I was sitting on the sand dunes of Will Rogers state beach, sipping on a calorie laden chocolate milkshake from Mc Donalds and checking out the beautiful colors of the sunset. It seemed so blissful and relaxing. All of a sudden I could hear some cacophonous sounds that was messing up this beautiful moment. I tried to look around and locate the source of these sounds. Turns out the cacophonous sounds belonged to my alarm clock and I realized I that I was dreaming. I turned off the alarm clock and looked at the time. It was 4 AM on a Saturday. In this groggy state of mind I asked myself the following questions – “Why am I doing this to myself?” “Why don’t I pick activities that don’t require any effort such as eating at a restaurant?” and “Why the hell did I make a commitment to join a arduous, back breaking, muscle numbing cycling trip in the Himalayas?”
For those of you wondering “What on earth is she talking about?” — let me explain. A month ago a friend of mine told me that she was going to cycle in the Himalayas from Manali to Leh in July. She asked me if I wanted to join in. Being a sucker for anything related to the Himalayas, I said yes fully aware that preparing to ride/cycle in one of the toughest cycling routes in the world will require a lot of sweat, blood and tears from me. I also knew that preparing for this ride would push me to my limits and probably drive me to the edge of my sanity.
Right now I am three weeks into my training. I wake up at 4 AM everyday to cycle 40 kilometers and each morning I ask my self the same question “Why am I doing this?” So why do I keep asking myself the same question everyday? It is because I use this question as my totem, a reminder to motivate myself to get out of my comfort zone. So why do I choose activities that push me out of my comfort zone?
I lived in India for the first 21 years of my life. I had what many would term as a typical Indian middle class upbringing. This upbringing had a huge impact on my thinking and decision-making processes. I was extremely risk averse, I never opted to do things that were outside of my comfort zone, I was not open to trying out new things, I was scared of being judged and I generally followed the herd. I usually took a path of least resistance. Everything was hunky dory or so I thought until I moved to the US six months after my 21st birthday.
I had expected my stay in the US to be a more ‘fun’ version of what I was used to in India. But being on your own in a different country and taking on all the responsibilities is definitely not an easy task. It changes the way you think and perceive situations. It helps you become more independent. It helps change your outlook in life. Most importantly it pushes you out of your comfort zone on a constant basis.
The most valuable lesson I learned during my five-year stay in the US is that I needed to do things that push me out of my comfort zone. Doing things outside of my comfort zone has helped me grow as a person. It has helped me embrace my abilities and enabled me to face the challenges thrown at me with vigor. It has given me the courage to pursue my dreams without the fear of judgment. It has given me the sense of fulfillment that I did not have for a long time. This is the precisely why I chose to sign up for the cycling challenge in the Himalayas- to try the unknown, to challenge my endurance limits both physically and mentally, to get inspired by the awesome people I will meet on this journey and hopefully to learn valuable life lessons.
As I cycled on panting and sweating the sun had started to rise. The colors were gorgeous and the birds were chirping around, excited to start their day. I realized that, this moment was way more beautiful than the dream I was having. I smiled and made a note to self – I am incredibly glad that I signed up for this challenge.