We were at a party during the holidays and got into a discussion about how few people travel, and in fact, how most of our friends and family had not left their small towns…let alone travel to other parts of the world.
I want to paint a picture of this party for you so that you have some context for this story…
The party took place in a small town high in the Andes of Ecuador. The party took place between Christmas and New Years, but the focus of the party was the first birthday of a local indigenous Indian child whose parents we had met a few weeks earlier. Her extended family was there, as well as 4 other families from N. America and Europe.
Now granted, this group of people is perhaps not typical. Traveling thousands of miles to a small town in Ecuador for fun is not your run-of-the-mill stuff, but I find that we are more comfortable in these surroundings than holed up in the same town.
I began traveling when I was young, my parents took my sisters and I too many states within the U.S., and we traveled to Germany and Thailand as well as other countries. My wife and I traveled after we were married, and we continued to travel after we had kids. All of this culminated in our decision to sell everything, pack up the kids, and set out on an open-ended adventure through Latin America.
Again, these experiences are not typical, but we learned to expand our comfort zone and now enjoy experiences we once only dreamed about.
We can’t imagine living and dying in the same town without ever having left, but our new friends from Germany said that they have many family and friends that this is just the case. They are born, live, work, and die in the same town. They have a very small comfort zone for experiencing other foods, cultures, and adventures that travel provides.
My secretary was one of these people, having not ever ventured out of the state she was born in 50 years. She finally visited Hawaii with her husband…I assume my constant prodding had something to do with it. She loved it and wants to plan the next adventure.
I guess I have always viewed my life as chapters in a book. Each new chapter brings change and growth; graduation, marriage, the birth of a child, a new career, changing interests, or the pursuit of a dream. This growth expands our comfort zone in a myriad of ways and opens us up to the possibilities that our world has to offer.
If travel is something that you want to do but you feel it is outside your comfort zone, I encourage you to take the first step. Your first step does not need to be the jungles of the Amazon, it can be right in your own backyard.
Where do tourists go in your home town? Put yourself in their shoes and view your city as a tourist would. Experience the sights, sounds, smells, and tastes that are only a few steps from your front steps.
As you gain experience and become more comfortable, expand your travel itinerary. Try a neighboring state, visit a national park, or learn about the history of your country through some form of travel. As you expand your comfort zone expand your geographic bounds. Taking an organized tour can be a great way to begin feeling comfortable in foreign surroundings, and as you get more and more comfortable you can begin scheduling your own itineraries.