Sometimes just walking into the room is outside my comfort zone. I have some sort of social anxiety disorder. Sometimes just going out to walk the dogs feels a bit much.
When one’s comfort zone is small the issue isn’t whether to step out, you have to to function. The issue is how to create the habits and mechanisms to make stepping out as close to the edge of my comfort zone as it can be.
The most recent time I had a dramatic stepping out was my trip to France in September. But it wasn’t getting on the plane during a pandemic. I wore KN95 mask and a face shield. No one really expects you to be outgoing in the airport or on planes. It wasn’t figuring out the logistics of getting around in Paris. It was when I walked up to the boat for my river cruise alone.
Walking up to the row of welcoming people caused my heart to thump a bit. They were amazingly friendly (probably a bit bored with waiting). The captain himself carried my suitcase to my room. I would have been more comfortable if I could have slunk in unnoticed. I hid in my room for over an hour! (I had a french balcony but the boat was next to another one and the drapes were drawn, so I was, basically, hiding in the dark to build up my courage to head out and explore.
That is one of my coping techniques: give myself permission to take breaks from being outside of my comfort zone.
With a break under my belt I was able to contemplate heading out to explore. The hard moment there was when I went to open my door. An empty corridor was welcome and I slunk along to find the coffee and tea station, the lounge where the destination talks would be, the restaurant and got myself some lunch. A gregarious couple invited me to join them. I did, even though my heart was more inclined to find a table alone and continue to assess my surroundings.
That circumvented another of my coping techniques: let myself just watch before joining in. Sort of like watching the jump rope to get the rhythm before jumping in.
The wine served with lunch helped me to relax. But afterwards I went back to my little lair for a bit. The boat beside us wandered off and the view was very pleasant, plus I still had jet lag.
I had a tremendous trip, but it was a series of stepping out of my comfort zone then retreating for a bit. I guess that means that, in a way, my comfort zone management became a sub-comfort zone.
Another technique I use is to create a little zone where I can retreat. At home I have a workroom in the basement. The river cruise was nice for that because my little room was very pleasant and comfortable.
It was sure worth it to see the places I had heard about, and many that I hadn’t.
There is a gallery of photos from my France trip in At the end of the year.
If you are interested in some of my travel philosophies and tips check out my page Travel Tips from A to Z. I do have a different take than many folks, in part because of my introverted personality.