Reframe Your Comfort Zone For Impactful Travel

Understanding your comfort zone, setting goals to reframe your comfort zone, and taking small steps towards those goals will lead to personal growth and impactful travel.

Many ask me, “What is the comfort zone, and how do I know what is within mine?” In response, I ask, “What are you comfortable with?” What is comfortable is different for everyone, so there is no definitive answer to this question. Another popular phrase you hear is “Step outside of your comfort zone.” It sounds so easy, but when you step outside your comfort zone, eventually, you step back in, with perhaps little or no change. I note these common comfort zone conversations because beginning that thought process can be powerful, and thought of in the proper context can lead to personal growth and impactful travel. I like to look at it more as reframing what you find comfortable to include different activities and experiences than before, not necessarily stepping outside of, but living differently inside your comfort zone. I have this view from personal experience as I have spent the last five years reframing my comfort zone slowly and passionately.

In 2018, I lost my father suddenly. This was a traumatic life event for me, as my father was the one person who really understood me. He was my biggest supporter, and I never imagined that he would be gone before I found my place and passions in life.

This became a catalytic moment for me, setting me on a course of self-discovery that ultimately led me to explore the world and to create Create Joy. Rekindling my passion for travel had many intrinsic benefits for my overall health and wellness, especially during this particularly challenging time. However, I did not morph into a confident and intrepid traveler overnight, nor did I jump right in and book that first memorable trip on a whim. The process required me to take a more reflective position, as I began evaluating my priorities and goals moving forward. 

RECOGNIZING WHAT “COMFORT” MEANS TO YOU

For me, always staying within the perimeters of what was comfortable did not initiate continuous growth, nor did it lead to exposure to the kinds of knowledge and experiences I wished to have. The achievements I imagined attaining were largely built outside the defensive boundaries I had erected. In order to set new goals for myself, I first needed to recognize and acknowledge what motivated me and discouraged me, and why certain routines and behaviors had become my default setting. 

There were comfortable activities I had adopted, and spaces and places where I spent the majority of my time. These spaces and places had a protective quality to them. They were my “go-tos” when I wanted or needed to escape the grind. However, after spending a good deal of time in these safe and removed environments, instead of rebooting my energy and wherewithal to get back out there and tackle events and projects, often when I resurfaced, I found I had no drive or desire to re-engage or interact. And what was as concerning was that I felt less committed to delivering on promises to others, both socially and professionally. Sometimes it was just plain overwhelming to consider all that I had put off in order to keep myself from burning out. 

I relied on certain comfortable activities because I could predict their outcomes. I avoided anything too challenging that I believed asked too much of me, or really pushed me. Other activities evolved out of habit and without much thought. For the most part, I could perform my regular routine on autopilot, while I skirted around the fact that I was depressed. 

Then I came across this Psychology Today article, and it got me inspired to take on the practice of visualization: “Close your eyes. Think of something you chronically avoid doing…How do you organize your life to avoid doing it? Imagine that pattern of avoidance is actually a place you hide in. That’s your Comfort Zone.” 

It isn’t easy to expose unsavory habits, unflattering characteristics, and disappointing traits that may leave you feeling less than proud of yourself.

Visualization became a useful tactic in pinpointing what comfort meant to me. Once I was able to define my comfort zone, I targeted the habits and activities I wanted to change and grow. These circled areas became known as my “growth opportunities,”  and the foundational elements of my “Desired Comfort Zone.”

There were many markups, but ultimately this exercise gave me a better picture of myself– a picture that was necessary to have as a growth comparison.

Remember:

  1. Not everything within your comfort requires reframing. We all have special and unique qualities that make us who we are. Everyone has a little badass in them. 
  2. “My growth opportunities” are just that; they are mine and they are for me. I am the one who wanted to grow. The desire to reframe should come from you and no one else. 

DEFINING YOUR DESIRED COMFORT ZONE

Based on my default comfort zone and the growth opportunities I identified, I began re-envisioning my desired comfort zone. I focused on what brought me joy, inspiration, and sparks of passion. 

I knew I wanted to grow more opportunities around travel, because in the past, it was travel that once brought me great pleasure. So, I imagined a comfort zone that had me being adventurous, taking more risks, and being more purposeful while at home and when I was traveling. 

Now I had something mapped out, a schematic to help me move forward. What I needed to do next was take action. 

But taking action after having been stuck in a routine, depressed, and feeling anxious for such a long time was like pulling myself out of a deep, sticky mud pit. I knew I needed to set reasonable goals, or else I would become too discouraged, and it would be easier for me to give up, and wallow in my inaction and lack of fortitude.    

DETERMINE YOUR GOALS & START SMALL

This Forbes article was particularly handy in helping me with next steps. In the article, Rosie Guagliardo refers to the practice of creating and nurturing an “Inspired Life.” She is an advocate of taking one small step at a time, stating, “It’s natural for our minds to resist change. Thinking about taking the tiniest step tricks your brain into taking action.” When you focus on breaking goals down to manageable steps, taking each step gives you a little more confidence. And as you begin to associate certain goals, steps, and changes with positive outcomes, you will be more motivated and more likely to achieve the outcomes you desire. 

I wanted to start out with a growth opportunity that could be built upon, especially one I could keep working on as I traveled and had more experiences. I had identified that my default was to be introverted in group settings, that is, when I wasn’t avoiding group settings altogether. So, I made a list of five related, but smaller goals that had me interacting with others, and ordered them from easiest to most difficult for me. I next mapped these goals as steps and concentric rings that ultimately moved me closer to my ideal point of comfort within groups and with strangers. 

Eventually, I had a “smaller goals” list written out for each growth opportunity. On a large notepad, I wrote out my new plan and hung it on a wall. To this day, that is where it still hangs, where I can see it daily. As I accomplish a small goal, I check it off. The notepad has moved with me three times and traveled by my side on a year-long, cross-country road trip. I’m still checking off goals, but my comfort zone has grown exponentially with time. 

As Eleanor Roosevelt put it, “Courage is more exhilarating than fear, and in the long run, it is easier. We do not have to become heroes overnight. Just one step at a time, meeting each thing that comes up, seeing it is not as dreadful as it appeared, discovering we have the strength to stare it down.”

I have changed a lot since I took on these reframing exercises back in 2018, and I am still working on opportunities that move me closer to a comfort zone that embraces the uncertain and spontaneous, alongside the new and the different; a comfort zone that places travel, curiosity, and thoughtful inquisition centrally.

The beauty about these exercises is that they are not set in stone. They are living proof that natural growth is innately continuous and flexible. Whenever life starts feeling monotonous, or I am feeling unclear about how I proceed, I pull out the notepad, introduce new goals, and get back to the inspiring work of reframing my comfort zone.

WHAT YOU ARE SEEKING, IS SEEKING YOU

Sometimes it is the tiniest spark of inspiration that sets us on the path of self-discovery, sometimes it is a momentous life-altering experience that incites a new-awakening. Your goal may be to Create Joy, discover a new outlook, try new things, have a transformative experience, or reconnect with a long-lost passion. It could be a combination of these things, or something else entirely. The beautiful thing about self-discovery is that we all approach the path differently, and we all bring with us our individual perspectives, beliefs, tools, and skill sets. Ultimately, where this path will lead will be different, as will our takeaways. 

That is why Create Joy customizes one-of-a-kind excursions and experiences for those looking to enhance their lives through travel and adventure. We know that pre-packaged trips are built for the masses without sustainability in mind, and that they do not center on the goals and interests of the individual. We know that other agencies do not offer a participatory booking process, nor do they offer the resources and support you may need to bridge your past self with your future self. And, we know at the end of the day you don’t want to walk away with just pictures from a trip; that you would rather come away with a deeper awareness and ongoing appreciation of other cultures and places, candid memories and unique stories, and the kind of authentic and holistic experiences that inspire ongoing growth and learning. 

What we will offer you at Create Joy is a step-by-step process that is neither intimidating or overwhelming. As a new client, we will begin with a few simple exercises that will help us unlock the travel experiences that are a best fit for you. In this initial introductory stage, we will look at what comfort means to you. Through this process we will identify your personal travel goals. And finally we will customize and design your next new adventure. We are ready and excited for you to get out there! 

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