(BPT) - If you’re an introvert, traveling can be a challenge. Being introverted can increase the anxiety you feel when engaging in already-stressful business travel, and undermine your enjoyment of a leisure trip. Being forced to sit next to and even socialize with numerous other people, many of them strangers, can be torture for introverts.

“Introverts aren’t necessarily loners or even shy,” says Jim Menge, president of Rovia, an award-winning travel services provider. “They’re just more bothered by travel hassles like crowds, intense together time, and interacting with strangers. It’s important for introverted travelers and their traveling companions to plan an itinerary that will make the trip as stress-free and enjoyable as possible for everyone.”

Reserved, not shy

About 50 percent of the population are introverts, according to Psychology Today. And while stereotypes may portray introverts as shy, socially phobic loners, that’s not at all who they are. “Introverts are drained by social encounters and energized by solitary, often creative pursuits,” the online journal explains. “Many introverts socialize easily; they just strongly prefer not to.”

Your introversion may make you think a group travel experience would never be for you; you’ll stick to taking trips with your core family members and friends. Yet with the right itinerary, introverted travelers can find the perfect balance of alone-time and group activities, whether they’re traveling for business or pleasure.

Travel tips

Menge offers these tips for introverted travelers and the traveling companions who love them:

* Talk about your plans with your travel companions, especially if you’ll be touring with extroverts. It’s important everyone discusses what they can do to make the trip as enjoyable as possible for everyone.

* Consider how comfortable you are with stretching your limits. “Each person is unique and has their own level of comfort with pushing themselves to try new experiences,” Menge says. “Think about what you’re comfortable with.” For example, learning and using a few foreign phrases, or talking with one person outside the tour group can be a low-stress triumph.

* Many introverts are energized by creative and meaningful pursuits. If that describes you, voluntourism may be a great group travel option. Voluntourism is vacation travel with a volunteering component, and it allows you to have meaningful interaction with both locals and fellow travelers that goes beyond the small talk you may dread. Voluntour itineraries like those offered by WorldVentures balance work and relaxation, and volunteer projects can last from a single day to several weeks. One day of your trip, you may work with others to build a school, and the next day have free time to explore the sights and sounds of the destination.

* Allow yourself adequate free time to get away from the group by yourself (if safe to do so) or with a handful of close loved ones. That away time will allow you to recharge so you’re more relaxed when you rejoin the larger group.

* Look for accommodations that won’t force you into social situations. For example, a B&B, where dining is communal, might be an uncomfortable environment for an introverted traveler, while a larger hotel may allow for more anonymity and independence.

* Choose activities that allow you to enjoy “me-time,” even if you’re with others. For example, a hike on a scenic and moderate to strenuous trail will allow for more quiet time — even in a larger group. Everyone will be concentrating on walking carefully and breathing, rather than on socializing.

* Use technology to give yourself alone time when you can’t physically get away from others. Wearing headphones or using an e-reader can silently alert your travel companions that you need some time to yourself. “You’re not being rude, you’re just doing what you need to do to recharge,” Menge says. “It’s perfectly OK to do what you need to do in order to maximize your enjoyment of your trip.”

You can learn more about voluntourism and group travel opportunities that will please both introverts and extroverts at www.dreamtrips.com.