“Wait, what? I can’t hear you”, I shouted over my shoulder.
He didn’t respond.
He kept shuffling forward, pushing me towards the open door, my muffled shouts were lost to the roar of airplane’s engine, which growled from the wing overhead. For a moment, its cold, white steel flashed in my vision, my face prickling with the chill of the gale. My legs dangled out of the side of the carriage.
I felt the nothingness below as I stared out to a wall of cloud. The knot in my stomach tightened.
Was this it? Were we ready?
I felt a push from behind. Ready or not, it was time to go…
Travel broadens your horizons.
The truth is that it does much more. It pushes you to places where you would never find yourself during the routine of normal life, forcing you to grow, thus making you realize that to escape your comfort zone is actually a great thing worth tackling the fear that rides alongside adventure.
Fleeing the nest is the leap that gets the ball rolling. After that, there are many more big leaps, (some quite literally!), which will thrust you into situations that are anything but comfortable.
And yet, by the end, each and every one will bring you confidence and belief you never imagined you could have before.
When you travel, you find yourself pushed into scenarios or presented with opportunities to grow. Sometimes they may defeat you, but not forever.
After all there’s only so long you can play Captain Hindsight, mulling over how things should have went down in the dusty aftermath, re-enacting the scene in the mirror and laying the smack-down to an empty room.
Every challenge brings a chance to learn. to grow, to get stronger.
Next time you’ll do better, you tell yourself.
And then you do…
Then, you get curious. Suddenly, you want more of the same. You want to escape your comfort zone more often. Just how far can you take it? How much can you grow?
Pushing the boundaries of what is comfortable or normal comes easy in Australia. I had just one month along the well-trodden path of the east coast but the brother and I made sure to get a bellyful of butterflies as often as we could.
Here’s five ways you can escape your comfort zone on Australia’s east coast.
Sky diving from 14,000 feet
Don’t worry about the butterflies in your stomach on the bus ride from Cairns. The sickening knot that develops in your gut will simply crush that fluttering as harrowing realization dawns upon your arrival at the airstrip.
Many daredevils will splash the extra bucks to land on a beach but regardless of where your feet touch down, what comes before is a rush everyone should experience at least once in a lifetime. Planes or heights are no problem for me personally, nor would they be an issue for anyone afterwards if they can summon the courage to tackle their fears head on.
Feeling the wind bluster as we plummeted through the clouds, it was impossible not to smile, even as the ground below came into focus. The amazing freefall was over in an instant but the parachute ride is one to remember. As soon as it’s over, the adrenaline rush will be driving you to do something else crazy. Bungee? Base Jump! Bring it! Raaaaar!
Scuba diving in the Great Barrier Reef
The waiver in my hand awaited a few flicks from the pen. Glancing at the professional divers running the show, I hesitated, considering the emboldened warning on the paper; “people with asthma should not partake in this activity”.
My pen idled above the checkbox next to ‘asthma’ as I looked around the others hurriedly filling their waivers in before getting fitted with flippers and goggles.
The beautiful azure water shimmered around the boat, the sun’s ray illuminating the wild and wonderful colors of the reef below the surface. I had to go down there, I had to see it.
With a deep breath, I skipped the checkbox…
Some thirty minutes later, I found myself in the water.
I felt the pressure around my chest, but remained focused on the simplest of jobs; breathing.
My mind was working in overdrive sending reassuring messages.
Slow, easy, calm….
My brother was to my right, the pro diver between us, holding each of us by the hand, she guided us towards the darkness at the ocean’s floor.
A huge turtle sat there, acknowledging our presence with a little nod; a curt welcome into his vibrant underwater jungle, which constantly moved with the bubbles and bursts from fish swarming around us.
Looking back over my shoulder, I cast my gaze to the surface, seeing the bottom of the boat some fifty foot above us, the sunlight glistening like a star while we hung out in the quiet, deep blue.
Lying about having asthma to go scuba diving in the Great Barrier Reef? Pfft, totally worth it!
Whitewater Rafting in Cairns
If going under the water with a heavy tank on your back is a step too far, try floating above the surface with a life-vest on.
The Tully River outside of Cairns is sure to get your heart beating quickly amid the spills and screams as you and your pals, old and new, trash and turn down the rapids, jump over waterfalls (little ones) and do your best “I’m not afraid” impressions while your knuckles turn white as you cling onto the raft like your life depends on it…which may well be an appropriate response to the exhilarating horror you are putting yourself through.
I’ve been rafting a few times in different countries but nothing has topped this yet.
Get a fruit picking job
Australia has an abundance of work. That means a lot of opportunity to reinvent yourself. Hated that old job? Then try something new.
When it comes to practical, hands-on tasks that involve tools and require some element of brute strength or manual effort, I am what you might call, somewhat challenged. Others may simply say I’m a useless bastard.
I don’t know what it is but I seem to have an uncanny knack for making such tasks seem quite complex, clumsily bungling my way through them in a manner that will surely result in a hilariously tragic death if I spend too long in any such industry.
Luckily for me, fruit picking was another survivor story and through several months of living rough and putting my body through physical exertion fifty hours a week in the sunshine, I learned a few things about myself. Turns out I’m not made of glass and actually enjoy getting my hands dirty…when the money’s good enough.
Many people who travel will stick to what’s comfortable. If they’re travelling in a group, with friends or a partner, they might rarely, if ever dare to grow their social circle on the road.
The experiences above are sure to help you conquer fear, push boundaries within your own mind and gain confidence to embark on bigger, bolder adventures. But one of the most beautiful things about travel is the opportunity to meet people. The chance to meet new friends, find like-minded souls and make real connections with people from all over the world is a joy every traveler should snap up.
While travelling in Australia, there may be no better place to do this than on boat tours. Bar conversations are tainted with alcohol, clubs are crowded and noisy while hostels can be daunting as cliques are apparent no matter when you arrive. On a boat, everyone there has something in common; you all wanted that trip, whether it’s for scuba or the Great Barrier Reef or to go fishing for sea turtles like the sick monsters you are.
It could be a day or two, on that boat together with no smoking room to sneak off to, no hostel room to hide out in. Whether you have booze or not is another matter but regardless, you should do yourself a favor and open your mouth. You might just find a new best friend, a drinking buddy, or the newest member of your karass to hit the dusty trail with when you get back to solid ground.
If not, then that’s pretty unlucky. You’re stuck on the boat with some real douchebags.
But remember, through struggle comes growth!
Are you pushing your boundaries while travelling? What experience of escaping your comfort zone helped you grow the most? Bust out your comments below!