Your Uncomfort Zone (or, Why I’m Moving to Spain)

Six years ago I was sat up one night terrified out of my mind about going to University.

It was the night before (or rather, the morning of) my departure, a one hundred mile journey east to a small sleepy business campus just north-west of London.

The night before I’d been out for one final farewell with friends in a nearby city (a rare occurrence, due to the lengthy distances between anything in the countryside, and our learned love of drinking at home).

I can picture myself laying in bed looking up at my moon and stars curtains wondering why things had to change.

It’s silly really. Everybody was in the same situation, not just my friends, but a large portion of eighteen year olds’ (and above) across the country would have been embarking on the exact same journey the following day, albeit in slightly different directions, criss-crossing each other on the motorway in cars filled to the brim with guitars, posters of the Red Hot Chilli Peppers, and pretension.

At this point in time, I was so very comfortable in my current situation, in my life. It’s all I’d ever known for eighteen years, and the prospect of changing it all around now was the most daunting thing I could have ever imagined.

On that note…

In two weeks I move to Spain (Granada, Andalusia to be exact).

And I’ve been having these exact same feelings.

I’m so very comfortable in my current situation. Unlike the night before I left for University, my current situation could go on indefinitely should I so wish. Six years ago I couldn’t re-enrol at my old high school, but right now—today—I could sure as hell get my old job back and tell my landlord I’ve decided to stay on after all (both my ex-boss and landlord are great guys).

Even if my old job and room were to become filled I could always apply for a carbon copy of each and gain back some level of normality within days.

I quit my job on New Years eve. In the build up I read a lot of material on the subject, much of which I will relay to you next week.

Something which resonated with me in particular was a post by Joel Runyon. In it he spoke of how, set aside from your long term plans and goals, eventually things settle down as they are, things begin to get easier, and you start to become comfortable where you are in life.

Joel writes:

To a lot of people, comfort is the main goal of life. They work hard enough so they can live a “comfortable” life style. They want enough money to not have to worry about things. They spend time around friends that think the way they do so they don’t have to have anyone question the way they view the world (and make them uncomfortable).

Do not let comfort become the default state.

Over the past few years I’ve worked with a lot of people aged 17-21. In that group, the ones who have been (or are currently at) University are by far the most mature and open to new ideas.

I don’t believe it’s University that did this to them (the same is true of those who move out of their parents house, regardless of what they’re doing, at the same age), I just believe them getting up, making a change, and forcing themselves to become uncomfortable plays a primary role.

Often we like to describe a new situation by saying we were “Out of our comfort zone” as if this is a bad thing! As Joel put it:

The parts of life where you were extremely uncomfortable were the parts where you grew the most.

I’m not moving to Spain for the cheap living expenses, indescribable views of mountains and olive groves, tapas on tap, or even el bonito espanol chicas (though all of these are certainly healthy incentives).

I’m moving to Spain to increase my uncomfort zone, because I know, the parts of life where you were extremely uncomfortable were the parts where you grew the most.


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Posted January 27, 2012 — Subscribe to keep up to date with my latest posts.

47 thoughts on “Your Uncomfort Zone (or, Why I’m Moving to Spain)

  1. I love this post. I am VERY passionate about the concept of keeping your life in constant flux. When I left my last job I explained it was good that I was uncomfortable, comfort leads to stagnancy.

    1. Nicely put Abby. I’m paraphrasing, but when I met up with Will a while back he told me “Cutting everything loose and making yourself entirely vulnerable motivates the hell out of you to start working hard.”

      Good luck in Korea!

  2. Hey Ben, wow, I didn’t know you’d quit your job. This is fantastic. I was thinking the other day how the one thing I never regret is travelling. I went to Granada 15 years ago. I absolutely loved it. And the coach ride between Granada and Seville I thought was particularly beautiful. Oh God I envy you. Never mind, I’ll come and visit. ;)

    Forgive me, because I’m no expert in Spanish, but shouldn’t that be “las chicas bonitas espanolas”?

    Can’t wait to read of your exploits in Andalucia. Don’t forget the sun screen, trust me on that!

    1. I remember reading in Chris Guillebeau’s book “Travel is the only thing you buy that makes you richer” which I think is a particularly good way of looking at it..

      I’m glad you enjoyed it! I’ve been very sensitive about it up to this time (due to working out my notice period and and letting family know of my plans). And my Spanish… I like to think of it’s current state as “broken Spanish”. Understandable but infuriating.

      Thank you for stopping by :)

  3. Amen, bro, good for you! Life is exhilarating in the Uncomfort Zone, though it takes so much courage to stay there for sure. I’m happy to have a name for that, totally borrowing that. :)

    1. Thank you Katie, I really appreciate that. When using the word, be sure to ignore the red squiggly line that undoubtedly forms underneath. The spell-checker is just jealous it didn’t think of it first.

      1. Definitely! How’s the online marketing coming along? I’m getting my feet wet too! Also, similar to you, I am moving to Finland next week! Opposite to the weather you will have, but hey, should be interesting!

        1. It’s going well! I’m currently hitting ‘modest’ returns which is one of the reasons why I decided on this move. These modest returns go three times as far in Granada as opposed to London! I’ll be writing a post about this soon.

          I love Scandinavia but have yet to visit Finland. Enjoy! You’ve been in India for a while now haven’t you? That’s some contrast you’re going to be experiencing!

          1. Yea, been here for more than an year! Looking forward to break free, to be honest. PhD will keep me busy, but will take some time out for marketing! Also thinking of starting a local online marketing firm, think I know more about SEO than most businesses there :D But yes, do keep in touch (will keep an eye out for your blog posts).

  4. Hey – less of the “sleepy” :D
    You are so right and I am so jealous! Comfort zones are horrible places – they sap you of all your energy and I’ve been in mine for about 25 years. Wish I was coming with you. I keep thinking of things “I’m going to do” in 3 years time but maybe I should do them now
    All the best

    1. I was hoping you would see this Ruth! Now you mention it, other than the surroundings it would be hard to describe the campus itself as sleepy (rowdy? raucous?).

      I’m not sure how long I’ll be out there, but if you ever find yourself in Spain come on down! You’ll be more than welcome.

      Hope you’re well Ruth :)

  5. Benjamin!

    It such a positive thing your moving to Spain, I once got lazy from my own comfort zone and decided that I’ll get the next flight out of London.

    So, 6 hours later I end up in west Germany, Paderborn to be exact. After exploring the place and 2 nights in a B&B, Paderborn was officially of no interested to me whatsoever. I found a store similar to Sports Direct, and with no experience in fitness and never doing one workout in my entire life (I do have a fantastic physique) ;) I bought a bicycle, sleeping bag, stove, tent and noodles, Cycled back to east London in 14 nights and had a digital/alcohol/sugar detox without realising.

    Friends of mine would not believe it, but thanks to the GPS tags for videos and photos on the iPhone, I showed them that this is how a holiday should be treated. Mind clearing and refuelling.

    I met a homeless woman who lived in the forest, she gave me pepper spray, slept in an old plane wreck for the fun of it, got a leech stuck on my leg from bathing in a lake, and felt completely abandoned. These experiences allowed me to return to my lovely little canal side bedroom in London and not take granted of my surroundings.

    Good luck Benjamin, forget London, forget yourself, but don’t forget your blog.


    1. Wow. That was better than my actual post! I’m kind of stuck for words. You slept in a plane wreck? So many questions. You should write about all this, people would love it (myself included).

      Don’t worry about the blog, I’ve been writing posts and scheduling them for my first few days there, just to give myself some time off while I look for a place to live and such (you know, the little things). I look forward to sharing my stories with you, but I fear I may have to swim out to a certain toppled cruise liner in Italy to top anything you’ve done!

  6. Ben, this post and your incredible news has made me smile mucho! I love this post because I can totally relate to what you’ve said, I know that growth lies outside of my comfort zone and that’s why I spend so much time pushing those boundaries. Change kicks our butts but the end result is definitely worth it. I can’t wait to read more about your impending adventures. I would like it if one day we could have a catch up and a coffee and speak solely in Spanish. Should we make it a plan?

      1. Oh I’m talking about post Spain, so for example when out paths cross in say India or somewhere! By that point I expect you to be fluent – no pressure and all that ;-)

          1. Funny you say that, I’m taking a small Mandarin phrasebook to Spain. I like to confuse myself. Mandarin, Spanish, Hindi, we’ll speak them all.

            Will I worry how much better your Spanish is than mine (Google had to help me with most of that, and it’s still struggling to work out what a Niall Doherty is). I think I’ll be counting on you to help me out the first few weeks!

  7. I relate so much with this post right at this very moment! I am leaving my hometown in Spain when I get the visa to go to India. That scares me a bit, I don’t need to go, I could stay here, all cozy with my family and friends in my flat, however I feel the pressing necessity of stretching my comfort zone by living on my own in a place which is nowhere familiar.
    Enjoy in Spain, it’s a great place to live! (Even though I can’t wait to leave!!!) :D

    1. I had no idea Maria! Burgos will miss you no doubt (I spoke to a couple of strangers from Burgos in London last week. I was almost tempted to ask if they miss the crazy man walking around with a video camera).

      Will you be joining the crazy man in India? A lot of people I know are either out there or planning to be out there in the next few weeks. You will be in good company! And you’re so right to go, life is all about living for the adventures, and India sounds like exactly that.

      I’ll let you know if I’ll be north of Madrid any time soon!

      1. Do, do, let me know!
        I expect Burgos will miss me more than I’ll miss it (which sound pretty horrible, doesn’t it?) :)
        I don’t plan to join anybody but I’ll certainly look for who is out there when I am, and the crazy man would be a great company indeed! :D

        1. You ARE Burgos. It’s to be expected! When you’re out there I’ll put you in touch with some people I know (assuming you don’t know them already). Exciting times for us both!

          Tener una buenas tardes Maria!

  8. Que massa! (this means HOW PASTA! in Portuguese; it is also an outburst of excitement for someone or something)

    Isn’t it amazing that Brazilians say HOW PASTA! in delight? I have no idea why (my students don’t either), but this is the kind of thing one doesn’t learn in the Vanilla ‘burbs.

    I’m reading a book called “The Seven Basic Plots,” by Christopher Book; it took him 34 years to write, and it’s around 1000 pages. (But my kindle is none-the-heaver, huzzah!.) The stories begin with a call to kill a monster or to get a better life or to save the world from the power of Mordor, but they have the same arcs and trajectories. Why should this be? we ask. I think that we’re wired to live on the viewless arcs of story, and not on the plasmic screens of television.

    It’s a movement from “surrogate experience” to “destiny occupation.” I can’t wait to hear your stories.

    1. HOW PASTA I’m excited! Interesting that your students don’t know if it’s origin either.

      Thank you Mark. I like those terms, surrogate experience sounds spot on. I won’t keep you waiting for stories long, no doubt I’ll get lost the second I step out of Madrid and will emerge months days with many tales to tell.

    1. Cheers man, I really appreciate it. When we eventually bump into each other I expect us to have both trained up our monkey armies to their full potential (I’m going to be jumping over to Gibraltar from time to time to whenever I get homesick).

  9. Excelente, buena suerte y pásalo bien! (Great, good luck and have a good time!) Granada is beautiful, I’m sure you’ll feel at home in Spain soon enough and create a new (maybe temporary) comfortable, a feeling of being home.

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