I always feel most alive when IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve been pushed out of my comfort zone. For example, two years ago I was invited to join a motorcycle trip from Rome to the Sahara desert in Tunisia. For weeks we were cold, hungry and uncomfortable but I loved every single minute of it. I felt alive!
I may have written about this before, but ‘getting uncomfortable’ is central to my choice to live abroad. I have a natural inclination toward stasis and the path of least resistance. Choosing to live in somewhat unlikely places is kind of an attack on that habit.
Do Something Every Day That Scares You
The first few days in a new place are always stressful. Add language issues and cultural differences and they can be really unpleasant. Not to sound too twee, but I think adversity builds character, and one way to make yourself a better person is to try things that make you uncomfortable.
My mother used to say “do something every day that scares you”. That didn’t happen back home in Vancouver, but it does here in Morocco. Not terrifying things, obviously, but when your French is as crap as mine, even asking for directions is a little scary.
My most recent triumph of pidgin French was locating dish detergent, or liquide ÃƒÂ vaisselle (I find it difficult to remember not to pronounce the ‘qew’ sound). I had to ask at about four shops, but I eventually tracked it down.
Obviously discomfort is in the eye of the beholder. For a seasoned global traveler, what we’re doing in Morocco would be totally ordinary. But I also have friends who have never left North America, so for them what we’re doing seems pretty radical.
One reason we’re only spending three months in Essaouira is because I feared the discomfort level might be too high. That is, I’m not sure how my boundaries would readjust. Happily, they’re adjusting nicely. I could do with better French, a faster Internet connection and a better office chair, but we’ve already got the basic stuff–food, heat, hot water–sorted out. The rest, I’ve learned, is easy enough to figure out.
On a related note, I also still believe that living abroad makes you a better human.