A Leap Into The Unknown: How leaving your comfort zone behind lightens your load.
Shivering, alone and in the arse-end of nowhere, I’m standing between two glaciers in Iceland thinking, ‘What drove me here? What drove me to take this extreme life switch?’ I’ve contemplated this thought all too often in the past two years: ‘What does it take to jump out of your comfort zone and take a leap into the unknown?’
It’s a thought I think many people overlook because of the practicalities of their life. Too oft we are stuck in the cycle of the moment and the future and the nine till five. Two years ago I found myself feeling very lost in the working grind. I was putting in seventy hours a week at seven different jobs, never resting and never sleeping. It got to a point where I couldn’t say no to more work, and I had lost sight of what I was even working towards. ‘Am I just working to buy a house, find a wife, retire and live out my days?’ The moment I realized that was the path I was walking, was the moment I decided to break free.
A friend of mine had been living on Ski resorts in British Columbia for the past few years, living the dream he said. He urged all our friends to quit what they were doing and go join him. One month later I found myself in his car driving across Canada. We camped in random locations, wherever we could, spending as little money as possible.
The contrast to the old life was invigorating. Every day was a new adventure, a new hike, a new feeling of all around content. Living in a Ski Resort and having a mountain to snowboard or ski down every day really changes your perspective on gratitude. Getting lost shredding on the mountains, and partying almost every night, it was fun, and easy, and carefree. But I couldn’t do even that forever. I found myself seeking a greater source of inner fulfillment. I needed to get away and finally commit to my travel dreams abroad. After five months on the resort, I bought a plane ticket to Morocco. This was the moment of truth and a time to fully immerse myself into a new life and become closer to who I am.
Arriving into Marrakech, lost and frantic as to what might happen – how to get to my hostel, whether I might be mugged – I was struck by the realities of pushing your comfort zones, discovering new places, and being utterly alone (and therefore entirely responsible). A taxi arrived and offered me a ride. It’s a ride I’ll never forget. I genuinely thought I’d been picked up by a madman turned taxi driver until I realized that is just how the people drive in this country. Safe and sound at my hostel, within minutes I was meeting new adventurers and experiencing hostel life at its finest. The question as to why I’d chosen Morocco as my first travel destination came up all too often. My reply was always complex and involved money, weather, and other random associated tangents. The truth was, I had no clue why I chose Morocco. It just seemed right to choose somewhere completely different from what I was used to every day.
One story, in particular, punctuates my memory of my time in Morocco:
A fellow traveller had asked a local Moroccan man why he was sitting and relaxing when he could be working.
The man replied, “I caught fish today and have food to eat and some to sell”.
The traveller questioned on: “Why not work for eight hours and catch a lot of fish and make more profit?”
The Moroccan man said “ Why would I do that?” upon which the traveller remarked, “To make more money and provide a better living”.
The Fisherman looked at him and said “Why seek something artificial when everything I need to survive and enjoy life is in front of me?”
A simple story, but its profundity changed how I see things in the world we live in. We do not need to seek out more money, more material, more artificial happiness. What we need to do is seek inside ourselves what really makes us feel content with what we have.
Later that year I found myself living in the woods for two months planting trees with fellow like-minded people. People who sought for nothing more than to live another day. The feeling of being alive is what drove me to keep doing this crazy job they call tree planting. In all the simplicity of my everyday life here, I experienced feelings of overwhelming accomplishment. Becoming one with your surroundings and the earth itself is a beautiful feeling. Something I wish for others to experience in their lifetime. To open their hearts to something greater, to be able to access what it is that fuels contentment.
After two months were up, my feet had again gotten restless and I was ready for another adventure. My friend Kyle and I headed off for a Europe trip. First stop: Iceland, the country of phenomenal nature, beautiful people (inside and out) and very expensive vegetables. Now do not let the expensive vegetables deter you, it is truly a place you will never forget. Immersed in a landscape of breathtaking mountains, lava fields, craters, hot springs and lush green fields, Iceland gave me a sense of comfort everywhere I laid my eyes. Hitchhiking around the country was itself its own adventure. You never knew whose vehicle you might get into and I enjoyed that feeling of not knowing who or where the day was going to take you. Everyone has a story and I love hearing the peculiarities of people’s lives, parallel and separate to your own. We bought a very cheap tent and had set out on many adventures into the wilderness, admittedly without much preparation. Our spontaneous disarray was part of what made our time here so special. I lost my jacket the second day of travelling, which in Iceland did not bode well. Kyle and I decided that we were going to embark on a twenty-four-kilometer hike between two glaciers behind a waterfall called Skogafoss. We’d decided to be cheap and not pay for camping at the waterfall, i.e. we’d start the trek at nine pm and see how far we could make it overnight. Before you shun this idea as complete idiocy, know that in Iceland it only gets dark for approximately three hours during the summer months. Witnessing plenty of waterfalls, mountains, sheep and glaciers, we eventually found ourselves lost and off the trail. Fifteen kilometers into the middle of nowhere. Now, a sensible person would think to turn back. Instead, two unprepared Canadians thought a good idea would be to head northwest until we (hopefully) hit a road.
So there I was, staring off into the misty abyss in the middle of the Icelandic outback contemplating to myself the trials and tribulations of life and our comfort zones. This decision, along with many others throughout my travels so far, might have put me on the edge of death, but that is perhaps what makes it the most exciting.
In order to fly, sometimes you have to jump.