The Edge of Your Comfort Zone

the edge of your comfort zone

Life begins at the edge of your comfort zone, so they say.

I met a German guy when I was in Shanghai. He was a bartender at a place we found to shoot pool. He had come out to China, on a business trip or something or other, and decided to make it his home. It was the call of adventure, he said. That feeling of exhilaration that comes with immersing oneself in the completely unknown. Like a drug, he was hooked.

I had lived in Paris for almost 3 years at this point. When I first moved there, it was totally foreign. I hardly spoke the language, didn’t know a soul, and certainly had no idea about the habits of a real Parisian. But I adapted. I had lived in London beforehand, so at least the whole European culture wasn’t completely new.  Looking back, I find it fascinating how after traveling, your concept of foreign changes. You see, by the time I visited Shanghai, France had begun to feel like home. It had begun to feel “easy,” or at least as easy as living in France while fighting visa issues could ever feel. Upon landing in China, everything was completely new again. This wasn’t like Europe, or anywhere in the States. Sure, it was a city. I’ve been to plenty of those. But this was a city in China, and one of their largest to boot. This was going to be a different sort of adventure.

That German guy was on to something (adrenaline, most likely). But it did seem like the logical next step to pushing the boundaries – the proverbial envelope – just a bit further. My own journey had been in baby steps – summer study abroad in Italy, a year in London, then 3 years in France. I was as comfortable in Europe as I was back in the States, maybe even more so. Had I become blasé to the culture of the European lifestyle? Was China, and all that foreignness the answer? Who’s to say. I can tell you this though, when I stepped off that airplane at Charles de Gaulle Airport and was (non) greeted by passport control, I felt more like a proper citizen than a visitor. And that familiar was pretty good too.

{Photograph by Christofer Andersson, graphics by myself}

  • I love the quote and image you used. There is definitely adventure and unknown in the expat lifestyle. I think it is addicting although I had never thought of it before. I have to admit, I thought you were going to reveal some big plans in this post! 😉

    • Thank you!! I definitely agree with you that the adventure aspect of the expat lifestyle is addicting, and it really does sneak up on you! I never really noticed it until moving back to the States felt too “safe” lol. I don’t have any big plans to announce just yet – will be spending this spring finishing up classes and working, saving for that next big adventure. I am in the process of applying for my New Zealand visa though… 😉

  • Travel really is an addiction, I feel like I have a bug in me that’s constantly looking for something new and exciting. At the same time, I’m glad we can finally build a life somewhere too. Still want to jump on a plane or train first chance I get though.

    • I totally agree!! It must be the adrenaline, makes you feel like you need a fix from time to time! It is so nice to have a home base to come back to though and set up some stability. But that excitement still calls! 🙂

  • Yes, yes, all of this, yes. I think the idea of starting over again like a baby, learning about the world as something new is amazing. Nothing will ever compare to that experience 🙂

    • I love that way of looking at it!! That’s definitely what it feels like – opening your eyes for the first time, again and again with each new experience. Great perspective! 🙂

  • Peggy Tee

    I think you have to keep pushing, keep discovering, keep learning, Amy. Otherwise all the familiarity will eventually grate on you and *gasp shock horror* bore you. Like you, I’ve been moving constantly (at least that’s what it feels like) and although now settled in Australia, I’m dreaming of one day moving to Buenos Aires. Seeking the new and the foreign, seeking change, is what makes us grow. Will you be moving to China after NZ, perhaps? 😉

    • Haha I think being bored is a fate worse than death myself!! There is something exciting in the challenge of moving to a new place, and it becomes quite addicting. Buenos Aires sounds cool!! I’ve never been to South America, but it’s on my lost. As for China, you just never know! 😉