Traveling Outside Your Comfort Zone

Traveling Outside Your Comfort Zone

People really are creatures of habit. We like to go back to the same places we’ve been to before, eat the same food we grew up with, and hang around with friends who are often a lot like us. We’re more at ease in familiar surroundings and feel as though we have greater control when we’re following an established routine. We may pass a gazillion Starbucks locations on our way to work, but we always stop at the same one.

Welcome to your comfort zone.

Traveling within your comfort zone is about maximizing your pleasure while minimizing the risks involved in doing and seeing new things. That often means only vacationing in countries that speak your language or sticking with a tour group. It also means, however, that you could be missing out on some of the best things traveling has to offer such as unique experiences that lie off the beaten tourist track. Local cuisine and exotic meals. And most of all, truly interesting stories to tell your friends when you get home.

Tips to Expanding Your Comfort Zone

 If you want to push the boundaries of the familiar and wander outside your comfort zone, here are a few things to get you started.

  1. Don’t order anything off the menu that you could make for yourself. Once you’re good with that, you can move onto eating one thing every day that you’ve never tried before.
  2. Take public transportation. It’s not only cheaper but will get you out into the big world where real people live. Talk to your neighbor on the bus and ask them what they like most about wherever you happen to be visiting. And whenever you get the chance, walk.
  3. Try couch surfing. There are lots of websites that will hook you up with locals willing to give you a bed for the night in exchange for the pleasure of your company. You can read more about couch surfing here:
  4. Make eye-contact. Seriously, next time you’re walking in a foreign city, waiting in line for a table or seeing the sites, actually make eye-contact with the people around you. They’ll probably smile back at you and next thing you know you might actually be having a whole conversation with someone.
  5. Ask for directions. Even if you’ve got the most awesome map or GPS in the world, always ask for directions to wherever you’re going. Most people love to be helpful and will usually ask where you’re from and share some insider tips about the best restaurants in town or must-see attractions that you’d never find in a tourist brochure.
  6. Take in at least one local cultural event. If you’re in Ireland, that could just mean listening to some Celtic music at the local pub. China’s got some incredible kite flying festivals and you can’t go to Spain without seeing some flamenco dancing. No matter where your journey takes you, putting a little local entertainment on the agenda will give you a chance to mix with the masses and probably see or hear something you can’t get at home.
  7. Go it alone. One of the easiest (and for some scariest) ways to step out of your comfort zone is to set off on your own. You’re more likely to interact with the people you meet along the way and will be amazed at just how much you’re capable of. You can read more about the advantages of travelling solo here:
  8. Do a little browsing. Every country has its own mecca for local goods and produce, whether it takes the form of a bazaar, souq or open-air marketplace. This is where you’ll find an eclectic mix of local crafts, clothing and food. It’s an experience that’s so much more immersive than shopping for souvenirs in a mall or, for the really desperate, at the airport.

Traveling outside your comfort zone doesn’t have to involve jumping out of planes or backpacking in the wilderness. It’s about increasing your capacity for embracing the unknown and discovering that the greatest adventures always happen just out of sight of the tour group.