On the beauty of discomfort…

A bit of zen in Hanoi, a city that kicked my ass into mega discomfort at first

A bit of zen in Hanoi, a city that kicked my ass into mega discomfort at first.

I booked a flight to Bangkok last night.

That in itself is not very noteworthy. Flights are booked all the time, and I was just in BKK seven months ago. It’s noteworthy to me only in that there’s no return date on that ticket.

To be clear, I’m not going away because I’m bored or hate my life. That’s just it. I love everything about my life. I enjoy my job and adore my friends and worship my family, and appreciate my cozy apartment in my wonderful neighbourhood in my beloved city. And so in many ways, I don’t want to leave. My life is exactly what I always wanted it to be. I’m totally content and totally comfortable.

But that’s why I have to leave.

I’m a Taurus. We like comfort. We like routine, we like things to be familiar. We love nothing more than to relax after a comfortable day, in a comfortable setting, with our favourite wine and favourite friends and to know that everything is as it should be.

But there’s such a thing, for me, anyway, as being too comfortable. The reason I grew to love travel was because I loved the fact that it made me uncomfortable. It shocked me out of my timidity that had been my nature since I was a child. I was the kid who didn’t love sleepovers because I preferred my own bed, who turned down the chance to be an exchange student in France because I didn’t want to be away from home on my birthday. When I started travelling in my 20s, I realized the richness that lives in the uncertain, in the unfamiliar, in the uncomfortable. The thrill of navigating your way through strange streets and trying to communicate in a strange language was like an instant high and before I knew it, the shy, scared, familiar-loving version of myself was actually craving discomfort.

When I first started this blog, many years ago, I originally planned on calling it Anywhere But Here, because at the time, that’s exactly where I wanted to be. I was bored with my job, frustrated with my living situation, and feeling lost in life. Every trip I took gave me a chance to be something else and feel something else, even for just a few days or weeks. But the URL for that was taken, and so, the ‘but’ became an ‘and’ and I settled on Anywhere & Here instead, not really knowing what it meant, if it meant anything at all.

That life that I was frustrated with took a turn a few years ago, and I now find myself in a place that I don’t want to run away from. I actually want to be right here, and that’s what makes the one-way ticket I booked last night so frightening. It’s also what makes it so right.

I don’t want to run away, and I don’t want to leave behind what I have. But I also don’t want to let years go by feeling merely comfortable and content. I want to feel confused and scared and uncertain. Uncomfortable. There’s a young voice in the back of my mind telling me to miss my own bed and to celebrate my birthday far from home, because it’s good for me and if you don’t, you’ll regret the risks you didn’t take forever and ever.

I know many people who have packed up and moved away for far longer than the mere six months that I’m planning. I know my decision to buy a one-way ticket is not unique or extreme, and is honestly quite basic in many circles of far more experienced travellers. I definitely don’t think I’m doing anything that’s noteworthy to anyone but myself. And that’s okay. What is easy for one person may be terrifying for another. Where some people find adventure, others may find monotony. What is my discomfort may be your ultimate comfort and vice versa.

And so, to you, if you’re still reading this, I implore you to find what makes you uncomfortable. It doesn’t have to be travel, and it only has to be as big as you want it to be. Baby steps are a-okay. Just try something that makes you scared, that makes you question why you’re doing it, that makes you feel that high that hits you when you realize you are far braver and far stronger than the comfortable version of you wants you to believe.

I can say finally, for the first time in my life, with absolute certainty that I’m not running away from anything. I’m running to something, and I don’t know what that something is beyond just letting myself be vulnerable and uncomfortable again. I’m extremely fortunate to have a flexible career that enables me to work from anywhere, and a network of friends and friends of friends that enables me to not be alone anywhere. And that’s all the comfort I really need to make the leap.

It finally all makes sense to me. Because I can be anywhere in the world, and I can still be happy right here.

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