I’m comfortable, being uncomfortable
I have reached a point in my life where I live way beyond my comfort zone. My initial comfort zone was my home in Belgium, surrounded by my family, friends, and mother’s home-cooked food. After living in Antwerp for 17 years, I moved to the United States to begin my journey at Northeastern University.
Boston marked an entirely new chapter for me with unparalleled exposure, constant learning, and personal growth. Within three years the city became my home and friends became family. But I always knew that as soon as it became comfortable, I would be leaving to embark on a year abroad in Asia. Now, I’m in my year abroad. It’s happening, right now.
From the moment I arrived to Hong Kong, it hasn’t been easy. I still wasn’t confirmed in all of my required classes. I couldn’t communicate effectively with the Cantonese speaking kitchen staff to ensure my food was vegetarian. I had to navigate the process of setting up a local bank account and adjust back to life in a dorm. Nevertheless, my first two months here have been a surreal learning experience. I was getting a fresh start to college in my senior year — half way across the world.
Soon enough, I met some really cool people, forged new friendships, and found opportunities to practice my Mandarin. I figured out my go-to places to eat, study, and play basketball. I established a new morning routine, explored the facilities on campus, and began discovering Hong Kong. I admired both the beauty of our campus in Clear Water Bay surrounded by nature and the vibrance of the city from Lan Kwai Fong to Tsim Sha Tsui. I ventured off to the Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery, Macau, and Shenzhen during the weekends.
As soon as Hong Kong started to feel like a new comfort zone, I traveled to Vietnam for six days with a Spaniard, Englishman, and Slovak. We experienced the beauty of Hanoi, Sa Pa, and Ha Long Bay. We traveled and slept on an overnight train, sleeper bus, and boat cruise. The language barrier was more evident than I had imagined. Vietnam was unlike any other place I had ever been to. The organized chaos in Hanoi contrasted from the serenity of the rice fields in Sa Pa and the breath-taking views in Ha Long Bay. Naturally, I purchased a Vietnamese phrasebook on my quest to elementary proficiency and communicating with the locals.
I have flung myself into unfamiliar environments so often now that I’ve become comfortable, being uncomfortable. Put yourself out there. Identify where you are most comfortable, then leave. Keep pushing the boundaries of who you think you are and what you can accomplish. I will leave you this. A quote from my favorite basketball player, Carmelo Anthony:
My next stop is Japan! Hit me up if you have any recommendations for places to see and eat vegetarian food in Tokyo. Stay tuned until the next one. #STAYME7O