On Pushing Yourself Outside Your Comfort Zone

February 13, 2012

On my first morning in Nicaragua, I procrastinated, staying in my hostel far longer than I needed to.

That was easy to do, since it was a treehouse hostel (in the jungle outside Granada), set apart from civilization. But I wasnt really listening for howler monkeys. I was nervous about striking out in a country where I didn’t speak the language — on my own.

view from treehouse

View from Treehouse Poste Rojo, outside Granada, Nicaragua.

What?! you say. Didn’t you travel alone in Africa?

Yes, but I know Africa. I don’t know Central America, which makes traveling alone a totally new challenge.

Secretly, I was hoping another traveler or two from the treehouse would go into town, and I could tag along. But most of the backpackers at this place had been traveling for months going on a year, and they were using the place as a sort of getaway, where they could relax and hang out with other gringos. I was just starting my trip — I wanted to get out there and see the country!

So I climbed down the mountain and hiked to the road, where I caught a passing bus to the nearest city, Granada. That was all I needed to find my groove, to realize that yes, I can communicate with bits of the language and smiles and hand gestures, and yes, I can figure out how to get back to my hostel on my own, and yes, I can travel independently in Central America.

Now, nearly a week later, it’s hard to believe that first step scared me. The people here are so friendly, so eager to help a stranger, that getting from place to place is hardly intimidating. Today at the bank, when the teller told me I needed my passport to change money and I said it was back at the hotel, the security guard vouched for me, offering his license so I could change dollars into cordobas ($1=22 cordobas or so). This is the country I was scared of?

But it’s natural to be scared of the unknown. When you don’t know what’s ahead, it’s easy to retreat, to step away rather than move forward. But look what happens when you move toward what scares you! You might very well discover something fabulously awesome.

Nicaragua, by the way, is fabulously awesome. Who couldn’t love a place where rice ‘n beans is served for breakfast?!

When was the last time you did something that scared you?

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11 Replies to “On Pushing Yourself Outside Your Comfort Zone”

  • Donna Pyle says:

    Good for you for walking straight through that fear into your new adventure. Whoot! How very exciting to see Central America through your eyes as a writer and adventurer. Go, go, go!

  • John Ohe says:

    Awesome blog (in general). And good for you for striking out to Central America. I was in Nicaragua over 10 years ago, when there were very few foreigners roaming around. It was alot of fun.

    Moreover, I am about to leave corporate, and move my family to Granada. For how long, I don’t know. But I got us a place starting May 1. My wife and I decided to take time off, and write a children’s book. We have no previous experience, but thought why not do it abroad (where we can have fun).

    Good luck rest of your days in Nicaragua.

  • It sounds like such an adventure, Lexi! I want to build my leap fund and travel to places like this. Such a dream, huh?

  • I think it’s been way too long since I did something that scared me, Alexis. Maybe it’s time. 🙂

  • Alyssa says:

    Hope you are having an amazing trip! 🙂

  • E. Sheppard says:

    I was scared when I went back to school — and I’m always scared when I travel alone to new places too. Good for you for going ahead and meeting new people there in Nicaragua! I look forward to more of your postings.

  • Anne-Sophie says:

    Taking the first step is always the scariest one.
    I have many things I was terrified of. Admitting myself to a treatment facility to finally fight against my eating disorder was the scariest thing I have ever done. But now, almost a year later, I am recovered and life is better than I could have ever imagined.
    Deciding to drop out of college in order to pursue self-employment was another scary step. But here I am, having successfully published my first product (The Ultimate Guide to a Healthy Body Image) and helping many people who are suffering from eating disorders and poor body image.
    It is all about making the first step.

  • levon walker says:

    I found your blog yesterday and wanted to say thank you for making such a useful aid to other writers. I was looking for advice on word count goals, improving copy, editing strategies, etc… I think I read about all of your links for “newbies” and then got caught in the chase towards your critique of Gilbert and then on to the summary of your book and your dissatisfaction with fairy tale endings that undo what the book was about in the first place.

    I love Gilbert too, she inspires. Watch her Ted talk about the “genius in the room” and you will likely come back to it once a week. I’m sure you feel that as a travel writer, who supports herself and dares to go with the best option of the day, that an upfront travel allowance and publishing interest from the start would be a nice “hug on the pillow” for some of the restless nights you have perhaps faced with uncertainties. A blog can be a worthwhile responsibility when you don’t have any guarantees. I’ve thought so, I don’t know if you have.

    Good luck with the book. For what it’s worth, I’m generally not interested in reading about someone’s glorious adventures. I’d rather go myself if we are talking about adventure. BUT, and a big BUT! I am interested in story. And a personal one, if it can be well told. You have convinced anyone here that you are about writing that. Cheers, and I wish you the best. And watch out for the howler monkeys.

  • Great post, Lexi.
    The last time I did something that scared me was when I flew to California to meet my new niece. For the first time, I left my husband and kids at home. Your post really got me thinking, so I blogged about it here:
    http://michellecusolito.blogspot.com/2012/02/travel-tuesdays-pushing-outside-your.html
    (I also linked to you).

  • LKWatts says:

    Hi Alexis,

    I’ve travelled around 3/4 of the world and some of this I did alone so I know how scary it can be sometimes. But most of the countries I was in spoke English so most of the time it was actually okay to travel without being stressed. However, when I went to Australia I went to Sydney first and even though I was travelling with a friend, I felt overwhelmed by the hugeness of the city. Stress when travelling can hit you at any time but it’s important to know it’s a natural part of being a backpacker.
    http://lkwattsconfessions.blogspot.com

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