“A comfort zone is a beautiful place, but nothing ever grows there.” – Anonymous
At seventeen I took my first overseas trip to Japan and my eyes and soul opened to the great big world. As the years passed, my perspective and way of traveling evolved in line with my maturity and interests. As a Type-A personality with a Virgo zodiac sign, I’m generally rigidly organized, analytical, and strict on myself. Therefore, I plan and budget a holiday with everything from morning coffee to the top travel insurance. But as soon as I board my flight that all fades away and my travel persona kicks in. This is not to say I become a naive or careless traveler, but rather when I’m on holidays I take bigger risks and let loose. I converse with strangers. I ask questions. I explore cities alone. I will eat and drink anything that is new to me. The word ‘no’ isn’t in my vocabulary as curiosity, excitement, and intuition guide me on my adventure. With each risk I take I become more addicted to the thrill factor.
As I began to accumulate stamps on my passport, I found myself seeking out these thrilling situations. The more out of my comfort zone it was, the more I loved it. In the middle of winter I climbed Ireland’s third highest mountain wearing no gloves and Nike Frees. I swam in a tank with 2,000 pound crocodiles circling me. I spent $500 USD on a dinner in Sydney that was arguably the best meal of my life (and I still don’t regret it). I went skiing on one of Japan’s highest mountains by myself where no one spoke a word of English. I scaled the top of the Sydney Harbour Bridge, 440 feet high. I visited a complete stranger in Ireland and stayed with him for a week touring around the countryside. I jumped out of a plane at 14,000 ft over the Indian Ocean.
Most recently, my two best friends came to visit me on the East Coast of Australia and we toured the best parts of New South Wales and Queensland. On the final few days of our trip we took a boat out from Cairns to the Great Barrier Reef (GBR) where we lived on board for snorkeling, scuba diving, sun tanning, and socializing with people from all around the world. On the first day I took my introductory dive and it was spectacular. I felt so lucky to be there that I kept pinching myself and trying to memorize every detail of the reef. We saw clown fish (Nemo), star fish, giant clams, sharks, and every kind of fish. After two dives I was asked if I was interested in a night time dive. One of my biggest fears is dark and deep open waters (dark being the key word) so I was definitely unsure because surely someone with no qualifications like myself wouldn’t be able to do that.
Images of big scary sharks attacking or equipment malfunctioning were racing through my head. At the last possible second I said ‘YOLO’ and was briefed and geared up in approximately five minutes. During night dives you must hold a flashlight the entire time to see (and secretly say a silent prayer that it doesn’t go out).
As we descended my breath was quick and sharp and I was overthinking everything. I could not slow down and relax my body until I started to see all the sleepy fish and sea cucumbers scattered on the ocean floor. About 10 minutes in I was still anxious but then we saw our first sea turtle sleeping in the coral. It was so cute and all my fears and anxiety disappeared completely. The highlight of the dive was when we were swimming and I looked up and saw a big sea turtle swimming above us. (Sea turtles still need go to the surface at night to breathe.) It started to swim among us and at one point swam right up to my face and starred into my eyes. Yes, we both shared a moment. A moment where I realized just how magnificent and beautiful this world is and all the creatures in it. I was still a bit scared of the complete darkness for the rest of the dive but I’m so glad I made the jump (literally into the water) outside of my comfort zone to experience it. Without a shadow of a doubt my time in the GBR would not have been the same.
A comfort zone is a great place but taking chances and a leap of faith to step outside of it will lead to the best rewards. I’m not saying to go jumping off any cliff you find on your next holiday. Maybe it’s just something small like ordering a local brewed beer that you normally wouldn’t try or maybe it’s just approaching someone new and getting to know them. What I’m sharing here is that even though I’m afraid of heights and the dark ocean, I did it anyways. Most of the time, my first instinct is to be worried or stressed about situations but when I did all of the things above, that was when I was at my most liberating and exciting self. That thrilling feeling is what I will never get enough of.
P.S. Now that I’ve come down from my scuba diving high, I want to go bungee jumping in New Zealand. Then maybe diving in a shark tank in South Africa or Mexico.