“Be brave. Take risks. Nothing can substitute experience.” — Paulo Coelho
“Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive and then go do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” — Howard Thurman
One thousand days of discomfort.
A personal challenge.
A real life adventure.
May 8, 2010 — February 1, 2013. (check it)
February 1st, 2013 marked my one thousandth day of intentionally living beyond my comfort zone (in some very unconventional ways which I share below). And it also marked a transition into the “next phase” of my life (to be determined).
Regardless of what that transition turns out to be — or where it may lead — I am forever changed by this journey. It has been the single most illuminating experience of my life (to date).
As some of you who have been following me from the start will recall, there were many times I doubted almost everything about my decision to live as I did — but I am pleased to say that I can no longer remember the last time that was.
Not only that, I can no longer imagine my life without having taken the dramatic steps I chose to change it. I just never imagined that by changing my life, what I really was changing was me. Perhaps “changing” isn’t the right word. Perhaps it’s better expressed as “getting to truly know myself”.
I now firmly believe that dealing with situations we don’t want be in – or situations that we are completely unfamiliar with – is an absolutely essential part of growth. As is learning real independence and spending time alone — away from the constant noise that drowns out our intuition.
Although I am counting down the days to February 1st, it is not the end. It is only the beginning.
While I may no longer push myself so relentlessly to live “uncomfortably”, I have learned to truly appreciate the rewards that come with taking risks, living boldly, and without so many of the “comforts” that many people take for granted.
I will forever seek opportunities to challenge myself, face fears, and push myself beyond comfort. I not only look forward with excessive excitement to what the future holds, I also look forward to taking the real-life lessons I’ve learned and applying them for the rest of my days.
I hope you’ll continue following me on this journey as I have no doubt that the best is yet to come.
Thanks for reading.
Neale Donald Walsch said that. And that was just one of the things I had in mind on that day in May when I left my “conventional life” behind to push myself — and live beyond my comfort zone.
Although comfortable, I’d been plagued with the feeling I wasn’t doing what I was supposed to in life. And that I wasn’t really living.
I felt like my “fire” was going out and that — although comfortable — I’d been slowly losing myself because I was just doing what I’d fooled myself into thinking I was supposed to:
1. Find a path
So I decided to take control of my life — and change everything — by effectively jumping off the “track” I was on and throwing away the map.
I decided to take a leap of faith and see — for myself — if living beyond one’s comfort zone is all that it’s cracked up to be.
It was just a matter of 1, 2, 3…
- I quit a well-paying job during the height of the global financial crisis
- I terminated my lease the following day
- And then over the next 31 days, I sold or donated everything I owned that wouldn’t fit in my 4Runner
This forced an immediate and dramatic change in my life, but it was only the beginning.
After taking some time to come up with a plan — which would include an unusual internet adventure project allowing me to reconnect with my passions while also challenging myself – I disconnected from life as I knew it.
What do I mean by that?
I mean that — along with all the other things I did over the course of 1101 days, I:
- Tossed creature comforts out the window. I spent nearly every single night sleeping in my car
- Said goodbye to familiarity. I spent nearly every single day “alone” (in the presence of strangers) — although frequently accompanied by “the internet” (and new online friends)
- For almost a year — when I was traveling extensively coast-to-coast — I covered over 60,000 miles, rarely spending more than 2 or 3 days in the same location.
– and for 1101 days…
- No refrigerator
- No stove
- No bed
- No running water
- No easy access to a bathroom (or stated another way, 1101 days of public restrooms)
- I showered once (or even twice) a day at the gym, but I certainly missed the convenience of “home”
- No easy access to electricity
- No hotels (With a single exception: a follower completely surprised me by paying for 2 nights accommodation at the Peabody Hotel in Memphis for Thanksgiving 2011 — and I wasn’t about to turn down a kind & generous gift like that)
- Internet via cell phone or free wifi only (usually cafes)
- Slept in temperatures ranging from less than -20F to over 100F
- A broken tooth — always eating on one side of my mouth — and an on again / off again toothache
- And at times, frequently questioning myself and having overall sense of failure
- At other times feeling in over my head, depressed, disgusting, lonely, lost, and questioning my own reality. Some pretty heavy stuff.
I wanted a dramatic life change and to feel like I was truly living again — and I got that. There is nothing quite like separating yourself from your “creature comforts” to make you feel alive and truly appreciate what you have.
You stop taking things for granted and you start being grateful every day the sun rises. And you begin to appreciate the simplest of things. You find out what you’re made of and you learn about what really matters to you.
I survived — and in some ways, thrived — but it wasn’t easy.
- Thoughts of quitting and giving up very early on
- 3 attempted car break-ins (while I was inside) — here’s one account
- Having to carefully pick where I parked to sleep at night and again and again
- Theft of property (my bikes were stolen from my bike rack)
- Getting escorted out of Starbucks by 2 police officers
- Being deceived by “fans”
- Accidentally destroying my laptop with coffee
- Being bullied in a cafe by a man who destroyed my replacement laptop
- Being denied entry into Canada
- Severe food poisoning (while living in a car — obviously alone)
- Car troubles — but, well, duh
- Security, tow trucks, repo men, and accidentally interrupting a drug deal
- Having an easily taken-out-of-context and negatively toned blog post go viral and then being “legally intimidated” by a billion dollar corporation
- Extreme isolation and pretty much every holiday alone (Thanksgiving, Christmas…)
- Alienation of friends and family who never “got it” and suggested I stop or “quit this nonsense”
Granted, these are only “inconveniences” and hardly compare to the harsh reality or living in a 3rd world country. As I’ve said before, there are people with real problems in the world. I get that. But even so, living as I did forced me to face so many challenges (and overcome many or most of them) that I never would have had if I hadn’t. And it changed me and my view of the world.
This experience required me to do a fair bit of “searching” — both within and without. And while I still haven’t found exactly what I’m looking for, I do feel that I’m a lot closer to it now than I ever was. And despite the unconventional state of my life — as well as some personal hardships — I do find myself more genuinely happy, joyful, grateful, stronger, and more content because of it.
Of course I look forward to meeting the woman of my dreams — and I look forward to owning a few nice things or sleeping in anything other than an automobile, but I no longer feel like I need someone or something to make me happy.
And I feel like I see the world much more clearly having taken a step back. And in some ways, that’s very scary, because I am much more able to see “the machine”, blind spots, and just how powerful group social dynamics truly are.
And I truly see that having a healthy positive attitude makes a huge difference in life.
Following February 1, 2013, I look forward to the next 1,000 days, wherever they may take me. And I don’t think I’ll mind one bit experiencing more of the simple things in life that so many people take for granted.
And despite what I wrote at times early in my adventure — about constantly questioning my decision to live as I have — I have no regrets. None.
I effectively spent what was my “life savings” living as I have — and it has never been easy — nor is anything in my future certain. But the whole experience — the extreme highs and extreme lows — it has all been completely worth it. Completely.
– Robert Frost
Some people just don’t “get it” or are wondering, “but why?”
And if you’re one of them — that’s ok! I’ve come to realize that for whatever reason, no matter how I try to explain it, some people just won’t understand why I would want to live as I have.
While it has inspired some, others have called everything from crazy, to ridiculous, selfish, stupid, misguided, and a complete waste of time and money.
Fair enough. I can’t be all things to all people.
The thing I would say to those folks is that sometimes people just need to do things for personal reasons that only make perfect sense to the person doing them. I mean, I still don’t know what’s the big deal about Picasso or those people who literally throw paint on a canvas. But hey, some people do.
So while what I think that some of us might view other’s “personal journies” as odd or extreme, it doesn’t mean the people taking them are crazy, silly, or stupid — although they might be. Or it might just mean they dance to a different drummer than we do.
As for my own journey, I’ll let you draw your own conclusions — and be content with whatever you decide — because when all is said and done, I’m not doing it for you.
The world needs more creative people — people who push boundaries. We need more people who are not afraid to be themselves or act or think differently than “the hive”. We need more people who are willing to listen to their intuition instead of falling victim to their fears.
“There is a voice in the Universe urging us to remember our purpose for being on this great Earth. This is the voice of inspiration, which is within each and every one of us.” –- Wayne Dyer
It is only by bucking the status quo and creating change do we take dramatic leaps forward. It is only by ignoring our perceived self-imposed limitations do we find out how far we can truly go.
We are always capable of achieving far more than we believe.
So having just “glorified” living beyond one’s comfort zone…
Don’t make any hasty decisions! Living beyond your comfort zone means being uncomfortable. And there were times during my trip where I felt close to being completely destroyed and as if I had screwed up my entire life. These sorts of feelings are not fun — nor is facing your demons. (I will write more about this later). So don’t just get pumped up and decide you want to do something “crazy” with your life. That’s not a good idea.
But it is true…
When you are living in your joy, the Universe is living joyfully through you. When you are living a life of fear, the Universe is dying and becoming smaller. Remember you are a child of the Universe and everything the Universe provides is abundant. The sun shines rays of joy, the bird sings a song of joy, the tree joyfully grows to provide shade and keep the air clean.
Everything has a purpose and when we are living in our joyful purpose we will be supported because the Universe loves joy. It takes a little bit of time to go from fear to joy, but if you stay steady and keep the course you will at last come to see that your joy can be your reality. Trust in the promise of joy, it is your birthright.” — Jackson Kiddard