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How (and why!) to break out of your travel comfort zone

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It was a sunny Friday morning in the Italian Alps. I rushed out the door, my mind more focused on the work I’d just left half-finished than on the thing I was about to do. And in that moment, I wondered if I’d reached a point of travel fatigue. 

I was on my way to a helicopter flight over Trento, a cute little city nestled between the Dolomites and Lake Garda. It would be the third helicopter flight I’d ever taken – my first two were in Canadian Rockies and Cape Town – and it was the least anticipation I’d ever felt before a flight. 

As I hopped into one of the back seats, camera in hand, I was looking forward to the photo opportunity. But if there was any inkling of fear in my blood, I certainly didn’t feel it.


Helicopter flight over Trento, Trentino Italy


A helicopter ride like no other 

Well, the pilot quickly saw to that.

After a slow and steady take off, we rushed up into the air at a 45-degree angle. And that’s the exact time the familiar feeling hit. 

Suddenly, the adrenaline began to flow and that uncomfortably familiar feeling of being out of my comfort zone set in. And, even though the drops, turns and sideways tilts that followed filled me with fear, I welcomed the rush.

Because, of all the lessons I’ve learned while travelling, it reminded me of the biggest one of all. Nothing is more nourishing for the mind and soul than jumping straight out of your comfort zone. 


Trento Helicopter Tour in Italy


Breaking out of your comfort zone while travelling

Luckily, travel presents plenty of ways to get out of your comfort zone. Whatever your own comfort zone looks like, you can be sure to find endless ways to step, jump or leap out of it on the road.

Wherever in the world you find yourself, travelling presents endless opportunities to break out of your comfort zone. From new foods to unfamiliar languages, every day is packed with situations that push you towards the edge of that zone. And, if you want to push yourself right out your comfort zone, there are plenty of new things you can try. 

Flying in a helicopter isn’t the only way I’ve forced (yes, forced!) myself out of my comfort zone while travelling. There are some pretty obvious ones, of course, such as jumping off a 2km high mountain or wild camping with an angry male elephant around. They’re the kind of experiences you might have once in a lifetime and remember forever. (Or, if you’re like me, you might choose to do it all again!)

Then there are the less obvious ones. Just a few days after our flight in the Italian mountains, I stood up in front of a larger-than-expected audience at the main Traverse conference. I’m not scared of public speaking, but I still get nervous. That’s especially true when I have a croaky throat and I’m worried I’ll lose my voice at any second!


Trento helicopter flight in Trentino Italy


9 ways to to break out of your travel comfort zone 

#1 Do something adventurous 

It sounds simple, doesn’t it? 

One of the reasons why adventure travel is so much fun – and so addictive! – is because of the way you feel afterwards. 

Adventure doesn’t have to be obvious, though. While jumping out of a plane or bungee jumping off a bridge are obviously going to make your heart race, it could be something much easier (and cheaper). 

Some of my favourite travel moments have been far more straightforward. Trying a segway for the first time in Las Palmas, taking an entirely unplanned trip to Lesotho and even going on my first cruise all pushed me way out of my comfort zone. They may not sound very “adventurous”, but they were all adventures for me.


#2 Plan a solo trip 

Even after many, many solo trips, I always get a little nervous before boarding the plane. 

There’s just something about travelling solo that’s pretty nerve-inducing – but also incredibly freeing. When I’m waiting in the boarding line, though, I have to force myself to remember the latter.

I’ve travelled solo to all kinds of places, from the Austrian Alps to the canals of Venice, and I’ve never once regretted it. It always gives me headspace to think and, more importantly, leaves me feeling like I can achieve anything.


RELATED READ: 6 of the best places to visit as a solo travellers

 


#3 Venture somewhere new

There’s nothing like travelling to entirely new destination to throw you out of your comfort zone. It’s one of the easiest ways to break out of a travel rut and feel completely lost (in a good way!).

I think it’s one of the reasons why I loved Japan so much. Before travelling to Japan, I’d never been anywhere like it and everything felt completely alien.

Exploring Tokyo was exploring an entirely new world where nothing was familiar – and I had no choice but to surrender to that feeling. And when I did, I realised there was a whole world waiting to be discovered. 

Every time I figured out how to order in a restaurant, pay for a coffee or take the right subway train was an accomplishment. And with every accomplishment, comes that feeling of satisfaction and personal growth – the kind that only happens when you break out of your comfort zone.


#4 Try a new style of travel 

I’ve already mentioned that my first cruise threw me way out of my comfort zone. But I really can’t stress that enough! 

Before boarding the Sapphire Princess, I had no idea what to expect. If anything, I didn’t expect to like it – let alone love it. The anticipation continued for a day or two, before I woke up and realised how happy I was to be on board.  

You don’t need to take a cruise to try something new, but don’t be afraid to shake things up. If you usually stays in hostels, why not book yourself into a hotel? Or, if you normally fly everywhere, how about trying to travel only by train for a while?



#5 Learn a new language 

Even as a linguist, attempting a few words in the local language can send my heart racing. But it’s a good kind of racing! 

It’s obviously going to take a while to become fluent in any new language, but that doesn’t mean you can’t try a few words here and there. Not only will it push you out of your comfort zone – and make you feel amazing when somebody understands you – but it’s always nice to make an effort. The locals nearly always appreciate it and you never know who you might end up chatting to.

As a general rule, I try to learn some basic phrases when I arrive somewhere new. Even a quick “hello” or “thank you” can go a long way.


#6 Try a new food

Even if food is one of your favourite things about travel (yep, me too!), new dishes can still be intimidating. But if you want to get out of your travel comfort zone, it’s one of the easiest ways to do so.

Instead of sticking to what you know, why not order something you’ve never tried? Or, if you dare, ask the chef or waiter to choose a dish for you. It might be scary to give up control, but you could just discover your new favourite meal.


Maite's Cooking Class Filippino food in Dusseldorf Germany

A cooking class in Dusseldorf that pushes me pretty far out of my comfort zone!


#7 Forget the planning

It’s probably not something you expected to hear from a travel blog full of advice for planning your trips. But sometimes it’s really, really nice not to plan.

This is one of those things that will throw some people WAY out of their comfort zone, while others will be hovering on the edge. Either way, there’s nothing like diving into a new city with next to no knowledge of what’s waiting for you.


#8 Face your fears 

The comfort zone looks different for all of us. We’re all at different stages in our lives, all have different experiences in our pasts and all have different thresholds when it comes to fear and trying new things.

I can’t tell you what will push you out of your comfort zone – only you can. 

A good rule of thumb is if the thought of something intrigues you but a small voice in your head tells you “no”, it’s because you’re scared in some way. It could fall into any of the above categories – or none at all – but try to listen when it speaks up.

Chances are, it’s something you want to try but hesitate because it’s out of your comfort zone. And that’s exactly why you shouldn’t write it off immediately.


RELATED READ: 6 things I’ve learned from travelling full time.


#9 Go back and do it all again

Doing something once doesn’t move it into your comfort zone. It might move it into your comfort zone… but it’s far more likely that it’ll just edge it a little closer. Perhaps it won’t even move it at all. 

Just because you’ve faced a fear once, don’t think that’s it. If you find something that pushes you out of your travel comfort zone, why not use it to push yourself again and again when you have the chance?

I learned that lesson during my helicopter flight in Trento, and it’s something I’m going to keep in mind from now on. But hey, that’s a great excuse for more helicopters, paragliding and cruises, right?


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GET OUT OF YOUR COMFORT ZONE

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