Every time I travel, you better believe I have some type of uncomfortable experience! Some are more exciting than others, but each one always manages to shape my mind in ways I didn't expect.
Here are 3 experiences that pushed me out of my comfort zone for the better.
China: Shove it!
If you’ve walked around in mainland China, it’s likely you’ve been shoved once or twice (or in my case, more times than you can count). I went on the Contiki’s China Adventure a couple of years ago and was shoved by locals left and right. At first, I assumed (as did many I had previously spoken to) that the majority of people were, well, rude. But then I met Lili – she was our tour guide in Beijing and turned out to be one of the funniest, sweetest ladies I’d ever met. I remember when talking to her I thought to myself, “well at least some locals are nice”.
During one of our tours, she was showing us around The Forbidden City and surprise surprise, it was ridiculously crowded. I was following her lead as we walked through the palace when all of a sudden she started shoving everyone in her way! This pretty much went against the picture I had painted in my head of a sweet Beijing-born woman that was softly-spoken, told awesome jokes, and wasn’t the type to randomly shove you out of the blue.
I couldn't help but snicker as I watched her pushing people without saying a word. I had to ask, "sooo, is shoving a thing in China?" She just laughed and said, "It's a very crowded country. People have places to go. If you were to say excuse me to everyone that was in your way, you'd never get anywhere. They don't mean anything by it."
It was such a simple answer, but it made so much sense! I even asked her, if I were to shove people, would they even care? The answer was, no. I didn’t just take her word for it, I actually tried myself and it was true!
I had met so many people, and still continue to, that visit China and mention how rude everyone is because they bump into you or push you out of their way. This got me thinking about all the times I may have wrongly formed opinions about people and countries while traveling; but the reality was, I hadn’t even been close to understanding their cultural norms. This one conversation with Lili changed it all. I haven’t looked at people’s behavior in the same way since.
ALSO FROM JANETTE: HOW TO MAKE FRIENDS FOR YOUR NEXT SOLO TRIP
Australia: You Can’t
Sit Live With Us
In 2016 I got sponsored by my employer in Sydney, Australia. I was as happy as an Aussie clam to get the news.
When you have a Working Holiday Visa (which was the type I entered the country with), you’re only allowed to work for an employer for 6 months, unless you file paperwork that allows you to extend that amount. However, my immigration lawyer at the time, kind of sort of missed that step. #oops
I got a call from immigration services, who asked me how long I had been at my company. I casually replied “9 months”. That’s when the conversation went south. I was told I had to resign from my job…like, right that second, and leave the country within a few weeks for an indefinite amount of time.
As you can imagine, I had a mini panic attack when life went from sitting at my desk at my 9-5 to running home and googling what country to move to next.
That was not the best feeling, but once I was able to think about it clearly, I realized it was just a forced vacation and there was nothing I could do to ensure I got my new visa application approved. Some things were out of my control, so I took advantage of the things that WERE in my control and booked a one-way ticket to Thailand, where coconuts on the beach were calling my name. I had always heard to not stress over things you can’t control, but this was one of the first times I was actually able to do it. I must admit, it was one of the best feelings ever.
ALSO FROM JANETTE: WHAT TO KNOW ABOUT MOVING OVERSEAS
Jumping pictures galore 🙋🏽😄Brining a literal sense to "island hopping" 😁 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . #traveltheworld #worldtraveler#travellife #throwback #girltraveler #travelingtheworld #igtravel #instatravel #travelling #traveltheworld #thailand #travel #travels #wanderlust #traveler #janettearacely #traveling #traveladdict #sunset #phiphi #explore #phiphi #solotravel #beautifulday #lifeofadventure #nomad #girl #me
Peru: Such Great Heights
When I went to Peru, my boyfriend at the time wanted to try out the highest zip line in South America, the Cola De Mono. I, on the other hand, wanted nothing to do with it – as around 23 years old I became deathly afraid of heights. I agreed to hike up to the first zip line point to snap some pictures. The sly employees that worked for the tour company decided to bring spare equipment in case I changed my mind about the whole situation.
I got to the first section, took some pictures and was going to head back down when everyone thought it’d be a great idea to start the peer pressure. All I heard was “Do it! Do it!” chanting for what felt like eternity, and eventually two of the tour guides started strapping me into the zip line as they were explaining how much fun I’d have. I don’t even know how I allowed this to happen, I just did. Before I knew it, I was zip lining over an enormous canyon and there was no turning back.
You might be thinking I'm going to tell you that at the end of it, I loved the whole experience. I didn't.
I was pretty terrified the whole way, BUT I did get to view Peru in an incredible way, so I don’t regret doing it. I realized that sometimes things can be uncomfortable, and you may not want to ever go through that discomfort again – but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t well worth it.
Throwback to this surreal moment. All my life I had seen countless pictures of Machu Picchu, but didn't realize until that day, that it's one of those places whose beauty you can't capture with footage. If it's not already on your bucket list, I recommend you add it 👌🏼 How to get there: Fly to Cusco, from Cusco take a train to Aguas Calientes, from Aguas Calientes you can purchase a ticket and have a bus take you. Alternatively, you can do a 4 day trek with a group if you're up for it 💪🏼 🙂 . . . #me #igtravel #instatravel #travelling #traveltheworld #travelbloggers #travelblog #travel #travels #travelstories #wanderlust #traveldiaries #mytravelblog #mytraveldiary #mytravelgram #traveler #traveling #travelphotography #janettearacely #traveling #traveladdict #traveldiary #peru #machupicchu #southamerica #adventure
What I love about travel is that the majority of the time, it leads to uncomfortable situations. Why do I love this terrible feeling? Because without a doubt, every time I experience discomfort I learn something new about myself and usually come out of the situation with a smile on my face.
Do you have any travel experiences that have forced you outside of your comfort zone? Let us know in the comments, or share your own stories through the six-two community contributor program.