Comfort Zones Aren’t What They Used To Be

Coming to the realisation that this particular adventurer doesn’t live up to the all action, swashbuckling, devil may care lifestyle that is portrayed came as a rude awakening. Though not exactly Hemmingway I’ve been overly proud of my willingness to travel to isolated ‘at risk’ destinations or participate in activities perceived as foolhardy and downright dangerous. Rather smugly claiming “my comfort zone is being outside my comfort zone.

Comfort zones; Colourful parade at the torchlight parade in Kendal in the English Lake District on Mallory on Travel, adventure, adventure travel, photography DPP_0001_edited-1-1 carnival.jpg

Missing out on the party!

Believing by travelling to a number of ‘dangerous’ destinations including Syria, Libya and Iraq (incidentally in all 3 without fail receiving a warm welcome) I have been pushing my envelope. By participating in numerous adventure activities including high altitude mountaineering, jumping out of perfectly serviceable airplanes and even getting qualified as an avalanche specialist feeling justified in this smugness.

“Pride comes before a fall”

Earlier today on the popular social media chat Travel Talk on Twitter the topic was “Gay and Lesbian Travel” the first question seemed innocuous enough “Which city has the best Gay Pride Festival Celebrations”? It quickly dawned that there was not any experiential basis for me to comment, only hearsay and media articles. A Gay Pride Festival has never been witnessed, in fact I’ve never seen a drag show and can count the number of openly gay bars I’ve visited on one hand. The question has to be; why?

Afro-Cuban dancers in Trinidad on the Caribbean island of Cuba on Mallory on Travel, adventure, adventure travel, photography Iain Mallory-300-38 cuban_dancers

Music, dance and vibrant costumes

Intolerance is not a characteristic which seems appropriate to describe me. Homophobic is definitely not a term to which I relate, in fact the gay community seems pretty cool. However having served in a traditionally homophobic society, the Armed Forces I must confess to having few gay friends. This is not necessarily by choice just circumstance however the earlier question remains.

Comfort zones; Moroccan performers in Djemma el Fna square in the medina of Marrakech on Mallory on Travel, adventure, adventure travel, photography Iain_Mallory_00074 moroccan_performers

Colourful but don’t appear very gay

There is a scene in a favourite film “Philadelphia” in which Denzel Washington playing an attorney representing a gay aids victim played by Tom Hanks is ‘hit’ upon by a gay man. Washington’s character is openly hostile to the encounter and reacts in an overly aggressive manner obviously appalled by the assumption he is gay.

This may explain the reason for this subconscious decision to avoid festivals which by all accounts are great fun, amazing spectacles, full of eccentricity and people just wanting to express themselves. The possibility of being assumed a member of the gay community may have resulted in not attending a parade. They offer everything I enjoy most, vibrant colours, a carnival atmosphere and people having a great time.

“suddenly seeming slightly silly and small to myself”

It seems that the concept of comfort zones has not really been understood and my own personal envelopes have not actually been pushed. This is a genuine realisation and the real message of this post, one which seemed to have been comprehended. The world is filled with 7 billion individuals, although we share the same planet we have different life experiences, memories, circumstances and phobias. These shape and define who we are and what we will become.

An individual without any fear of heights jumping from a plane or climbing a steep rock face has not stepped outside their comfort zone. However a person scared of leaving their own home that overcomes their fear to visit a friend or local shop definitely has. Comfort zones are relative and we may not even be aware of what stretches us or expands our horizons, preventing us becoming more rounded individuals.

Comfort zones; The lively Djemaa el Fna square in the central medina of Marrakech in the North African country of Morocco on Mallory on Travel, adventure, adventure travel, photography Iain_Mallory_00997-1

Crowd coping in Marrakech

Travellers are becoming more ambitious and in greater numbers, demanding more from the travel experience. As they place greater emphasis on the journey and cultural immersion comfort zones will be stretched further. The timid will haggle in the souks of Morocco, more women will travel solo, destinations such as Afghanistan and Somalia will increase in popularity and yes more heterosexuals will experience Gay Pride parades.

Adventure travel is not just about participating in high risk activities or visiting destinations perceived as being dangerous it should be about breaking individual routines. Excitement comes in many forms probably as many as there are individual phobias, recognising our own personal areas of discomfort is the way to discover comfort zones and the individual path to an adventurous life.

The manner in which these paths are found can be surprising. When initally setting out to publish this website it was not inteneded as a vehicle for self reflection. Equally participation on social media networks never seemed likely to be a source of revelation. Recognising when confronted with them however seems more important than the source.

Those that have genuinely stepped outside their sphere of comfort, overcoming fears and possibly prejudice can feel justifiably proud, they are true modern day adventurers. When the next opportunity to experience a Gay Pride parade presents itself I intend to join the ranks of the adventurous.

Comfort zones; Parapenting in Catalonia, Spain on Mallory on Travel, adventure, adventure travel, photography Iain Mallory-300-37 parapenting-1

Gratuitous adventure travel shot


Comments 12

    1. Post

      Thanks Leigh would love to return to Vancouver and the Gay Parade would be a great excuse, though might have to choose one a little closer to home.

  1. Homeless & Female

    Congratulations on stepping outside a different kind of comfort zone. I camp and hike alone in remote places, and though I can’t afford to jump from planes and the like, I do go places I probably shouldn’t on my own. However, there is that other kind of discomfort zone, and my most recent experience was in Navajo Nation, in Arizona. I went into a restaurant that was clearly a locals spot, and I was the only white female. I was a little unsure how I’d be treated, but my fears were unfounded. I was greeted warmly, with smiles, and all was well. I enjoyed the experience. I always enjoy any chance to do something different, even when it turns out disastrous. I feel sorry for those people who stay in a rut and rarely if ever expand their boundaries, not only in travel, but by reading different books, TV, talking to and meeting different people. We have to expand our minds as well as our physical boundaries in order to become more rounded people. I’m enjoying your blog. Happy travels.

    1. Post

      That is probably the greatest benefit of stepping outside our personal comfort zones, they will often surprise us and finding our feelings of uneasiness are totally unfounded and being warmly welcomed. The truth is if we never try we’ll never find out. I’m glad you are enjoying and thank you for taking the time to comment.

  2. Natalie

    Great read! Thanks for a nice article which I found via twitter thanks to Melvin’s RT (traveldudes).
    It made me think what’s gonna be my next big step out of my comfort zone. For me it’s for sure not the gay parade. I am surely not lesbian but I joined so many parties and parades and so many of my friends are gay – so this is perfectly within my comfort zone… but living in the US kind of kicks me out of my comfort zone every day at the very moment;) And it still makes me think about prejudice and why I am incredibly tolerant in African or South American countries and sometime not in other western countries like the UK and the US (compared to Germany)… and for sure it’s totally different to live or to travel in a foreign country! Anyways, I love pushing myself out of comfort – it is addictive!

    1. Post

      Thank you Natalie I’m glad you enjoyed it and Melvin does a great job drawing our attention to interesting posts. It doesn’t appear that you have any issue finding or stepping outside your comfort zones. It sounds have if you have it all uder control and push your envelopes more than most.

  3. Laura Zera

    Love this: “Excitement comes in many forms probably as many as there are individual phobias, recognising our own personal areas of discomfort is the way to discover comfort zones and the individual path to an adventurous life.”

    There is a huge psychological element to travel, and adventure travel, and the inner reflection that can come from traveling is one of the reasons it’s such a great education. The things that hold people back from stepping out of their comfort zones with travel could very well be the same things that hold them back in other areas of their lives, so it’s not a lie to say that adventure travel can be life changing.

    1. Post

      Just being prepared to seek some adventures is probably a life changing decision Laura. I totally agree once we make the decision to step outside our comfort zones we can really start to learn. Experience can be the greatest educator.

  4. Brad Bernard

    Great post, Iain. It definitely touches me personally as I believe travel has encouraged me to push barriers, to jump into situations I would never do at home and talk to people I wouldn’t otherwise. More importantly, it has helped me to question my own aversions, motives and misconceptions, and through that, to grow personally. Thanks for bringing light to the deeper meaning in travel.

  5. Jesse Logister

    Stepping out of my comfort zone became one of the most important daily factors for my personal growth after I started traveling. Your right that adventure travel does not only have to consist of dangerous activities. It is about the complete journey and everything it brings along. Once you start traveling you experiences adventures in many different forms. And many possibilities, to step out of your comfort zone, will present themselves.

    Traveling is a great way to break the individual routine. Of course it is not the only way but for me personally it is the most inspiring and effective way. By traveling I push my boundaries on so many subjects. I gain so much personal growth when I travel. It is indeed a great way to reflect and to educate yourself. I feel so tremendously lucky that something in my character is pushing me to break barriers. Because of that urge I have experienced so many amazing moments, and I push myself to add new ones every day.

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