Friday, September 01, 2006

Past My Comfort Zone

Obviously, I like to travel. I'd rather have experiences than things, which is good, because the hovel is stuffed to the rafters with books, and there's no room for anything else.

The best thing about travel, especially outside the US, is the way it forces me past comfort zones. Going to a grocery store in Rome is not the same as a trip in the US, and the one in Rome is completely different from the one in Paris. I can't take anything for granted. In a small Italian town, they wanted us to put on plastic gloves before handling the fruits and veggies. In another town, we weren't even allowed to touch the stuff until we bought it. In France, we had to weigh everything in the produce section and put price stickers on it before going to the checkout.

Being forced to rethink every small detail of daily life is a great hands-on lesson in point of view. Some people find that unnerving and get angry - huffing about how "they do it all wrong here." That defensive attitude makes learning from the experience impossible. You have to be open to it. Not comfortable, simply open. When I'm pushed past my comfort zones, my heightened awareness makes time seem to slow and everything takes on a ritualistic feel. I have to concentrate on the process. I have to be more observant.

It's a humbling experience to realize that you, not them, may be the one doing it all wrong- for that place. There is no one right way to do anything. There are many ways. Accept that, and it's a whole new world, even when you get back into your comfort zone.

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