There has likely been a time where you've heard someone say, "I can't do that. That's definitely out of my comfort zone." To a dedicated world traveler, this response doesn't exist. In fact, living outside their comfort zone is where travelers thrive!
The act of leaving your comfy bed, abandoning your daily routine, crossing an unfamiliar border, and immersing yourself in a new culture are all part of leaving that restrictive comfort zone that we call home.
A comfort zone is defined as "a place or situation where one feels safe, at ease, and without stress." It's that familiar bubble that we keep ourselves in to avoid any unexpected challenges life may throw at us.
We know ourselves better than anyone, so we gravitate to activities and routines we know work best in our lives. Existing solely in this bubble puts a protective shield around ourselves that prevents us from growing, learning, and developing new skills.
Stepping out of our comfort zones is something we've all experienced before, whether it be on a larger or smaller scale. When you land a new job, you have little to no knowledge of what it will be like, but you have to dive in anyway. You gradually learn the skills you need to complete your duties as time goes on, and eventually your job becomes second nature to you.
With traveling, getting out of that comfort zone is a lot less gradual. You are thrust into a completely new environment where the locals speak a foreign language and enjoy a diverse culture and way of life.
The problem with staying in your comfort zone when you travel is that you will see little to no personal growth once your time to explore comes to a close. That's the goal of travel, right? Opening yourself up to new challenges and learning experiences so that your mind is a little more open and your heart a little more full.
World travel is an eye-opening and beautiful adventure that has the ability to trigger dramatic growth within us. However, if you're stuck in your comfort zone on your trip, you won't get to experience this growth very much at all. In fact, your comfort zone is the thief of personal progress and will keep you from experiencing your new destination to the fullest.
So, just how do you escape the dreaded clutches of the comfort zone while traveling? Here are nine pointers to help you pop that bubble you've been so comfy in. Take this guide to heart and let it help you break out of your comfort zone on your next trip!
A traveler's guide to stepping out of your comfort zone
1. Add an activity to your itinerary each day that challenges you or even scares you a little bit!
Have you always wanted to try bungee jumping or learn how to salsa dance, but never had the guts to try? First, book your activity of choice well in advance so there is less chance of you backing out before you leave for your trip! When there's a lot more riding on your decision, like paying in advance, you're more likely to stick to the plan you've created for yourself.
Next, research that activity and talk to others who have done it themselves. There are tons of great online resources like blog posts and videos where travelers offer their unique perspective on an experience that you'll want to soak up before you go. Even though the goal is to get out of your comfort zone, it can be reassuring to know what you're getting yourself into beforehand from a real, unbiased source.
2. Turn all your activities into a learning experience
Whether you're taste-testing the local delicacies or volunteering at an animal shelter abroad, there's always something to learn.
Not only are you learning more about yourself as you break out of your comfort zone, you're learning how the world works and how to expand your influence in a new culture. Think of ways you can leave a positive impact on your next adventure, however big or small, so you'll be more motivated to learn a new skill or accomplish something you've never done before.
Doing a work exchange with Worldpackers is a great way to turn your activities into a learning experience while traveling. Worldpackers offers opportunities to travel exchanging your skills for accommodation. Offer your skills to a local community through social impact programs, hone your hospitality and management expertise while working as a receptionist at a hostel, or expand your digital skill-base by working with hostels, NGOs, ecovillages and thousands of other Worldpackers hosts in 150+ countries.
It's important to approach each country, city, or experience with the right mindset. Travel has the power to make you more open minded, makes you better and your attitude and willingness to push yourself throughout your trip will influence how receptive you are to new adventures, ideas, and even meeting new people along the way!
A positive, open mind will help give you the courage you need to leave your comfort zone in the dust.
3. Say "yes" to things way more often
Before trying something new, we tend to hyper-focus on the pros and cons of our decisions. Even when the odds are in our favor and the pros greatly outweigh the cons, we might let one or two "what ifs" keep us from experiencing something new.
Instead of weighing the options and worrying about if you'll like it or not, consider this — you're here. Everything is new to you already. You might as well get your money's worth and make the most of it. You worked hard for this trip to happen, and now you've got to work hard to create valuable memories that require becoming a yes-man or woman!
Of course, you don't have to say yes to absolutely everything, but it's a fantastic step in the right direction towards banishing your comfort zone and spicing up your travels.
4. Try new things with others
If you're planning to travel solo and are hoping to leave your comfort zone behind, it can be hard to trust yourself to seize all the new opportunities that may come your way.
Instead of going at it alone, choose a travel companion or plan to explore your destination with a group. Everyone is braver when they have a trusty companion by their side to make decisions with them and go along for the ride!
5. Learn to recognize when you start to make excuses
Stepping out of your comfort zone is a lot harder when you have someone (usually yourself) pumping the brakes on every little thing.
Excuses, excuses! That little voice inside your head that always seems to come up with a clever way to opt out of experiences you might be dreading needs to go. Again, we know ourselves better than anyone, and it can be easy to fall into the same old patterns and routines that bring us comfort. Learn to call your own B.S. and take the leap.
With smart planning, mindful preparation, and a little soul-searching, you can travel excuse-free. Some common excuses we may use that prevent us from living our lives to the fullest include:
I'm too tired
I don't have enough time
I don't have the money
I have no idea what I'm doing
I'm too shy
I don't know what I want to do
I can't do this by myself
I've never done that before (and never will)
You'll learn to catch yourself making these excuses in time, and it will force you to start problem-solving and coming up with solutions instead. For example, if your excuse is that you don't have the money to travel, staying with Worldpackers hosts to save on accommodation can cut your travel costs up to 60%!
6. Find a balance between making snap decisions and taking time to think them through
There's a time for spontaneity and there's a time for careful planning. If you're looking to get out of your comfort zone on your travels, it's important to identify the weight of your decisions. If you've never been kayaking and the opportunity presents itself, go for it! This is an example of a snap decision worth making.
However, if you've never slept in a hostel before and would like to make a few new friends, this decision might require a bit more thought. Do you enjoy your privacy or are you fine with sharing a room and bathroom with others? Have you come to terms with the fact that strangers might steal something you really need, like your phone charger?
Saying a quick "yes" to everything, no matter how inconsequential it may seem in the moment, could become regrets instead of fond memories. Be sure to think things through when necessary so that you're taking a smart step towards defeating your comfort zone.
7. Determine your fears and devise a plan to overcome them
Fear is the main reason most people stay in their comfort zone, and it's the same reason some may never break out of it. Don't seal your fate just yet!
Fear can be a very daunting, scary thing, but sometimes those fears are amplified by our brain's fight or flight mode. It's human nature to want to protect ourselves from the unknown, and we tend to pull our security blankets even tighter around us when we simply think about conquering our biggest fears.
Consider making a handy list of all your fears and under each one, include a few activities that will help you overcome it. If you're afraid of heights, instead of jumping the gun and boldly booking a skydiving excursion, head to top of a famous landmark, such as the Empire State building, and look down at the world. Scared of the ocean? Try sailing in a boat with a glass bottom, or take surfing lessons! Subduing your fears and escaping your comfort zone is all about baby steps.
8. Travel as your more confident, more adventurous alter-ego
It might sound a little weird to become someone else while you're traveling, but hear me out. If you know you aren't usually a very brave person, the saying "fake it 'til you make it" starts to make a whole lot of sense!
Take some time to reflect on your true nature, and ask yourself things like, "What would the extroverted version of me say to befriend this stranger? Would the adventurer in me opt to go snorkeling with turtles or stay in the hotel to watch a show about sea life on Netflix? Would brave me believe in my skills and try teaching English abroad?"
You're normally Clark Kent, but when you travel the world, you suddenly become Superman. By living our lives as the person we'd like to one day become, we step that much closer to actually becoming them. This is how we grow and how we will eventually be able to kick our comfort zones to the curb!
9. Don't take life so seriously. Have fun!
Having a good sense of humor is one of the most vital characteristics we can possess as travelers. It keeps us from moping when a situation goes wrong, it helps us laugh at our mistakes instead of dwelling on our failures, and it keeps us on the road when we feel like giving up and going back home.
Life is life. It rarely goes exactly according to plan, it throws us curveballs when we least expect them, and it doesn't wait for us to catch up.
Practice going along with the ebb and flow of life instead of swimming against the current. The world is a fascinating, beautiful place and is meant to be experienced, so let yourself experience it!
Some roadblocks may lead to exciting adventures you wouldn't have found unless you tried. One miscalculated oversight will make for an interesting story to tell your friends and family later on. Remember that you were built for life's many journeys, and that you can do hard things.
The sooner you realize this, the closer you'll be to waving goodbye to your comfort zone as you sail into the sunset.
"A ship in a harbor is safe, but that isn't what ships are for." — John A. Shedd
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Over the past five years I have worn many hats as a creative freelancer and have been able to pursue adventures across the globe. To me, travel is more than checking a box or sitting on the perfect beach all day. Travel is about self-discovery, keeping an open mind, and learning through culture immersion.
In 2017 I was chosen by one of my favorite travel bloggers, The Blonde Abroad, to attend her first ever blogging retreat in Bali with a handful of other inspiring bloggers. It was truly a dream that taught me so much more than I could imagine. Fast-forward to 2019 when I was given the role of one of the lead English writer for Worldpackers. My in-depth articles touched on subjects like volunteer work, overcoming post-travel blues, outdoorsy tips, and boldly adventuring.
Inner growth is my jam.