Kissing The Couch Goodbye


by Mark Smeby

My favorite memories are not of the times I decided to stay home and watch “American Idol.” They are not of the times I took all the familiar roads. They are not of the times I chose not to talk to a stranger. They are not of the times I chose to stay in my hotel room in the unfamiliar city. No, my favorite memories are the times I stepped out of my comfort zone and out into the unknown, the unfamiliar, the uncertain. Places my mama warned me about.

Den Lille Havfrue — The Little Mermaid

Like when I studied abroad in Copenhagen, Denmark in college and decided to get a bike to explore the city. Instead of just taking public transit, I ended up with some amazing, unplanned moments throughout the city, in particular, by the Little Mermaid in Langelinie Park. Even though I knew at the time that careening a bike through a major foreign town is not always easy or safe, it was the better option for my inquisitive mind. At the same time as I was venturing out, I watched other Americans in my study program choosing to only hang out with other Americans. I couldn’t fathom doing that, even though I understand that fear is powerful, and we are drawn to what’s familiar. I felt like they were missing out on a big benefit of the experience, wouldn’t you? Yes, we want to be comfortable, more than we want to be challenged. But not me, and maybe not you.

I’m grateful to have learned at a young age that traveling is one of the best ways to get outside of your comfort zone. It can be expensive, but you don’t have to go around the world! You can go to the next town over and have dinner at a new place. I know there are probably parts of my town I’ve yet to visit which are way more intriguing than my shopping mall suburbia, and would expose me to new potential friends and new favorite foods.

What are the benefits of stepping outside your comfort zone? There are many, but here are just a few to start.

  1. The World Gets Bigger. When you travel, your mind expands, your vision increases, and new possibilities emerge in front of you that you never imagined. When you see people living different ways than yourself, utilizing different traditions, expressing themselves in unique ways, or even just eating different kinds of foods, you get to exercise your sense of wonder. Curiosity and adventure take you down roads about which you’ve only dreamed.
  2. The World Gets Smaller. When you travel, you meet people from places you might have only heard of, but which you don’t know anything about. So when you hear about the drought in Iowa on the news, you think about Barb and her farmer husband from Mason City who you met at the Louvre. Or when you hear about a tsunami striking Bangladesh, you think about your friend, Sami, who lives there. Events happening around the globe become much more personal.
  3. It Keeps You Young. Doing new things when you travel make you a richer, more developed person. You might think, “I don’t need any of those adventures of which you speak,” simply because you prefer the couch over the kayak. Comfort in itself is not a bad thing. But idolizing comfort at the expense of adventure and new experiences, makes you older than you actually are — in your head and in your heart. Stay young by exploring new places, and continually trying new things.
  4. Travel Helps Build Patience. Whenever I travel, I have to let go of my need to be in complete control. Especially if going by plane or public transit, a person literally has no control over what happens. I frequently say to myself, “Just go with the flow.” It helps me to let go of things I can’t do anything about, and find some sort of peace, even when all the circumstances around me feel out of control. Traveling is a crash course in this great life lesson.

Are you ready to step out of your comfort zone? Practically speaking, what can you do? There’s so much you can do, once you decide to become a person of adventure and courage. For starters, try striking up a conversation with a stranger. Find out their story of what they do and where they’re from. Or how about finding someplace to volunteer where you think you might be uncomfortable? I went to prison every week for 20 years on a volunteer basis. My life is forever changed for the better because I went somewhere I was pretty certain I’d be uncomfortable.

And if you’re looking to do something brave and awesome at the same time, consider joining me on the 1st Annual Live Hope Cruise to the Dominican Republic, November 6–13, 2016. We’ll have the comfort of luxury cruise, with many opportunities to step of your comfort zone. Partnering with Fathom Travel, our group of courageous souls (like yourself!) will do powerful social impact activities while docked, and do breakout sessions, concerts, and worship at night on the boat. We will be pouring concrete floors for families who have been living on dirt and mud. We will build water filters so families can have healthy drinking water in their home. Some will do reforestation projects, help at a local paper making start-up (me, below) or help teach English to students. And we’ll eat amazing food.

Learning how to make paper with the ladies of RaPapel in the Dominican Republic

For many people, this will be a huge step outside of their comfort zone. For some it’s the cruise part — being on a giant ship in the middle of the ocean can be very disconcerting for some people. Others might be nervous about interacting with strangers who you might be sitting with at dinner. And others might be afraid of what happens we when move off the boat, and out into the community and try to bring some help and hope to places that will benefit from it. But I guarantee you, this Live Hope Cruise will be a life-changing trip you’ll never forget.

To uncover the beauty of this world and see how much alike we are no matter what city or country you’re in, takes a bit of courageous intentionality on your part. And I believe you’re up for it. You wouldn’t have read this far if you weren’t.

How about tomorrow — why not take a new way home? And why not stop at the little café you’ve never been to, and have a cup of coffee and see what happens.

I can’t wait to hear your story.

Mark Smeby is a singer, songwriter, actor, and author based in Nashville, Tennessee. He hosts the Live Hope Minute daily radio feature heard on nearly 200 stations across the U.S. and Canada. A spokesperson for Prison Fellowship International, Smeby travels around the U.S. delivering messages of hope at live events with speaking and music. His passion is to creatively and courageously communicate hope to the world around him. For more information about the Live Hope Cruise to the Dominican, please visit

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