I truly believe that 2019 was the first year of my life. Not to say that the years prior were meaningless, but the lines are hazy, and moments blur together, if they’re even remembered at all. Each year before was the same: school, the occasional family trip, going through the motions day after day.
But 2019 was something different. I can’t describe what happened other than this, I woke up. It was a year of growth, questioning who I was, what I lived for, and what I could handle. It was a year of realizations and striving to be mindful; in other words, running from the act of going through the motions. As humans, we innately fall into routine, and without us even realizing, routines become ritualistic. We’re not conscious of it because going through the motions is comfortable, and if we’re not careful, we can find ourselves going through the motions for years without ever experiencing a single awakening moment.
I didn’t want to walk into 2020 and forget the awakening I’d experienced in the past year, so I asked myself, how can I continue to challenge my boundaries of comfort? What scares me, and at the same time, creates a swelling of excitement within? It occurred to me that most of my travels had been with other people. I love being surrounded and travelling with good company, but even in that I found comfort. Difficult situations didn’t fall on me alone, foreign surroundings didn’t seem so intimidating with familiar company, and questionable circumstances weren’t solely mine to solve.
With these realizations exposed before me, answers came to light and the final conclusion to test my boundaries of comfort became this: to travel alone, in the winter, in completely foreign surroundings, and I couldn’t plan every detail. Oh, and I would make no reservations at hotels, Airbnb, or hostels. In other words, I would sleep in my car. Yes, this was it. Immediately, my mind raced with excitement at the thought of being so uncomfortable. I knew I would grow from such an experience, whether it be good or bad. I wanted to see the ways in which I would adapt; would I acclimate to and hopefully overcome my circumstances, or would I succumb retreat back into comfort?
For eight days I drove aimlessly through the Colorado mountains, hiked through foreign snow-covered forests, slept in a car in below freezing temperatures, found company in the stories and advice of strangers, and many more experiences I’ll save to cherish for myself. It’s nearly impossible to not get lost deep in thought while hiking beneath snow-flecked Ponderosa Pines towering above a narrow winding trail. Eight days is a lot of time to spend deep in thought. I further added on to old theories, postulated new ones, discovered new capabilities, and uncovered the light in each and every temporary frustration.
To explain every theory and learned lesson would take far too long and would likely require more pages than you would be interested in reading. But because this is a story about learned lessons from escaping the boundaries of comfort, I will share with you the most profound. Thoughts that had been sporadically arriving and departing with no time for contemplation on the trail were suddenly flowing clearly one night while bundled up in my sleeping bag. I whipped out my phone and began typing:
I encourage you to remove yourself from the comfort of your daily routine. I hope you take these words to heart. I hope they draw up inspiration within you. But most importantly, I hope you don’t merely read my story and continue to walk in a slumber. This is your awakening. We’re aware this life we live is short and time moves too quickly, as we seem to be reminded constantly. Even still, very few live accordingly. Stop living in a world of “what-ifs” and unknowns. That which is unknown is only so until you walk beyond the boundary of comfort keeping you complacent and openly embrace the experience as it comes.