My feet are on the stiff and rocky edge, the lush variety of green rain forest behind me, still and inviting fresh water waving at me below, and a heart thumping rapidly in my chest. “Do it,” I command myself. And I do. A swift breeze accompanies me as I feel myself leap, losing my breath. A few seconds of silence cling to me before the loud crash of my body meeting the water fills the air — the sound of a conquered fear. The chill of the water engulfs me as I kick up toward the surface and breathe the air of a new beginning. I gasp, rub my eyes and then smile, the kind that hurts after a minute or two from viciously stretching from one side of your face to the other. The kind of smile that could be nothing but a reflection of a gleaming soul.
With one jump, I am here — the place where I want to be. But two months ago, the person treading water in the middle of a rain forest in a foreign country, jumping effortlessly from waterfalls, would be nowhere near here. So how did I get to this point of complete contentment, confidence and fear-conquering ability? I arrived at this moment by evaluating everything that made me feel comfortable and safe, and then I boarded a plane and left it all.
A comfort zone. A word that boxes us all into this suffocating place that consists of the faces we recognize, the streets we don’t get lost on, the language we speak and a familiarity with all of its contents. Inside this box, there is no fear of rejection, confusion or uncomfortable change. Humans like that; we like to be surrounded by everything we know. In contrast, the inside of this box does not contain new perspectives, growth or chances to learn. And humans need that; we need to step outside of our little spaces to grow and see everything differently. The inside walls of a comfort zone won’t change until we decide to paint them ourselves.
New places are the best way, in my opinion, to escape this box. In my personal journey out of my comfort zone, I have felt so lost, which in turn has forced me to find myself and just figure it out. Being lost has led me to islands, a village of 300 people, rain forests, volcanoes, deserted beaches, friends who are family and a life that I could never get tired of. And in doing all of this, I have never felt so thrilled to be alive. In just two months of running from my comfort zone, lost has become my favorite place to be.
Challenge yourself. Get out of your comfort zone and get growing. Inch by inch or milestone by milestone, just start somewhere. It is entirely possible to escape your box. Live in a crappy basement for a year, pick up extra shifts and save dat money because nothing will make you more rich than traveling and shattering your own boundaries. And trust me, when you finally take the leap from a stiff and rocky edge, the discomfort that brought you to that moment will be more than worth it.
Jordy Addeo studies journalism. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @TheSagebrush.