Where the comfort zone ends…
Comfort zone is a dangerous path to mediocrity. We are educated to often keep it safe, without being actually told about all the consequences that it brings. This year I celebrated 5 years of being a digital nomad life. I left my comfort zone behind, the day I decided I wanted to travel the world and work from anywhere. I stopped on paradisiac islands, I lived in remote villages, I changed careers and I fell in love with tons of places in the world.
When I took this path, I was not ready to give up on all I had, I was terrified. So for a long time, I kept an apartment in Bucharest with tons of stuff that I never used. Time and experience convinced me to slowly move on and nowadays I fully nomadic life. Where do you live? This is the most difficult question that one can ask me. I am from Romania, even if I never felt fully Romanian (I know haters are going to hate this), but the truth is I have not lived anywhere in ages. I felt at home in Morocco, I made lifetime friends in Malta, I fully relaxed in Cape Verde and I healed in the Maldives. They were all home for me for a while.
My comfort zone expanded
Over the year, I grew from being a terrified traveler to an experienced digital nomad. I am comfortable going to more unusual places for remote workers such as Namibia and I have all the necessary gear to have a decent internet connection everywhere. I became adaptable, to the point where I quite questioned my boundaries. Where does my comfort zone end now?
I still do not have that answer, but I know my comfort zone expanded. I am literally comfortable anywhere I go. I know very well my needs and over time I learned to ensure I have them covered. From good coffee to a WiFi extender, I got it all. I know how much I can push myself to always move and I can always spot when my body is terribly tired. My comfort zone physically, mentally, and culturally is more tolerant of new, change, and discomfort.
And I grew a lot
It is not just my comfort zone that expanded, it is myself who grew a lot as a human being. I am an open person to almost everything. Whatever comes my way, I welcome it with an open heart. Good or bad, easy or not, I try to take my lessons. More important, I do not get lost in difficult situations. After losing flights, being robbed, or getting malaria, there are very few things in life that can truly stress me out. And even when they do, I am still able to re-balance quickly, remembering who I am and what I stand for.
In my digital nomad life, I learned about new countries, cultures, food, festivals, and beliefs. I shifted my mindset from places I wanted to see, to things I wanted to learn. I dealt with loneliness, joy, sickness, fear, or success over these couple of years. Often on my own. Which made everything more intense. I learned to know that I am a very intense person myself, with strong opinions and beliefs. I managed to become more tolerant towards the others. I discovered I am actually someone who is still deeply attached to my family and friends. I challenged myself to become vulnerable and I have been. I fell in love with island life: heart foot, always with a bikini on and quite chill. I gave up drinking for several months. I calmed down, had rage attacks and calmed down once again. I became fluent in Spanish. I started diving. I hiked some incredible mountains.
Over these 5 years I became a better person and going out of my comfort zone played an important role.
But it is tiring…
What people do not talk about is how tiring it can turn to be. There is always a context switching factor. I do not only change countries, but also people I interact with, language I speak, way of dressing up, supermarket I go to, food I usually eat, network provider or how I do laundry. Everything almost Shortly, I struggled having a routine over these years. I managed to build some habits regardless of where I am which include changing close before starting to work, having always coffee or catching the sunset but…It’s been tiring.
I had days when I wondered why I did it all. I had to do laundry by hand more than once and it’s been frustrating. I lost buses, could not get car rentals or got kicked out of accommodations. That annoyed me terribly. We got robbed and had to explain in Spanish what happened. I returned to Romania and I knew I had to travel for another 5-10 hours to get to my parent’s house. All those added up and there were days when I felt terribly tired of my digital nomad life.
I had moments when I thought I could give up. All those beautiful dreams I was felt not worth the mental tiredness that I kept accumulating…
And that’s when I remember why I chose this lifestyle in the very first place. I wanted to grow, to develop, to become a better version of myself. I do not always need to be full in, but I am sure I am not ready to give up on my digital nomad life. There are days when I take it slower and I accepted to return in some of the places that I loved the most. But at the end of the day, I am what most of my friends describe me, a free spirit.
I think I was born like that, but I definitely grew that inside me by traveling. I am daydreaming about a bunch of destinations, I am spontaneously going to some others and I keep adding new destinations. I am dreaming of achieving different goals around the globe and I am still impressed about how I can quickly adapt. I am always ready to meet new people, teach some kids in school or share some of my experiences in a talk. I want to always taste new flavors and see weddings across the globe. I could probably live in a yurt, tent, cottage or beach house, just to see how it is…and by now I know that some of these experiences will make me feel strange at least.
I am someone who steps out of my comfort zone very pragmatically, with no shame if something bad happens.
When comfort zone ends, you get better
This is probably the message I would like to send. My digital nomad life has been my very first conscious way to go out of my comfort zone. Over the years, I made a bunch of other changes: I changed careers, I spoke in front of 10,000 people, I went to gatherings where I knew no one, I started a podcast and I ate worms. Is there more for me left that could be me going out of my comfort zone? YES, and I cannot wait to experience it.
It will be tiring at times and even frustrating sometimes. It will leave you tired or confused. It will take out some of your deepest fears. It will challenge some of your strongest beliefs. It will make you lose people. And meet new people. It will show you new ways of leaving. It will be the source of some of the biggest joys in life. It will heal some of your trauma. It will teach you tons. It will grow your comfort zone. And you.