“Why do you even want to go anywhere by yourself?” A voice crackled over the phone.
“I love taking vacations by myself. It’s incredible. Why don’t you try it sometime?” I responded.
“It just sounds boring. What are you gonna do?”
“Anything and everything I want”, I replied.
“I just don’t get it.”
My friends and family, for about two years now, have been wondering why, every January, I decide to go on vacation by myself.
They wonder why for the past 24 months, I’ve taken my vacations from my life as a single dad and a business owner, to travel all over the USA by myself, meeting great people and experiencing life first hand with my own eyes.
They wonder, many times out loud, what possible good could come from a man traveling by himself to witness the world, the people, and the places that make the inhabitants of said destinations proud to call them home.
As I hung up the phone, I had to sit back and understand that some people will just not get it.
Some people will never want to go on a trip by themselves, let alone to new places.
Some folks can’t even be in a room alone for a few minutes, let alone be on a plane, renting a car or getting an Uber or Lyft, and just driving to a place they’ve never been.
It terrifies people to be around all things new. They cling to their comfort zones with such ferocity that there’s no chance they would ever leave that bubble, always clinging to their worlds, petrified to leave the sanctity of a miserable, mundane life just to say they’re safe and sound.
Comfort zones, while seemingly helpful, can turn anyone into a scared little child. We yearn for the world we can control, with no surprises, and robotic consistency. Because it’s safe. But it isn’t.
And after my divorce, it’s exactly the reason why I decided to leave the comfort zone for the wonders of the world beyond, regardless of what they might be.
How It Started
Comfort zones for me, when I was younger, were a steady diet. I had to have them and I seldom left them. And when I did leave them, I was petrified to do so, resulting in prolonged periods where I would just stay in the only place I knew, to try and make it another comfort zone.
No where was this more apparent than when I went to college. It was the first time I was in a new place, where I didn’t know anyone, and I was terrified to talk to anyone. For the entire first semester of my freshman year, I stayed in my dorm room with a shitty roommate, who afterwards left because we couldn’t get along.
So for the rest of the first semester, I left my dorm room for class. That was it. I didn’t even eat in the cafeteria because I was so terrified of the world. I would warm up stuff in my microwave in my room and eat small meals.
I lost a ton of weight because I wasn’t eating. I knew something was wrong with me. It was a miserable existence, with trips home on a shuttle to my family wondering if I had major psychological issues to overcome.
The simple yet complicated point was that I was so ensconced in my comfort zone, I would do anything to keep it. To the hardest line I could. Limited contact with anyone. Head down, eyes averted, no small talk.
It wasn’t the best time.
I eventually got out of my shell in college with the help of a new roommate who was more social and helped me get out of my rut quite quickly. The guy was an alpha chad (literally named Chad) who would pull girls in and had a collection of undergarments that stretched the entire 150 feet of our dorm wing. I can’t say enough about what he did for me, allowing me to see the college life I had yearned for, but never had the courage to go out and get. And I really never did either. Most of my college life I seldom dated, kept a small group of friends, and regardless of how much I thought I was getting out in the world, still held to the comfort zone I knew and wanted no matter what. I graduated and got my own apartment, and my comfort zone came with me.
My apartment life consisted of going to work, hanging playing video games with my two best friends, and occasionally drinking with my college buddies.
Then, in 2003, I started to come out of my shell again. One of my friends got a new boat and I saw it as an opportunity to try something new. I had never really been on a speed boat before, and after he invited me for the first time, I decided to put myself on a new path towards slowly but surely getting out of my comfort zone.
So every time he invited me, I went. I didn’t care how much is pained me to go outside, I just knew that getting out was the way to go. And it was a great summer. The summer of 2003 gave me my first real taste of what life could be like outside of my comfort zone. I would meet girls (still was really shy and didn’t date), hang with new friends, and get plenty of exercise and vitamin D.
But it all ended after I met the woman that would become my ex-wife.
It wasn’t that she set me back, it’s just that finally, mercifully, I met a woman who wanted to be in the same room with me. Through eHarmony, I decided to use my new found confidence to try and land a mate, even though I admittedly had more work to do. But at 27, I wasn’t getting any younger and the constant barrage of my family wanting me to “settle down” was reason enough to try and find a woman.
And the woman I met was VERY introverted. So with her at my side, I went back to the comfort of the zone. Because it was where I was supposed to be. It kept coming back to me and saying, “you need to be in the zone, you like it there, and it makes you feel good.”
So I got to married life, raising a family, and we went on family trips. I had NEVER gone anywhere by myself, and I didn’t think I ever would. Why would I need to if I was happily married?
Then, things changed again.
How It Happened
In February of 2015, I had an epiphany. It was a paradigm shift of epic proportions as I decided to leave my marriage and wife of 10 years. Why did I do it? Because the comfort zone I loved so much became a noose that was strangling me. We weren’t happy in our marriage for a plethora of reasons, and we were kidding ourselves if it was going to get better.
For nearly a decade, the comfort zone of my marriage was just that. It was suffocating, not only because we didn’t do anything about it, but also because I was terrified of leaving the comfort zone again. The lifelong problem I had with living in a comfort zone was becoming too depressing to overcome. And I was taking my kids and my ex with me. I had to evacuate. I had to leave and realize that my life wasn’t getting any longer and living in misery wasn’t helping anyone involved in my life.
I had to make a decision. The comfort zone had to go. If I was going to truly look back at my life and be happy, I had to get out of a dysfunctional marriage to finally take charge of my life.
With the decision to leave, my life became chaotic. I became more depressed and suicidal. I didn’t realize how much work it would take to remove myself from a life I didn’t want, but still have aspects that I needed to provide for. I had to understand that getting out of my comfort zone involved changing the rules of the comfort zone by keeping one, but allowing myself to get in and out of it when I wanted to. My kids and ex needed stability from me. My ex needed a co-parent who was on the same page and providing what he needed to. And I wasn’t there.
I was still searching for the person I needed to be. A father’s journey began with realizing that there had to be a JOURNEY. Or several. So I booked flights in 2019 and 2020, gassed up my car and drove, and went to find the person I was.
How It’s Going
It took my first vacation alone, in 2019 to Los Angeles, CA. I went there because it was a place I know I would never visit again, but was a place I wanted to see. There were great people there that I met, enjoyed new places, and saw the world for the first time by myself.
I enjoyed the trip so much, I decided to book more. Yes, to meet women. And yes, to meet and talk to people I’d met online, and yes, to meet my Fraternity of Excellence brothers.
It was my middle finger to the comfort zone that had dogged me all my life. It was the “fuck you” to all of those people that told me my life wasn’t mine, it belonged to those I provided for. It was the stick of dynamite to the world that had protected me so much that it had taken away my zest for life. I was taking it back.
It was a hammer to the mirror that those that had laughed at my journeys. I was in it to spite them as well, and my trips became a symbol of my rebellion against those family and friends who ridiculed me for wanting to live the life I wanted.
But I went too far. I was traveling more and more and my kids and family life were suffering. My kids needed me and here I was smashing my comfort zone to bits. I didn’t care, until last year, after my last trip to AZ, I saw that my kids were suffering because I wasn’t there.
I finally realized, after all the times I’d had, that there had to be a balance. There has to be a comfort zone, for a solid foundation, but there has to be easy access out. It can’t be a prison, it has to be just another stop in your world, but one that provides consistency and stability for those that rely on you. But it also provides something else for me. It provides a launch pad to greater things, it provides a shelter for when I fail, it provides peace when I’m at war, and it provides needed pain for me to get up and get out. In short, my comfort zone these days isn’t a comfort zone, but a home base for which to go out and conquer the world. A man’s home is his castle.
What’s To Come
What new journeys have taught me? I need more of them. But I also need to share my love for these trips with those that rely on me. My kids will be accompanying me on many of these future trips, but I also have to hold a trip, by myself, in the highest importance.
I took my yearly Florida trip this year because I needed it. I needed the time alone to refresh and recharge. I needed a free week to do nothing and do everything. I ate where and when I wanted, I went to places I wanted to, I went to beaches, driving in my convertible, I talked to the locals, I shopped, I took naps, and I had no one telling me what I needed to do, what schedule I needed to keep, nor what time I needed to be somewhere.
This is what vacation truly should be. And I can’t recommend taking a vacation by yourself enough.
You need the time to connect with yourself. You need to challenge your comfort zones, you need to attack your mediocrity by experiencing new and different things. It’s why I’ll continue to go on trips by myself until I die.
But what’s most important, is that traveling has taught me that the world isn’t as bad as those who are terrified of it make it out to be. It’s incredibly freeing to be able to hop on a plane, go to someplace you’ve never been (or a place you know well but want to experience again) and live a life away from the life you know.
You owe it to yourself to not only get out of your comfort zone, but to make it your fortification to conquering your empire. This is your life and you want to make the most of it. My way of making the most of my life is to face the world with my chest out and chin up. I’m tired of being afraid.
The best line I can ever think of for this situation is from “The World Is Not Enough” where one of the characters says: “What’s the point of living if you can’t feel alive?”
Ask yourself what your point of living is? Is it to be safe, or is it to feel alive? Mine is to feel alive, and I’m never looking back.