By: Amy Camp
Increasing your comfort levels in the great outdoors
Life and career coaches, myself included, often work with their clients to recognize and expand their “comfort zones.” Imagine a comfort zone as being a small circle of activities and situations in which you feel safe or comfortable. It’s like a cozy little bubble that can be hard to step beyond. Our comfort zones can be expanded, however, and our lives will be enriched when we challenge ourselves to step out.
Just beyond the comfort zone is another, larger circle – the “learning zone.” And beyond that is the “danger zone.” (And who wants to go there? Perhaps only the adrenaline junkies among us.) Most of the good stuff is in the learning zone – personal growth, challenge, new experiences, and newfound confidence.
The comfort, learning, and danger zones apply in the outdoors. Let’s think of this as the “Nature Zone.” My own nature zone (i.e., comfort zone) has been expanded over the years. A few examples:
- A group pre-dawn bike ride in Illinois a few years ago opened my eyes to the thrill of a pitch dark trail ride and also pedaling at near freezing temperatures. I’ve always considered myself to be a fair weather rider, but a group of intrepid cyclists got me out there, and I now know that feeling the rush of the cold and seeing your breath in front of your face while biking is actually a lot of fun!
- Or take a kayaking trip this summer with longtime Program Director Lora Woodward when she and I were scouting a route for Venture Outdoors. I got to improve my kayaking skills and become comfortable in a traditional kayak, including wearing and removing the spray skirt. I felt such a confidence boost after that trip! As for the concentric circles of the comfort, learning, and danger zones – rolling the kayak would have been in my danger zone. Luckily, we were on a waterway that made that scenario unlikely.
- Last one (which also involved Lora): despite years of hiking and car camping, I had never backpacked before this summer. That changed with a three-person overnight on the Laurel Highlands Hiking Trail. The experience was incredible for me. I realized by the trip’s end that I had let not owning certain gear keep me from trail overnights, but that the real impediment was one of confidence. I didn’t know whether or not I could carry a 30 pound pack for miles on end. Guess what? I could. And you can, too.
All of these experiences are ones in which I pushed beyond my comfort zone and into a learning zone. I found my own personal “Nature Zone” (a really good place to be) in each outing and have been left with lasting memories and an increasing confidence to get out and push my boundaries.
Try too much all at once and you are likely to land in the danger zone, a place of panic and discomfort. How do you know? If the idea of an activity is completely fear-inducing and there’s no joyful anticipation in thinking about it, it just may be too big of a leap.
Venture Outdoors Seems to Specialize in the Learning Zone
One of the things that I most admire about Venture Outdoors is that it creates a space that is ripe for the learning zone. The group setting with experienced guides is exactly what many people need in order to expand the activities with which they are comfortable. No doubt, there are hundreds of testimonials that support this and past trip participants whose personal comfort zones have expanded. That’s the thing about the comfort zone. It keeps expanding! For some reason, I picture the Grinch’s heart growing three times its size when I think about the comfort zone getting bigger and bigger. So, how will you expand your comfort zone—and your “nature zone”—this coming year?
Amy Camp is a Venture Outdoors Trip Leader and owns Cycle Forward, a nature-based coaching and consulting practice. Her private coaching sessions focus on professional growth and fulfillment, with sessions held outside on trails.