4 Ways that Travel Pushes Me Out of My Comfort Zone
Traveling throws you out of your comfort zone in ways that are not even imaginable. Between transportation disasters, language barriers, and different cultural norms, it is almost impossible to travel and not to feel at least a little bit uncomfortable and uneasy at times. However, sometimes being forced out of your comfort zone makes you more susceptible to taking on new challenges and adopting an adventurous side.
For me, it makes perfect sense that once I’m in that exploratory and daring environment, it is easier to do things that I would not normally do. I find comfort in being out of my comfort zone and therefore seek out opportunities to take full advantage of my temporary adventurous streaks. In my experience, there have been four main ways that I’ve felt freer while traveling than I do at home:
When I was studying abroad, the go-to phrase of the year to motivate us to step outside of our comfort zones was “this is not amateur hour.” We recognized that we only had so much time to really experience these new places, and we did not want to waste a second of it, quickly adapting the “seize the day” attitude.
Somehow traveling had transformed me into a gutsy and somewhat reckless individual, and I voluntarily put myself in positions that I never would have at home.
This sparked the beginning of a very adventurous (and even sometimes potentially dangerous) streak in me, which included zip-lining and rafting through the Andes, swimming in very contaminated water, and trespassing on every film location used for The Sound of Music. It quickly got to the point where my roommate and I found ourselves lost in the woods of the Alps while attempting to find the meadow that Julie Andrews twirled around in while belting out that the hills were alive.
This newfound sense of adventure caught me and my loved ones very off-guard, as I had always been a stickler for the rules and constantly deemed the “mom” of every social group. Somehow traveling had transformed me into a gutsy and somewhat reckless individual, and I voluntarily put myself in positions that I never would have at home. This attitude has stayed with me throughout all of my travels, and while I love following the rules and not endangering myself in my day-to-day life, I’m also addicted to the adrenaline rush of doing an activity that I wouldn’t normally do.
Before I started traveling, I was the world’s pickiest eater. I wouldn’t touch any meat that wasn’t chicken, vegetables that weren’t lettuce scared me, and if I couldn’t pronounce it, you can be sure that I didn’t eat it. It wasn’t until I ended up in an Argentine hospital with chronic stomach pains that I began to branch out (because apparently eating only bread and chicken isn’t good for you).
I am still cautious about what I put into my body, but only when I’m not traveling. Since I was forced to expand my eating horizons, I now drop all of my barriers when traveling and try anything and everything I can get my hands on. Instead of looking for a comfortable culinary environment like I typically do when I am at home, I am the first person to seek out the least chain-like restaurant when traveling and I always ask a local for his/her food recommendation. The purpose of traveling is to experience life unlike the life you normally live, so what’s the point of turning your nose up at a delicious kebab or perfectly-cooked empanada?
Traveling by Myself
As a young female, it has been impressed upon me my whole life that it is unsafe to be by myself. I don’t take solo walks at night, I carry pepper spray, and I don’t trust strangers, just like my mom taught me. However, my discomfort and fear of being alone go out the window when traveling.
While I love having people to share travel memories with, I have found that there is so much to be missed when adventuring with other people. My attention is on those I’m with rather than those around me, and it is much harder to break out of my “bubble” when I’m with people like me.
One of the best parts of traveling is just being a spectator in a new place and soaking up the lives of those different than you. Traveling by myself allows me to reinvent myself in every new place I step foot in. There is an underappreciated beauty in being somewhere where no one knows you, as independence breeds empowerment. Because of this, my adventurous side always seems to kick in when I have no one around to stop me.
I am a very organized person, usually to the point of overkill. I can’t walk into the grocery store without a finely-tuned list and I have my Halloween costumes completely planned out by May.
Despite this, somehow all desire to plan goes out the window whenever I travel. Something about the open road and infinite potential for adventure makes me want to throw out every map, guidebook, and planner and just see where I end up. Travelers are familiar with the beauty of the unexpected. We know that Murphy’s Law usually pops up at some point during a trip, so instead of planning everything out just to have it ruined by an unexpected factor, we have learned to appreciate what we can’t predict.
Traveling by myself allows me to reinvent myself in every new place I step foot in.
Being spontaneous while traveling has brought me to some of the most beautiful places, fascinating people, and awesome food in the world. Spontaneity led me to that pub crawl in Chile where a group of locals taught me how to salsa and take pisco shots. It put me on the same late-night train as a bunch of drunk, bleeding, salami-eating German teenagers who gave me one of my best memories. I want to experience everything that traveling has to offer, and I can’t bear the thought of sticking to a narrow list filled with “must-sees” and “top 10s” when I know there is so much more out there.
There is a common saying that being comfortable is the most dangerous place to be, and I couldn’t agree more. While I do get a great amount of satisfaction out of being curled up in my house with a book, it is unhealthy for anyone to always be comfortable. There are no challenges and therefore no growth. This is one of the critical reasons why I travel. Being thrown out of my comfort zone forces me to set aside my “good girl” personality and do something daring, and I now look forward to being temporarily uncomfortable. For me, it always means that something amazing is about to happen.