Escaping the comfort zone

I’m investing a lot of my time and energy in outdoors activities. Living this way has come naturally to me and evolved from when I started surfing, when I was 16. At first it was all about finding places with waves – which always involved travelling. The first summers I went by bus to southern France to stay in a surf camp, later on I took the train to the shores of northern Germany and when I turned 18, I got my drivers license and could go pretty much anywhere.

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That time I got an amazing second place in a surf competition, Aveiro 2010

Travelling with the goal of finding good waves, is an activity that takes a lot of time. While I was in university, I would often spend up to five months a year in different countries. I didn’t just find waves but also got to know a lot of interesting places, everything between Morocco and Denmark.

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Done with surfing for the day, baltic sea 2007

Of course money wasn’t as abundant as time and so sleeping in a hostel or even on a campground never really seemed like an option. It was wildcamping all along and this was how my interest in the outdoors started. At first I didn’t really see travelling or camping as a hobby – because surfing was the purpose. After some years I realized that I simply enjoy being active outdoors, no matter which activity I’m engaged in. I started to look into more practical equipment for camping and also did my first longer solo hike in 2011.

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On my first Camino de Santiago, September 2011

Since then, I have looked into different activities, from bouldering to ice climbing, as well as cross country and backcountry skiing and of course hiking and running. I’m also interested in bushcraft, fishing and even hunting.

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Bushcraft camp south of Lisbon, 2015

Of course it is impossible to practice several sports at the same time, especially if the aim is to come further than just being a beginner. Often, I feel like I haven’t found “my thing” just yet… When I participate in a bushcraft weekend, I’m the only one not wearing all green camouflage clothes and an old fashioned leather belt with a knife and a fire striker around my waist. Because it’s not how I see myself. When I participate in a trail race, I don’t feel like a fully blown trail runner, neither do I feel like a mountaineer or a climber (and I problably never will, cause don’t have a head for heights).

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Mountaineering in Scotland, December 2014

Just the other day I met a group of hikers that are doing the Gröna Bandet (~1300 km of hiking  through the Swedish mountains) and I was just impressed by their fitness and outdoors skills. They walk up to 50 km a day and have come halfways in only 3 weeks. It makes me feel hesitant and undetermined that I haven’t even remotely come that far in any activity.

I’m a reasonable hiker and skier and a very slow runner but I’m too often stuck in my comfort zone. Day hikes, hut to hut skiing trips and short, easy races are not going to get me anywhere.

Do I have to get somewhere within the outdoors? No, but I long for it! It’s a desire I feel inside me, to go further, to do things I didn’t think were possible for me.

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August 2014, crossing Picos de Europa in northern Spain

I don’t want to imply that the outdoors is all about performance and accomplishments! The beauty of these activities is that competition is voluntary and that achievements (and most importantly: contentment) can not be measured. I’m not striving to be “better” than other hikers or skiers. I’m not thinking that running up a mountain is a more valid way to spend a day outside than sitting by a fire. I just want to follow my desire to improve, to feel like I have given my best and put my courage to the test. It’s not about impressive pictures on Instragram (I don’t even have Instagram) or doing more kilometers a day.

But often I’m not getting out of my comfort zone. I dream big and imagine all kind of adventures: I could go on a group expedition to Svalbard (Spitsbergen) on skis, I could cross Sarek, I could train harder and do a trail running marathon. Ambitious adventures like these are usually placed in a far away future and when the day comes to make definite plans for my next trip, I end up doing something much less exciting and challenging.

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My first longer winter hike from hut to hut, 2015

It’s not just me acting and feeling this way, I realize that most of us are, in one way or the other, stuck in their comfort zone. Which is not a bad thing at all, but if you can’t stop dreaming about the bigger adventures, maybe you should take the leap of faith.

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My first try at climbing a Via Ferrata, June 2017

Right now I’m stuck with my car being in repair and having a cold, which is probably why I felt even more impressed, and even a bit envious, about the long distance hiker’s adventures. I have been working in tourism and for quite some time now, I have been on sick leave, due to an injured shoulder. I’m really content with my overall situation but I always like to go a bit further and try to do a project that is scary and exciting at the same time. But this summer it has all come down to some day hikes and a fair amount of running sessions.

In the future I want to aim for being more invested in the projects on my bucket list (which is changing constantly). There are always other obligations, work or even injuries. Besides that I can count myself lucky to be free to follow the ideas that pop up in my head; may it be doing a thru-hike or getting better at winter camping.

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Cheesy text à la “looking ahead to new adventures”

 

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