There is lots of talk about the comfort zone and about how moving out of it is a good thing. Lying on my sofa with my laptop balanced on a pillow, my hot water bottle tucked under my knees, Berlin 2015, I knew I was in it. Deep in it. The comfort zone.
Not many people know this about me and it’s slightly embarrassing to admit:
I am not that keen on travelling.
When people talk about their travel plans or experiences my first instinct is: “Blimey, I’m glad I didn’t have to do that!” (whether it’s standing on the side of a red road in the hot Colombian sun waiting for the bus to be repaired, or scuba-diving down potholes off the coast of Thailand) rather than “Wow, I wish I could try that.”
Maybe I can blame it on my parents, who travelled for a living, tucking me under one arm and their cameras under the other from Havana to Hamburg, from Lisbon to Rio, Berlin, Coventry and back again.
It was definitely more this:
So once I had figured out where I wanted to be, I was staying put.
But there is a genuine reason why your comfort zone is not a good place to be if you want to keep growing and learning, if you want to stay open and engaged with the world.
It comes down to the brain and our wiring again…the comfort zone is a state that produces negligibly amazing results. That means: your work is ok…but not great. Your creative capacities are fair to middling, your innovations are on hold.
Our cortisol levels (stress) need to be slightly elevated to maximize performance.
This is called the “optimal anxiety zone”. Too much anxiety and we’re stressed out and making bad decisions, or none at all, too hyped to be productive, and our performance drops off sharply. But a slight shaking up of our preconceptions, a new way of seeing things, new smells, tastes, colours…now we’re talking.
I know that if I stay in my cosy flat, door shut, curtains drawn, temperature regulated, onesie on…I will stagnate and my brain will shrivel and die (to be slightly melodramatic about it). And after all, how can I not love travel while being a translator? How can I continue to be open to the world and different cultures if I just stick to my William Morris wallpaper and Biedermeier sofa?
As translators we virtually have an obligation to travel, to connect with other cultures to help us solve the all-consuming problems of communication.
So that rainy afternoon in Berlin, I sent out a few emails, enquiries to language schools, flat rentals etc., and before I knew it, I had committed to moving out…of my comfort zone.
After all, ours is that amazing unique wonderful career choice that your college career advisor says doesn’t exist…YOU CAN WORK ANYWHERE (that has WiFi).
But how do you deal with moving out of your comfort zone when the idea of just randomly travelling completely freaks you out?
I’ve figured out ways of creating structured environments wherever I go and schedules that help me to be “brave” while also being a chicken.
More on that next week…