Getting Uncomfortable

Last week, tNb from Atomic Dogma linked to my site, and wrote this about traveling and living abroad:

I always feel most alive when I’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 à 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.


  1. Thanks for your posts like these ones Darren, its why I subscribe to your feed!

    As a fellow Canadian tech guy (web developer), my dream is to travel and work. I did some traveling to Australia, New Zealand, and Southeast Asia for four months when I finished uni and was quite thankful I did not bring my laptop (too much movement, SE Asia is too unreliable and Aus/NZ are just as expensive as Canada).

    How do you go about choosing locations, and what other locations you have on the list? I imagine you look for cheaper places that still have decent internet, along with easy access to lots of culture and sights. Are there any sites you use to find out about the net or apartments?

    Any thoughts on Buenos Aires, Cinque Terre (Italy), or Cyprus?

  2. Vancouver has become horribly comfortable so your posts from Essaouira are incredibly inspirational to me these days. I found that my limited French was also an obstacle in N. Africa, but the Tunisian French was equally as gramatically-incorrect as my poor Canadian French! I always relied on the language of hands-and-feet (along with a smile) to get my point across and it usually worked.

    PS: Thanks for the link! 🙂

  3. Thanks for the heads up, I (patiently) look forward to the post!

    And I apologize for the bout of ADD, I just thought this might’ve faded off your radar.

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