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Common: When the stigma of the unknown creates overwhelm and inaction.

Uncommon: Surprise, I’m traveling again. I stopped tracking the specifics of my journey after visiting 10 states in 12 days. Don’t get me wrong, I love my vagabond lifestyle and wouldn’t change it for the world.

In fact, it’s been said that traveling offers an unparalleled life perspective. I agree. This benefit is not only cultural, but also founded upon the revealing of certain personal and general life truths.

I’ve been on the move since age 10, so I’ve grown to enjoy constant change. But still, I am human. And deep down I feel we all desire some certainty, predictability, and familiarity. This is a healthy tendency… except for when it isn’t.

The seemingly daunting…

Embarking on new trips is something I usually look forward to – especially to places I have come to love such as New York City. And with some less than impressive experiences at various hotels, I find myself opting to stay at places I’ve previously come to appreciate. It’s easy, convenient, and, well… familiar.

When I know my destination before embarking, suddenly the trip becomes less stressful. I’m sure you can relate. I spend little time and effort thinking about what-ifs (good and bad) when I have more real life reference points stemming from past experiences.  I am definitely not one to dramatize life, but venturing into unknown, no matter how big or small, demands more thinking, more evaluating, more planning.

I experienced this at the beginning of my recent stay in Philadelphia when I couldn’t stay at my typical hotel of choice. Suddenly the game changed. It wasn’t a big issue in the larger picture, but it was enough to add more variables to what would normally be a reflexive process.

I found myself paying much closer attention to the environment. I was reading more signs, listening to the GPS more intensely, and even double-checking my instincts. But the most concerning observation of all was that my journey to my destination seemed much longer.

Consciously, I knew the flight was the same, the drive was the same, the roads were the same, but the ‘same’ journey with a few new variables was enough to distort reality.

When I slid my key card into the door, I felt a greater sense of relief and accomplishment than I otherwise would have. I was also ready to hit the sack feeling more drained than usual.

The crux…

I realized there are many short-term advantages to seeking familiarity, but it goes without saying: Do what you’ve always done and get what you’ve always gotten.

You need not be Marco Polo to appreciate that the greatest adventures, memories, and learning experiences are least often revealed during voyages of familiarity. Although the voyage to a familiar destination may make the trek slightly less stressful, it also becomes slightly less exciting.

And yet, the allure of familiarity is still difficult to defeat. But the more frequently we seek familiar actions and destinations, the more difficult and overwhelming new goals appear to be.

Travel or not, the same rule applies to all areas of life. We must be careful not to be swayed by the illusion of difficulty in the pursuit of an unknown destination. Apart from some additional planning, the workload to unfamiliar destinations is largely the same… but the rewards are not.

Your thoughts?

Have you noticed this in your life – maybe in areas other than travel?  Do you agree or disagree? Share your thoughts below…

Be uncommon,

- Kent

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