In a previous blog, I wrote about the benefits of taking a trip to gain clarity and focus.
This blog’s focus is on the benefits of getting out of your comfort zone by taking a trip.
Being out of your comfort zone can be excruciating
Let me first say that as an executive coach and professional speaker on personal and organizational change, I’m always asking my clients to do things that are uncomfortable for them. And while I don’t relish the idea of purposely being uncomfortable, I believe in the value of walking the talk and doing things to stretch myself, just as I ask my clients to do.
I am bold and fearless in many ways and am willing to be uncomfortable in many business situations. But I have to admit that until about 8 – 10 years ago, being a solo traveler for vacations was excruciating for me. I was pitiful.
As a frame of reference, as a kid, I was lucky enough to have parents who loved to vacation. So my first plane ride was to Bermuda at age 6. And we had lots of family trips to interesting places like Jamaica, St. Maarten, St. Barts and Nassau. I spent a summer in France at age 17 with a group where I was supposed to be studying French. For the next three decades as an adult, I had some good travel partners and was able to take some pretty nice vacations.
Then I was faced with having friends who didn’t have the time, money or interest to vacation to the places I wanted to go. The thought of going on vacation alone was horrifying.
I tried taking a 4-day cruise and found myself, tearfully, in my cabin each night… feeling pitiful that I was eating alone among families and couples, who were polite to this single woman, but really didn’t want to engage with her beyond the dinner table.
I realized I had three choices: 1) find compatible (that’s the operative word here…) friends who were able to take trips or 2) postpone or forego taking vacations or…3) learn how to travel solo. I opted for Door #3: Learn how to travel solo.
Please keep in mind that while I’m writing about being out of my comfort zone by travelling solo, the concepts can be applied to most situations when dealing with change or uncomfortable situations.
Face Your Fears
I started by getting clear about my fears, apprehensions and dread of travelling solo. One of the biggest concerns was eating alone in (nice) restaurants and hearing those dreaded three words: Table for ONE???
The second thing that I dreaded was not being able to share the experiences with a companion.
And the third dread was not having someone help plan or brainstorm ideas about what to do.
I think that by being clear about what I feared or dreaded most, I was able to put some structures in place to ease the discomfort.
I started small, by extending a business trip and spent a long weekend at a small resort town – in the “off-season.” Being there in the “off-season,” provided a more relaxed experience, without crowds, aka families and couples.
In order to deal with the dreaded “table for ONE,” I developed different strategies: I always have a book or magazine to read, or journal to write in. Having a local map or tour book is a great conversation starter. A lite bite at the bar of a local pub can be less intimidating than being conspicuously seated at a very small table by the kitchen – which, by the way, is the designated area for solo-eaters, unless you request a different table.
As for being able to share my experiences, I learned that Facebook was my friend. By posting pictures and comments, I found that I had an instant “community” and friends who were sharing in my experiences.
This strategy also helped the 3rd dread of having to plan all my activities because people would often recommend places to go or ask: “where are we going tomorrow?!” I had instant collaborators about what to do next!
I have repeated and refined these simple steps many times to the point that travelling solo in the USA is no big deal and really enjoyable. Travelling solo internationally was my next step in overcoming being out of my comfort zone. Solo international travel presented another set of fears and choices and I will address those in a future blog.
It can become a small world after all
The point is that I believe it’s important for each of us to do things that are outside of our comfort zones. If we stay within the confines of what we know or what’s predictable or within our control, our world will get very small.
So I encourage you to take a look at the things that are out of your comfort zone and determine if those fears are impacting your quality of life, your self-esteem or self-confidence. Then you have a choice. Will that fear constrict your life? Or will it propel you to take some baby steps to do something different?
Remember: the only difference between a rut and a grave is the depth of the hole and how long you plan to stay in it. If you’re in a rut right now, the answer to getting out of your comfort zone is taking action. Identify your fears, set small goals, write them down, and take action.
Marty Stanley, CSP, is a national speaker and consultant on personal and organizational change and 2017 Coach of the Year – Women in Business Silver Stevie Award. If you or your organization are in a rut, Marty will help you create a strategy and alter your outcomes. firstname.lastname@example.org, 858-432-6764 816-695-5453 www.alteringoutcomes.com https://www.linkedin.com/in/martystanley
Thank you for sharing this post on your blog. It is EXACTLY what I needed. I get it. All of it. Your approach, facing the fear, makes perfect sense. The beast isn’t so powerful when I stare it straight in the eyes. I share all of your same fears about traveling alone. Now I am excited to consider how I will use travel to overcome fear.