Get Out There

Get Out There

When I was 13, Mom announced that we were all taking a trip over summer vacation. This wasn’t exactly new, we’d been going somewhere during the summer for as long as I could remember. This year though, instead of the usual motion of piling as much as we could fit into the car and driving 20 hours to Florida to stay with Aunt Nanci and Uncle Pete, we would be traveling around the country for six weeks. It was cool though, Mom assured us, we didn’t need to worry about camping the whole time or staying in crappy motels where we had to lie on the floor because someone in the hall maybe said something about a gun, we were buying a motorhome!

Not Betsy, but close

Not Betsy, but close. Photo credit:

After weeks of searching the classifieds we ended up with Betsy, which was definitely not the best late 70’s Class C RV that $6000 could buy, but hindsight is 20/20. I’ll skip the plethora of stories, breakdowns, and challenges of the journey, mostly because they could fill a book (Mom, I really do want that manuscript), but we ended up returning home in a U-Haul we rented in Grinnell, Iowa after Betsy threw a rod on the last day of our trip. Despite the many trials of the motorhome trip, as it came to be known, I somehow walked away with positive memories of the whole experience.

The urge to travel has been drifting around my head with various levels of prominence since that notorious summer, and it parked itself front and center after I’d gotten out of college and worked a few years. Apparently sitting at a desk staring at a computer for half my waking life was effective motivation to do something different. Namely, the exact opposite of that.

Although the lack of being active and spending time outdoors was a large part of my reasoning for moving into a van and traveling, there was more to it than that. I began to see how simple it would be to become complacent in the comfort of my desk job, to let my life gradually morph into something I never wanted.

A sunset just can't be properly experienced from the couch

A sunset just can’t be properly experienced from the couch – Big Bend National Park, Texas

As we settle into routines in our adult lives, it’s so easy for our world to shrink. For the day to day monotony to take over, slowly excluding that which doesn’t fit easily into the shape of the life we’ve settled into. New experiences become less common, we stop pushing our boundaries, stop learning, stop questioning. It becomes easy to feel the only safe place is that which is familiar to you.

Sailors know a thing or two about getting out of their comfort zones

Sailors know a thing or two about getting out of their comfort zones – Bahamas

But that mindset is where the real danger lies. When we’re fearful of the unknown, fearful of what we don’t understand. When we let our world shrink past that critical threshold where we routinely get out of our comfort zone, it becomes a feedback loop where we push ourselves less and our world gets ever smaller.

Fortunately this cycle works the opposite way as well. When you get out of your comfort zone and expand your horizons, it becomes easier to push your boundaries the next time. This leads to more new experiences, a broader worldview, and sunshine, rainbows, and unicorns all around.

Making new friends from around the world, Xi'an, China

Making new friends from around the world – Xi’an, China

There are many ways to accomplish this, but my favorite is (surprise, surprise) to get out and travel! Go see the world for yourself and learn about it firsthand. Take a trip somewhere you’ve never been, do things you wouldn’t usually do, talk to people you wouldn’t normally meet. When you push your boundaries like this, your world gets bigger instead of smaller.

Throughout the traveling I’ve done over the years, this has been evident time and time again. The people I meet who travel have a much more positive outlook on the world than those who don’t. They don’t hesitate to visit foreign lands and try things they aren’t entirely comfortable with, because past experiences have taught them that just maybe, the world isn’t quite as big and bad as it can seem from in front of the television screen.

My preferred method of traveling now, Utah

My preferred method of traveling now – Utah

So keep expanding your horizon. Get out there, explore, do something that scares you. See what you can learn about the world. See what you can learn about yourself.

Wandering, Norway

Wandering – Norway