the test online here. I'm not asserting it defines who you are as a person, but it does offer perspective into who you are and on your thought process. As an INFJ, my preferences lie with: Introversion, Intuition, Feeling, & Judging.)
As with every introvert, I prefer to spend time alone—it's where I draw my energy from. Traveling alone, or at least spending some time alone while traveling, provides a sense of fulfillment and clarity I might not otherwise experience in the same way.
Not that I don't enjoy traveling with family and friends. I relish traveling with people that I love. But when I do, I make it a priority to set aside time to meander by myself to hunt for a bookstore, read beneath the shade of a tree, explore hidden corners of a city, or buy a scoop of gelato and contemplate life whilst sitting by a river.
The prospect of meeting people and making friends whilst traveling can be intimidating. But though I'm an introvert, I can be remarkably social when the occasion arises. Personally, when I'm traveling, I feel especially open and receptive to meeting new people from other cultures. I relish hearing their stories about what it was like to grow up in their country, smiling at the way they grammatically invert words to fit the sentence structure their language uses, observing their mannerisms distinct to their culture.
Because we're empathic and highly intuitive, we connect well with others. I agree that along with other INFJs, I'm adept at reading others, subconsciously observing mannerisms and patterns in behavior, which gives insight into things unsaid.
INFJs are reputed to be warm, authentic, and affirming. Our genuine nature also means that we abhor small talk. This rings true for me. I prefer to ask questions to get to know the heart. In my everyday life I'm inclined to be reticent, preferring not to talk about my feelings. However, I find that when I'm traveling, I don't mind sharing my heart if I chance upon someone I connect with. There are some friends I've made abroad that know my soul better than people I've known for years. Most of my closest friends live oceans away.
I only recently discovered that most INFJs have gone through life feeling how I've felt—misunderstood and not able to adequately express our thoughts and inner self for fear of being thought strange. Somehow, it's easier for me to find like-minded, kindred spirits when I travel. Like books and film, travel makes me feel less alone.
~Empathic & Highly Intuitive~
I was a bit hesitant to write this section, because I don't want to come across as new-agey, but that's the INFJ in me, afraid to share things for fear of being misunderstood. I mentioned earlier that INFJs are empathic and highly intuitive. The insight INFJs can sense is extraordinarily uncanny.
I've never really shared this about myself, but since I was little, I've always been extremely compassionate and felt as though I've had insight into others without them verbally sharing their feelings with me. I wrote this off as being sympathetic and overly-emotional. But to speak candidly, it isn't merely sympathy I feel— it's as if I feel in my entire being what other people are feeling.
I thought I was alone in this. After reading, I discovered that this is common for most INFJs. Being empathic, we absorb people's feelings. This must sound outlandish to someone who has never experienced it. It's sounds outlandish for me to even verbalize it. Take it as you will, but it's part of who I am.
In a way, it's a wonderful gift that helps me to connect with others, delighting in their joys and excitement. But at times, it can be quite overwhelming, which might be why I seek solitude so often. I can be cheerfully walking down a boulevard and make eye contact with someone whose circumstances are unfortunate, then suddenly feel overwhelmed with sorrow. It's a common occurrence that when I'm sitting in a restaurant while stressed out servers scurry around me, I grow inundated with anxiety. I often feel melancholic without a catalyst. Sometimes in crowds (which are hard to avoid when traveling in large cities) I become swarmed with so many emotions that I don't know how to handle it.
Still, to have the capacity to feel so deeply and insightfully is a wonderful gift, and I find it especially helpful when I travel. It helps me to feel connected to others and to my surroundings. As long as I have alone time to recoup.
I mentioned in the introduction that I constantly have thoughts about my thoughts and about the world, and so I'm highly self-aware. We INFJs have inner conversations with ourselves—not speaking to ourselves per se, but we have thoughts about thoughts about thoughts. We are also known to be highly imaginative. With these paired together, I'm never bored. Ever. This comes in handy since with traveling comes long days of plane rides and hours of train rides. Books help too.
~Where to go~
Though I usually travel with an itinerary outlining the best spots I'd like to go to, I advocate that spontaneity is one of the best parts of traveling. Being highly intuitive, INFJs usually go along with their instincts and trust their gut. I can at least say that for me, if the opportunity arises to do something spontaneous but I have an array of options before me, I close my eyes, take a deep breath, and feel for where my gut is pulling me toward. And that's one of the reasons I love traveling so much. I never know where the path will lead me.
If you're an INFJ and have had similar experiences in life or while traveling, I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments below. Likewise, if you have a different MBTI personality type, I'd love to hear your thoughts on life and traveling from your perspective. Looking forward to reading your comments!