“The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.” St. Augustine
Many people find adventure in activity. Climbing the mountain, rafting the river, even visiting an exotic tourist attraction. I love that type of adventure too. I love to stretch. For me, there’s a different type of adventure that stretches me on a regular basis.
Adventure is out there – and at Home!
I find my adventure in relating with people from other lands, both those in my midst and those living a world away. It is in languages other than my own, in foods that delight (and sometimes challenge) my palate with exotic flavors, in traveling and living abroad, and in not being so sure of what to expect.
I like to stretch.
If St. Augustine was correct, it’s easy to stay on the home page. Even when we “travel,” we can remain with our own cultural group in a tour, seeing sights, but never taking the stretch to learn about others.
But I yearn to explore that book beyond the home page! I aim to live looking outward, whether through reaching out to the internationals in our neighborhoods, traveling abroad (always more than simply being a tourist), or living abroad.
Do you resonate with this sentiment?
True, there is value in adventure activities.
But I would suggest there is so much more you can learn, so much more you can contribute, so much more you can be…if you extend yourself, even bit-by-bit, and explore that book!
Explore the book!
Here are 6 reasons we believe taking action to stretch outside of your comfort zone makes sense. These ideas apply whether you are reaching out to those from other cultures in your neighborhood, traveling abroad with purpose, or living in another country for a season (or longer), or any number of other ways of stepping outside of the familiar.
(1) It challenges you. It grows you and forces you to rely on others. This can be a good thing. It causes us to push our boundaries and trust that we will find a way through the challenge, through the difficulty. It even grows us up!
(2) It gives you new perspectives on others. You come to see that not everyone views the world in the same way as you. Nor do they live like you. You become more mindful of stereotypes you may have of others…and the need to scrap those stereotypes as you get to really know people from other cultures. It makes you better understand that there are many ways of living life; yours is not the only one.
(3) It gives you a new perspective on yourself. Whenever you spend serious time abroad, especially living abroad, you become an observer of your own culture and people. Some of what you see, you like. Some you don’t. This triggers introspection and thoughts about how you might choose to live in ways different from the majority. You come to better understand why you do what you do, think the way you think.
(4) It opens your heart to others. No matter where you fall on the introversion–extroversion spectrum, there is a place for you to serve, to love, to stretch.
Not long ago I was at a large event for internationals, one that I’ve either organized or volunteered for dozens of times. I went up and introduced myself to one of the new volunteers. This was her first time doing this. She was standing behind the well-organized drink table.
“You see, I’m an introvert. But I realize there’s a place for me doing something like this, even if it’s hard. I can do this,” she exclaimed. I responded that I knew she could. And, incidentally, as this was a Christian-sponsored event, I know God was smiling at her heart attitude and service.
(5) It changes you. As you relate well with people from different backgrounds and cultures from you, in time you recognize a nice benefit. Your mind and heart warm to them and you are more aware of their country in the news, their challenges, their hopes and dreams.
You also become more self-aware; you consider more how others from different cultural backgrounds may interpret your words and actions – or even lack of action.
Of course, you fumble and fail, you apologize and then pick yourself back up. This is the trial-and-error process of most things. But you grow.
(6) It is fun! You can really enjoy this season to stretch yourself, whether it be travel or time time living abroad. I’ve found a part of my brain is at work when I’m traveling or living abroad, yet it seems dormant when I am in my home country. It’s not just language, although that’s a large part. It’s more. I love the stimulation when I’m stretched. And yes, I have fun!
I am grateful for opportunities to go on activity adventures, but a deeper adventure is out there! Get out and explore! Stretch yourself!
How about you? How do you stretch beyond your home page? Or do you? If not, why not?
Image Credit: Renee Silverman, Chinese Acrobat on Flickr / Creative Commons