How far out your comfort zone is too far?

This isn’t a very popular conversation, and for the truly adventurous traveler the answer would probably be “not far enough“. But if we’re not trying to impress anyone or not trying to prove anything, then how far is enough, really? Or, at what point does escaping your safety zone stop being brave and wonderful and start being reckless.

Venturing out of our comfort zones is one of the reasons Rudi and I love to travel. It sometimes takes an entirely new environment to give you the confidence to do things you would never normally do. And a lot of the time it’s probably because you haven’t had the time to over-think it until you’re already half way through and loving it!

Rudolph and I have different comfort zones and this has definitely allowed us to venture further out of our own. Most of our greatest travel moments have been when we’ve held our breathe and just jumped straight out the bubble. Rudi had never driven a motorbike before Asia and now we’re doing motorbike trips with 2 backpacks, on some of the craziest mountain passes in the world. I labeled myself as a “bad hiker” but have now completed a few 3 day treks into wild jungles and came out feeling like I could probably enter the next ‘Naked and Afraid’ (lol). These moments are so great because it’s when you prove to yourself you are better and braver and more capable then you thought.

Rudolph is also extremely responsible. Although this may not sound overboardly sexy right now, it is! I always thought I would end up with a man who would push me do crazy things and who would challenge me and constantly throw me out of my comfort zone. I thought that’s what I wanted. Turns out I have someone who could not care less whether I jump off a 15 meter rock into a waterfall pool or not, as long as I’m safe and enjoying the moment. Again this isn’t sounding as awesome as I’m wanting it to but I can’t tell you what a shift it has been to be with someone that I don’t need to impress, in order to impress. He thinks I’m wild and crazy and brave and that’s before I’ve done anything. So now I’m in this space where when I do these scary adventurous things its purely for me, because I know either way he thinks I’m that person I would like to believe I am when doing these things. I’m with a man that allows me to focus on impressing and challenging myself as far as I believe I should go and then joins me in being proud of myself afterwards. I now look back at the old me who wanted a man to help me feel adventurous and I realize how much Rudi has allowed me to grow, all by myself. But now I’m getting super side tracked, sorry.

So this “how far is too far” concept has often been top of mind while traveling through Asia. It’s amazing how much more open your mind becomes to new challenges after having a few drinks with some serious nomads. We have been so inspired by other travelers! We can tell you about the craziest people like the girl who completed her PADI Divers without being able to swim and this Kiwi couple who did their own jungle trek with no guide, food or compass for 3 days and the list goes on and on. But this one amazing Chinese woman, we will never forget.

During our Halong Bay cruise, 4 boats stopped next to a beach. Most of us Westerners took the opportunity to jump off the roof of the boat with our GoPros in hand and costumes tied tight. A few Chinese tourists who could not swim waded around in their lifejackets below while holding onto a floating ring. But this one girl wanted to jump. She could not swim, but with her double life jacket strapped tightly to her body, she was going for it. She mocked charged the water for about half an hour to the point where every single tourist from all 4 boats started shouting her name and clapping her down. Eventually she made the 1 meter jump off the bottom of the boat and we all screamed in applause. There was not one person there who wasn’t beyond proud and gleaming for this girl.

But recently something happened. And Rudi and I are again, wondering at what point does leaving your safety zone stop being fun and start being dangerous.

A week ago we were on a snorkeling excursion off Ko Lanta in Thailand. The boat tour took us to 4 incredible snorkeling spots and then to a paradise beach on Koh Rok island. Our tour group had mainly Asian tourists who quite honestly impressed us considering the fact that it’s a snorkeling and swimming tour and they told the guide that they couldn’t swim. But not a chance was that going to stop them and that’s AWESOME!!

After 3 long stops of endless free diving and fish chasing Rudi and I and his parents went to find a quiet spot on the beach. Rudi and I were standing with our feet in the water when we heard it. A Chinese woman about 20 meters out screaming for help as she bobbed up and down. Rudi immediately ran straight into the water and I stood in the shallows knowing that he had this. She wasn’t too far out and was able to scream so she was going to need some comforting at the most. Rudi started swimming her in and I smiled at him. The woman then regained her control and suddenly looked up at Rudi and I and with one frantic hand signal. Everything turned south so quickly

She was with a friend! My stomach dropped and Rudi screamed to the shore, “WE NEED HELP, NOW”!!

Rudolph swam straight out as fast as he could and I jumped in straight behind him. I quickly stopped to look for the friend while Rudi continued out. Then I saw her. What looked like a grey rock in the distance suddenly started looking like someone’s floating rounded back. Rudi and I were both qualified lifeguards once upon a time. We weren’t there together and we definitely were by no means athletic swimmers but the comfort of that training was there. But to see a floating body like that with both head and legs in the water was not something we were prepared for. I turned around to see if the people who had now gathered on the beach saw what I saw. But people hesitated to point. I think it’s the shock and then hope that you’re wrong that delays your reaction. I shouted at Rudolph who was heading straight towards the body, “HURRY”.

A Chinese man on the beach then swam out to help us. Thank goodness for him as the body was about 70 meters out and he was the fastest swimmer we have probably ever seen. As the man and Rudi got to me with the girl I grabbed her head to keep it above the water as we swam. Her face looked almost grey and her mouth was foaming (which looked to me like a seizure but is apparently what happens when there is too much water on your lungs).  She was completely out.

When we got to shore about ten Thai locals ran to us and a few tourists stood at a distance. A part of me felt like we had got there too late but I screamed for a paramedic and Rudi shouted “does anyone know CPR”! No one responded and the local guides where just slapping her on her face and shaking her around. The scary realization that there was no qualified help hit and we pushed the frantic men away and started. I felt her pulse, there was none. So we followed our instincts and hoped to death that we were doing the right thing. I pressed my hands to her chest and started CPR and Rudi lifted her chin, held her nose and breathed into her lungs. After maybe 4 rounds, her eyes opened and she started vommitting. We rolled her on her side and at that stage a fellow South African tourist arrived who was not only a paramedic but could also speak Thai. We told him everything as he helped back away the crowds and calm the lady down while gently pouring water over her face.

Then suddenly there was a stretcher and a bigger crowd and a speedboat and within seconds the now breathing girl, paramedic, boat and crowds were gone. 

We never found out what happened to her. We have called a few tour companies and hospitals but no one knows anything of where she is or how she is doing. We are still hoping to find out. But this experience has made a few things more real for us now. In seconds your secluded island paradise can turn into a disaster and honestly, no one is invincible to that reality.

With every inspiring travel story comes another one very similar that did not end well. We celebrate that one woman who was brave enough to jump off a boat when she couldn’t swim, the daring motorbike travelers who ran out of petrol in the mountains and ended up staying with a secret ethnic community for a week. These stories make us so inspired and right out happy. But just because people dont speak about the other less inspiring stories doesn’t mean they’re not happening. The couple getting lost during a trek and never being found, the man who crashed his scooter in Thailand and now lives in medical debt because medical aid doesn’t pay if you dont have a scooter license…. 

Even when I traveled through Africa as a child with my parents, I often thought about how dangerous it was to be completely isolated in the bush in an already very rural country – what if my appendix burst, or if I got bitten by a snake? We were so far from any Western comforts or securities while on this epic journey into pretty much nowhere. But what if something went wrong? Anyway it turns out my dad had actually done what he always advises us to do – plan for the worst, so you can experience THE BEST! So we had a satellite phone which always had signal and a helicopter medical service in case of emergencies. 

So what Rudi and I have realized, is that there is a difference between traveling adventurously and taking uncalculated risks. Feeding moneys with rabies for that Instagram picture, catching dodgy ferries in a monsoon, that’s just personally not for us. But don’t get us wrong, we are in no way going to chicken out from scary adventures, but we have come away with a great thought. 

Travel is all about venturing away from your comfort zone, pushing your limits and trying new things. But sometimes, it takes AS MUCH courage to back away from an opportunity or adventure as it does to take one. To understand your body and to never underestimate the power of nature (especially the ocean). That is something to be proud of too. 

– Mrs Wanderer –