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I should have written this post a lot earlier.

I’ve spent the last two weeks running around London like a lunatic with a camera, setting up my apartment flat, bank accounts, and auditions, and meeting a whole host of awesome people in this new town. That’s part of my excuse.

The other reason I put off this post is because I wanted my “new city excitement” to wear off a bit, so I could be clear and objective in my writing. Otherwise, this post would basically be “OMG London is awesome”, but with much less Valley Girl tone than that quote suggests. Obviously, I didn’t want to subject any of you to that.

This has basically been my expression every day in London.

This has basically been my expression every day in London.

However, I finally decided that instead of focusing on my experience in London so far, I want my first post I write here to be about something else.

My Last Few Months in LA

Many of us who love long-term traveling sometimes get accused of using travel to run away from our problems or escape from something. I guess it’s a valid point once in a while; most of the time, it’s very much off-base.

I didn’t at all feel that I needed to escape something in LA. On the contrary, the last few months before I left may have been some of the best I’ve ever had in that city. I cemented friendships with some great new people I had met the last couple of years, got a couple of truly incredible acting jobs and opportunities, and most of all, felt entirely at home.

Clear skies and a downtown view of LA.

Clear skies and a downtown view of LA.

Every employee at my neighborhood coffee shop knew my name. The few times I went out to restaurants or brunch, I ran into 2-3 people I knew each time. Every night that I spent at my neighborhood bar, I could count on 3 or 4 of my friends showing up, and even when I ventured to other places, it was probably because I knew the staff, and a couple of friends could always be counted on to come join.

It all felt easy, and comfortable, and familiar. And I fully lapsed into my comfort zone.

Why I Hate My “Comfort Zone”

I found two definitions for comfort zone.

  1. a situation where one feels safe or at ease.
  2. a settled method of working that requires little effort and yields only barely acceptable results.

In my life, I’ve always found the real meaning to be closer to the second line.

Whenever I get into too much of a routine, whenever anything starts to seem easy, I end up becoming disengaged and doing the bare minimum. That’s why I was never motivated or excited by things that came easy to me, like school subjects I could get As in while barely opening a book – those topics never engaged me.

Exploring London - colorful Bywater Road in Chelsea.

Exploring London – colorful Bywater Road in Chelsea.

The first time I had to practice a piano piece for hours on end, sometimes losing my temper and getting frustrated beyond belief – that engaged me.

The first time I had to practice an acting scene again and again because there’s something I wasn’t getting quite right, and I couldn’t figure it out until I felt completely broken down – that engaged me.

The first time I went on a long solo trip, and had to explore and figure everything out for myself in environments with which I had no familiarity – that engaged me.

There’s a reason the things I’ve listed are some of the things I love most in my life; every time I feel challenged, I feel alive. I am at my most present and involved and focused when I am grappling with something that has thrown me off balance.

In my last wonderful, familiar months in LA, I had completely lost this sense – I was disengaged, and content to just keep going through my routine days in the same exact way.

Why I Left LA

LA Neighborhood Guide Santa Monica

Sunset behind the ferris wheel sunset at Santa Monica.

I could give you plenty of logical, well thought-out reasons for leaving LA and coming to London for a few months.

  1. I lost my acting agent in LA at the same time I got a great agent in London lining up auditions for me.
  2. Based in London as compared to LA, I have much better access to a whole slew of cities and countries for way less flight time and money (thanks, easyJet and Ryanair!) – which means more destinations and travel articles to write!
  3. The pound is the weakest it’s ever been in recent memory against the dollar, making my stay here much more affordable than it was last time.
  4. Not to mention the intensely negative political climate that currently exists in the US was starting to wear on me. I still can’t help posting about politics sometimes on my personal Facebook, but I’m glad those issues are no longer ubiquitous in my real-life day to day conversations.

However, all these perfectly logical, acceptable reasons were in reality overwhelmed by my first, deafening instinct: GET OUT of my comfort zone.

Everything in my head was telling me I needed a shock to my system, and when all the above logical reasons presented themselves, a few months living in London, a city I had completely fallen in love with on previous trips, seemed like the best choice.

Coming to London

Chelsea Sunset

Sunset on Fulham Road

After finishing a 3-week acting job in the US that got me euphorically energized and challenged me completely, I kept that boost of energy going and moved here to London three days later. I tell myself I will be staying three months, but in all honesty, there is a good chance I will extend.

I realize I have the luxury of working from my laptop, so a temporary move of a few months is within my reach in a way it may not be for others. And obviously, picking up and moving to a new city may not always realistically be the best way to break out of my comfort zone.

But everything in my life seemed to align to get me out here to this new town. So far – I have been loving it. I am feeling a burst of energy and a sense of curiosity I had lost for a while. I do miss LA, but I also can’t wait to see what happens.

If Travel Isn’t an Option…

Rush hour traffic on Regent Street

Rush hour traffic on Regent Street

Enough about me though; I want to make this post about much more than my experience. Again, I know the option that exists for me may not exist for everyone – although I firmly believe that if you have the chance to take a trip or explore a new place, you should absolutely take it and be prepared to get a whole new perspective!

But there are other things you can do to shake yourself out of your comfort zone.

  1. Learn something you’ve always thought or been told you’re really bad at doing (mine is speaking French).
  2. Is there something about the way you operate that you don’t like? Whether you’re known as a crazy party animal and hate it or an introvert and hate it, try doing the opposite for a while. See what it does.
  3. Find a type of person you never thought you’d hang out with, and give it a chance. Listen to them  and try something new.
  4. Make a new habit for yourself – hike 3 times a week, go to 2 music shows a month, learn to tap dance, become a master home chef, pick up a camera, etc.

Basically, here is the gist: do something, ANYTHING, that breaks you out of your routine. Do something that’s “the kind of thing” you would never do, take an idea that’s “too crazy” and go for it, and you’ll be surprised how much that sense of excitement and accomplishment fuel you.

Every time I do something like that, it changes the way I approach everything. And don’t get me wrong, the “leave your comfort zone in the dust” trip has plenty of moments of frustration, doubt, and annoyance; but it is more than worth it in the end.

So now I want to hear from you: what have you done to break out of your comfort zone? Comment below, I want to hear your stories!

Harcourt Me