By: Jim Bamboulis
Comfort zones are great. They’re predictable and manageable. To me, they’re also dangerous. Think about it. Get sucked in long enough and your brain turns on auto pilot. You get stuck, maybe even frustrated and sooner or later question where the time has gone. You start finding ways to change it up – try a new restaurant or even take a different route to work all to break from the typical. For many others, it’s taking a trip and getting away from it altogether, even if it’s a temporary solution. Personally, I always like to go out of my comfort zone as much as possible and it seems easier to do that when I travel. I use travel as an excuse to experience things that I normally wouldn’t have a chance to do at home.
This isn’t a 10-step process on how to get out of your comfort zone. I’m no guru and you already know what makes you comfortable and what doesn’t. Instead, this post is about a recent trip that gave me the chance to go out of my comfort zone, which in turn forced me to step outside of my mental routine and experience an intoxicating, liberating feeling of accomplishment. I’m not saying it’s easy. It’s not. What I am saying is that it’s possible and it’s ultimately a choice. Hopefully my experiences will inspire you to do the same.
“Do one thing that scares you every day”.
The great people at GMC Canada invited me and a bunch of other media to Entourage sur-le-lac, to a beautiful, brand new resort hotel just north of Quebec City, QC. The initial evite I got listed all the relevant details of the quick two-day trip, with a twist.
We were given a list of activities and asked to choose which ones we wanted to take part in, including fishing, horseback riding, paddling, mountain biking, zip lining and white water rafting. I reviewed the list and decided to pick the latter two because I had never done them before and figured that this was as good a time as any to experience something new and different.
We got to Excursions Jacques Cartier, got fitted for a wet suit and helped carry our raft to the river. White water rafting in the Jacques Cartier River with a group of supportive dudes, battling through class three, four and five rapids was incredible. Nervous at the beginning, I got into a groove and eventually embraced the activity full on. After about an hour of navigating, our instructor asked us if we were interested in jumping off a cliff and into the river below. He gave us a choice between a 10 foot cliff and a 20 foot cliff. We all chose the 20.
“We can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark; the real tragedy of life is when men are afraid of the light”.
I don’t have a problem with heights and besides, from the river, the cliff itself didn’t look high. We got out of the raft and hiked 10 minutes to the cliff edge. Those brief moments proved to the be battleground in my mind. It was at this time that I got into my head and started to get mentally foggy. I got to the cliff and made another mistake. I looked down. Frozen with knees buckled, I started to come up with reasons not to do it, created outcomes that didn’t exist. It was a 20 foot cliff but in my mind, it was more like 50. Most of the guys jumped with ease, others took a few minutes. I took the longest, going last.
I stood there for a few minutes, contemplated the alternative and started answering my own questions. How would I feel if I didn’t do this? Crappy. Would I regret it? For years to come. What exactly was I afraid of? The act of jumping? Don’t think so. How the landing would feel? Maybe, but the others didn’t seem to be in pain. I think it came down to me having trouble processing something that I wasn’t mentally prepared for, breaking out of an imaginary circle of comfort. I thought to myself, well I didn’t sign up for this but I’ve come this far. I don’t feel like going back now. I knew I was going to do it, just had to get there. Question was, how?
“Travel doesn’t become adventure until you leave yourself behind”.
– Marty Rubin
Remember that scene from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade where Indiana has to take that leap of faith across the giant gap? He contemplates it for a bit, questions the whole thing and then against all logic, he takes that step. That’s kinda how this went. Somehow, I let my mind go blank. Almost as if my mind was exhausted from thinking too much. Almost as if to put my mind at ease, I psyched myself into it with the aim of shutting it up. I closed my eyes and braced for the impact. Let out a WOO-HOO and swam back to the raft. I remember feeling euphoric, thinking how perfect the water temperature was and how amazing the beer will taste later.
I also thought about the alternative. It would have been an evening, month, year and maybe even a lifetime of regret. And if you’re a believer of living for the moment, taking chances and regretting nothing then the alternative would have been filled with feelings of pain. In this case, the feeling of regret was more painful than actually doing it.
Then came zip lining.
“An unexamined life is not worth living”.
Quebec City’s Montmorency Falls are beautiful. At 276 feet, they are nearly 100 feet higher than Niagara Falls. Great to look at but we’d be doing more than just admiring from a distance. Fitted and strapped in, I joined 10 other guys as we walked 10 minutes to the launch point. I thought to myself, what’s with these 10 minute hikes! Leaves plenty of time to come up with another dozen reasons to not do this, to somehow get out of it. But this time around, that didn’t happen.
300 metres. That’s the distance we were looking at. We’d be zipping from one side of the valley to the other and directly in front of the falls. Daunting for sure. But scary? Truthfully and oddly enough, not as much as the cliff jump or the white water rafting. If I took a giant, liberating leap to get over one comfort zone, this was just going to be another one. I stared at the entire length of the line and slowly came the realization that this was actually going to happen. I was calm and watched as one after the other went across, seemingly having a pretty good time doing so.
Then came my turn and let me tell you, it was an amazing 30 seconds. Somehow zipping across 300 meters was less scary than jumping 20 feet. I can’t explain the why’s and how’s but for some reason, I felt more eager and excited than hesitant and fearful. In fact, I didn’t really give it much of a second thought. There were far fewer mental roadblocks; I wasn’t really in my head. I grabbed on to the handles and went for it, even having the confidence to look around and take it all in.
Maybe I remembered that feeling of exhilaration after doing something that scared me. Maybe I held on to the liberating feeling of not being afraid. Maybe I remembered how great the beer tasted after something like this. Whatever it was, zipping was easier and it felt great to once again follow through and take another leap towards shattering another piece of my comfort zone.
“If you want to grow a muscle, you must lift something out of your comfort zone. Push beyond what is comfortable. If you don’t, there will be no growth”.
– Tony Robbins
Looking back, I started to realize that getting out of comfort zones is similar to exercising. At the start, the muscles may be weaker, unable to handle the weight and pressure. But the more you work at them, the stronger they get, the better equipped they become to handle the pain and discomfort. Before you know it, getting out of a comfort zone gets easier and easier with practice. After all, without that pain, there is no growth. And discomfort can sometimes be to your benefit.
As for skydiving? Not a chance in hell! Not yet, anyway.
Feeling inspired? What’s something you’ve been wanting to do for a while but haven’t worked up the nerve to do it? Let me know in the comment section below.
Hey y’all. I’m Jim. Cute pic, no? That kid went on to spend 16 years in the broadcast media world before starting up Travel Mammal, a site dedicated to travel, food and cultural experiences.
Travel Mammal isn’t about the selfie or checking things off a list. It’s about experiencing both the journey and the destination. To breathe, learn and really absorb what’s around you, in the moment and experiencing in a way that is both memorable and meaningful.
Happy travels, y’all.
A BIG thank you to GMC Canada for inviting me to beautiful Quebec and not only showing me the natural beauty of the area but also for giving me the chance to take part in off-the-beaten path activities that shattered my comfort zone. Thank you also to Entourage sur-le-lac for the exceptional service and hospitality! As always, all opinions are my very own.