Sunday, March 20, 2011

Comfort Zones and Mental Limits

We all have our limits, by which I mean the boundaries of our own comfort zones.

Penny and I have met many travelers since we started this walkabout seven months ago.  One young woman from San Francisco was laid off, so she put her stuff in storage and hit the road.  She had just arrived in Puerto IguazĂș and was having some ice cream when we came into the shop.  We have also met people who have been traveling for years after retiring, much like we are now doing.  When we tell people what we are doing now, we usually get raised eyebrows in response.  Some genuinely think they could never do what we are doing.  Sometimes, we can see the gears whirring inside their heads as they take aboard a new idea.  It is a big decision, though, to do this kind of walkabout.

Penny and I have developed rather large comfort zones over the years, but we too have a sense of limits.  Don’t look for us to head off to Uzbekistan at any time in the near future, even though one of our most adventurous friends has done exactly that.  At the other extreme, we know people whose comfort zone limits extend perhaps to the counties next to the ones where they live. 

But, it really doesn’t matter where your limits are.  You don’t have to decide to mosey across the border into Paraguay to be adventurous.  What does matter is to engage the wonderful world and its people as best you can.  I know some people who have gone to Italy and were so uncomfortable that they may never travel abroad again.  I know others who also went to Italy and found that it tested their comfort zone limits.  They still want to travel to other places or return to Italy when they can.  The difference, of course, is how you react to the challenge.   Do you challenge your limits?  If you do, then you have expanded your horizons and have created new limits for yourself.  You are actually expanding your very humanity.

And you get memories to keep as long as you can.  That is all that remains when you leave any particular place.  You have what you see before your eyes at a given moment, and all the rest are persons and places that you can visit no matter where you happen to be sitting.  You simply walk down the hallways of your collected memories, choose a treasure chest to open, and then conjure in your mind’s eye some person or place that you remember. 

As I write this, I happen to be in Buenos Aires.  It is a great city.  Not the greatest in the world, as I see it, but it is a great city.  I could right now visit Paris or Hong Kong again just as easily if I were sitting in…say, Winnemucca, Nevada, which I don't think is such a great city.  In fact, I have just gone back to Boston for a while, and Boston is a great city.  That’s the beauty of creating all these memories.


  1. An adventure is to arrive to the U.S. Customs with a passport of "suspicious" country and be listed by the officer who decides if will send or not to the guillotine.
    I have two Colombian friends who came to ezeiza airport (Buenos Aires) with jacket and tie. I asked why??, and they told me: to be that we look better .....!
    good people, condemned to be suspect in many customs in our world (and be at risk of losing his tickets and reservations)

  2. Thanks, Bruce. I am so divided about traveling. In my heart, I feel I could go just about anywhere, and I say, "oh, I'd love to go to South America or Spain, or blah blah." But when I am on the plane, cramped in that seat, not able to sleep, I think I'll never do it again. And that's a mere 6-hour flight. I'd like to go to India...could I do 13 hours? Then a puddle jumper to Delhi, then a hairy bus ride up into Ladakh? I read the email of a guy who had made that India trip and I got vertigo just reading about the bus teetering along precipices. So some days I feel like Thoreau, who reacted against all the Americans taking the Grand Tour abroad. He said, "I have traveled much in Concord." Some days, I feel just fine where I am. Kate

  3. Bruce, you are an exceptional travel writer. Great!!!. your narrative is very professional. Write a book: ""when the world around my home changes every day""".

  4. Thanks Kate and Rodolfo! I see that Rodolfo has added his voice to Kate's and others' that say I should write a travel book. I don't know about that!

    I recently read that comment of Thoreau's too. I understand what you are saying. Thoreau's comment struck me as being about finding one's own happiness as much as anything. Or maybe just my mood at the time.

    That story about teetering around the Himalayas sounds well-written! Bus travel can be an adventure! Like what happened to us in Peru a couple of years ago, or much worse, to those people returning to New York from the darkest reaches of Connecticut a couple of weeks ago!