An Enquiry into the Merits of Being an Ambivert
DENALI, ALASKA- I’ve found that I am someone that needs different kinds of stimulation. Neither an introvert nor an extrovert, I require both significant socializing as well as unbothered alone time where I can be by myself and think. I go through periods of needing and getting both, and I like the opportunity to go out with friends just as much as I savor sitting in a coffee shop with a good book.
Living in Denali is an experience that brings this greatly into focus, since there is not much opportunity for novel social interaction. Living in the wilderness, as I shall refer to it, provides ample opportunity for outdoor adventure: kayaking, hiking, camping, photography, biking—you name it. Yet it does not afford you the opportunity to engage in social pursuits. There is nothing stimulating to do inside while it is raining.
Living in a city environment, I long lamented the fact that I was unable to engage in, on a daily or weekly basis, activities that would allow me to appreciate the natural world. All of my leisure activities were related to man-made fields: dining out, socializing over drinks, reading literature, watching films, sampling new ethnic cuisines, watching sports. These are all activities that humanity has cultivated over thousands of years to reach what they are today. They are the nuance of the human experience. Yet as someone that only had exposure to these things, I yearned for the chance to commune with nature.
Denali is a place that affords me that chance. You can walk out your back door and into the wild, inhaling the earthy scent of the trees and hearing nothing but the running rush of the creek swiftly running by. It's a place where you don’t need to talk to anyone for days at a time should you go backpacking—you’ll be just fine on your own, listening to the sounds of nature and getting in touch with your roots. At its essence, that is what activities like kayaking, camping, and photography afford you: the chance to commune with nature at a certain level. Appreciating the natural world in a new fashion, and feeling at one with it. This is something I greatly value in my life, and want to take pains to incorporate these head-straightening activities, even if sometimes it feels like somewhat of a chore. A walk in the woods will set you right, even if it seems like a waste of time when you are stressed with lots to do.
Yet when you find yourself in a place that exclusively offers you these opportunities, it becomes apparent that there is a dearth of activities which relate to the human experience. There are no art galleries. There are few music venues. There are barely any places to eat where you can try a foreign food that you’ve never heard of before. Personally, I find that I miss these things more than ever before...these parts of life that are driven by human innovation rather than natural evolution.
There does come a point when outdoor activities become tiresome, either because of the weather or simply because you are seeking a different kind of stimulation—one that requires you to think, rather than to feel. In a sense, cities afford you a kind of intellectually stimulative opportunity because there are far more people, meaning a greater range of sensibilities and talents, and more competition against which humanity can thrive.
There is very little to do in Denali when you are in the need for cultural stimulation, and it’s taught me a pretty important lesson about what motivates me. I can’t live without chill-out introversion time—taking time to spend in nature, existing in the world and appreciating the God-given beauty of the earth around us. Yet for me, I also hit a point when I've had enough alone time and need to socialize. I need to have a few drinks with new people, or read a newspaper with bearing on the place you are reading it, or go see a show.
While I do enjoy proximity to such an appealing landscape, I couldn’t ever permanently live in a place that places such little significance on cultural and social achievements. When it comes down to it, I am an ambivert, and I need exposure to both quiet contemplation of existence and the stimulating experience of human competitive achievement.