Ten months ago when I started this blog, I was stepping – or how it felt for me, jumping – out of my comfort zone: first time in my life I had terminated my apartment for moving abroad, alone, without any idea whether I would find any friends there or being able to speak any languages understandably. I also worried whether there would be any familiar structures left in Finland when I return back after my five months in Sweden. Now, writing in Nepal, it feels so cute, innocent and after all so human how worried I was back then. Having an exchange student period in the neighbour country felt less than a year ago as taking a huge step out of my comfort zone. But how does it feel to be here in Nepal?
Spending five months living in a under-developed country without even travelling in Asia before is, of course, a step out of my comfort zone. When travelling to Sweden was more about leaving familiar living environment behind, in Nepal it is more about adapting a completely new environment. Starting from the basics: in my first week I had to google how to use Asian bathroom appropriate way. I have noticed that it is way easier to adapt new habits than a new mind-set, and in that regard my time in Nepal has been even easier than it was first in Sweden. Of course there are difficulties, something that is annoying or feelings of missing something from your my home country (for example frozen blueberries on my soy yoghurt for breakfast), but all of these are things I could expect when I was travelling to the different continent. Several things have found their places quite nicely – I start to be familiar with travelling by crowded micro-buses and can live with cockroaches that sometimes visit my room for saying hi and/or eating cookie crumbles from my fitted carpet. What I actually try to say is that I wonder if I’m out of my comfort zone anymore.
What do you think: can a temporary living-period in a foreign country itself be seen as a way to be out of the comfort zone, or should I try harder to get everything out of it by searching new experiences more actively? Of course I do things here during the weekends – I do daytrips with friends, explore villages nearby, visit cultural or historical places – but most of my days I try to make everyday-life to work at my place and the office, go to yoga classes regularly and if there is some extra-time, even do some pre-work for my final bachelor-degree course. In my uncertain moments I think whether I do something wrong when I don’t have a strong desire to go paragliding or to conquer Annapurna. Is there any point to be aboard if I’m just living my life here as anywhere else – like in Sweden, where I studied, met friends, had nice everyday-life with my boyfriend and sometimes travelled for some weekend trips to Norway or Denmark? Should I try actively break my local routines instead of build or uphold them? Am I failing with getting the best experience I could have here?
For some, getting out of the comfort zone is to search extreme experiences and really try to push the limits of nature and/or life. One weekend I and my Finnish friends sat on a rooftop terrace of a bar in Thamel watching the movie Everest which is based on the true story about a group of mountaineers trying to reach the Mount Everest peak, but heading up to face the storm on their way back with fatal consequences. This story is not unique, unfortunately – here I read every week from the news how one or two mountaineers couldn’t make their way back. After the film we were quiet and upset, and we talked about motivations that for example a husband of a pregnant woman might have when he decides to try something as dangerous as conquering the highest mountain peak of the world. As it is said in the movie: if it doesn’t kill you (which is also possible and even probable), it destroys your body every day during your way. Is this kind of decisiveness a sign of truly and great passion or just pure insanity?
My worries of living here too “normal” life and the previous extreme-example are far from each other having different background ideas and different goals – as well as it has a different background idea if someone is spending a two-week holiday abroad. People doing extreme sports might find the whole purpose of their life by doing things that are, well, extreme, and they prepare all the time for the next challenge such as reaching the highest mountain peak in the world. The basic tourist want to experience something new and break the everyday life by doing something that is maybe relaxing, maybe adventurous and definitely enjoyable. For me, my challenge has been whether I can adapt a new lifestyle and re-shape and adapt my everyday life in circumstances deviant than in my home land. Personally, I couldn’t reach my goal of living here if I would search something new all the time. I enjoy here my time chatting with friends, walking around, reading, even studying, sometimes doing weekend trips – as well as I enjoy those things everywhere.
In regard of routines: in an environment that is in many ways quite far of my familiar environment, routines are the way to make everyday life flowing, smooth and even possible. If there is too much special in my weeks, there won’t be space four routines, everyday-life and settling down. In Finland, I don’t have to think putting my mosquito net on my bed every evening or whether I can do the laundry today if there is a thunder coming or if it’s too dangerous to travel to Pokhara after the monsoon has started.
My personal point behind the idea of stepping out of the comfort zone has been to challenge my settled routines, be open for new perspectives, learn about new cultures and people as well as to clarify what I really want to do and what is important me indeed. So far I have had the experience than I can reach these goals just by living here the way I do, without trying to push me somewhere else or through some extra-challenges. Every day I learn something new about these diverse cultures in Nepal, improve both my patience and sensitiveness to this environment and can see my own habits and values as well as my behaviour in a new perspective – even though sometimes I notice the development and improvement not immediately but after some time has gone. And maybe the routines that are similar here and everywhere else in spite of the differences in circumstances are those that formulate the base of my life as I really wish it to be.