After living across 3 continents and traveling to just under 50 Countries since 2012, the single most important lesson that I’ve learned is to step out of my comfort zone.
My best travel memories have come from situations when I pushed myself to do things in unfamiliar situations and experience something new.
In general, when you choose travel somewhere new, you’re subconsciously willing to explore exotic territories, meet new people, try new foods and adapt to new customs. These make up the core principles of stepping out of your comfort zone- thriving on new and exciting experiences.
But first, it’s important to break down the phrase “stepping out of your comfort zone,” so you can get a better understand of what I’m taking about.
Webster’s Dictionary defines comfort zone as, “a place, situation or level where someone feels confident and comfortable. A level at which one functions with ease and familiarity.”
Therefore, doing things inside your comfort zone include daily conversions with family and friends, eating familiar foods that you’ve been eating since you were a child, and keeping your life routine steady with little change.
But you should strive for more.
There are many ways in which you can reach outside your comfort zone while traveling. Each person possess their own incentives, but everyone can push themselves to do something new and exciting.
So here I will present you with 4 examples of how you can step out of your comfort zone abroad. I hope you try some of these out on your next trip!
1. Do an extreme sport/activity
If you find yourself in a bizarre place, then why not go bungee jumping if you get the chance? Or perhaps you’ve always wanted to go skydiving, but you’ve never had the right opportunity until you found a beautiful jump in an exotic location. When I was in Interlaken, Switzerland, I bungee jumped out of a gondola that was 150 meters above a giant lake in the middle of the Swiss Alps.
I was scared out of my mind, but looking back, this was one of my most memorable travel experiences. You never know what what incredible opportunities will arise, so take advantage of them!
2. Try a crazy foreign food
As you are probably aware, I like to eat bizarre foods around the world.
Eating something exotic is one of the best ways to step out of your comfort zone. If you’re traveling in South Korea, then try the traditional live octopus for dinner. If you’re in Southeast Asia, then eat some durian, an extremely stinky fruit that’s only found in this region of the world. If you’re in Hong Kong, then why not try some fresh snake soup or chicken feet? No matter which country you may be in, there’s always something new and exciting on the menu.
In addition, the overall experience of eating a foreign food is essential to understanding a new culture, because you can discover what the local population has been enjoying for centuries.
Here is a video of me eating a live octopus in Seoul:
3. Make a local friend
As I’ve travel more, I’ve quickly realized that an overwhelming majority of people in the world are friendly. It might take some courage to strike up a conversation with a random person on the street, but you never know the kind of amazing people you can meet. I have made so many friends that I still keep in touch with just by randomly striking up a conversation with them.
Next time you’re abroad, ask someone for directions or exchange stories with a local in restaurant or bar. The world is much smaller than you might think.
4. Explore beyond your guidebook
As an adventurer, it’s your duty to venture off the beaten path.
Walk down that mysterious path that leads into the foreseen distance. Meander through that abandoned building that some local guy told you about. It’s almost a guarantee that this thrilling experience will stay with you for life.
While it’s important to break out of your shell while traveling, it’s also critical to stay safe. Other countries don’t have the same laws and customs that you’re used to, and frankly, you are a visitor in someone else’s territory. Though most countries around the world are actually less dangerous than the U.S.A (a 2014 World Bank Report ranks the U.S. 88th in overall safety), it’s always smart to be cautiously aware of your surroundings.
So here are four tips to remain safe in a foreign country:
1. Write down the address of your hotel or hostel
Grab the business card of your hotel and put it in your wallet or simply type your hotel’s address in your phone. As a traveler, there is nothing worse than getting lost and forgetting how to navigate back to your hotel- especially if it’s late at night.
2. Respect other customs
It’s important to remember that you’re a guest in someone else’s neighborhood, and you don’t have the same authority that you have in your country. Not to mention, the laws and customs of the country you’re visiting are most likely different than what you’re used to.
Also, it may be fun to party and explore the nightlife of a particular destination, but show respect by handling your alcohol consumption. Becoming overly intoxicated can turn into a very vulnerable situation… Trust me, I’ve seen it happen all too many times.
3. Prevent sickness
Staying healthy is a big concern when traveling around the world. Visit your doctor before your trip to get all relevant vaccinations and learn about which health precautions to follow.
Another strategy to is to bring all medications with you. Fill up a bag full of vitamins, prescriptions, allergy medicine, and all other things that you may find necessary.
Getting sick in a foreign country can be a nightmare, so simply take the right precautions and minimize the risk.
4. Watch out for pickpockets
Nobody plans on losing their wallet (either by accident or theft), so it’s essential to be prepared for pickpockets. Take out extra cash before your trip, and store it in different places.
Some cities are more notorious than others for pickpockets, with big Western European cities like Paris, Rome and Barcelona, having the highest rate of pick pocketing crimes in the world. Keep your purses in sight, refrain from putting things in your back pocket and use a money belt or neck pouch if you choose. Also, be extra cautious in busy public areas, such as in metros or city squares.
In every way possible, stepping out of my comfort zone has been the biggest motivator for me when I travel around the world.
I’ll finish with this post with a short story of when I stepped out of my comfort zone Istanbul.
Back in 2012, I was backpacking Europe with 2 friends and we were in Instnbul. We saw a sign for a “Turkish Bath” so we thought, “what the heck, lets do it!” Well, we weren’t exactly sure what we were in for.
Long story short, we were told to strip down fully nude and go into this large sauna room, where we were intensely scrubbed down by these old, hairy Turkish men who spoke zero English. They stretched out every muscle in my body while pouring buckets of freezing cold, soapy water on my head. I remember looking at my friend and saying “what the hell are we doing?!” But now, I can proudly share my story, look back and have a great laugh. This story only happened because we decided to step out of our comfort zone and try something new, and I’ll never forget it.
Please share your best travel story in the comments!