Day 14: Step Out of Your Comfort Zone

My entire life is outside my comfort zone.

I live in a foreign country where I barely speak the language, I stick out like a sore thumb among the locals, I’m substantially older than most of the other foreigners here, and I’m learning a new vocation — and those are just the major points.

Yes, stepping out of my comfort zone has become quite a habit for me. So why would I include such a task in my 30-day challenge?

Because 99.9% of the time, I gain something invaluable from the experience, and I wanted to share that feeling with you.

But guess what? I couldn’t think of anything to do today!

Seriously. If it weren’t for my friend Kimberly, I would’ve passed on this challenge and written about that one time, a few months back, when I performed in a local production of The Vagina Monologues — an experience so terrifying that I’ll probably never do that sort of thing again.

Or I would’ve posted an unflattering photo of myself bad enough to make us all uncomfortable. Lucky for you, Kim saved the day.

So here’s what happened. We decided to hike Mt. Halla to see the famously bright pink azaleas that bloom in the spring. Supposedly, they cover the entire mountain. We only saw two.

Anyway, the trailhead we chose is difficult to access. Buses only run once an hour and cab rides there are expensive. We tried driving my van, but poor Pedro couldn’t make it up the long, steep, windy road.

So we drove as far as we could and started walking. And walking. And walking. And walking. And the trailhead was nowhere in sight. So Kim decided to step outside her comfort zone and hitch us a ride, something she had never done before.

The very first car, rented by a nice couple from Seoul, stopped and picked us up. Note to my parents: Hitchhiking here is nothing like hitchhiking at home. Please stop freaking out.

They were headed to a different trailhead, so they dropped us off at a sign that indicated we were only 300 meters from our destination.

The sign lied.

After walking, and walking, and walking, and walking, Kim decided to hitch us another ride. This time, a father and his two kids picked us up. The dad’s English was near perfect, but the kids, especially the teenage girl next to us, seemed embarrassed and annoyed. I guess some things are the same in every culture.

We finally made it to the trailhead just before the cutoff time to start the hike. Thank goodness, yet again, for the kindness of Korean strangers!

Our plan was to hike up one trail and down another and take the bus back to my car. So we finished the four-hour hike and began walking to the bus stop.

After a fair bit of walking, guess what Kim did? Yep, she hitched us a ride!

Again, the first car stopped. This time, it was an older couple. The woman got out and began rearranging the back seat to make room for us. I asked the man where they were going. It was the wrong direction, but the bus stop was nearby so they insisted on giving us a ride there anyway.

Then, we waited for the bus. And waited. And waited. And waited. Kim decided we should hitch again, but this time she said, “It’s time for you to step out of your comfort zone.”

She was right, so I stuck out my thumb and smiled with the most awkward, crazy expression imaginable. The driver of the first car just laughed as he passed us by. Maybe he didn’t stop because we were standing on the wrong side of the street. Or maybe because I looked insane.

We crossed the street and I tried again. I started feeling even more awkward and self-conscious when the second car passed us  — and the third! To be fair, the second car turned up the hill in the wrong direction and the third car was full. But still.

Finally, the fourth car stopped and a man rolled down the window. I asked, in Korean, “Where are you going?” (I was very proud of myself for this addition to the comfort-busting challenge.)

He answered, “Seogwipo.”

Hooray! It was the right direction, so I asked, using English, Korean and mime, if he could take us to my car. He agreed and we got in. Only then did I notice a woman sitting in the back seat.

I thought it was strange that he was driving while she was in back, and pondered it in silence for quite some time. I tried to fill the silence with lame attempts at conversation, including announcing that The Beatles were on the radio, and then Wings. When The Village People’s “YMCA” started playing, I tried and failed to invite them to a disco party we’re having next week.

That’s when I finally figured out what Kim must’ve known all along: In the back seat, under a blanket, a brand new baby was lying on the woman’s chest.

Can you imagine an American couple with a new baby stopping to pick up two foreign hitchhikers?

This is just another reason why I love Korea — and, of course, stepping outside my comfort zone. How did you step out of your comfort zone today?

Tomorrow’s Challenge: Sit Quietly in Nature
To see what’s coming up, check the 30-day Challenge List .

One more important thing before I go …

Here’s to appreciating you and all the thousands of times you must have stepped out of your comfort zone.

I love you!


7 thoughts on “Day 14: Step Out of Your Comfort Zone

  1. I stepped out of my comfort zone when I stepped out of bed. After all, I was a year older. I was older than I’d ever been before and was not comfortable with the added age. It was a bit scary. Later, when we went to breakfast, I stepped out of my comfort zone again. I ordered eggs over easy. I had not done that in more than a year because of the salmonella threat. So, I was really out of the comfort zone, since the the bacteria effects the young and the old (me) the most. It was very scary and I was very much uncomfortable until I actually ate the meal and found it wonderful. When I got home, YoM asked me to take apart a perfectly fine lamp I had made out of a vase we bought. She thought it was too tall, and wanted me to remake it according to an article she had seen in Southern Living. After I took it apart, she couldn’t find the article. Now I was totally out of the comfort zone. In fact, I was about zoned out. Now it was YoM who was getting scared. Everything eventually resolved itself, but we decided that we are too far along to leave the comfort of our comfort zones. We spent a comfortable evening with a comfortable group of people and are looking forward to a comfortable night in our comfortable bed.

    • LOL!! So, do I detect a subtle birthday? If so, HAPPY BIRTHDAY. =) Hope your birthday was comfortably delicious, and your comfort zone continues to stretch more and more each day. Wahoooo!

  2. Wow…. Stepping out of the comfort zone. That is a challenge everyone should take daily throughout their lives. Just think how different this world would be if everyone took the time and exhibited the courage to challenge their little zones of comfort to explore life beyond those enclosures! Or would that make for just too much excitement? Perhaps it would open doors to more happiness.

    So what was the challenge like for me? Sorry, can’t tell you … Unless I challenge the comfort zone:)

    Few challenges exceed personal humility. Admitting to screwing up, asking to be forgiven, and asking to start again is a big one. We all know what it’s like to be in that place. Don’t we?

    Something triggers a defensive reaction and we react as fast as our primitive brain produces the adrenaline for our survival. Before we know it, we become upset, say something in anger, and then what”s next? If we are aware enough, we can feel ourselves being activated. We feel the rise of emotion. We know we are reacting, often to something very trivial that has to do with our perception of our self concept, our competence, our significance … And we know we are not quick enough, yet to step out of the way of that train before it runs us over with some unfortunate expression voiced through our mouths! YIKES!!!!!!! Did I really say that? How did it happen so fast? What is really going on? What now?

    That was my big challenge of the day.

    How curious it was that after months of going through a big remodeling project amicably, this should happen at the very end as we get our home back in order.

    GULP …..

    Time to admit I was an ass, apologize, recreate the event without the influence of the triggers, arrive at a better outcome, heal the feelings, and end in a nice loving hug.

    Maybe next time, the matador will field the cape more competently, watch the bull pass harmlessly alongside, and return to business with a deep calming breath of relief in the knowledge that he has survived again.

    How nice it is to know it is safe to screw up and admit it …. That screwing up Is a human condition…. That I can begin again….

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