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10 Lessons that Come from Living Outside of Your Comfort Zone

By Rita Wilkins October 21, 2022 Travel

We all have dreams and bucket lists that we would like to accomplish in our lifetime. Seeing that most of us are past 60, we have likely completed many of them.

Yet, there may still be a few important items that continue to be relegated to our “someday” list, and as the book title by Sam Horn states, Someday Is Not a Day in the Week.

Why do we continue to push those important dreams to the bottom of our “To-Do” list? Shouldn’t they be at the top? After all, as baby boomer women in our Third Act, isn’t this our time to finally make room for what matters most to us?

Last November, as I was writing my book, Downsize Your Life, Upgrade Your Lifestyle: Secrets to More Time, Money and Freedom, I was stopped dead in my tracks as I posed this question:

“What is preventing you from having the kind of life you dream of right now?”

A Renewed Sense of Urgency

Right now. Those words shook me to my core and at the same time created a new sense of urgency. For years, my number one bucket list dream had been to immerse myself into the countryside of Southern France for at least 30 days.

I wanted to live like a local, experience their lifestyle, culture – and yes, their food – as if I were one of them. And while I was there, I also wanted to test our new lifestyle business model, Work 3 Days, Play 4, which balances having a great business and a great life.

I suddenly realized that I had not given myself permission to live out my big dream and fully live the life I most wanted. I began to wonder “what if”:

  • I took that 30-day journey to the South of France and prototyped our new Work 3, Play 4 business model?
  • I made my dream my reality? Not someday but one day soon.
  • I didn’t go? And yes, the thought did cross my mind.

It opened my eyes to a whole new way of living that I wanted not just for myself but also for other baby boomer women. My mantra became, “If not now, when?” I decided I was not going to live a life of regret.

What once seemed like an impossible dream became possible, then inevitable. I didn’t know how I would do it, but my dream became larger than my fears. Nothing would stop me now that I had finally given myself permission to boldly and unapologetically live the life of my dreams.

On July 1, 2019, I landed in Marseille, France, beginning a journey that changed my life.

Let me share the lessons I learned from living out of my comfort zone for 30 days.

Having No Plan Was the Best Plan (For Me)

If I was going to experience the French countryside, culture and people the way that I truly wanted, I decided the best way for me was to have no plan that might prevent me from having the freedom, flexibility and spontaneity I wanted.

So, I only had a ticket to, a ticket from, a hotel reservation for my first night and a small carry-on suitcase. Traveling with no itinerary was frightening but provided freedom I had never experienced before.

The most interesting result of traveling without a plan was that it invited a spirit of adventure that made me feel fully alive, 20 years younger and authentically connected to the woman I’ve always wanted to be.

Expect the Unexpected: Stuff Happens!

  • The bed and breakfast that I accidentally booked in the middle of nowhere.
  • The hotel reservation that didn’t exist because I forgot to push send.
  • The bus that never arrived, leaving me stranded 50 kilometers from anything.

These are just a few of the “oops” moments that actually became part of the fun. “Figuring it out” became a finely-honed skillset. Getting lost, having no internet access or taxi service simply provided many opportunities to grow, learn and laugh at myself.

Embrace Life on the Skinny Branches

As a lifetime entrepreneur, I have taken many risks and thought I had become accustomed to being out of my comfort zone.

However, as a baby boomer woman, who is directionally and tech challenged, traveling to a country where everything was new clearly tested my ability to figure things out. The bigger the challenge, the more resilient I became.

Yes, You Will Get Lonely (Sometimes)

I had decided to travel solo, and because I’ve traveled alone many times before, I fully expected that I would occasionally get lonely… and I did. But I also discovered a few powerful ways to deal with loneliness:

  • Acknowledge your feelings, write them down. Pray. Talk to loved ones back home.
  • Push yourself to get out and engage with people. I found that the village squares were my favorite go-to places to meet new friends and socialize with locals.
  • Take selfies, videos and record experiences in your journal. It’s important to capture those moments so that you can recall the memories and share them later.

It takes courage to travel alone, and while it has its downfalls, it certainly has its many benefits too. You get to do what you want, when you want, where you want – and you get to do it your way!

See More of Less

Could I have seen the entire country in 30 days? Probably, but my dream was to immerse myself in the French countryside so I could have a deeper experience.

  • Slow down. Savor more.
  • Focus on what interests you most.
  • Take time to notice the little things.
  • Do it in your own time and on your own terms.

Attitude or Mindset Can Make or Break Your Journey

To say this trip was easy would be a lie. I had to accept delays, develop patience, embrace challenges and face my fears many times. I could have let several moments ruin my trip, but I chose to have a positive mindset regardless of circumstances.

  • Have fun each day. Laugh at yourself, your missteps and not knowing.
  • Turn fear into curiosity and curiosity into fun.
  • Learn to accept help from others. Just because you can do it yourself doesn’t mean you have to.
  • Have an open mind. Let go of preconceived ideas and judgements.

The Significance of Immersive or Experiential Travel

Everyone and everything is a teacher. It’s an opportunity to listen, learn, connect and honor those things that are different from what we know. Being friendly and curious with locals allowed me to develop new friendships (which I’m still nurturing today).

This immersive travel experience created valuable conversations and insights that enriched my worldview to understand new points of views and new ways of living.

  • Priceless experiences, rich conversations and life-long new friends.
  • A newfound awareness and respect for our similarities and differences.
  • A broader understanding and connection to the world around us.

Seize the Opportunity to See Yourself Through a New Lens

Several years ago, when I downsized from a very large home to my tiny jewel-box apartment, I discovered the real me who had been hiding under all of my stuff.

Similarly, when I immersed myself in the South of France for 30 days, I discovered a new me that had been waiting to be found.

  • I discovered the bold, fearless adventurer who thrives on change, challenge and connection.
  • I discovered that it is possible to have a great lifestyle and a great business working from anywhere in the world.
  • I discovered saying yes to my dreams is one of the best decisions I have ever made.

Embrace a Vacation Mindset Every Day for the Rest of Your Life

When we are on vacation, we are more relaxed, free, curious and open to new ideas, people and places. I discovered that we don’t need to be on vacation to have a vacation mindset.

We simply need to open our eyes to adventure and opportunities that are right in front of us so that we can be fully alive each day. Living expectantly, daring ourselves to try new things is all part of what makes life worthwhile. There’s no need to wait for your next vacation. Live it now.

It Is Possible to Design and Live a Life You Love

At this stage in our lives, we have already accomplished much that we are proud of. And yet, we might still find ourselves asking “what else can I do to be more and to do more?”

My 30-day journey provided the much-needed time to discern what matters most to me and where I can make the biggest impact during my Third Act. It’s never too late to reimagine, reinvent and redesign our lives.

Where I Am Now

As baby boomer women in our Third Act, it is our time to follow those dreams, to check off those bucket list items before it’s too late. It’s important to see through the invisible barriers, both real and imagined, that prevent us from living the life we most want.

Whether your dream is to travel to distant locations, start a new business, or move closer to your grandchildren, give yourself permission to say “yes” to the life you want, get comfortable with stepping out of your comfort zone and connect with the inner you that is desperately waiting to be found.

Let’s Have a Conversation:

What recent adventure have you taken out of your comfort zone? What did it feel like? What did you learn about yourself in the process? We’d love to read your stories and start a conversation!

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Great story – inspirational!!

The Author

Rita Wilkins, known as The Downsizing Designer, is a nationally recognized interior design and lifestyle design expert, Tedx speaker and author of Downsize Your Life, Upgrade Your Lifestyle: Secrets to More Time, Money and Freedom. She challenges baby boomer audiences to reimagine, reinvent, redesign their lives to live abundantly with less. Learn more at

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