An Introvert's Bucket List

For many introverts, connecting with their inner world is all they need.

Most bucket-list items carry a wow factor, activities so beyond the ordinary you would be lucky to do them even once in a lifetime. However, extraverts and introverts might prefer vastly different experiences.

Typical bucket lists emphasize activities that send thrills up and down the backbones of extraverts. They are usually experiences that take energy, money, and travel to do. These activities are typically stimulating in the extreme and would grab your attention if they flashed on the TV screen.

For introverts—now about half our population—pushing themselves to do scary, expensive, or adrenaline-inducing things is not something they look forward to. They don’t necessarily want to climb a mountain, fly to Europe, or go skydiving. Would that be cool, they wonder, or does it just sound cool? To the introvert, it might sound tiring and stressful.

What would an introvert’s bucket-list look like if there were no social pressure to pick the popular thing? Introverts might not choose to spend their precious time standing in line in airports, chatting shoulder to shoulder with a stranger on a bus tour, interacting with crowds of people they don’t know in foreign countries, making new friends in unfamiliar cities, rafting down the Colorado, or hang gliding with someone they met fifteen minutes ago. They might well prefer something quieter and more immersive. Something that connects them with their inner world.

As psychologist Laurie Helgoe describes in her book, Introvert Power, introverts are more likely to prefer experiences based on ideas that feel deep, meaningful, and intimate. Their ideal of travel is more along the lines of a pilgrimage, visiting places that hold deep personal meaning based on the ideas or creations that occurred there.

For the mind of the introvert, there are many holy places, including churches, art museums, forests, or maybe just the workshop of a revered inventor. Introverts are more likely to be captivated by the thought of this-is-where-it-happened rather than the promise of this-is-where-it’s-happening. Introverts imbue favorite places, things, or personages with a sense of the almost-sacred, feeling a deep glow from just appreciating the uniqueness of the one-of-a-kind.                

The extravert, on the other hand, may feel less need for this spiritual meaningfulness. Instead of contemplative awe, extraverts may seek out what is larger than life, sensuously luxurious, impressive in scale, or startlingly novel. The introvert wants to be inspired; the extravert wants to be involved.

In another book on introverts, The Introvert Advantage, author Marti Olsen Laney explains that extraverts crave neurological arousal, loving the stimulating rev of fight, flight, and excitement. A good bucket list item for extraverts would have to include pleasurable activation of the senses, plenty of new stimuli, and a nice jolt of adrenaline, making their pulses race and their jaws drop—exactly what an introvert might try her or his best to avoid.

Instead, introverts might like calming, reflective experiences, ones in which near-torpor is a pleasant state, conducive to the imagination and soothing enough to heighten the meaningful awareness of inner realizations. They tend to live most comfortably when they are neurologically calm and mentally stimulated, minimizing arousal and reactivity and warmly cocooning themselves in a pleasant state of reflective thought.

When it comes to bucket lists, introverts may hold the advantage. They will probably spend less money making their dreams come true. For them, heaven on earth might be time to themselves to read their books, think their thoughts, imagine what-ifs, or inspire a creation into being. Add some meaningful conversation with intimate friends or interesting colleagues, and there’s not too much left unfulfilled in life.

Introverts can achieve many of their bucket list dreams simply by doing the things our extraverted society frowns on as being lazy or wasting time. For instance, a truly memorable experience for the introvert might be to set aside a whole day of solitary reading, attend a silent retreat or writer’s workshop, take courses just for the love of learning, pursue a passionate pursuit, or spend hours alone in a state of flow while working on an absorbing hobby.

Call it the freedom to immerse oneself in continuous imaginative thought without fear of judgment. How priceless to go into that inner world and stay without interruption until one’s thirst for mental absorption has been slaked.

If these introvert adventures appeal to you, you can get a head start on your bucket list in this New Year. Instead of thinking about what everyone else would enjoy, express your introvert nature without apology by simply giving it the time it needs. While extraverts are planning trips and saving their money, you’ll already be living the dream as you sit musing in your favorite chair with your hot beverage, looking out the window or at the page of your book, just visiting with the soul of the world.

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