Why your next travel destination should be out of your comfort zone

They say that life starts when you step out of your comfort zone. Well, my comfort zone consists of air conditioning, Insta-worthy latte art and a charged phone at all times. So, when the opportunity to ditch the beach and go on a Spring Break camping trip arose last year, I was hesitant to find out what living among the wild things was like.

Turns out it was life-changing.

It’s cheesy – I know. But, ask my friends. When I got home, after going days without social media and minimal interaction with anyone other than a few friends, they thought whatever psychedelics we might’ve gotten into hadn’t worn off. (Mom Disclaimer: No, I didn’t actually do any drugs.)

The only thing I had tried was something new, and that was more than enough to make me come back “enlightened” – as my friends liked to joke – and question the life I wanted to lead.

Since I was a preteen, I dreamed of moving to New York City and living a fast-paced life filled with grandeur and luxury. I loved the non-stop exhilaration that came along with hustling at a cool writing job Monday through Friday and train-hopping all over the city on the weekends.

Camping was the exact opposite of that. Now, don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t anything special. We were only gone for about a week, travelling from the clear blue waters of the Keys to the amazingly serene (and buggy) Everglades. We had a fridge, bathrooms, an entire trailer of supplies, etc. We were “backcountry bougie.”

Photo by Emily Creighton
Photo by Emily Creighton

But that was enough to get me out of my comfort zone and teach me a lot about myself. For example, my friend needed tinder (for a fire) and the only thing that came to my mind was that there are better ways to find a date than through an app. I was clueless about things like tent pitching and basic survival techniques.

I’d traveled plenty before, but this was different. More so than the family trips with hotel rooms and pre-planned itineraries, it gave me a fresh perspective on life. I was forced to slow down and appreciate things I tended to overlook. And that’s what’s at the heart of an adventure – no matter how “out there” or not it may seem.

Life-changing moments aren’t always fireworks and light-bulbs all around. My “revelation” wasn’t even in the moment; it wasn’t until I had to acclimate to my everyday routine again that I noticed something in me had changed.

I realized I liked being away from my phone, disconnected and not having to worry about being somewhere to impress someone out of my way. I loved how quiet the world was when I was away. I had fallen in love with the exact opposite of what I grew up dreaming of.

Now, a year after the fact, I still think about the camping and going back (Fun fact: I’m camping this Spring Break too.) It doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate the allure of the city. But as of now, spending months on the road in a decked out van sounds a lot better than any amount of time in a shoebox apartment trapped in a high-rise.

All-in-all, I’m appreciative for that trip. I could’ve gone and hated it, only validating that the city was the place for me. But instead, it showed me an alternate route and saved me a lot of time, money and life.

So, whether getting out of your comfort zone only requires a three-hour long road trip or involves a plane and a different language, take the risk. I promise it’s worth it.

Featured image by Alexis Paige