I need to make a change in my life and go in a new direction. My present lifestyle of living for the weekends, long conference calls and meetings, traffic commutes, and never ending To Do lists is no longer acceptable. At forty-something, I have this nagging desire to venture out of my comfort zone, explore new horizons, and live abroad outside of the U.S.
Four years ago, I had the experience of living in Salvador, Brazil on a fellowship for a year. I had some of the lifestyle change that I am yearning now – slower pace, outdoor living, and greater work-life balance. Then, I took more daily risks by often saying yes to invitations for the sake of meeting new people, practicing the local language, and learning the culture. Now, what excites me about going abroad again is experiencing places and perspectives that cause me to stretch in new ways of seeing and being in the world. The nuances of a strange environment with foreign smells, sights, and tastes awakened me before when I went abroad. I am craving more of it. Divine discontent (the urge to experience something more), the inner longing for something greater keeps pulling at me.
So, what am I afraid of? I have become quite comfortable with the way things are – my status quo – that change, even the change I desire is scary. Perhaps, my biggest fear is leaving behind the familiar – the known for the unknown. The familiar is family and close friends who know me and I know them. In an interview with motivational speaker and self-help author Tony Robbins, Deepak Chopra, M.D. said, the known is a trap. Go toward the unknown. Deepak explained that we tend to seek out and want to stay in the known, our comfort zone where we feel most secure. However, the known keeps us in bondage, tied to the past and potentially, stuck in a prison of our own making.
I realize that any fears I have about leaving the familiar and moving abroad, I have to take them with me and do it anyway. I have to be willing to trust that as I follow my heart’s desire, everything will be okay. Ultimately, that I will be able to handle whatever comes up. That is where the genuine fear lies. Will I be able to manage the initial loneliness of immersion into a different culture? Will I be able to endure starting over in a new environment if English is not the spoken language? Will I be able to accept not being understood by others and possibly, not understanding them for however long it takes?
Why put myself through all of this upheaval anyway? What is it that I want that I believe traveling to new vistas will do for me? In my soul searching, what I have uncovered is that what I truly desire is to feel alive, not merely to exist. That is what this eagerness to move abroad is about – my yearning to really live; to leave the familiar and discover parts of myself I did not know and rediscover parts long forgotten. I am seeking to let go of the small self I have become – trapped by my fears and my own confining beliefs. It is a quest to uncover more of my authentic self.
Do I have to venture abroad to do it? Probably not. Most likely the answer is no. Like Dorothy in the “Wizard of Oz,” the answer lies within. I do not have to go anywhere. Perhaps, I could simply volunteer for a worthy cause or take up an adventure sport, like sky diving or rock climbing. Still, I seek to go out on an adventure. To stretch into more of what I could become instead of settling for good enough. I choose to go because the yearning for more to explore is louder than the lull of comfortable.