Last week I had the pleasure of meeting up with travel blogger Gary Arndt for a chat during his short time in Melbourne. On top of running a hugely successful blog and many other things, Gary has travelled to over 110 countries and all 50 US states during the past five years. For me, what really stands out about Gary is how unique and well thought out his perspectives are – In just over an hour with him I learnt more about running a blog than I could ever learn from reading ProBlogger or other ‘blogging blogs’. This is a guy who goes against the grain and has some fascinating insights, so I thought he’d be a perfect candidate to interview here on What is My Comfort Zone.
Gary Arndt and I outside the State Library in Melbourne
Q1) You’ve travelled to over 110 countries and done many things most people have never even heard of. What’s your motivation for travelling the world and trying so many new things?
Gary: I’m motivated by two things: Freedom and learning.
There is nothing which makes you more free than traveling. I’m not tied down to any one place, nor am I tied down to my things.
As for learning, there is nothing in the world more educational than traveling. Constantly visiting new countries and cities bombards you with new things that you never knew before (here’s a post on that).
Q2) What’s the biggest challenge that’s been outside of your comfort zone that you’ve done during your travels?
Gary: The biggest thing which has taken me out of my comfort zone has been bungee jumping. The act of jumping off a high platform isn’t natural. Standing on the edge and looking down isn’t something that makes anyone comfortable. I was able to over come it by just logically going through the fact that I was tied to an elastic cord and that the safety record was very high. That is how I’ve gotten over most things in travel which make you uncomfortable: realize that millions of people before you have done it without problem.
Q3) What are your perspectives on growing your comfort zone? Is it something you feel is important?
Gary: It is important to a point. The most powerful force in the universe is inertia. Most people do what they do because changing what they do would require work and effort. They get stuck in bad jobs and relationships for exactly this reason. To improve your self or your situation, you have to be able to do something which makes you uncomfortable. This usually goes away as soon as you adjust to having a new norm.
There are limits however. There are things which we should be uncomfortable doing. Doing heroin, base jumping and playing russian roulette are things outside of my comfort zone and I intend to keep them there.
Q4) What place that you’ve visited has taught you the most about overcoming challenges?
Gary: I don’t think it is an issue of place so much as it is of circumstance. I was in Spain last year when my rental car broke down. It broke down on a busy highway during the afternoon when everything closes down. I was 2 miles from the nearest town and when I got there, no one spoke English and my Spanish isn’t that great. It was adversity, but I managed to get the problem rectified.
I’ve had similar problem creep up in many places around the world. Eventually, everything just sort of works out.
Q5) What has travelling the world taught you about the ways people live their lives and conform to a typical lifestyle?
Gary: Everywhere around the world, people get trapped into a typical lifestyle. In the west it might involve a mortgage and a job in a cubicle. In a lesser developed country you might be trapped into a village life where you are forced to marry and have kids at a young age. I think every culture has pressures on people to make them conform to some sort of norm.
What gets people out of this trap is a personal decision. In the west it might mean traveling. In a poorer country, it might mean leaving the village to go live in the city. In the end, however, it is all about making a choice.