Watching a young couple struggle with the challenges of a 10 hr 30 minute flight from London back to San Francisco recently, and managing their two very young children, memories came flooding back of many such occasions when my children were that young!
I was reminded of the beautiful messiness of traveling – how it stretches us, tests our limits and pushes our buttons in countless ways – and of the incredible growth that results if you allow it. Not just on a cramped, jam-packed, long-haul flight but also at your destination or destinations wherever they may be and however you get there – car, boat, train, bus, coach, bicycle, on foot……
Any time you venture outside of your normal habitat, change your routine and live a different lifestyle for a period of time, your identity, values and beliefs are called into question. Those truths, beliefs and concepts you hold dear are brought glaringly to the
surface for all to see, yourself included, and as a result you are given the opportunity for some incredible introspection.
You are required to flex and bend, stretch and strengthen all at once, simultaneously! It can be challenging, even scary at times – all that you are used to being routinely in control of and managing with ease on a daily basis is suddenly in the hands of the pilot, control tower, train driver, tour guide, hosts with whom you are staying, hotel staff, kindness of strangers, interpreters – or at the mercy of weather conditions, time zones, local customs and cultural norms…..
Back to the young couple on the plane who, I might add, did a spectacular job. I observed their joy, excitement and enthusiasm at check-in.Â This was followed by patience and resolve as they boarded with a mountain of bags, equipment, supplies and necessities.Â Then came tireless dedication to their children and self-sacrifice, fighting off fatigue in order to care for their infant and toddler.Â I watched them weather the countless looks, judgments and frustration of their fellow passengers as their children fussed and cried through the flight.
I wanted to tell them what an incredible job they did when we landed, however, the layer of protective energy they had created around themselves in order to manage and self-preserve, was not yet ready to allow or receive any communication about what they had just accomplished.Â During that time, they had grown both together and individually – the strength they gained from their flexibility and ability to adapt was clearly visible.
I was reminded of another trip my husband and I took to Rome, Italy a decade ago with a group of people from across the United States. Despite the abundance of incredible, local cuisine readily at hand, many in the group ate regularly at The Hard Rock Cafe and yearned for a Denny’s Grand Slam breakfast – something they knew, were familiar and comfortable with so that they didn’t have to stretch their wings, flex their muscles or go too far beyond their comfort zone.
I understand this mindset.
Comfort is something we human beings naturally seek out.Â Comfort makes our lives more manageable.Â Sometimes when we find ourselves beyond the definition of our normal comfort zone – as we might in another country and/or culture – we look for anything we can connect with, is familiar and that helps us feel safe, secure and at home.
However, if we dare to venture into the unknown, take a leap of faith and allow for new experiences, our world and resulting comfort zone expands and grows. The more we allow ourselves to experience, the less we have to fear!Â By bending the rules, flexing and stretching our boundaries, letting go of attachments to our identity, we strengthen and broaden our base, our foundation.
I hope this New Year brings you an abundance of opportunity through which you can flex and stretch – and, as a result, grow stronger physically and spiritually!