It’s been some time since we came back from our long sabbatical. Yet, I still get to hear things like “weren’t you afraid? I’d be soooo scared!” “you’re so lucky you could go and travel to all those places. I’m not that brave…”. You get the picture.
OK, so noone likes to admit it, but I feel I own it to all Anas out there 😉 Yes, I was afraid. I was never sure if I can make it – to all those places without knowing the language, the culture… and of some things I was particularily scared. Yet, I told myself to try and push the boundaries of the comfort zone.
Our first stop was Thailand. We reached Bangkok where I got to fight my cockroach phobia. I mean – all South East Asia and then Australia added to my phobia treatment big time. Waaay out of my comfort zone, I finally learned to cope. I might not be pals with roaches (some Taiwanese friend really tried to help me there, thanks Mei 🙂 ), but this phobia never prevented me from going after my dreams to explore amazing exotic places.
Another time the fear was close to paralizing: Koh Haa – gorgeous diving spot 2 hours from Koh Lanta, Thailand. Sunny day, the water is calm and clear, perfect for discovering the breathtaking beauty of the underwater Cathedral with great abundance of sealife. The only thing between me and those wonders – my silly fear of breathing underwater. We booked the trip a few days ahead. Arek’s got Open Water certificate but I only snorkelled before. To explore the place, I needed to go a few metres below the surface and we booked a Discovery Dive for me. I was as surprised as my instructor, when I went nuts from fear in the swimming pool the day before the trip. We came back to our place, Arek’s supportedly saying I can always snorkel on the trip. But I was both scared and furious at myself for all this panic.
I spent the remaining day hours with my head in a barrel – learning how to control my breath and my fear underwater. Next day we took the boat to Koh Haa, and with support and cheering from a great PADI instructor, I put the gear on and went underwater. Was it worth it? I believe this picture taken by Arek moments after my first diving experience, says it all.
Yeah, definately worth it. But this fear I wasn’t even aware of. Wait till you hear about Borneo. The thing is I’m pretty acrophobic. Sounds ridiculous for a person who loves mountains and hiking to be afraid of height, but hey – no judging, right?! To give you the full picture I am not a fan of high bridges either. Fine, I hate bridges, alright…
I always wanted to go to the real jungle, Amazonian or the like, where everything grows like hell and you feel tiny compared to the nature. When in Borneo, we got a taste of such impressive nature at large. Sadly a huge part of Borneo is deforrested and cleared for palm tree plantations. The remains of jungle can be seen in national parks such as Tawau Hill Park with its tropical trees being the tallest in the world (near 90 metres high dipterocarpus). This trees are not only super tall, they’re also blooming and I wouldn’t be myself if I missed the chance to see it! So here I was – walking on a bridge made of rope, some nets and a narrow board set high up in the air, among the upper branches. And if someone tells you the first step is the hardest ever, well, BS at least for me! The worst part is in the middle, when there’s no way back, still plenty of steps ahead and your fear is catching up with you. What have I done to stop this panic inside me? I really wanted to do that, to see the flowers up in the air and wander among the tree crowns, so I took small shaky steps till the first and longest bridge was over. I was so happy to reach this point that I hugged the big tree with happy tears in my eyes. Hell yeah, I did it! I crossed the bridge! Funny how my fear shrank for the next rope bridge, and the next…not being paralizing anymore, just a sweet and sour reminder of what it took to get there.
As this post goes, I recall more situations like these – moments, when I really had to leave my comfort zone. My first whitewater rafting experience in the mountainous Padas River, climbing the marble mountains in Tam Coc, Vietnam, cycling in the chaotic Cambodian traffic of Siem Reap and many more. The thing is, I am not a brave soul. I have my fears and phobias like anyone. So why I left the cozy comfort zone to go explore the unknown? Because my fear is nothing when compared to my dreams. I simply really really wanted to make those come true. And every time I challenged myself, the fear retreated a bit, somehow making my comfort zone wider, vast.
What would have happened if I stayed? Never left to tick off numbers on my bucket list? I realized that, thanks to the challenges of the trip, my comfort zone got so much roomier allowing me to live my life as I want it. By overcoming your fears you learn how to better cope in life, dare to question the status quo more, choose unexpected paths and wander. It’s awesome even if a bit scarry at times. But I never regret stepping out of my comfort zone. Because the uncomfortable truth is – if you don’t stretch it, it stays small and dull and so will your life.