This past week, I did something that was completely outside my comfort zone. I rode a horse by myself!
While this may not seem like a big accomplishment for some people, it was a giant one for me. I’ve never been much of an animal person. Even small rabbits and chickens cause me anxiety! So the idea of being next to a large animal, let alone ride one, always makes me nervous.
But one of the things that I love about travel is that it provides me with opportunities to step outside my comfort zone. When we had the chance to ride horses with Turismo Alternativo en Guananjuato last week, I knew we had to take it. When else would my kids have a chance to explore the hills of Guanajuato on horseback? I knew it would be an incredible experience, so I chose not to let my fear of animals hold me back.
Choosing to step outside my comfort zone
Often in travel, we have moments like these, where we’re faced with an experience that is beyond what we may be comfortable with. In this case, it was easy to choose to go outside my comfort zone. Despite my own personal fears, I didn’t want to deny the rest of my family the experience.
But sometimes you can be faced with moments that may not be so easy to choose. If you’re a naturally shy person, it can be difficult to choose to be outgoing when you travel. If your view points are a certain way, it can be hard to handle being in a country that is the opposite of what you believe.
Travel often presents us with moments that challenge who we are. As travelers, we can choose to reject those moments, or we can choose to work through those moments. In my opinion, it’s the latter choice that helps us grow as people.
More than just an escape
Too often, people see travel as a method of escape. We associate travel with vacations, as a break from our daily lives. We limit ourselves to destinations that are easy, that don’t require us to change our normal behaviors and mind sets too much. And we stick to the activities that are tried and true, recommended and tested by the multitude of other visitors who came before us.
While I don’t deny that this type of travel can be relaxing, especially if daily life for you is stressful and taxing, I also think that there’s more to travel than just an escape.
For me, travel helps me go outside my comfort zone. It challenges the perceptions I previously held about the world, and allows me to try things I never would have tried before. And in return, the challenges I take through travel begin to change who I am as a person. Travel helps me to be more open-minded, more tolerant, and more flexible to the unexpectedness of life.
Opening ourselves to the unexpected
Throughout my travels, being open to unexpected opportunities has led to some amazing experiences. Last month in San Miguel, while visiting nearby hot springs for the day, some friends and I decided to participate in a Temezcal ceremony, a traditional sweat lodge cleansing ritual in Mexico. Two of the ladies in our group had participated in one before, but for the other two ladies (me included) it was our first time.
The experience was hot. The steam in the room made it sometimes hard to breathe. And the intensity of the ritual forced me to address issues and emotions that I was previously avoiding. At one point during the Temezcal ceremony, I broke down into tears. As I sat there in the heat, I knew I was lucky to have a chance to experience something like this. As much as it was outside my comfort zone, I was thankful that I allowed myself to be open to the experience.
Challenging ourselves through travel
If there’s one thing I learned from my travels, it’s that the best type of travel is the one that challenges us to go beyond what we’re used to. For me, whether it involved riding horses on my own, or participating in a traditional Temezcal ceremony, going outside my comfort zone allowed me to experience a side of Mexico I never would have experienced sitting in my hotel or Airbnb.
Let’s all commit to challenge ourselves through travel. On your next trip, ask yourself, “What am I doing to step outside my comfort zone?” Challenge yourself to do something that is new, and maybe a bit scary for you. I bet you’ll be pleasantly surprised by what you experience.
Do you like to challenge yourself when you travel? Share in the comments how you step out of your comfort zone during travel.
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