When I started this blog (all of three weeks ago 😉 ) I stated in my “about me” section that we’d
talk about traveling, love (both lost and found), and living life within and well outside our comfort zones.
Thus far we’ve talked about travel, we’ve talked about love (both lost and found), but we’ve yet to touch the bit on “comfort zones” (albeit we’ve likely hinted at it).
1: the temperature range within which one is comfortable 2: the level at which one functions with ease and familiarity (comfort zone. 2013. In Merriam-Webster.com. Retrieved March 6, 2013)
Living life within our comfort zone is relatively easy. If we don’t stray from the path then we’re safe, life is easier, and things are familiar, right? Many enjoy the familiarity of routine; change can be upsetting or unsettling for anyone but not all changes are bad. Some are necessary, some are exciting, and some are life changing. Living and traveling abroad has done some amazing things for me. It’s when I’m outside my comfort zone when I am, strangely, most comfortable.
There is an episode of the HBO series GIRLS, where the main character, Hannah, is told to write an article on a topic outside of her comfort zone. Suggestions for possible topics included having
a three some with some people you meet on Craigslist. Or do a whole bunch of coke and then just write about it.
These suggestions were a bit shocking for Hannah and so the philosophy behind them was explained,
“Here’s your comfort zone, this is where the magic happens.”
Hannah does cocaine for the first and last time in this episode… although her experience wasn’t magical, not all ventures outside our comfort zones are as uncomfortable as Hannah’s.
Every time I leave the country, I learn more about my nationality and myself. When abroad, simple things remind me of my country, be it a familiar classic rock song like “Sweet home Alabama”, an American chain like Starbucks, or an unfulfilled craving for decent, authentic Mexican food. It’s when I’m abroad that I actually feel American, and not in the obnoxious touristic way. When abroad I’m forced to step outside my culture; it’s amazing the things I have learned.
I’m more comfortable, more at ease, socially, when I’m abroad. It’s taken me ages to figure out why exactly and this fall I was finally able to articulate the reasons.
When abroad, there are very few social expectations and pressures. I don’t take sick days…ever. I’m always afraid I’ll inconvenience someone or something will go horribly wrong if I do (this is quite unreasonable considering my profession); but when living and working abroad it’s different. I still don’t like to call in sick, but if I’m sick or in need of a mental health day and can work from home, I will. While I do this occasionally in the ‘States, I feel guilty when I do. I don’t feel guilty when I’m abroad. I’m even more comfortable with myself. I understand myself when I’m surrounded by the unfamiliar, it makes the familiar, the comfortable, the things that make me, me, much more visible.
Back to the magic bit
When people leave the comforts of home behind to travel abroad there is usually a reason behind it. Whatever the reason, it’s been my experience that travel is more fulfilling when you just let go; when we embrace change and go with the flow, things have a way of coming together… even if it’s in a way you never imagined. So, the magic happens outside of your comfort zone? In my experience, yes, most definitely.
What about all of you expats and world travelers, why did/do you leave your comfort zone? What have you found outside your comfort zone, was it magic?