Getting out your comfort zone is one of the most difficult experiences required on the trek to spiritual growth.
Whether it is applying for your dream job and getting denied, or going to a college where you don’t know anyone, both entail difficult journeys and uncertain payoffs.
However, with risk comes a very certain reward; character.
Anna Larimore demonstrated this character when she decided to head to South Africa last summer for five weeks.
Larimore was in a bad place when this opportunity presented itself. She was suffering from depression, anxiety, and ADHD.
“I needed more than counseling and medication to feel better about my life,” said Larimore.
Anna decided that since medication was not going to fix her problems, she needed an alternative strategy to roll back the demons encroaching ever more greatly on all aspects of her life. She gambled that taking this trip would be a step in the right direction.
Her adventure was more than a vacation on a beach and good food. It forced her to have experiences that would transform her as a person.
“I went on a program called Go Global, where I studied leadership and global citizenship,” Larimore said. “I served in a township of children at a school, bungee jumped off the tallest bungee bridge in the world, went cage-diving with great white sharks, went skydiving, touched the Indian Ocean
“I rode an elephant, petted a cheetah and a tiger, went on safari, toured the wine lands; hiked Table Mountain, one of the seven wonders of the world; abseiled the tallest rappel in the world, went to a Springboks rugby game, and toured Robben Island where Nelson Mandela was held in prison.
“I made the greatest friends of my life, explored the culture of an incredibly dynamic city, and got six college credits.”
These experiences, although they sound adventurous and escapist, actually forced Larimore to face her fears head on. She was able to touch much of the beauty and danger of the world while crawling through the thickets of doubt and uncertainty that plagued her.
She was also the only one on the trip that knew what state of mind Anna had when they left on their adventure.
Acting as her comfort zone, Amber Palmer also took the adventure head on. She experienced many transformational events on the trip as well. But when asked about how the trip changed Anna, Palmer said that the trip allowed Anna to respect herself more and forced her to be brave and adventurous.
But most of all, she observed that Anna narrowed down the things that were most important to her and now focuses her energy on pursuing these vital interests while eschewing the trivia that for too long had interrupted her peace of mind.
Larimore hopes to help others have this experience.
“I served as a community leader on campus immediately upon my return home,” she said. “I recruited students and marketed the company during the whole school year. I also currently serve as a social media intern. I write the company blog and website.
“I will also be joining the team abroad this summer, returning to South Africa to intern on two Go Global programs, as well as traveling Europe with my Go Global friends. I have stayed in touch with my friends every single day since my trip, and we try to visit once a month.”
Who would have known that five weeks could open so many doors for someone? Larimore has not only found business opportunities because of her experience abroad, she has found a way to return to the place that changed her life.
Larimore has a passion for travel that will continue.
In 2012, it was reported that 283,332 students travel abroad every year. The numbers have continued to grow since then, and the lives of these kids have also been spiritually enriched.
Kristina Cullinane, a junior at the University of Arizona, just returned from a semester in Spain.
“I have become a more independent person, and I have become less reliant on my phone to get me around unfamiliar areas,” she said. “I am also more confident in my second language Spanish.”
Having to let go of things that she valued so much in her daily life, like her cell phone and use of English, challenged her to focus on learning and open her eyes to the experiences and beauty of the world in front of her.
In doing so, Cullinane gained skills that she would have not gained back at home. For example, she learned not only how to socialize in a different language but navigation skills.
“I learned a lot about myself through learning about Spanish culture,” she said. “I never thought that coming to Spain would teach me about my own culture, but it has greatly changed my perspective of the world. I learned that I have been living in a bubble, and now I have a more complete view of the different cultural dimensions our world has.”
Both Cullinane and Larimore expressed the intrinsic value of leaving home and traveling abroad. They urge people to leave their comfort zone and discover more about not only themselves, but also the place they call home.
Many face the problems that Larimore faced before she left on her trip, and some might see foreign adventure as running away from problems. But instead, I urge you to look at it as a gateway to success.
Larimore could have continued down the negative path that she was headed towards, yet this life-changing adventure imbued her with the experience, wisdom and character needed for a better life.