The comfort zone can be anything that makes you so comfortable that you don’t want to leave it even briefly: your job, your computer, your circle of friends, your home, your routine, your fixed beliefs. It’s a tempting place to hang out, even when it’s not very rewarding; I admit to spending the occasional weekend in a cocoon, drinking coffee and watching drivel on TV (so easy, so undemanding). But then I decide to take riding lessons so I can do a horse trek in Mongolia, or hire a personal trainer so I can climb Kilimanjaro, or sign up for a week of driving a dog team in the Yukon wilderness, or, on a different plane, start a blog or find someone whose views are opposite to mine so we can debate. These aren’t youthful follies, just the latest ventures in a lifetime of stepping out of my comfort zone.
There are people to whom I would like to give a push. I’m not suggesting that they go ride a camel in the Gobi desert, but I hope they can be persuaded to try something that scares them just a little, that makes them feel uncomfortable, so they can understand how much we grow from risk. Herewith my list:
People who ask me, “Aren’t you afraid to do (insert just about any trip or activity I undertake)?” Yes, I’m afraid of bears, falling off my horse, breaking my neck skiing, getting lost in the wilderness. If I weren’t, I would be crazy to embark on most of my adventures. Fear keeps me safe, it doesn’t keep me at home.
People who find the digital, virtual world so real they can’t be bothered to learn about the planet on which they live. If we lose our attachment to nature, which is far more powerful than our best technology, how are we going to deal with the challenges that face us?
People who don’t have a passion; when the children are grown and gone, when you have retired, outlived your friends and /or spouse, will you spend your days watching TV, too bored, scared or bewildered to venture into new territory?
People who never tempt fate, never risk failure. You either grow by seeking new experiences or you grow old. I know too many people like that.
People who cannot be happy alone. I once met a woman who had been solo backpacking for two days. She said she couldn’t stand her own company any longer. If she has nothing to offer to herself, what can she offer to others? But kudos to her for at least trying something new.
If I have a mission (beyond trying to cram as much adventure as possible into the next few years), it is to inspire others to take that first step to a world beyond their borders, to grasp the joy of living boldly. It took me a while to learn that lesson, but at 75 I am in many ways younger than I was at 25.