Expand Your Comfort Bubble

It’s been two days and I’m still beaming after getting to present for Green Mountain Club’s 31st Annual James P. Taylor Outdoor Adventure Series. Public speaking: it’s a similar feeling to racing a 5K, climbing a gnarly mountain above treeline, or putting on a music performance. These are things I will get butterflies in my stomach about leading up to, be totally present and in the moment during, and get a rush of adrenaline after. They are all things I love (just replace the term public speaking with “sharing and connecting”), they’re all things I get excited about, and all very much out of my comfort zone. The presentation was titled, “A Woman Alone in the Woods at Night” and the theme was about exploring and expanding our comfort zones, or “comfort bubbles”, and how they change and shape-shift over time, then I walked everyone through my personal experience of being a backpacking novice to confident solo night hiker. I was literally doing something out of my comfort zone in the moment, so the topic was quite relevant! GMC shared a recording of the talk which you can check out below. Be sure to check out the rest of their lineup, many of which are over Zoom and cover all kinds of great topics.

One question I got via social media leading up to the talk was something along the lines of, “What do you do (in a solo hike / multi-day FKT attempt) if you reach your end destination for the day and there’s a creep there that makes you uncomfortable? What if camping there isn’t an option and you’re too tired or out of it to move on or defend yourself?” This is a super valid question as unfortunately, though it’s a rare situation, it can happen. My personal take on this is that if you’re venturing into the wilderness, you should never be so out of it that you can’t keep moving, assess a situation, make sound decisions, and take action as needed. This can apply to dealing with creeps in the woods, it can also apply to dealing with bad weather, animal encounters, injuries, or any number of things that could crop up.

My recommendation is to know yourself and know your personal limits, on top of taking responsibility in your preparedness for being out there. The very best way to explore that, in my opinion, is with people you trust and feel safe with, whether that’s hiking with a buddy, an organized club, recruiting a support crew to meet you at checkpoints along the way, or otherwise. Try doing something in a more controlled environment (like entering an organized trail race with aid stations, medical support, and the option to have a pacer or support crew) so you can explore the upper boundaries of your physical and psychological comfort zone without as much risk.

Along the same lines, this made me think of how I’m in the midst of this graduate music program–a controlled environment of sorts–a safe place where I can try new things, perform in front of my peers, make mistakes, get feedback, learn a ton, and dun, dun, dun….. expand my comfort zone. I just read this fantastic interview with Harry Melling, who played the role of Dudley Dursley in the Harry Potter films. After Potter, he went to acting school at London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art. He said that allowed him to be “really bad at acting” and “work out a process”.

You could apply this to anything, really. You can learn, grow, and get more comfortable and experienced with something by meeting yourself where you’re at, finding your people, being okay with not being amazing at something right away, then going from there. You don’t need to go to a fancy school to do that. Join your local hiking club, find an improv class, check out workshops at your local community center, say “yes” to things more often, invite your friends to come along for the ride. Keep expanding that comfort bubble!


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One response to “Expand Your Comfort Bubble”

  1. […] I also go further into my thoughts on safety while expanding your comfort bubble in a recent post on my own blog, Mercury on the Run! […]


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Who is Mercury?

Liz Derstine, trail name “Mercury”, is a distance runner, endurance hiker, writer, and musician residing in Boston, MA. She holds fastest known times for women on the Appalachian Trail (supported, northbound), Long Trail (self-supported), and Pinhoti Trail (self-supported).

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