Traveling Out of Your Comfort Zone

There’s one thing I’ve learned in my travels: the more I travel, the more I want to step out of my comfort zone. As a beginning traveler, I followed the tourists, stayed at the all-inclusive resorts, went on the guided tours, and ate the foods most similar to home. As I throw myself into other countries and cultures, I find myself seeking out the “local experience,” from renting a house from a local to eating street food with ingredients I don’t understand. If you agree to become a world traveler, you agree to step out of your comfort zone.

What Does “Out of Your Comfort Zone” Mean?

Everyone’s comfort levels when traveling are different. Some people are very conservative, so leaving a resort is a big step in traveling of their comfort zone. Others are pretty adventurous from day one, so it will take a lot more for them to travel out of their comfort zone.

Traveling out of your comfort zone can be any number of things:
• Talking to strangers, like asking for directions or approaching a non-English speaker in a bar to chat
• Trying a new food, like street food or local, home-cooked meals from an Airbnb host ($40 off Airbnb here)
• Venturing off the beaten path, like hiking a trail hours away from the nearest civilization or going to a town where no one speaks English
• Traveling to an unusual destination unaccustomed to tourists, like Cuba or Uzbekistan
• Extreme sports, like bungee jumping or skydiving

Off the beaten path doesn't have to be outside your comfort zone!

Tackling a new adventure and succeeding helps you grow as a person, shed your fears, and be generally happier. Being successful when stepping out of your comfort zone is all in your head; if you think you can do it, you can do it.

Stepping Out of My Comfort Zone

I’ve always traveled to places where I knew and understood the culture and landscape. I know how to navigate beaches and mountains, I’m familiar with crepes and paella, and I respect the sacred holiness of places like Vatican City. I knew I had to step out of my comfort zone and do something completely new, and I knew Morocco was a place that scared me in an exciting way.

Marrakech is a devout Islamic city where people follow ancient traditions. Clothes are particularly important because most parts of the body are considered private. The roles of men and women are very different. The Arabic signs don’t use the classic Roman alphabet. Not knowing how to dress, how to read signs, how to communicate with non-English speakers, and how to talk to Moroccan men was definitely out of my comfort zone.

Seeing a language that doesn't use the Roman alphabet was outside our comfort zone
How do you say Stop in Arabic?

Turning a “Discomfort Zone” Into a Comfort Zone

Marrakech was one of the most culturally different and intimidating places I’d been to. I worried about offending the locals, unintentionally disrespecting the culture and religion, and overall doing the wrong thing. I researched for weeks what clothes to buy for the trip, prepped my boyfriend to take the lead on this trip when it came to talking to the locals, and traded alcohol for some amazing Moroccan mint tea. My boyfriend and I even bought fake wedding rings so we weren’t considered promiscuous for staying together unmarried!

Moroccan mint tea in Marrakech
After our camel ride, we wound down with some Moroccan mint tea

The Marrakech locals are used to tourists from Western cultures, so they understand and respect our differences. They appreciated that I tried to understand and respect their differences as well. As a compromise between the two cultures, my boyfriend would start conversations and act as the decision-maker, but I would join in conversations to better understand the city and the people.

Stepping outside our comfort zone and staying at the Riad Lakhdar, typical accommodations in Marrakech
Riads characteristically have an open air center with rooms surrounding a courtyard

We stayed in a typical riad and met a Moroccan man who spoke perfect English. He had even studied and worked in New York for many years! We ate street food – I’m still not even sure what it was (besides delicious). We tried tajine-style food and drank tea, avoiding alcohol. We even inadvertently observed the call to prayer during a camel ride.

Stepping outside our comfort zone and getting street food in Marrakech
Street food vendors in Marrakech

Final Thoughts

I was nervous to even tell my mom I was in Morocco because she’s always had reservations about traveling off the beaten path. So I decided to tell her weeks later, when I could recount the pros and cons of the trip. I found that the only cons came from myself: not being able to speak French or Arabic and not booking a long enough trip in Marrakech. After visiting Marrakech and overcoming my doubts about stepping outside my comfort zone while traveling, I urge others to visit this amazing city. Or just do something that scares or intimidates you.

Now, the circle of my comfort area has expanded. Now that I accomplished stepping outside of my comfort zone as far as a country and culture, I feel that I need to push myself further and step outside my new comfort zone circle. I don’t know what this is yet, but I know when I do it, I won’t regret it.

What’s the biggest thing you’ve down outside your comfort zone? Tell me in the comments below!

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Traveling Out of Your Comfort Zone

P.S. You might also enjoy 11 Things in Spain That Aren’t Common in the U.S. or Why Living Overseas Makes You A Better Person

24 thoughts on “Traveling Out of Your Comfort Zone

  1. Great article! I think it’s so important to step outside your comfort zone and continually push your limits. It’s hard NOT to do so in such a unique and unusual place such as Morocco. I’m so glad you got to experience this amazing country and had way more pros than cons!

    1. Thank you!! Yes, that’s exactly why I like to go to unique places where you have no choice but to experience something outside your comfort zone. I love it!

  2. I agree 100%. Without stepping out of your comfort zone (within reason) there is no real way of making any personal progress. Loved this!

  3. I liked your post a lot! I always intend to get out of my comfort zone when traveling, I try to stay at airbnb’s to get a more local vibe and it works! There are many sites my mom don’t want me to go haha, but I always think that the world is not as bad as it looks, and that if something happens to me, it will happen anyways regarding of where I am. The idea is just to live fearlessly and freely!

    1. I agree! If you leave in fear, you don’t live at all. My mom gets nervous when I go to some places too, but I can’t let anything stop me from seeing the world. I love your idea to live fearlessly and freely!

  4. For me, the point of travel is to get out of my comfort zone, so I appreciate your message here. I particularly enjoy traveling to areas of the Global South. I do think folks should always do at least one thing a day or perhaps per trip that scares them, and this post offers tips to do just that!

    1. I try to follow that motto, to do one thing a day that scares me. It’s hard to do daily though, but definitely once per trip! I’m headed to the Global South for the first time in May…Cartagena, Colombia. Have you been there?

  5. Traveling always means stepping into the unknown, and trusting that things will somehow work out. One purpose of going out of the comfort zone, however large or small that is, is so that the new experience then becomes part of your comfort zone. It can be small–many people will be hesitant to step into a Paris café, to deal with the menu and the different language, but do it enough and then it becomes part of your travel repertoire, an activity you enjoy doing and can look forward to.

    1. Yes exactly! Traveling not only means stepping out of your comfort zone but expanding your comfort zone. I was afraid to eat anywhere alone, even in a restaurant at home. Now I have no hesitations about eating anywhere alone, whether I speak the language or not. I love expanding my comfort zone!

  6. While travelling outside your comfort zone is generally a good thing, yet you always want to stay safe. When the locals tell you not to do something you should def not overstep those boundaries 😉

  7. We also always try to push our selves out of our comfort zones as much as we can! It just makes travelling that much more rewarding and also the more you do it the more you grow in confidence!

  8. I understand why you travelled this way, and before going to India I had similar thoughts. But the more I’ve travelled the more I’ve realised that it’s important to respect local customs (i.e clothing) but also stand firm on things that might make you look “weird” to them (i.e pretending to be married). I will never again pretend to be married because I think that they should see equality in action, or they will never change for the better…

    1. Interesting point of view. Pretending to be married may have been overboard haha 🙂 We did that more for ourselves than for others’ values though, I think. I didn’t want to get disrespected or looked down on for being a floozy and traveling unwed!

  9. Love this post! I think traveling is a great way to grow more comfortable with being pushed out of your comfort zone. I’ve found traveling has made me less shy and makes me want to try new food and experiences.

    1. Exactly me too, it has made me more comfortable with myself and less afraid to do things I was afraid to do 10 years ago 🙂 I’m glad you feel the same!

  10. We found the same cultural differences in Egypt. The locals would shun anything i said and automatically speak to my partner instead. It takes some getting used to but at the end of the day your just have to be courteous of other cultures when you are travelling.

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