comfort zone

Travel was the primary reason I started writing in 2010. I longed to note down my thoughts and impressions, to create a melting pot of photographs and words that, together, would help me go back in time to the places I had been, conjuring their smells, their smiles, their secrets.

Granted, saying that it has been a while since I last wrote is possibly an understatement. But instead of apologising or trying to justify my absence, I am moving forward with a list of reasons that have incentivised me to pack my bags and travel – and hopefully will make you want to do so, too:

To appreciate the moment

Gin tonic at sunset in Tenerife

I sometimes let what ifs take up too much of time – I worry over things that haven’t happened (yet). In fact, this is what usually happens in my head while I’m sitting in that bus staring out the window: when there’s some sort of uncertainty, I see patterns and start to play out all possible “what if” scenarios. If I had to draw a mental map of it, it would probably look something like an ancient tree with a lot of branches.

All this is great. But is it really necessary? Most of the time, it isn’t – but it’s a comfortable and safe habit (planning – a lot) to fall back onto.

Travel, on the other hand, requires you to stop thinking of the what ifs and, instead, be present in the moment. Because of the adventurous and unexpected element in travel, there’s no other place you can be but here and now.

To step out of my comfort zone

Sleeping in chinchorros in La Guajira Colombia

“If you think adventure is dangerous, try routine. It is lethal.”
-Paulo Coelho

I’ve always been a risk-taker. No, I don’t jump out of planes or walk around Favelas. I have, however, dived with sharks (small ones – I am against cage diving). I have also hiked 450 km across the North of Spain, solo (never having done even a 2-day trek before) and have recently slept open air in a chinchorro in the Colombian desert (see photo above).

Each time I’ve taken a risk, I’ve learned something about myself: I’m way more scared of barracudas than I am of sharks; I can actually walk 38km in one day if I’m having fun along the way; and, chichorros? comfortable, but next time I’ll need to bring sleeping pills.

Travel is a great opportunity to step outside our familiar comfort zone and try something we’ve never tried before. I promise the side effects are worth it: you broaden your horizons, learn how to deal with new and unexpected changes and harness your creativity.

To get my mind off something that has been keeping me up at night

San Sebastian Basque Country

Being on the road actually helps me gain perspective on an existing problem. It helps me see things from a different angle – and most of the time, this ends up leading to a solution.

While doing the Camino de Santiago in 2015, I met a lot of peregrinos that were taking time off precisely for this reason: to step back and gain perspective. After a few days of fresh air and with the sole objective of bringing one foot in front of the other until you reach your destination, problems that seemed impossible loose a bit of weight and often even become less scary.

Don’t get me wrong: Travel doesn’t make your problems go away, nor does it miraculously solve them. But by opening your mind, it enables you to simply see things differently.

To build new and strengthen existing relationships

Zurich with friends

Some of the best and strongest friendships I have were forged on the road – and many continue to be strengthened through travel.

I enjoy traveling with people I love because it’s an opportunity to share life-long memories with them. I still remember the time we spent dancing barefoot in Tulum, roadtripping New Zealand, hiking in Patagonia or kayaking around Stockholm. The greatest memories became even greater when I shared them with my favourite people on Earth.

But that doesn’t mean that you always have to travel with others. I’ve met some really interesting people when traveling by myself: teachers, translators, hippies, entrepreneurs, brokers, ski instructors, writers, photographers and even a priest. And you know what? The one thing I learned about humanity while traveling, is that we are all essentially the same.

To satisfy my endless curiosity

Lake Como Italy

For someone that always aims to learn something new every day, travel is an incredible tool to achieve this. Whether it is a completely new place, language or culture. A new cuisine or local fruit. New customs and traditions. New celebrations. Or maybe it’s a place I do know, a destination I’ve visited before but get to see from a different perspective. Travel expands your mind, heightens your senses and makes you more receptive to your surroundings – helping you to soak up new information much faster (and for longer) than you would do any other way.

Still feeling short on reasons to pack up and go travel? Here’s a list of 100 reasons to travel by The Culturer!

Which are the main reasons you travel?

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“Confidence is the purity of action produced by a mind free of doubt”
– The Confidence Code (Katty Kay and Claire Shipman)

A few weeks ago, I finished reading The Confidence Code: The Science and Art of Self-Assurance- What Women Should Know. The book carries an important message: “confidence” – it turns out – “matters more than competence when it comes to achieve success and getting ahead”.

Even though the book itself has quite a strong career focus, there are definitely parallels with other aspects in our lives  – travelling, hobbies, relationships, etc. The book is, in my opinion, a wake-up call for any near-perfectionist. 

As a recovering near-perfectionist, I thought I’d go ahead and share my personal take on confidence – Follow along!

Don’t ruminate – rewire

Don't ruminate - Rewire (Kate goes Global)

I’m not good enough. How can I still not pronounce literature correctly? I’m never going to get promoted! I don’t have enough savings. I’m not in good shape. I’m never going to run a race. Or ski without making a fool of myself. I just can’t do it!

Does this sound familiar to you? It definitely does to me! I’m pretty good at overthinking and giving myself a hard time when I don’t get things right on the first, second or third try.

After my first attempt at skiing, I swore never to step on skis again. Instead of laughing it off and continue to practice, I focused my energy on all the times I fell on my bum and couldn’t, for the life of me, get up again without help. I listed all the excuses I could come up with to not go skiing again (it’s expensive, it’s far, I don’t have a car, my friends don’t ski, and I don’t speak french! – yeah, I’m not proud of that one).

Looking back, I can only laugh at my behaviour – what made me think that one (snowy) day on a swiss resort without an actual instructor would bring out my inner Suzy Chaffee? It took me another 1.5 years to decide to throw my ski-insecurities down a hill and learn on my own terms and pace (and oh am I grateful I did!).

Confidence Tip: Overthinking and overanalysing stops us from taking action, stepping out of our comfort zones. What I do now to restrain myself from worrying too much and holding on to past mistakes is to focus on what I did well. You can only imagine how ecstatic I felt when I actually managed to ski down through 2 blues and 1 red without falling over (who cares if it took me 4 x as long to reach the base!).

Strive for progress – not perfection

Strive for Progress Not Perfection

When I was younger, I would crumple a paper and start all over again if I had made one only mistake. My hand writing was (and still is!) extremely clean and neat. When I sketch, I start with a 5H pencil and will gradually move to softer ones when I’m confident that the lines are where there should actually be.

As a perfectionist, nothing will ever be good enough. While my teacher praised the quality of my work, I couldn’t avoid comparing my architectural sketches to all the architects and designers in the room, and feeling like a penny.

Talk about unreasonably high standards!

Perfectionism does not only increase our self-doubt but also leads to procrastination. We stop ourselves from doing something if we know that the result won’t be even near to perfect. When I first started preparing for the GMAT, the course recommended me to take a first CAT (test) to assess my level. Instead, I didn’t do one until I was halfway through the books because I was worried about not reaching a minimum score I thought was reasonable.

But here’s the thing though: not reaching my desired GMAT score on the first CAT shouldn’t be seen as failure, but instead, an opportunity for progress and improvement!

Confidence Tip: Just abandon perfectionism. Seriously. Holding on to unreachable standards is a recipe for disaster. Instead, break your end goal down into smaller manageable goals and don’t give up – Focus on progress, instead of the end goal!

Step outside your comfort zone

Step outside your comfort zone (Kate goes Global)

We need to take more action, more risks and be willing to face failure. By simply stepping outside our comfort zones and realising that the World doesn’t end if we get the first step wrong is one of the most encouraging feelings you can get!

When I started to consider a career change back in early 2012, I was a nerve wreck. I pondered all the things that could go wrong (what if I can’t find a job? what if I realise I made a mistake? what if this is the closest to my ideal job that I can ever get?) and held on to my fear of getting it wrong for months before I took the leap. And guess what: once I did, the World didn’t end. Instead, it turned to open many doors I wasn’t even aware existed.

So what is constantly stopping us from stepping outside our comfort zone? Self-doubt, overthinking, fear of rejection and fear of failure all cause us to freeze and avoid taking action. But being confident doesn’t mean that you believe you are naturally good at something, but that you can learn and improve through work and repetition.

Confidence Tip: Take more action. And if the action itself is too big and scary to cope with all at once, divide it into smaller manageable actions that trick your brain into feeling no risk at all.


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Next month, it’ll be 5 years since I landed my first real job and moved abroad without a clear idea of when I would return.

Lavaux, Switzerland

Lavaux’s vineyards became my weekend escape

I remember the blend of contradicting feelings I had when I formally accepted that first job offer in Lausanne, Switzerland. On one side, I was happy to have a job in the field I wanted and excited about all the new experiences ahead of me. On the other, though, I was worried I wasn’t good enough for the job and wouldn’t fit into the new culture.

I was moving long-term to a new city, in a new country. I didn’t know anyone nor did I speak the language. And yet, I had to hit the ground running.

Skiing in Chamonix, France

Even better than hitting the ground running, was hitting it skiing

As I settled into my life in Switzerland, I learned a lot about self-sufficiency. Sometimes, I learned it the hard way – like that time I had to kick someone out of my flat using all the French words I had learned over those 2 years. But most of the time, all those new challenges – like flat hunting, moving or going to a doctor – were easier than I had thought.

Moving abroad has taught me a lot about what I can accomplish by myself once I break outside my comfort zone and step into the new and unknown. With every step I take outside, my comfort zone expands – and the more it expands, the bigger and more powerful the experiences I live.

Es Ram, Formentera, Balearic Islands (Spain)

Like that time I escaped the crowds in Formentera, Spain

At times, returning to Spain seems like an incredibly appealing idea – Spain is, after all, the heart of my comfort zone and London is, in many ways, the exact opposite of what I feel comfortable with – It’s noisy, big and crowded. But this kind of daily challenge keeps me on my toes. It pushes me to continue learning, developing and adapting every day.

London Eye, London (UK)

Of course, not all learning paths are a straight line. I have struggled, failed repeatedly and made a fool of myself – but most of the time I have come out on the other side knowing that this struggle has helped me grow and develop my strengths.

I don’t know how long I will continue in London or where I would go next if an opportunity rose. But I do know that I’m not done with being an expat – and I’m not sure I ever will.

In which ways has living abroad expanded your comfort zone?


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