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 …
HAPPY BIRTHDAY DAD!
Here’s to appreciating you and all the thousands of times you must have stepped out of your comfort zone.
I love you!