Comfort zones are just that - a cozy little corner of the world that you’ve created, where you can feel safe and retreat in times of need. They’re important. We all need that soft place to land when things go awry or when it all gets to be too much.
But they’re not meant to be a permanent living space. The world is filled with billions of people, each living out their individual story - do you want yours to start and end in the same place?
We’re each meant to see so much more of the world than our cozy comfort zones. I’ve personally done some of my greatest growing in cities that were not my own, through experiences that I could have never imagined for myself, in places where I did not speak the language, and with people who did not come from the same background as me. Getting away from the place where I felt most comfortable (both physically and mentally) has been a consistent way for me to shake things up throughout my life, to find clarity in the knowledge of the deep sureties that exist in my soul.
My values become more clear. When I get out of my regular routine and experience the differences of another place on the planet - the small things, how locals shop for groceries or what they choose for breakfast, and the big things, how they treat each other and the space around them - I become more sure of who I am and the person I want to continue working to become. I’ve worked with my students to engage in activities outside of their comfort zone related to culture, food, religion, personal habits (not just travel) and journal about it to really make that message hit home.
The growth I’m talking about isn’t only experienced a plane ride away. Drive through the night to a neighboring state and spend a long weekend getting to know its quirks and hidden gems. Seek out connections with people at the gas station, in your motel, or at a local nature preserve. Try a different religious experience or ritual. One of my great mentors always had me read from the perspective of someone with different beliefs than my own. This lesson is perhaps even more important now to connect with and understand each other - even from afar.
It’s worth to get out of your comfort zone through experiences or travel. While third-party accounts can make the world seem scary, too big to explore, too unknown to navigate, your personal experience will be different. I promise you that. Booking your ticket, making that reservation, or simply filling up your gas tank can open your eyes to the individual lives and experiences of so many others.
Looking at the world with a new perspective (and traveling to new places if you can) teaches you empathy, street smarts, charisma, flexibility - all attributes that will serve you well in your personal and professional life. Most of all, you’ll be forced to see the world outside of your bubble of familiarity. When the beliefs that you’ve been surrounded by your entire life are suddenly out of the picture, what risks will you be confident enough to take?
Here’s a few of mine for good measure:
- Facing my fear of heights and zip lining through a forest in Vancouver
- Driving alone with my mom and daughter through Italy and France where we did not speak the language
- Driving an old vintage step van (driving seems to be a common theme!)
- Snorkeling in the deep ocean (when I'm terrified of sharks)
- Traveling for a month straight