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Next Station: The Discomfort Zone

For a few weeks now, I’ve spent nearly every evening knee-deep in plans for an upcoming trip to Seattle. I’ve booked a hotel, drooled over potential restaurant menus, and made a list of must-visit museums, bookstores and parks. But while my excitement is building, there’s one aspect of the trip that makes me a little nervous: riding public buses.

It’s an embarrassing admission to make, especially for someone who has traveled across four continents and writes about travel for a living. I am generally unfazed by airports and can handle the world’s subways and trains with aplomb, but city buses are somehow just … different. There’s no fixed endpoint or neatly labeled station to mark where I’m supposed to get off; instead I hover at the edge of my seat, watching the unfamiliar streets sliding by, glancing surreptitiously at my map to try to figure out where I am and when to signal the driver for my stop. No matter how many times I do it, I still get stressed out.

I usually find myself throwing myself on the mercy of the bus driver or a fellow passenger to help me get off at the right place. As an introvert, I’m intimidated by that too — especially overseas when there’s a language barrier in the mix! But luckily, it almost always works. Relying on the kindness of strangers, no matter how shy I am about doing it, has rarely led me astray in my travels.

In a very small way, riding public buses enables me to do something many of us want to do when we travel: step out of our comfort zone. Travel isn’t really travel to me without a little frisson of nerves mixed in with excitement and anticipation. After all, if we’re not stretching ourselves somehow, we may as well stay home.

How do you step out of your own comfort zone when you travel?

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