I’m a huge fan of the journey outside of the comfort zone and often stand back, take a look at the routine of life and think – it’s time to shake things up and see what happens.
The ‘shake up’ scale ranges from the seemingly small and mundane (joining a new sporting team) to the real ‘blow life up’ moments (packing a suitcase and moving countries x 3 times and counting) and a whole lot of adventure and opportunity in between. But each time, I do it with the sense that I want to jar myself out of the routine and easy comforts and elicit a spark, an edge of the unknown back into my world to bring life into sharp focus again.
And so it was, last Spring, that I decided it was time once again for a big leap outside of the comfort zone.
With the intention set, it did not take long for a challenge to find me. As with all my incredibly entertaining and deeply stretching life adventures I have embarked on, the possibilities and excitement 100% led on the decision making. It was therefore not entirely surprising that with no real contemplation, mechanical skills or driving partner, I found myself committing to drive a small VW polo 6,000+ miles from Ulan-Ude (Eastern Siberia) to London after it had already travelled across some of the worst roads in the world.
As the date for departure started nearing and I actually had to think about the reality of what was coming, the seeds of doubt started to rapidly grow. The starting position was ‘what’s the worst that can happen driving across almost all of Russia back to London?’ In my head – a lot!
A selection of my subsequent musings that swiftly followed that question included; What if the car breaks down in the middle of nowhere and I’m stuck? Will I even be able to drive the car (having last driven a manual car 18 years ago)? Will I be safe? What if I get lost? What will the quality of roads/drivers be like? What if I get in an accident? What if I get pulled over by the police? How is the best way to navigate a situation that may require a bribe to change hands? How hard will it be to navigate the language barrier? What if I can’t find a driving partner and end up doing this whole road trip on my own? What if I get attacked by a bear? (a real possibility in Siberia…)
What if, what if, what if???
You can see how quickly it spirals…
And given that this was one of my more out there adventures in recent years, these were not only the quiet concerns I had, they were echoed back to from family, friendship circles and the stories of those who have gone before courtesy of Google.
There is one constant that comes with any shake up / challenge / new or different thing that we want to try – big or small - and that is fear. All of the ‘what if’s’ that can get in our way and derail us before we have even started - keeping our possibilities firmly stuck in our dream space rather than becoming our reality.
I had a fairly good idea what was coming – the everyday act of driving overlaid with a complete sensory overload of language, culture, food, customs, landscape and questionable roads to navigate. Facing the unfamiliar every day for four weeks and having to keep going. The sheer exhaustion of it all.
So why do it? Is the reward really greater than the risk and the effort?
Well – I wouldn’t be writing this if I didn’t think this to be a fundamental truth. Challenging ourselves regularly outside of our day to day routines and habits is the gift that keeps giving. It supports us to know ourselves better, build our curiosity of the world and of others deepening our tolerance, spark our creativity, discover new layers of our own capability, exercise our resilience and perseverance muscles, expand our identity, experience emotions, be present in the moment and feel alive.
All of this versus same, same, different day…
Whatever it is you choose to do to step outside of your comfort zone – big or small – the conscious act of recognising and committing to doing it will offer you an opportunity to expand yourself, your perspective and your experience of life.
It’s now 4 months post trip and the dust is still settling from this particular foray into the shake up zone. Over the coming weeks, I’ll be sharing some of my experiences – both the highs and lows. Join me as we travel across the largest country in the world to find out what lessons there are to be learnt from time on a very long drive.