Kissing the Couch Goodbye
Four Benefits of Getting Out of Your Comfort Zone
My favorite memories are not of the times I decided to stay home and watch “American Idol.” They are not of the times I took all the familiar roads. They are not of the times I chose not to talk to a stranger. They are not of the times I chose to stay in my hotel room in the unfamiliar city. No, my favorite memories are the times I stepped out of my comfort zone and out into the unknown, the unfamiliar, the uncertain. Places my mama warned me about.
Like when I studied abroad in Copenhagen, Denmark in college and decided to get a bike to explore the city. Instead of just taking public transit, I ended up with some amazing, unplanned moments throughout the city, in particular, by the Little Mermaid (Den Lille Havfrue) in Langelinie Park. Even though I knew at the time that careening a bike through a major foreign town is not always easy or safe, it was the better option for my inquisitive mind.
At the same time as I was venturing out, I watched other Americans in my study program choosing to only hang out with other Americans. I couldn’t fathom doing that, even though I understand that fear is powerful, and we are drawn to what’s familiar. I felt like they were missing out on a big benefit of the experience, wouldn’t you? Yes, we want to be comfortable, more than we want to be challenged. But not me, and maybe not you.
I’m grateful to have learned at a young age that traveling is one of the best ways to get outside of your comfort zone. It can be expensive, but you don’t have to go around the world! You can go to the next town over and have dinner at a new place. I know there are probably parts of my town I’ve yet to visit which are way more intriguing than my shopping mall suburbia, and would expose me to new potential friends and new favorite foods.
Benefits of Stepping Outside Your Comfort Zone
There are many, but here are just a few to start.
The World Gets Bigger. When you travel, your mind expands, your vision increases, and new possibilities emerge in front of you that you never imagined. When you see people living different ways than yourself, utilizing different traditions, expressing themselves in unique ways, or even just eating different kinds of foods, you get to exercise your sense of wonder. Curiosity and adventure take you down roads about which you’ve only dreamed.
The World Gets Smaller. When you travel, you meet people from places you might have only heard of, but which you don’t know anything about. So when you hear about the drought in Iowa on the news, you think about Barb and her farmer husband from Mason City who you met at the Louvre. Or when you hear about a tsunami striking Bangladesh, you think about your friend, Sami, who lives there. Events happening around the globe become much more personal.
It Keeps You Young. Doing new things when you travel make you a richer, more developed person. You might think, “I don’t need any of those adventures of which you speak,” simply because you prefer the couch over the kayak. Comfort in itself is not a bad thing. But idolizing comfort at the expense of adventure and new experiences, makes you older than you actually are — in your head and in your heart. Stay young by exploring new places, and continually trying new things.
Travel Helps Build Patience. Whenever I travel, I have to let go of my need to be in complete control. Especially if going by plane or public transit, a person literally has no control over what happens. I frequently say to myself, “Just go with the flow.” It helps me to let go of things I can’t do anything about, and find some sort of peace, even when all the circumstances around me feel out of control. Traveling is a crash course in this great life lesson.
Are you ready to step out of your comfort zone? Practically speaking, what can you do? There’s so much you can do, once you decide to become a person of adventure and courage. For starters, try striking up a conversation with a stranger. Find out their story of what they do and where they’re from. Or how about finding someplace to volunteer where you think you might be uncomfortable? I went to prison every week for 23 years on a volunteer basis. My life is forever changed for the better because I went somewhere I was pretty certain I’d be uncomfortable.
To uncover the beauty of this world and see how much alike we are no matter what city or country you’re in, takes a bit of courageous intentionality on your part. And I believe you’re up for it. You wouldn’t have read this far if you weren’t.
How about tomorrow — why not take a new way home? And why not stop at the little café you’ve never been to, and have a cup of coffee and see what happens. I can’t wait to hear your story.