We went camping over the weekend.
Not camping in a camper or RV—no, this was rustic style camping in a tent.
No running water, no electric, no bathroom facilities—just what we could pack in the car. Well, or go out to the store and pick up.
So, I guess it wasn’t like frontier time settling or backpacking, but after being quite used to the standard comforts of modern life, it certainly felt like lightyears away from our normal weekend.
Historically in my lifetime, I have not been a frequent camper. This adventure was a leap outside of my comfort zone and required a whole lot of opening to new experiences.
First, we had to remember how to put together the tent. I vaguely remember getting this tent at Target circa 2000-something. I don’t remember exactly the year, but I am fairly sure we were newlyweds, and I was indeed quite a bit younger. Fortunately, I’m in pretty good shape now, possibly even better in terms of both strength and cardiovascular fitness than I was 15 years ago, and I am confident that this served me well over the weekend.
I learned how important a little extra strength and cardio health is beneficial for even the simplest seeming tasks. Just unpacking the car was a feat because we had that thing packed to the brim. An enormous container of water for washing and drinking, a cooler for food, the camping stove (complete with camp toaster—this thing exists!), sleeping bags and tent, multiple pairs of shoes (hiking, beach, and so on), and so many other things that felt necessary at the time of packing. Oh, and our bicycles mounted on the back, which had to be taken off each time we needed to get into the back of the car. I ended up very glad we had those, as the paved trails where we were visiting are amazing.
Even though I am a camping novice, luckily my husband grew up camping often, and has an incredible memory for things like how to put tents together and using a propane camp stove. I was impressed with how quickly we got the tent together and set up camp. I was also proud of my skills with the manual air pump, and I got the air mattress pumped up in pretty good time. All by myself y’all. Feeling strong.
Unfortunately, the air mattress is equally as old as the tent, and maybe an hour into our romantic idea of sleeping under the stars experience, we were sunken in together with our bums on the hard ground. We made it through the night, but without much actual sleep, hot and sweating, and feeling a little creaky around the edges.
The first thing we did the next day was go out to the store and get a new air mattress. What a world of difference that made!
Thanks to the disruption of our usual weekend playbook, the cooperative teamwork required, and the stretching beyond what I thought I could or would ever want to do, I learned to see the world in some new ways.
I have new appreciation for both the comforts of home and modern conveniences, as well as new appreciation for nature and the incredibly healing potential of simply working with the rhythms of the natural world. Sleeping in complete darkness and seeing the incredible beauty of a star-filled sky is awe-inspiring. Waking up with the sun and the sound of the birds felt like a renewal.
I learned that I have zero campfire-building skills. I have no idea where my son got it from—he is a natural at getting a good campfire started and keeping it going. He’s grown now, and even as a kid he seemed to magically understand how to get the embers to work with him. If he’d been with us, we would have had a much better campfire, but as it was, we got a few good minutes out of it.
The weekend adventure has me reflecting on the benefits of stepping outside of your comfort zone. Being in your comfort zone brings with it familiarity, safety, and security. It keeps us in our patterns of existence, keeping us relatively comfortable and calm. It’s a healthy adaptation for much of our lives.
Stepping out of this comfort zone is also a good, healthy adaptation when it’s time to transition, transform, and grow. Staying wrapped up in a cocoon of the cozy and familiar for too long can end up with us missing out on new experiences, challenges, and risks.
I write often about chronic stress and how it can lead to anxiety and poor health. However, too little stress can actually lead to depression and boredom. The right amount of healthy acute stress can tune up the brain and improve our performance and health. Finding that just right Goldilocks amount of healthy stress can be challenging, but that’s where these little steps outside our comfort zone can be beneficial.
Stepping out of your comfort zone
>> Challenging yourself pushes you to tap into and operate from your personal store of untapped knowledge and resources. You never realize what you can really do until you venture outside of your comfort zone.
>> Taking risks are growth experiences. Even if things don’t go well the first time, those become resources you can tap into in the future. There is no such thing as “failing.” We learn something from every experience. It’s simply a first attempt in learning.
>> Your challenges and risks help you not only develop new skills and learn new things, but it also helps you to feel more confident and competent. You strengthen your self-esteem when you do the hard things and realize how much you really can do.
>> Leaving your comfort zone can help you better deal with changes in the future. Every time you make changes, you strengthen your “transition” muscles. Not only do you begin to see how much you can do, but you see how well you can adapt to whatever comes your way. You start seeing yourself as someone who can weather the storms and know that you’ll be okay at the other side.
My takeaway: everything I truly need is within me. I am resilient.
What are ways you step outside of your everyday and familiar? What new experiences are waiting for you?
Did this resonate with you? Share in the comments your comfort zone experiences. I’d love to hear about it!