I started writing this post on the plane on my way to Lisbon, Portugal. I had a total of 30 hours of solo traveling before I reached my destination for the month of May. My mindset at the time I purchased my tickets was very different than my mindset when I left for my trip. There was no easy way for me to get to my final destination of Romania from the US so I decided to take advantage of my layover and make it long enough to explore the city. When I booked my ticket I was thrilled with this decision. It wasn’t until my husband, Marc, dropped me off at the train station the first morning did the reality that I would be doing all of this on my own sink in.
I thought about all the different languages I would encounter while I tried to navigate my way through foreign airports, trains and Uber rides. I thought about all the different currencies there would be and how I might struggle even trying to order and pay for food. I thought about the the dangers people tell you of being a solo female traveler. All of these thoughts were going through my head and I even started to doubt my decision on going on this trip at all.
I was forgetting how fortunate I was for even getting this opportunity. Once I changed my mindset to focus on all I would be soon experiencing the doubts kind of subsided.
One of the main things I have taken away from this trip is realizing how important and beneficial it is to get yourself out of your comfort zone. I am only 4 days into my trip and I already feel so proud of myself and that I’ve already grown so much. All of these changes have increased my anxiety level, but it’s worth the discomfort. My higher levels of anxiety did lead me to my first panic attack in years while I was traveling.
I was walking around a city square after over 20 hours of travel. I indeed was quite out of my comfort zone, I was overwhelmed, I hadn’t eaten much, and was sleep deprived. All of the sudden, a feeling of overwhelming panic sank in. I then found myself in the middle of a packed square, in a foreign country, and surrounded by people I couldn’t understand. I felt detached from my body and like I wasn’t actually there. As I continued to walk around to calm myself down I felt like every eye was on me. This was only 40 minutes before I was supposed to meet up with the retreat group. I then began to panic about how this was going to be my first impression – a panicked person who can’t get it together.
I found a seat and began taking deep breaths and trying to remain present. So desperate after still panicking 20 minutes later, I googled “how long do panic attacks last”. Feeling satisfied with the result of typically 20-30 minutes I decided to let the panic run its course. I was extremely proud of myself for being able to hold normal conversations while meeting the group I was to be living with for a month while in this state of panic.
I wasn’t going to let the panic take away from this experience and I knew this was only a temporary feeling. I think it was so difficult to get through because I was so far out of my comfort zone I had nothing around me where I could feel comfort from.
Instead of this experiencing making me never want to travel like this again, it makes me want to get even more out of my comfort zone. I was so proud of myself once I came out of the other side of panic.
You don’t have to travel to a new country to get yourself out of your comfort zone. Try a new type of food or even a food you hate. Go to a fitness class you never normally would and be okay looking like a fool. I’ve learned the most about myself when I leave my comfort zone.
This trip has pushed me out of my comfort zone in so many ways already and I know it’s going to do so for the next 25 days that I’m here. I’m excited to continue to push myself out of my comfort zone when I am back home and see how I grow from it.