It has been raining for days. On New Zealand’s South Island it’s fall. On a good day, the colours here are unimaginably clear and almost unnaturally beautiful. But a day like this makes everything look dark and grey. The streets are empty, except for the odd car here and there. Nobody wants to go out in this weather. Most tourists and backpackers rather go to big cities at this time of the year. Except for one.

Drudging through the pouring rain, a lonely cyclist cycles by. Dressed in plastic, a rain poncho, plastic trousers, even plastic bags around his shoes. Underneath the helmet you can see his face, bitter from the many kilometres he has been cycling already and from the bad weather that is taking its toll on him. Two thousand kilometres already and still a thousand to go. Loneliness is taking its toll on him too, the cold makes his bones chill and with the rain, teardrops fall down his face.

The choices you make are not always easy ones. On a moment like this, the cyclist misses his family and friends. And there is only one reason that will make him keep cycling. An unstoppable drive to realise what he had decided to do. It’s the fight against the elements vs. the fight against himself. ‘How strong is this lonely cyclist?’ is what Boudewijn de Groot sang. He makes his way through the pouring rain, in an almost deserted country on the other side of the world.

Getting out It all started at a kitchen table in a village in The Netherlands. With the decision to travel and to go on big adventures, mostly personal adventures. There are many like him, deciding to go and leave their jobs, family and friends behind in order to discover what else is out there. The world, his world, has become too small. He wants to get out because he feels that he must.

‘If I’m already homesick after two weeks, what do I do?’ he asked his mother. She said: ‘You stay for another two weeks and if you’re still homesick, come back.’ It is as scary and exciting for her as it is for him. To see this grown-up, in his twenties, leaving to go to the other side of the world. This means really letting go, trusting he can take it. It is his time to go and leave the nest. This child needs to spread his wings and fly far far away.

And he goes. And the two weeks have passed before he knows it, as too the first months. A confident decision to go traveling, together with an uncertain feeling of how it will be, creates an enthusiasm for another life. With the will to discover if the boundries he always felt he had were real or merely a transition into a new phase. He leaves comfort behind to create new space for himself. Unconsciously he knows, not being afraid to step out of his comfort zone will give him the biggest discoveries and most intense experiences.

Out and in again The nice thing about getting out of your comfort zone is that you will be able to build up a new certainty for yourself. The first uncomfortable steps will result in a new place of comfort. And from experiencing this, you can take another step into unfamiliair territory. A new environment that challenges you about who you are, what you can do, what you want. You learn and discover. Just look at your job, you can stay where you are and do what you do. Or you could keep learning and expanding your abilities, but this will require you to get out of your comfort zone. By taking that step, the enthusiasm to discover and to learn gets hold of you and you will not be afraid to take such a step again. Because insecurity doesn’t scare you, instead it attracts you. And because the desire to grow gets bigger.

Living in Australia and fed by an incredible desire to experience, he makes plans to discover New-Zealand by cycling through the North and the South Island. Almost everybody said he was crazy. ‘Alone?’ ‘Why would you do such a thing?’ If you really want to go, you go and all the arguments to keep you inside your comfortzone are no longer valid. Outside of that zone, that’s where it happens: the magic, the development. It is a transition to a new, bigger zone. From discovering how you can travel together and build a carreer and a life of your own in a different country, he wants to take on a new challenge: can he travel alone?

Comfort: the profit from believing in yourself And so he cycles on in New Zealand, day in and day out, kilometre after kilometre. His pictures are as colourful and well chosen as the months he had in Australia, but now show the silence of his world. They show beautiful nature, deserted camping places, and the little tent of a lonely traveler and his bike. Kilometre after kilometre, like a thread of experiences. It is such a security in himself that he’s building up. A zone of comfort in himself that he will always carry with him. To know that you can do this, physically but mostly mentally, makes your self-confidence grow incredibly.

To stretch your comfortzone creates an opportunity to reap the benefits of believing in yourself. New businesses, who are still learning, challenge their employees to stretch out their comfort zones. This develops the capabilities of both employee and company. And the cyclist, grits his teeth, wipes away the tears and cycles on, it’s like an invisible power takes over. Those who meet him feel it. Excited to go and to trust, because he has proved to himself that he can do it and that he is not afraid.

This is the chapter ‘Comfort zone’, from Het Bevlogenheidsalfabet, written by Margreet Oostenbrink. Het Bevlogenheidsalfabet is an inspiring co-creation with 26 chapters of publisher De Alfabetboeken with the authors Richard van der Lee, Pieter Taffijn, Margreet Oostenbrink, Erica Tonnema, Marcel van Marrewijk, Rianca Evers-den Ouden and Jos van Snippenberg. You can find more information on the website of De Alfabetboeken. Of course, you can order the book directly (and exclusively) in the bookshop of De Alfabetboeken by clicking here.

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