I recently had the pleasure of being interviewed by Jo Frances Penn on her travel podcast talking about how travel can expand our comfort zones and the challenges of corporate life.
How does travel expand our comfort zones?
Well, for me it was about removing myself from my usual environment. My travels have been about going off to do something rather than having a need to travel to new places.
My first big adventure was to the Antarctic in 2000. It showed me a world outside of corporate life and made me realise that there may be alternative ways to live my life that didn't mean being chained to a desk and working in pressured environments. I came back from my trip and handed my notice in. This was a massive stretch of my comfort zone as I was really stepping into the unknown. It wasn't totally foolhardy though as I had saved enough money to last a year, so I didn't have to panic about what I did next and it gave me the breathing space to try out different things to see what suited me.
My next trip to Ghana and West Africa was hugely out of my comfort zone, and was part of my exploratory phase of what a different life might look like. Being a largely solitary individual, my comfort zone was stretched by having to work with others with the added challenge of living in the middle of the rainforest a loooong way from anywhere. And like the Antarctic, we had no access to the outside world other than a scratchy radio chat with HQ from time to time when the satellites were aligned.
My most recent trip was campervanning my way around New Zealand and Australia at the tender age of 50. Another huge leap out of my comfort zone for me. I truly was alone for a lot of the time and having to navigate my way around unfamiliar countryside and settling in to new campsites every few days (which I found unaccountably stressful).
What all three trips had in common was that they were all totally different from my day to day living. Which enabled me to look at my life more dispassionately from a distance and gave me a break from the coal face (and they were different coal faces each time).
Whilst they were all challenging in their own ways, they shared similarities in that they were all about paring back my life and simple living. They made me realise that I am pretty adaptable (despite the stress I had), that I could do uncomfortable things and that they made me much more resilient and able to face difficult tasks in the future - because I had done them in the past and lived to tell the tale.
But as we come out of lockdown. I've felt my comfort zone shrink over the last 18 months with being mostly confined to quarters.
In the good old days, I thought nothing of jumping on a train to London, but I felt great anxiety last week when I did it for the first time in two years.
I made sure I travelled outside peak times, firmly wore my mask and got a bit sweaty if anyone got too close to me, especially if they weren't wearing a mask. But it had to be done and getting to the ExCel to meet with a colleague and be part of an event made it all worthwhile.
So now it's about stretching the comfort zones back to what we took for granted before considering anything more adventurous! And that involves small steps of travelling - walks on the coast, taking a train or other public transport, meeting others, working out if it's ok to hug again.
Feel the fear of the stretch of the comfort zone and do it anyway! And if you want to see me really out of my comfort zone, but doing it anyway - check out my bungee jump in New Zealand in 2008