The Time I Almost Bailed on the Trip of a Lifetime
Last month, I embarked on a trip to Southeast Asia with a dear friend. This trip has been literally years in the making: pages turned down in guidebooks, websites bookmarked, and itineraries meticulously researched and mapped. I had envisioned observing elephants in all their graceful majesty, peacefully navigating their natural jungle habitats. Gazing slack jawed up at giant limestone karsts rising out of the ocean, bridging sky and land and sea. Tiptoeing through ancient temple ruins, the floors of which had surely been blessed by nearly a thousand years of devotees, kneeling in prayer.
Well…truth be told, I was anxious as hell. Every time someone would ask, “So, are you excited about your trip?” my eyes would widen and I’d cock an eyebrow and profess my fears and insecurities: I was nervous about the 26 hours of travel. (What would I do for 26 HOURS IN AIRPLANES?!) I was nervous about contracting some obscure contagious disease (even after all five of the vaccinations I consented to at the travel doctor; two in one arm, three in the other). I was nervous that by being gone for two whole weeks, most or all of my clients would fire me, and I’d return home only to have to rebuild my business from the ground up. I was nervous about every.single.thing.
To put this into perspective, I likely travel more than the average Jane, and if anything, I’m probably less nervous than I should be about traveling. I just assume things will work themselves out, and typically, they do. So if all my fears and self-doubts weren’t about the travel itself, what the hell was going on?
From a logical point of view, I knew exactly what was happening; I coach people around this very flavor of fear all the time. I could see that I was having an allergic reaction to the idea of being soooo far outside my comfort zone. We all have psychological defense mechanisms that are designed to keep us safe and protected within the confines of our comfort zones. While our defense systems are well-intentioned, they also create barriers to experiencing things that are unknown, unfamiliar, and, well…uncomfortable. The trick is, if we can actually get out of our own way and move outside our comfort zones, we are far more likely to experience the delight and wonder and awe that comes from doing things we’ve never done before. Things that we’ve always wanted to do, be, or experience… like traveling to the other side of the world.
Apparently, it had been awhile since my own comfort zone had been in danger of being vastly expanded, and I was simply freaking the f* out. I knew that on the other side of this experience would be something truly extraordinary, beyond what I could ever imagine; I just had to be willing to say yes to the experience, step into the unknown and uncomfortable, and allow myself to be astounded and amazed.
So: I did what I could do. I sorted myself out the best I could with my coach. I packed a little luxury kit for the plane consisting of my favorite essential oils, several varieties of chocolate (obviously), a journal, and earbuds for several carefully curated Audible downloads. I dressed in my coziest clothes, and I got on the damn plane.
What on the other side of all that worry and fear? SO. MUCH. GOODNESS. Seriously, that’s another story for another time. Was the discomfort worth it? Oh, honey: it was so, so worth it. Sweeter and more beautiful and more deeply felt and just more everything, than I could have even imagined. And I never would have known that level of sheer wonder and reverence if I hadn’t been willing to wade through the thick of my defenses to see what was on the other side.
I would really love to hear from you on this. What was the uncomfortable, fear-inducing thing that you did that stretched your comfort zone? What was the payoff? Post a comment below; I always love to hear from you. And if you’re stuck between wanting to stay feeling safe and experiencing the thing outside your comfort zone that your heart most desires, will you email me? I’d be happy to support you through to the other side.