I originally started writing this article a few weeks ago, in April, when I thought spring was set to arrive. Instead, it stayed cool, poured rain, and left me uninspired. Now, however, the sun has come out and I am ready to get outside! I started going out in defiance of the weather saying: “cold and wind, I defy you! I’m going hiking anyway!” And now, the weather is catching up with me. The sun is coming out, the weather is slowly warming up, and the trees are releasing their wonderful pollen into the air and sticking it all over my car. It’s all good. My car doesn’t show pollen.
This week, I’d like to explore some outdoor activities for introverts. These are fun things we introverts can do without too much interaction with others. The idea we’re going for here is balance: Just enough interaction to get our outside time, but not so much that we want to run back inside and hide under the bed. There are also some funny things I’ve noticed when people start venturing outside, which I’ll talk about in this article as well. For example, where did all of these people come from? I know there are lots of houses around here, but I didn’t realize there were people living in them until they started coming outside.
Funny things about people on sidewalks
One thing about walking on sidewalks in busy places is that people don’t (at least where I live) tend to say hello to me or ask me for anything. What’s funny is that sometimes that bothers me. And if I’m out walking on a trail, I expect at least a smile from people. Even though I’m an introvert, I do get a little miffed if someone doesn’t smile back at me or say “hello”. It’s an effort on my part to reach out to a stranger, so it’s nice if someone acknowledges the effort. Also as an introvert, it is rare that I’ll say “hello” to a stranger first, yet I will say “hello” back if someone speaks to me first. I may even say it loudly enough to be heard. If they don’t hear it, at least they’re getting a smile.
Being in a public place and expecting to be alone
One of the things that boggles my mind is how many people walk around the office, town, city, house, gym, as if they are the only human on the planet. With more than seven billion people in the world, one should always expect another human to be lurking (or running) around the next corner. There could be a story there, but anyway, here’s a personal anecdote.
I went for a walk a few weeks ago in defiance of the still-cold weather, on a trail that follows the banks of a river. There were huge ice chunks covering parts of the path, and I nearly turned around, but then my sense of adventure kicked in and I carefully climbed over the ice to reach the clear parts of the path. As I did so, I wondered if I’d see anybody else. Would anyone else be brave enough to climb over the ice? I didn’t expect to run into anyone else since the weather was nice, but not perfect, and it was the middle of the afternoon. Silly me: of course there would be others! In a city of 800,000 people, one should expect to meet at least one other person while walking around outside.
Most of the time these people are in cars, but every now and again someone will feel nostalgic and will walk as a form of transportation. In the case of the trail along the river, it’s a beautiful trail and on a day when it’s not snowing or raining, temperatures are reasonable, and the kids are still in school, it makes sense that the brave few of us would venture out to get some fresh air and hopefully glimpse the classic signs of spring. There’s no talking required, we all know why we’re out here. We’re escaping the extraverts in our household. Just kidding…or am I?
Introverts are known to live inside our own heads a lot, and we’re usually the only ones in there. So, it’s not that we’re not paying attention; it’s just that since we’re alone in our own heads, we may have some expectation that we would be alone in other places too.
A note about Outdoor Activities
Are you an outdoor enthusiast who doesn’t mind getting dirty? Or maybe you’re an indoor enthusiast who needs some fresh air? It has been raining and cool around here lately, which means puddles and mud. It’s not for the squeamish, or for anyone who hates doing laundry, but there is a lot of fun that can be had outdoors at this time of year. Prepare yourself though, because you may need to get dirty. It’s okay to get dirty, maybe even to be dirty, because you can wash it off. The good news is that the puddles are getting smaller, so you’re less likely to need a pressure-washer to get clean.
Outdoor activities for introverts
Let’s say you want to be alone, listening to your personal talk-radio station, and get some exercise outdoors. How about a bike ride by yourself (it’s hard to be alone, but just turn on that indoor radio, and choose a bike riding time when other people are at home having dinner, or still at work). One thing about working from home sometimes is that I can hit the trails when other people are at work. The gig economy and other people seeking entrepreneurship might ruin this for me, but if they do weird or funny things I can write about them and get some enjoyment out of it.
Outdoor Group activities for introverts
Let’s talk about one of my favourite outdoor activities that can be done alone or in a group: Hiking.
Technically, it’s safer to hike in a group. If one of you gets lost, hopefully the other one has a data plan and location services turned on so that you can find your way. Maybe one of you is so well prepared that you have a printed map and know how to use it. Well-signed trails that are well used except when the kids are in school (so that you can have your outdoor quiet time) are solid options for hiking by yourself (definitely go during the day time). Guided group hikes give you the chance to get out and get into nature with someone who knows the way. I am fortunate to have a friend who leads hikes through interesting places along the Bruce Trail. That means there’s at least one person I know and I don’t have to go into a group of total strangers and try to get used to 20 new people all at once.
Odds are that there are other people in the group who are introverts and won’t want to talk much either. If you’re not talking, then you can listen-in on the conversations other people are having, while pretending not to listen. It’s like listening to the radio without commercials while you walk and breathe in fresh air – oh look, a chipmunk! How cute.
You don’t have to drive somewhere to go on a hike, or even ride around on a bike. Walking around town you can look at what’s new, check out whether the street sweeper has done a good-enough job, and maybe judge people wearing shorts and tank tops when it’s still a little cool for that (I mean, what are they going to do in the middle of summer – there’s not much more to remove!). The shiny convertibles and motorcycles are also coming out, so watch out for those. Most of them don’t creep up on you when you’re walking because motorcycles and convertibles are extraverts and want to be noticed. The warning here is to keep your wits about you so that the loud sound doesn’t cause you to jump so high or far that you land in traffic.
For me, spring is all about getting outside and easing into seeing people in full sunlight (there could be a glare). It makes me feel more optimistic, and probably makes me funnier. I’ll let you find that out in the coming weeks. What do you do that’s fun, or funny in spring? What funny things have you seen people doing? Let me know in the comments.