Why We Must Live Outside Our Comfort Zones

We like routine. It’s easy. It’s passive. But when we fall into a routine, we stop noticing our surroundings and start taking things for granted. During my daily commute, I’ll often walk the same route, my mind abstract from my environment. Those streets I walk everyday become a part of the same journey, and the journey becomes an afterthought. It’s familiar and my mind grows lax in its comfort.


However, comfort can be a dangerous thing. We stop learning about ourselves when we live within the walls we’ve built, with the illusion of safety. How much can you learn about yourself, how much can you grow, if you return to that same summer job you’ve had since senior year of high school? If you eat the same microwave pizza everyday? If you stay in the same city you were born and raised in?


Have you noticed how time seems to tick a bit slower the first few days you’re traveling? Or your first days in college? At a new job? In a new city? While you’re interning abroad?


I’ve found a beautiful thing happens when I stray from routine. When I challenge myself and step outside my comfort zone, I become perceptive. I start to see things; suddenly, the world seems fresh and new. When I walk down a street I’ve not been on, I’ll notice the marble facade on the building across the street, the pigeons peppering around the block, unfazed by the humans spilling out onto the sidewalks come rush hour, earbuds in, smartphones in hand. Then, I realize how I’m usually one of those people.


So why does time slow down during the first few days you’re on holiday? Traveling is displacement. You are removed from your usual environment. All of your usual habits are defenestrated. That first day in a new place, each minute of each hour, you are fully present. You’re consciously processing the airport you arrived in, the weather, the highway on the way to your destination, the local fauna and flora, the exterior of buildings, the people, the interior of your hostel, and everything else you encounter before you’re finally too tired and collapse on you bed, having had more stimulation, outside your mobile devices, than you’ve had in ages.


Then after a few days, you develop some sort of holiday routine and, soon enough, it’s over.


Understanding this, I’ve realized that to live life to the fullest, I need to challenge myself, constantly. I have to live at the edge of my comfort zone because that’s where I’ll learn and grow.


How do I do this? Sometimes, I’ll order something new at my favorite restaurant. Other times, I’ll explore a part of Dublin I’ve never seen before. And every so often, I’ll go someplace far away, where the possibilities are endless, where new experiences are inevitable.


Many times, I’ll fail. I’ll revert back to what’s easiest. Don’t we all? But we must encourage each other to live at the edge of our comfort zones. After all, “in the end, we only regret the chances we didn’t take.”


This post is published as part of our “I Dream of Ireland” campaign, a celebration of travel, experiences abroad, and Ireland. Check it out and find out how you could win a free Stint Ireland program fee!