Comfort zone – what you know you can do and is familiar. Seems like a fair definition.
There is much talk about stepping out of your comfort zone and trying new things. Travel is really excellent for this kind of thing. By expanding your physical world you encounter new things and have to deal with them. Experiencing that you can do new things encourages you to try even more new things. This physical expansion transforms the mental space too. This is indeed a good thing.
What is the end result of this? Can a person really expand the zone in which they are comfortable to infinite or does it shift so that things that once were familiar are new again?
Maybe in expanding your comfort-zone in one direction it ends up contracting in another. You build familiarity by spending time in a place or on an activity. That sense of non-comfort is exhilarating too.
- I’ve been in one place for several days/months, I’m itching to move again
- No, I can’t go back there. I need to see something new.
- I’ve been to the ends of the earth and back. Why is it so weird to just simply go to the grocery store now?
If any of these ring true to you, then maybe your expanding comfort zone is really more of a shifting one. By seeing new things and traveling all over, the comfort is the “new and exotic” not the “familiar”. The comfort zone of being outside the comfort zone. This to me looks like a wide field, so many things seen and so many things to see with no settling point. So in a way to try new things for a habitual mover would be to settle down and stay in a place for an extended time period. To put down roots and do the same thing over and over for a longer time period would mean getting used to not having the rush of the “new” place every so often. I can imagine this is just as scary as stepping on a plane for the first time.
Deeper rather than Wider
There are certainly a large number of people that don’t really know anything out of their own background. Depending on your point of view this metaphor is either a high secluded peak or a deep well. The travel blogging community tends to try to reach out to those people and show them the change that travel can bring and how fun stepping out of a deep comfort well can be. These are the people that the phrase step out of your comfort zone is usually directed at. For those whose habit is to stay close to home, going further afield is truly stepping from the comfort zone.
I like stability and routine. But it gets old after a while and I get the urge to jump off a precipice again and stir things up again. That jump is frightening when you haven’t done it yet. I feel comfortable in a foreign country that doesn’t really feel foreign anymore. I would probably be more jumpy back in the US. Some of this is because things have changed there, but also because I have changed as well. I have shifted my comfort zone more into my current life, but I stay here. To an extent my life looks very similar here to the one I left, but I have more opportunities to sail form my peak and see more things and still return to my stability. In fact the stability makes the travels all the more exotic and “new”.
Practice makes Comfortable
All of this is really mental gymnastics. Travel and ‘stepping out of the comfort zone’ are both really mental activities with very strong physical components. In the end humans are still at the root creatures of habit. Without mental energy to spur us, we will tend to repeat patterns of old decisions. This includes habitual travelers as well as classic homebodies. We do what we are used to doing. Change does us good, but this flows in both ways.
This whole thing extends in several ways. I have talked about it as the choice of travel versus stay home. It extends to my normal choice of train travel rather than plane, or the kind of places I choose to go. It also can get into other ends of life unrelated to travel like eating habits. If you are constantly trying new things, make sure you don’t forget to savor your favorites again. If you order veal piccata every meal, think about broadening your horizons too.
The point in all of this is to do nothing out of Fear. Do not endless move or hide in your cave for fear of the other option. Do those things for the passion of them.
June 30, 2010 @ 6:30 pm
Thanks for the comment. Fear seems to be the root of almost all resistance to change.
I feel your predicament. I am getting on a plane in Sept after 10 years of not flying. In the end though we will both be fine with our chosen changes and likely learn something. If nothing else, that fear shouldn't control us.
June 30, 2010 @ 2:43 am
Love this post Andrew- it's so me! I love how you talk about how putting down roots can be as scary as stepping onto the plane for others. I always say that most people are afraid of stepping out into the unknown for me I am most afraid of stepping back into the known. I'm about to return to my hometown to live after being away for 8 years. I'm terrified. I could be dropped off in any foreign town in the world and feel exhilarated and confident but send me home and I'm lost, confused and scared. I'm determined though as you said to live it with passion. Thanks for the reminder!