Alan's Blog




Comfort Zone – Who needs one?

Some years ago, one of our friends sent an e-mail. Part of it read:

“I will never forget the sermon I heard once; that we all tend to stay in the comfort zone and do not move forward because we are afraid of what will happen once out of the comfort zone”.

How true this is for so many people. This is why some people are more adventurous than others. Some can’t cope outside their comfort zone, whilst others are all too eager to push themselves into the unknown.

I remember in December 1973, I had a girlfriend who was a physiotherapist about to go to Africa with VSO. When I saw her packing her bags in readiness, I thought “I could never do that” and yet, I found that I could do it quite easily when the time came for me to do so.

I remember when I was getting rid of all my things in preparation to going to live in the Philippines in early 1997, a friend said to me “I couldn’t do what you are doing, Alan”. Giving up a well-paid job and your home and possessions to catch a ‘plane into the unknown is, perhaps, not for the faint hearted, but it didn’t bother me at all. To me, it was the start of another adventure - and I’ve had plenty of those since 1997.

I well remember one of the first times I experienced first-hand this business about comfort zones (although ‘comfort zone’ was an unknown term to me then). It was twenty years before I went to the Philippines, in 1977, and I was about to leave my very comfortable technical teaching position, and join the Merchant Navy to work on tankers as an Electrical Engineer Officer. When I announced my plan to the other teaching staff, there were two very distinct reactions. One reaction was from all those people who had worked for the same organisation since leaving school - and in most cases lived in the same town since birth. Their reaction was to say things such as “Do you really know what you’re doing?” or “Do you think you can do it?” The second reaction, from those who’d been around a bit, was quite simply “Good for you.” and “Best of luck.”

I must admit, that once I got on board and walked into the top of the Engine Room and saw the view shown on the next page, I looked down and thought to myself “Now what have you let yourself in for?” Looking at those two photographs, ask yourself how you would feel. But it all worked out fine and I stayed on tankers for over 7 years before going to work on the passenger and cargo ferries from Dover to Calais, Bologne and Zeebrugge for another 5 years, eventually leaving the sea in early 1989 - and how I miss being on board ship! As can be seen from the photograph on the back cover, life wasn’t always plain sailing, so I wouldn’t choose to return to work on board (working an average of 80 hours a week isn’t fun), but I really love being on board a ship as a passenger whenever I get the chance.

When I was doing my cycle touring, alone, in the Philippines, I was frequently asked “Aren’t you afraid?” My stock reply to this question was “Afraid of what?” No one was able to give me an answer!

Of course, most of you who read this will be the adventurous type, similar to Grace and myself, who flit from country to country and contract to contract with scarcely a thought beyond trying to get all the visas required. The interesting questions to me are:
"Why I am quite within my comfort zone doing this?"
"Why would I find NOT doing it, far less comfortable?"

Perhaps we first need to consider just what our comfort zone means to us and where the boundaries of it lie. I suggest defining this is far more difficult, and complex, than might at first appear.

The question really might be "Do we need one?"

I would be very interested to know what you think.


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