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Whether you realize it or not, almost everything you do you’ve done many times before. It’s a rare day when you mix in something totally new or outside your norm. Routines certainly aren’t a bad thing. They make up your comfort zone— that safety bubble where everything’s familiar and you’re most at ease.
Trouble is, your comfort zone is a stagnant place. Nothing new and exciting or fresh happens there. Sure, it feels safe and cozy, and we truly do need a place where we feel that way. But stay too long, and a comfort zone can become a thief of your potential.
Traveling provides an opportunity to pry loose from the clutches of your comfort zone. You’re somewhere new, and that alone sets the scene for new activities that force you to go off-script. I’ve got 3 main strategies I use personally to get out of my own comfort zone when we’re traveling, because I struggle with this, too. I’m not naturally adventurous, and it takes a lot of work for me to get out there and let myself do uncomfortable and hard things. If you’re like me, then read on. Hopefully these 3 strategies will work for you, too.
1. Add activities to your itinerary that challenge you and even might scare you a little!
I’m a big ninny when it comes to heights. I know it’s an irrational fear, but that doesn’t stop it from being there. And while I have no plans to ever sky dive or climb Kilimanjaro, I do try to push against it in smaller bites. Our RV trips give me lots of opportunities to do so. A while back, James and I RVed to Mesa Verde National Park. The park is located in a sparsely populated part of western Colorado and protects thousands of remarkably preserved archaeological sites, including 600 cliff dwellings, all built by the Ancestral Puebloans.
One of the ranger-led cliff dwelling tours, the Balcony House Tour, takes a bit of nerve to do. People with heights issues are warned off doing it. The tour requires climbing long ladders that are high up on a cliff face with totally exposed views of the valley 600. FEET. BELOW. In a moment of bravery, and to James’ surprise (and shock!), I signed us up. I wasn’t just dipping a toe outside my comfort zone… this was a full-on double footed leap out of there.
It’s probably no surprise since I’m writing this, but I took the tour and didn’t die. I was so nervous as I started on the first ladder. All my senses were on alert. I had a death grip on the rungs, and I remember vividly how the wind was blowing from behind me, pushing against my back, and graciously helping a scaredy cat sister out. And then there I was, up the last ladder—with James already at the top with a camera in my face.
My confidence was so boosted after it was over, if you would have asked me to sky dive right then, it’s quite possible I would have said yes. (So I’m very glad no one asked me.)
Much of our desire to stay within our comfort zone is because of fears similar to mine. Unknown things sound hard. Scary. We could fail. But that’s just us not giving ourselves enough credit. The majority of the time, we very much do have the ability to rise to the occasion—or climb the ladder—when we try. And when we do, we’re ever-so-slightly changed for the better because of it.
2. Push yourself physically on your trips, and do active things that test your mettle.
I know ‘push yourself’ is cliché and certainly overused, but it has become somewhat of a mantra for me on our RV trips. It’s common for RVers to plan trips based on setting their RV in a pretty setting and looking at things. But there’s also that other, less common side of RVing– taking trips based on doing things. Our trips have always been all about the ‘do’.
That’s not easy for me though, because deep down in my heart of hearts I’m a comfort zone junkie. But I’ve learned that my best memories—and greatest stories to tell– come from those adventures that involved me pushing myself.
And sure, doing physically demanding things isn’t usually blissful or pleasurable in the moment. If it was easy and stress-free, there’s no challenge. It’s the after time where the magic happens, when your brain ‘polishes’ the experience, and you get to feel proud, invigorated, and a stronger person because you did something really hard.
Spend enough time outside your comfort zone, and you may even find those post-adventure feelings become something you start to crave. You simply cannot experience those emotions, that adrenaline rush, from any activities you do within the confines of your safety bubble.
3. Fake it till you make it.
If you’re like me and not all that brave when it comes to getting outside the zone, don’t let that hold you back. Just fake it. Travel as your more adventurous alter-ego. This is my secret weapon— and how I get that extra dose of courage. Me signing up for the Balcony House Tour? I was totally faking it. And me tackling bicycling events with grueling climbs, headwinds, and scary fast downhills? Yep. Fake! By doing challenging things that your braver adventurous alter-ego would do, you get yourself closer to actually becoming braver and more adventurous.
It’s a skill, really. The amount of courage you have right now isn’t static. You can nurture and grow it. But you certainly don’t grow it by staying in the comfort zone, or only choosing life’s easy things to do. Courage and bravery grow from doing things that are hard. The more hard things you do, the braver you get.
And to be clear, I’m not suggesting you do anything stupid or beyond your reach. Self-preservation—and, you know, staying alive– also needs to come into play. So, push yourself physically, but do so within reason. Do scary things, but make sure you’re doing so safely. We all need healthy doses of ‘challenge’ in our lives. It’s how we grow stronger, gain confidence, and unleash our untapped potential.
So, next trip, give it a try. Wave goodbye to your comfort zone, as you RV towards adventure. To the Discomfort Zone or bust! Perhaps I’ll see you there.
Happy (and adventurous) travels, all! ❤️Stef