When I’ve decided to hike the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu (instead of taking the train), I didn’t realize the burden I’ll have to carry on by being an introvert. Well, I survived the Inca Trail, as this T-shirt says. 🙂
Being an introvert, my energy gets drained by exposure to a group of extroverts for a longer period of time. We were 16 in the tourists group, 2 guides and other 22 staff members (porters, cooks, etc.). Add to this the hike at high altitude (3-4000 m) with frequent ups and downs (sometimes of 900 m level difference in one day), the less dense oxygen at such altitude and you’ll get a better idea to what we’re exposed to. Our journey on Inca Trail was four days, and the fifth we visited Machu Picchu.
So here are my 10 tips for introverts who would like to embark on such adventure, or anything similar (being with a group of extroverts for an extended period of time):
1. Have a strong reason why you want to go on that hike.
Mine was quite strong! After my trip to Egypt in 2008, the same group went to Machu Picchu the next year. I couldn’t go with them, but the day they reached Machu Picchu I had a strong pull to get into a meditation state. What followed was such an interesting meditation (never experienced before), that triggered my strong desire to visit this place. I chose to hike the Inca Trail to immerse myself in the energy of that place for a longer period of time (instead of just a few hours visiting Machu Picchu), and learn more about that ancient culture of Incas.
2. Let people know that you’re an introvert.
Since introverts don’t usually share information about themselves, the other people might not know that you are one. By not telling them, you open the door to assumptions that might not be in your favour (that you’re weird, have strange habits, don’t want to go along with what most of them do, etc.). It’s nothing wrong to be an introvert, we’re just … different. And people will act differently when we tell them that we are introverts, and how we are affected by being in a group of unknown people, especially if most of them are extroverts.
4. Tell others your reason for being with them at that time.
When we’re invited to talk about ourselves, the evening of the 2nd day, I shared that I’m an introvert, and I chose to walk at the end of the group for two reasons: 1. To be less affected by the energy of the group, and 2. Because I embarked on this adventure as a spiritual journey. Opening up this way made a whole difference in the way I was treated from that point on. The main guide chipped in saying that many people are hiking the Inca Trail as a pilgrimage, some prefer not eating, just drinking water, to arrive more purified to Machu Picchu. I wouldn’t have that information if I wouldn’t open up! And that information alone made a huge difference in my experience during that trip.
5. Stay connected with yourself.
No matter what others are doing and saying, stay connected with yourself, with your own body needs, and act accordingly. If that means walking much slower (like in my case), just do it and don’t worry about others. By doing that, I opened the “door” to others to join me at the end of the line, when they felt it was hard for them too. Same when my body wanted reduced meals, and refused to eat overall (for 1.5 days) – some group member followed my example when they felt the same way. I wouldn’t have been able to continue the hike if I wouldn’t pay attention to my own needs, and have the courage to act accordingly.
6. When seems hard, use your imagination.
I learned this from the Alchemist book, and tested it when I was on a Vision Quest in Sedona desert in 2009. We all need the energy of the four elements to function properly (Water, Earth, Fire, Air). When I felt that’s too hard or I don’t have enough energy to continue, I ask myself what am I missing of the four elements. As soon as I’ve got the answer, I start imagining the missing element. And believe me: it worked! Or even better, try it yourself! 🙂
7. Make an inventory of your strengths before you go.
It’s good to know on what you can rely on in difficult times.
I had my right knee dislocated at ski in 2002, which seemed to do pretty well on this hike. What I didn’t expect though, was to get a pain in my left knee, starting the 2nd day. “How can I continue the rest of the hike (which required steps up and down, 20 to 50 cm height each) with such a pain?”, I asked myself. I remembered a Reiki symbol (learned some time ago, when I’ve got my Reiki level 2 training), and it helped. I used it here and there, when the pain start being overbearing. I managed to finish the hike, and start treating my left knee when I came back home.
8. Stay positive
This is very important, whether you’re an introvert or extrovert! No matter what happens, stay positive! Otherwise, the negative energy will poison you directly, and those around you (with a boomerang effect on you). I remember especially the last day, before getting to Machu Picchu: I was walking slowly, paying attention to each move (to not force my left knee), breathing deeply (to counteract the lack of enough oxygen at such altitude), and … enjoying the butterflies that kept coming to keep me company. 🙂 I wasn’t bothered by the group that was always ahead of me, ending the breaks when I was getting closer to them – so I kept moving, without brakes, to not stay too much behind since I was already having a slower pace. I understood the guide’s reason: they couldn’t wait too long, otherwise their muscles will get cold which makes the hike more difficult. I kept coming back in my mind to why I wanted to do this, to what the guide said (other people were able to resist without eating, just drinking), and that it’s my responsibility to make it a great journey for me. And, it was! 🙂 (I’ll talk about that part in another blog post)
9. If possible, go with a group that has the same or similar reason to be there as yours.
That will make your journey much more enjoyable, since you’ll have someone to share your experience with, who has similar knowledge, values and intentions. And, as an introvert, you can open up even more and exchange positively with such people.
I didn’t pay attention to this when I booked my Inca Trail package with the tour agency, and I ended up with a group of extroverts, who took that journey more for the fun and physical challenge. We had at a marathon runner and a professional athlete in the group. I had a feeling that for many of them, the Machu Picchu site was not so interesting anymore, getting there was enough. For me, Machu Picchu was the cherry on the top … my best experience happened there.
10. One step at a time
Especially when you realize there is a huge gap between you and others, on various levels, taking one step at a time, and finding ways to enjoy the journey (however it is), will certainly lead you to the destination. It did, in my case ! And I take this as a great metaphor for building a business! 🙂
Machu Picchu is a photogenic place 🙂 , but it also has such a great energy! No wonder why the Incas chose it as a Sacred place!
Do you have other tips for introverts in similar situations?