Lots of people I’ve met don’t believe an introvert like me can be adventurous, spontaneous, and be willing to live in a country for five months where not too many people speak English.
As you’re reading this, maybe you’re having a little difficulty believing it too.
When I made the really last-minute decision to study in Spain for a semester, despite all forms of thinking that I wasn’t ready to live abroad by myself, it wasn’t because I wanted to be more outgoing or fun or well-traveled – or to fit into a mold shaped by the expectations of the world.*
Living far from home was a personal choice I’ve always wanted to make. I did it because I wanted it.
And I sure as heck was ready to fly far, far away from my comfort zone to do it.
And now that I’m here, nearly three months into my stay, I can’t say my DNA has altered into something it’s not. Living far away from home is a choice many introverts would make, and the thing is that we just have different ways of coping with such a big change – personally, mine are things that are my constants, no matter where I am in the world.
For one, I’m still always unapologetic about my me-time.
Nothing has made me cringe faster than when I overheard a friend of mine tell someone else that I “like to be alone.” That’s generalizing a little too far on the spectrum because, personally, it sounded like I like being alone all the time, period.
Far from it. In reality, it just means I value having time for myself and would, sometimes (i.e. not always), prefer to do things without other people. (Shopping is my favorite me-time activity, just felt like saying.)
Another thing is I – and any introvert, really; just ask – enjoy being with people. I enjoy going out to dinner. I enjoy meeting all sorts of new faces (most of the time, especially because it feels like a whole pool of people I will one day get to know on a deeper level. But more on that in a bit).
Being with other people isn’t a huge step away from my comfort zone; sure I sometimes dread it, but I love it all the same.
Yes, I’ve gone to more parties in a span of a month than in all my three years of university back home. Yes, I can hang out with whomever I want from wherever in the world. Yes, I engage in small talk more than I ever have before.
But I always need a reboot by myself. Someone like me whose flown this far from her comfort zone needs those moments.
Admittedly, living here has meant more control over that me-time. Without family and the close circle of friends from back home, there’s a lot of room to either do go something on my own or choose to socialize with new people or new friends. Which, in itself, is interesting on its own.
I’ve found that just because I can choose to be alone doesn’t mean I will choose it.
Don’t get me wrong: I’ve been glad to have the freedom of choosing what I do in my spare time. I love having all this time to devote to either a book or TV show or a passion project. But I’ve surprised myself in all the moments when I didn’t choose to do any of that, especially because it meant ditching what I was comfortable in.
All the free time is good, yes. But I’ve learned that someone like me can’t just use it completely for myself. Sometimes I use this freedom as a challenge to myself to just go out and get out there with friends even if all I wanted was the opposite.
So yeah, let’s go out into the freezing rain just to watch that movie even though I was totally planning on binge-watching The Big Bang Theory from the comfort (and warmth) of my bed.
Even as introverted as I can get at times, I never regret the time I sacrifice for myself to spend with other people.
Which brings me to the last point I really wanted to make about living far away from home. I’ve said it once, but it’s worth repeating. Going on this trip was a big change for me – a huge new thing that was terrifying and exciting all at once.
I’m happy because I’m growing – well outside my comfort zone.
No one is worse at directions than me. No one is worse at remembering names than me. No one is worse at small talk than me. (Not to mention: I’m a non-Spanish-speaking girl who threw herself so far away from her comfort zone that she ended up at the other side of planet, i.e. Spain.)
But having to navigate through all these things, despite the blunders and awkward situations, has been really fun. I’m surprised how much I’m fun I’m having not knowing what to say or not knowing what people are saying. I don’t freeze and start crying like a baby when I get lost. And I’m seeing a lot of value in practicing how to do small talk.
I have loved every minute of learning and even doing things differently. I love all the different people I’ve met and gotten to know and constantly hang out with.
You realize how small you really are when you realize how big the world actually is.
* If you want to read a book on appreciating our introverted friends despite living in a world where we’re expected to be more like our extroverted friends, a good one is called Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain.
We don’t always have to throw ourselves halfway across the country to get out of our comfort zones. Sometimes it’s as simple as doing something that makes us more passionate every day.
And if you’ve ever wanted to pursue your passion (but didn’t know where to begin), download this free printable worksheet to help you find your next big passion project!
Leave me a comment:
Do you have any experiences where you really went far from your comfort zone – or instances where you really want to do something big? Let me know, I’d love to hear about it!
Mica is the face behind everything you see at her blog, Mind of Mica. She champions the goal-getters, the dream-chasers, and the unapologetic hustlers who are out to make a difference – even if it’s in their own lives.