On the (Introverted) Road


In a few days, I’ll be travelling, and my suitcases are out and ready to be stuffed with books (no, I do not have a Kindle or Ipad, so don’t ask), shoes, clothes. And deodorant: I hear it’s damned hot in that eastern part of the country.

For the first part of the trip, I’ll be solo: doing research, going to lectures, staying in a room of my own. After a week of introversion, deep thoughts and writing, only then do I meet up with hubby: we get a few transitional days at one of those boutique hotels in a big city I haven’t visited in 20 years before we do some couch surfing with family and friends. Near water.  I miss the ocean so much I can taste it. The water makes up for the couch surfing.

I’m so ready to go.

One of the great, and well documented, ironies of academia is that it’s a profession that attracts introverts interested in books, ideas, words and asks them to be extroverts excelling at public lecturing, group task forces, and facilitating other introverts. Then there’s the socializing, which I normally love, but that has become more of a burden lately than a pleasure: when did I get the reputation of always being available to go out, hangout, host gatherings, plan outings, “do things”?  How do I get out of this reputation? I mean, despite some modest extrovert tendencies that I must have inherited from the paternal side of my heritage absolutely unknown to me, I’m truly an introvert, but in the land of the power introvert, I stand out as a damned social butterfly.

Yet, the inner strength required to wring dry the few extroverted tendencies I have has simply left me exhausted.

So I can’t wait to fly away, to a small town, where I can be literally alone for at least every evening and night, as long as I remember to hide that sliver of extroversion that lies within me. Because of course I’m going to be in a workshop with, you guessed it, other academics. And I fear that the overwhelming introversion auras will bring out the extrovert in me.

What sort of illness is that, the need to fill a void in group situations?

On another note, I’m sorry, Sybil, but yes, books are morally superior objects.

After days of agonizing, I’ve finally figured out the reading material I’ll be bringing on my grand tour.  I’ve downloaded a few “free” books to my Netbook (where Kindle for PC seems to work nicely)—classics by Austen and Alcott, mostly, in order to at least try this reading on a screen experience. And, for hard copies, I have a few weeks of the New Yorker, the last issue of Bookforum, and a few College English, TETYC, and Pedagogy issues to catch up on.  As for actual books, I tried to choose those that I don’t think I need to save, and that I can pass on as I travel.

Right now, I have the following as my short list, and since I cannot take them all, any advice would be helpful: Anita Shreve’s Testimony, Colum McCann’s Let the Great World Spin, Ruth Ozeki’s All Over Creation, and Jayne Anne Phillips’ Lark and Termite, and, my old, falling apart copy of The Mind-Body Problem by Rebecca Goldstein.

While I’m gone, feel free to sneak over to some other academic bloggers who are also, if I may, probably introverted with a twist of extroversion: here and here, and here, here, here. A few actually have parties on their blogs. Sometimes with cheetos and scotch or those drinks with the umbrellas.

11 responses to “On the (Introverted) Road

  1. I really identify with this. For an academic, I can be extroverted, but from the rest of the world’s perspective, I’m a thorough introvert. Somehow I ended up living a very extroverted life for the past few years, and it’s been a terrible struggle. Eventually, it all caught up with me and I had to radically cut back on my social activities or else risk having some kind of major meltdown. I feel much more in balance now.

  2. Enjoy the trip. Get to you room, unpack, and stomp your extroversion deep into the carpet (housekeeping will take care of it). Oh, and there is an awesome article about fingerprinting and art in the most recent New Yorker- REALLY good read.

  3. Have fun on your trip, especially the water part! That sounds really lovely. Hopefully that will overpower any annoyances that come from all of those social activities.

    Also, thanks for the shout-out! I will totally accept that characterization of introverted with a twist of extroversion.

  4. Squadro: that’s what I need, balance, and to not feel guilty saying “no” a bit more often.

    Dr No: The stomping sounds fun, and finger printing? Ok, I’m curious!

    EA: Now an analysis of academic BLOGGERS would be fascinating, no? We must all have a little bit of extroversion in us to share ourselves….

    Undine:Thanks for that link! I knew I had read about the whole introverted academic thing on blogs but obviously pre-Delicious, so I have nothing tagged.

    On another note, I’ve added now a new pair of sandals, and 3 more books to the short list to bring on the trip: Eggers/Zeitoun, Tartt/Secret History, Karr/Liar’s Club. Packing for 3 weeks for different locales and activities, not so easy….

  5. I once read that introverts sometimes seem like extroverts because they are the last ones to leave a party. But, according to what I read, we’re the last one to leave a party because our favorite part of the party comes at the end when there are only a few of our favorite people left.

    I also remember one summer, during grad school, when I couldn’t WAIT for classes to begin again so I would have a good excuse to hole away with my books and stop all of the incessant socializing.

    I’m envious of your trip. I love road trips and, as much as I love my family, I love SOLO time in hotels.

    Books: Tartt’s Secret History–I remember loving it. Ozeki’s book–I wasn’t a big fan of it. Let the Great World Spin–A great beginning, but I haven’t finished it.

  6. Hi GEW!
    I like that idea since I, too, am usually one of the last ones to leave the party.

    I’m starting to pack today, and believe me, I’m literally salivating about that hotel room.

    Thanks for the book advice: I was hesitant about the Ozeki book since her last book was ok, but not “wow” to me. I think I’ll save the book decision till last though (although it’s now the time that I truly wish I had a Kindle).

  7. Love this post (and thank you for the link, dear AE). I am an introvert with a twist of extrovert too (though I overcompensate for the introversion sometimes by faking extroversion in certain situations, if that makes sense). Seriously: one of my favorite trips *ever* was alone at a rare books library in another country, for a month.

    Your trip sounds fabulous, and I hope you have a wonderful time. Enjoy the research, lectures, and sightseeing! Safe travels!

    ps: Would you please delete the duplicate comment above this one?

  8. PS Inky, done.

    And thank you, tho now I’m envious of a month in another country!! I’ll be checking to see how life in Inky-world goes while I’m gone, tho may not comment. Just know….

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