Issue #13 · Self-Inflicted Social Overload

I'm writing about writing again, look at me go.

Self-Inflicted Social Overload

I’m an extrovert. I thrive during big group outings, I can be the loudest voice in the room, and I’m happy to be the center of attention.

But I’m also an introvert. I love being a homebody, I value my alone time, and there’s nothing I look forward to more than a calendar clear of obligations.

Walking this personality tightrope is a delicate balancing act, as I need both halves — social stimulation and time to recharge — to really feel like my best self. One slight nudge too far in one direction and I’ll find myself in a spiral of bad habits or a state of overcorrective seclusion. It’s taken me all of my 34 years to finally realize this about myself, so maintaining a happy equilibrium (and thus, my sanity) is definitely still a work in progress. My nomadic lifestyle is only here to complicate things.

Back in May, I took a some time off from traveling and spent a few weeks at home relaxing, recharging and repacking. I was regularly up and working by 7am, went to the gym every day, cut back on the booze and had my most prolific month of writing and personal projects1 yet. I felt good, but definitely lacked a few major puzzle pieces: I deeply missed being somewhere — anywhere — abroad and my social life was hanging on by a thread.

Then I set off to spend the summer in Europe.

First, a whirlwind trip to Prague with a rowdy group of friends, immediately followed by an adventurously jam-packed week at “Nomad Summer Camp” in Austria, and finally a quick hop up to Stockholm to visit my newly relocated college bestie. All of it was a blast, but it was also a month-long social bender where I tapped deep into my supply of extrovert juice.

After a hellish travel day and about fifteen long deep breaths, yesterday I finally had some of that precious alone time I’d been craving. I decided to get back on the wagon by sitting down to write, but there was one tiny problem: Turns out, my well of ideas had run completely dry. Even the half-dozen, half-written blog posts that I had already started during my Productive Introvert Era™ now seemed lackluster and directionless. I quite literally just sat there staring at a blank page and a blinking cursor wondering where all of my inspiration went.

It wasn’t writer’s block, exactly. Instead, it felt more as if I just hadn’t stopped stirring up my brain soil for the past few weeks, so nothing had been able to sprout. Ideas need time to marinate and simmer, so being constantly on the go and in hyper-social settings is simply not conducive to creativity. Take it from the ever-imaginative and best-selling author Austin Kleon: “Creative people need time to just sit around and do nothing.” 

So that’s exactly what I did. I shut my laptop, went for an aimless walk, and ended up sitting in a park — no phone, no AirPods, not even my notebook. I just sat on a park bench alone, like a lunatic. I watched people walk by, I admired a pretty fountain from afar, and eventually, I came up with the beginnings of what you are currently reading. See, it works! It’s a similar concept to why you might often come up with your most brilliant ideas while doing the dishes or in the shower: A few minutes away from screens gives your brain time to untangle all that’s swirling around up there, and eventually it reverses from consumption mode to output mode.

Anyway, during this meditative park moment, I was reflecting on the drastic yin and yang of my last two months. Recently, I’ve been mentioning to friends that “I’m getting sick of traveling and I want to settle back down” when that’s not totally true. The actual problem is that my introvert/extrovert balance has just been tremendously out of whack. It’s no secret that traveling full-time is a massive distraction from accomplishing things with any sort of consistency, which is exactly what all of the personal projects that I’m working on right now require. Basically, my main two priorities in life — traveling and creating — are completely at odds with each other. Having this revelation was equally as obvious as it was comforting.

Fortunately, I feel like I reinvent myself in every place that I go, and I’ve just kicked off another new, slower chapter which I hope will help me find a happy medium: I’m currently spending two full months in Valencia, Spain. Living somewhere in Spain has always been at the top of my travel to-do list, but has gotten bumped a few times in favor of taking trips elsewhere with friends (and also because of that bitch named Schengen). I’m beyond excited to finally spend a summer here, and am hopeful that doing it at a slower, more sustainable pace2 will allow me to immerse myself in the city and have some fun without sacrificing progress on any of my personal projects or goals — no more ambivert tug of war, pretty please.

I’m off to a good start, as I’ve already settled into a cute little studio apartment here with a desk that looks directly out at some stunning Baroque architecture, a picturesque palm tree-lined road and a 24-hour Domino’s Pizza — how’s that for inspiration? Anyway, I’ll wrap this up now since my schedule is pretty packed at the moment — I’ve got a lot of sitting around doing nothing to get to. 💡

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1 Here’s a half-assed shameless plug for my personal projects in case you’re new here: www.emilyannhill.com has more info and links to all of them, and I’ll share more about them in a future issue once I get my shit together again.

2 I wrote a little something about this (the perks of slow travel, that is) and it’s being included in a travel zine that the super talented Tobi Ogunnaike is publishing later this month. More details soon, I’m super excited about it. [Update: Here’s the link if you want to grab a copy!]

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Here’s a list of every issue if you want to keep reading!

  • Issue #16: Embracing the Blank Canvas [Sep 2023]

  • Issue #15: In Pursuit of an Endless Summer [Aug 2023]

  • Issue #14: Follow Me to Weird Places [Jul 2023]

  • Issue #13: Self-Inflicted Social Overload [Jul 2023]

  • Issue #12: Schlepping It 🎒 [Jun 2023]

  • Issue #11: Finding My “Next Thing” [Jun 2023]

  • Issue #10: Book the Damn Flight and Just Go [May 2023]

  • Issue #9: Choosing Your Own Life Adventure [May 2023]

  • Issue #8: Eat, Sleep, Write, Repeat [May 2023]

  • Issue #7: My First Month of Indie Making: An Honest Review [Feb 2023]

  • Issue #6: Ten Years of Making Money on the Internet [Jan 2023]

  • Issue #5: The Modern-Day Mission Trip [Dec 2022]

  • Issue #4: Ready, FIRE!, Aim [Nov 2022]

  • Issue #3: A New City Every Month: An Experiment in Change [Aug 2022]

  • Issue #2: Defining My North Star as a Nomad [Dec 2021]

  • Issue #1: One Year on the Road: Looking Back [Oct 2021]