Comfort zone

Woah. I had expected it to be so similar to leave for Namibia. Boy was I wrong. When I left for Panama last year, I sincerely didn’t understand the question ‘Are you nervous?’. Now, on the day of my departure, I had butterflies in my stomach and I survived the whole day on a few sandwiches and peppermints. And that while my friend Geeske had given me a big bar of Tony Chocolonely’s chocolate! (Sea salt & caramel, jummy!) I couldn’t get an appetite for it, neither as the fries which I normally treat myself with on a long journey. It’s on. I’m finally really going to Africa. And not only that, I’m going to study baboons and cheetahs. Large mammals in Africa. I’m going to see the animals I’ve been watching documentaries about my entire life. I still can’t believe it. Dire Straits’ Money for Nothing swelled while we take off. We landed on Windhoek Hosea Kutako Airport, named after an important leader of the Herero ethnic group and one of the leading commanders against the colonial powers in Namibia. The hot air pressed against my face while I walked through the open air to the arrival hall.

Baby step
‘Stepping outside of your comfort zone should become your new comfort zone.’ I heard these wise words during a lecture. I agreed, so since then I try to put this into practice, step by step. How I can tell something is outside of my comfort zone? I start feeling uneasy, don’t want to do it, or in the worst case I’ll ask myself: ‘Oh men, what have I gotten myself into?’. But the whole idea of stepping outside of your comfort zone is that you just do it, undertake something, and then experience what it’s like. You can stop yourself from doing something for weeks, months or years because or until you’re overthinking. But if you don’t just do it, you still won’t know what it’s like. Most of the time it will be better than expected. A lot of your arguments will disappear and maybe you’ll really like what you’re doing. Either way you’ll get to know yourself better.

One of the things on my bucket list is travelling by myself. And really travelling, and really alone. Now in Namibia, but also last year in Panama, I did step into the plane by myself, but I was part of (the safety of) a research group. And with safety I mainly mean social safety: you meet new people once and hang out with them over the next few months. Travelling alone would mean to me that I would have to step outside of my comfort zone. When you know you’ll be working together with people it’s easy to get in touch, but when you want to have a fun night at the bar of your hostel you’ll have to reach out to people actively.
So, to get myself used to the idea, I started with a baby step out of my comfort zone. The first two days in Namibia I was by myself. And I have to admit, when I arrived in the hostel, Chameleon, on Friday I had a brief ‘oh men, what have I gotten myself into’-moment. I washed it off under the best shower I could’ve encountered after a journey of 26 hours. As soon as I showed my face outside of my dorm, I was invited to a quiz with a braai. The ‘oh men’-feeling disappeared instantly and made way for the ‘nice, meeting new people’-feeling. While a delicious meal was prepared for us, including the best garlic bread I’ve ever had, we, team Ciders over jetlag, achieved a good second place. Being the newest guest I had the honour of coming up with the team name, and our name referred to the fact that I overcame my previous tiredness thanks to a couple of Savannah ciders. Stepping out of my comfort zone isn’t all that bad after all!