Traveling Instincts

I’m visiting Tokyo this week with my partner and some interesting things have caught my attention about how we approach travel as individuals and together; things I’ve realized reflect our Enneagram instinctual variants, so I thought I’d share my reflections. For reference I’m Self Preservation (SP) first, and Sexual (Sx) second, Enneagram 5, INFJ. He is Social (So) first, Sx second, Enneagram 1, ENFP. Some interesting things come up in terms of us having opposite strongest and weakest SP and So instincts, and sharing Sx in the second position. We’re traveling for a combination of business (he’s pitching new directions for his online business which depends on buy-in from contributors), social (some connections we both share as well as connections of his who I haven’t had any contact with yet but run in the same circles as people I know), and recreational for the two of us as a couple and as individuals.

Doug (So/Sx 1 ENFP) has the trip organized in his mind in terms of who he is meeting with on what day, and what social interests that meeting is serving. I asked him what day it is this morning and his answer was: “Meeting Naka San – it must be Tuesday” which caused me to chuckle and also got me thinking. The networking, professional, and social elements of the trip are where his attention lies at a core level, no effort or thought required. He’s constantly running his pitches through his mind and tweaking them to suit the social scenario, and reviewing his numbers for the easiest flow in a meeting. He’s learning Japanese 4 days a week for the past 6 months (and casually before that) to better communicate with business partners here directly instead of relying on translators because he knows how critical it is to build these connections in person and as directly as possible, and he values that. Balancing the dynamics between people he has business and networking meetings with (which overlap with his recreational social interests) is second nature to him. He’s very tuned in to which people have friction in their relationships, competitive interests, feel they’ve been slighted by each other or disadvantaged by historical circumstances, and he wants to address those discrepancies, be fair, all the while allow all to save face. Navigating the cultural obstacle course practically gives me hives (it is hard enough for me in my own country) but it’s like he was born to appreciate the Japanese cultural perspective in many ways. Bridging these cultural gaps and interpersonal gaps and having good standing with all is of utmost importance to him.

When we are waking up or going to bed, i.e. when we’re most foggy-headed and instinct-driven, he’s always running through who we are meeting with over the next 48 hours and beyond. I can only process the singular next thing in that state, so that I know what will be expected of me in the short term, and beyond that I have to cut him off until we wake up and/or I get coffee. The fact that he does this before his coffee is remarkable since he’s much more of a caffeine hound than I am. In fact, his humanity is pretty questionable before imbibing “the black elixir of life”, as he calls it. His So strength is my weakness here, as I’m often mixing up people’s names, which event is which, and how people we meet are connected to each other and other people we already know. I like to know the who’s-who and what’s-what insofar as it helps me avoid offending anyone (anathema to this INFJ’s Fe). I also do like to know the “palace intrigue” kind of as an intellectual pastime, and it gives fuel to my Ni “garden of the mind” to see things coming that could be problematic between people, which is good information for both of us to have, though it is in an extremely distant and intellectualized way. But I put it all together once I’m energized, have my more urgent SP needs met, and have ample down time and start connecting the dots and playing things out through past and future. It will often be de-personalized concepts I remember rather than people (“so when you met Naka’s son he was standoffish because of his bad experience with… that one guy…, so you should be careful about how you handle the business with that other firm that could be seen as a competitor…” only to be corrected “No that’s Yukimura’s son, Naka doesn’t have a son, but yeah, you’re right”. I can somehow get the social details wrong but have great insight into the overall dynamics in an abstract way through my 5 Observer and Ni/Fe strengths. Yet if I meet the people face to face I’m likely to have forgotten who they are specifically while I’m in the room with them, and I just smile and bow and share my few words of greeting in Japanese, smile and nod and just enjoy the general experience of observing this experience, waiting to contextualize it later.

How I (SP/Sx 5 INFJ) organize my mental framework of the trip is also somewhat in terms of meetings and obligations, but not based on details of who we’re meeting and why – it is about time and energy resource management. A lot of the business and social connections here in Tokyo revolve around mutual interests of ours, and I do value making an appearance in order to be counted as a part of these social circles. But what I know to the core of my mind are what the demands of me will be in terms of time and energy, and how it will impact my routines. I know the days that will be busy with social events for the two of us together – though I often don’t remember exactly what the event is or who we’re scheduled to have a meal with, I just know it is time I’ll need to be socially “on” and removed from the comfort and security of the hotel and half mile radius around it that I’ve gotten familiar with in the first couple of days. I know what times he’ll be out for business stuff and I’ll be left to my own devices – and I look forward to the solo down time to recoup or explore on my own without having to reconcile our disparate wants and priorities, like where to eat, or whether to do outdoorsy stuff or museum-type stuff. I know what times we have free time to spend for just the two of us and I marshal our resources to make the most of it.

Managing jet lag is also very top-of-mind for me, whereas he struggles with being consistent and thinking ahead about that (him being SP last). I’ve heard and seen how this affects him for trips when I’m not there with him, and it isn’t pretty. While I’m with him – if he wants to nap I encourage us to go out for a walk in the sun, fresh air, visit the bustling city street when the jet lag starts taking over.  I gave him the rundown on how to time melatonin doses when feeling wide awake in the middle of the night. And I am the Mistress of Snacks!  We didn’t need to eat any crappy airplane food because I packed a very consciously curated plethora of snacks to sustain us for 18 hours of travel from the door of his home to the door of the hotel. I know the fat, protein, carbohydrate, electrolyte and water balance to keep us sustained for a comfortable trip without hangry-ness, relying on disappointing in-flight meals/snacks, dehydration headaches and cramps, bloating from carb overload, etc. I do this practically without thinking.

Having different strengths has helped us cover each other’s blind spots beautifully and mostly is a fabulous thing. Any friction the differences cause is pretty minimal since we are just generally really compatible and easy-going with each other. I also have a theory that our swapped strengths and weaknesses being SP and So, leaving Sx second for both of us, allows us easy access to tuning into each other’s needs as partners. We both have our separate strengths top-of-mind which complement each other, and then the next priority is to check in with the other to see to it that we’re in sync. For example he expressed to me last night that he was worried that all the social stuff might be too much for me (him having great understanding of my Introvert, Highly Sensitive needs to avoid overstimulation and get plenty of solo down time). It was really touching to know that this is part of his intrinsic consciousness since we’re bonded. I make sure he’s getting good food and good sleep and that we have everything both of us will need to be comfortable as we’re out and about. The way he beamed at me when I broke out the snacks on the plane – enough for both of us, things we both like to eat – made me all warm and fuzzy. I’m so grateful we have each other and I couldn’t ask for a better partner.

What insights have you had about yourself and/or the important people in your life while traveling? Leave a comment so we can appreciate each other’s experiences with our strengths and blind spots. If you’d like to discover your more about your personality outside of your travel experiences, don’t hesitate to book a consultation!

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