As I reflected on our recent trip and how mentally unprepared I was for the minor frustrations we encountered, I realized that it revealed what a deep rut I’d gotten into. I don’t remember struggling as much with everything being “foreign” on previous trips. Perhaps that was because I was younger and more flexible, or because our lives were less settled pre-parenthood. I’m not quite sure, but it has left me with the intention to keep from getting so stuck again.
My daily life, like most people’s, is full of routine. Some is necessary and inevitable, but I think I’ve created some because I really, really don’t like to be uncomfortable. Now that I think about it, I tend to avoid discomfort as much as I can. And when I’m uncomfortable, either mentally or physically, I will go to great lengths to fix it as soon as possible. (I suspect this is also why I chronically overpack: if I am cold, or start to feel sick, I want to have items with me so that I can immediately remedy the situation—and, avoid the potential discomfort of having to seek out something I need quickly in an unfamiliar place. Wow, seeing that in print makes me cringe. Definitely time to loosen up!)
This most recent trip has reminded me that good travel actually involves being uncomfortable. If I am somewhere new, of course it’s not going to feel comfortable, because I’ve never experienced it before. Unfamiliar things feel strange, because they are. And so in order to truly get the most out of traveling, I need to embrace the unfamiliar.
I need to get comfortable with being uncomfortable.
That is where growth happens, right? In life—and especially as you approach midlife, it seems—we have two choices: either keep growing and expanding (thereby experiencing discomfort) or stay small, keeping everything the same. The second choice will inevitably lead to a shrinking of our world—a slow decline that feels way more terrible to me than some occasional discomfort. So I will consciously choose to keep seeking out new experiences, knowing that the discomfort they bring is good for me.
In fact, it may be time to revive my 2017 project of trying something new each month. Every activity I did last year definitely made me uncomfortable, whether it was surfing, taking piano lessons (and then performing live!), or even starting this blog! But every activity also made me proud, even when I didn’t do it very well. Just the fact that I tried was empowering, and each time I felt energized.
To be fair, I have already done new things this year that stretched me—publishing a book and then talking to strangers about it in person definitely count! But I’m going to recommit to seeking out more novelty, and will head into the second half of 2018 with a refreshed dedication to adventure and exploration.
How about you? Do you also dislike discomfort, or are you one of the lucky people who thrive on challenges? Either way, I hope your summer is filled with plenty of fun, whether it’s from exciting new experiences or comforting familiar ones!