Expand Your Comfort Zone
Chris here again taking resolute finger to courageous keyboard to write to you about stepping toe out of your comfort zone.
Travel is supposed to be fun but it can be stressful and one can find oneself worrying. There are various ways to expand your comfort zone so that when you lean against its edges, you won’t freak out.
First off let’s talk about comfort zones. They are comfortable, yes but when we get stuck in them life starts looking like boiled chicken and white gravy dinner for the rest of eternity.
The slippers that we coveted when we were busy seem like a soft and fuzzy trap. The bathrobe we longed for becomes a symbol of our slavery to a mindless, sightless monster known as routine.
Ok was that depressing enough for you? It was for me.
On the other hand, we have adventure and the trappings that go along with it.These are the red hot chilis that spice up your life.
These include unfamiliar surroundings, situations where we might (shudder) not know what to do, or different languages where, if we are not careful, we can feel stupid.
In short there are down sides on both ends of the spectrum.
But lets look at it. What are we trying to do in life?
Are we trying to just hang in there until we die or are we trying to, as the saying goes “Slide into the grave sideways yelling “Man what a ride!””?
Or are we trying to land somewhere in between?
Like anything, stepping out of your comfort zone takes practice and I never advocate throwing yourself into anything without approaching it on a gradient or a little at a time until you are comfortable with a lot of discomfort. Below I have listed out some safe ways for you to start dipping your toes into the different and exotic while still remaining in familiar surroundings.
Antipasti Di Stagione
1. Find Ethnic restaurants
My husband and I, while we were both working, had a thing where every Sunday we would go and find a new neighborhood and an unfamiliar restaurant. We would have lunch there and it was best if it was a type of food from a country or culture we were unfamiliar with. This is a great way to dip your toes into a new culture and see if you want to explore it further.
2. Attend Ethnic Festivals
When I was a young bass player/singer I got a gig playing in a Filipino band. We played all of the functions and festivals and I got very familiar with the customs surrounding their events. Most events featured live music which kept us employed. Even christenings were well attended and had a live band.
It got me very familiar with the food which is fantastic. If you have never had much experience with Filipino food, get yourself invited to a party or a birthday or a wedding. The food is amazing and the culture is beautiful and rich.
3. Visit Different Neighborhoods
When I was younger I used to frequent the hispanic neighborhoods. I love Mexican food. I also LOVE LOVE LOVE Pan Dulce.
Pan Dulce is a Mexican sweet bread. It is made fresh every morning by angels who then roll it in sugar and put it on display. A huge bag of these treasures cost me about six bucks. I still love it and it is a special treat when I visit a Mexican bakery. These bakeries are a wonder. You walk in and behind the glass are magnificent sugary creations that will make your salivary glands go nuts.
This is only only a small fraction of the treasures you find in any ethnic neighborhood. The Indian neighborhoods have their spice shops that smell amazing when you walk by. The Chinese have their little stores filled with treasures for a few bucks.
The Italian neighborhoods have home made Italian food, Italian music and opera.
Japan town has Shabu Shabu.
Every city has their different ethnic neighborhoods and each one has its own hidden gems that take a little looking to find.
4) Take a language class
Recently my husband started taking Italian lessons. He was doing pretty well with Italian phrase books but there comes a point where you have to learn to conjugate verbs and use the correct grammar. He has stepped up his game. That said, you can take conversational language classes that gives you a basic undertaking of a language and make you able to get around thus increasing your comfort level when you travel.
These classes are usually filled with various people who are learning the language for some personal reason. They are a lot of fun and prepare you for your big foray into another culture. You can use your new skills while visiting different neighborhoods.
Street scene in Maratea centro storico
4) Join a travel group
Even if you don’t travel you can get a feel for other places by talking to others who have gone there. This is an excellent way to decide where you want to spend your travel dollars and get an inside peek at different places and cultures.
Once you start getting familiar with different areas, you can make a wish list of things you want to have and want to avoid while travelling. This makes it much easier to tailor make a vacation that will give you the optimum travel experience.
Every skill or ability acquired comes with a certain amount of practice. Becoming comfortable in unique situations is a skill that one can learn. Doing the above activities during your non traveling time can set you up to have a much easier time when you do actually travel.
The goal is to be comfortable even outside your comfort zone.