This is the sentence I have been hearing a lot recently.
“Step out of your comfort zone.”
It’s because I’m quite obsessed with Ted Talks and travelling and almost every single traveller knows that this is a very important factor if we want to explore the world.
People tend to live in their dark corners, they tend to meet only with the people they know, they are like those people in Plato’s cave, those who can see only shadows of the world out there (although Plato’s theory is much different than this example).
Last year around this time I got an offer – a daughter of dad’s friend was living in England in Brighton with her boyfriend but they went away for the summer (to Indonesia and then to the Czech Republic) and they needed somebody who would pay the rent and take over her job. I had always wanted to travel and I had always loved the United Kingdom. The funny thing is that when I first heard about this, I almost immediately said “No”.
I kept saying:
“I have plans for the summer, you know? I’m going to that trip with my friends, I want to go to this theatre festival, I have plenty of work to do…”
And so my dad left me alone. I think he also didn’t believe I would actually go there. But then, fourteen days later, I was sitting at school and talking to my schoolmate. I don’t even remember what it was specifically about, we just talked. And all of a sudden it occurred to me that I actually was able to go. I realised I could do it. I wanted to do it. I wanted to go to England, work there and spend my holiday in there. I immediately called my dad. He said he would ask the friend of his if his daughter was still looking for somebody. She said she was.
Now the harder part came. I wanted someone to go with me.
1) I didn’t want to be completely alone in there (although that is an even better step out of our comfort zones and I’m definitely going to do it when I have the chance)
2) I needed another person to help me with work and paying the rent.
I kept searching, I kept asking my friends but it seemed like nobody was able to go. I became hopeless. The problem was that I didn’t really look for all the possibilities. I asked only the closer friends of mine because I was afraid of spending two months with someone I barely knew. But I realised that if I wanted to share this experience with another person, I just HAD TO widen the circles which I was searching in.
I asked one girl from our school who I had got to know during our Erasmus project in Germany. She was really nice and she seemed to have similar interests as me. I didn’t really know her and it scared me but I told myself to stop whining and start being brave.
She said she wanted to go with me. I didn’t believe it at first – we barely knew each other. But she really kept her word and she got on the plane with me and lived with me for almost two months (not mentioning that we shared one – quite big – bed, as a couple used to live there).
And this girl became a very close friend of mine, a friend I’m grateful for having in my life.
I also worked as a runner in a stand-up comedy ‘theatre’ and I got to know lots of new people. I wouldn’t say I became friends with them but I spent some time hanging out with them and it was alright. Also, I found a summer love, which made the whole experience even more adventurous, at least at that time.
I was only 17, yet I had to handle things such as getting NIN, opening an English bank account, paying the rent, sending invoices etc. I remember sitting in our tiny kitchen after my friend left for her flight back home (she had to leave 10 days before I did) and looking into a small mirror. I felt different. I felt like this experience gave me SO MUCH. I felt more grown-up. More self-confident. More independent. I felt more free. I looked like a completely different person, yet still the same… somehow.
Most of all, I felt really grateful to the past ME, to that person who had decided to risk and step out of her comfort zone. To that person who was scared as hell, yet decided to accept the fear and overcome it.
The ones who spend all their lives only in that tiny bubble called the Comfort Zone have no idea what the world out there looks like. They have no idea what they can achieve, what they can see and explore. It’s a pity since after managing to step out, you realise that it actually isn’t as scary as you thought it would be.
Also, stepping out of that bubble is never a mistake. It’s always an useful experience which you can profit from. And it always forms you into somebody a little bit different than before, into somebody who is more free and less dependent on things and other people.
I’m going to Indonesia (with the same Czech organisation as the daughter of my dad’s friend did, funnily) in sixteen days now. I’m going to spend three weeks in there, volunteering – cleaning beaches, teaching English… And once again, I’m shivering with fear. But also with excitement.
Because I know that the more I step out of my comfort zone, the more freedom I have.