“Whatever scares you, do it. Now.” That advice comes from Ken Budd, author of the article, “New Adventures, New Risks, New You,” and of a memoir with an exceedingly long title that begins with The Voluntourist: A Six-Country Tale… Budd has had more adventures than Godzilla, Superman and Captain Kirk put together. He’s volunteered in a climate-change research project in Ecuador, “lost half a thumbnail after slipping on a slope in the Andes,” taught English in Costa Rica, and volunteered in New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Those assignments and others weren’t all a picnic. He “suffered stomach viruses in China and Kenya, slept on a floor for two weeks in an unfurnished apartment with 18 guys and one bathroom… and was forced to drop my pants by Israeli security.”
Budd isn’t advocating that we all quit our jobs, start skydiving or volunteer for the Great Orangutan Project in Borneo, but he is suggesting that all of us try something new, especially something that requires us to leave our comfort zones. Since retirement my comfort zone consists of my home, reading, writing and seeing friends. I’ve relished living fully in it since retirement and hate to leave it.
But Budd has good reasons for encouraging us to take a leap, even if we begin with the equivalent of jumping across a puddle and not a canyon. He says we’ll all be happier if we invest in experiences, and cites a study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, which showed that “57 percent of participants were happier after spending money on experience instead of on stuff, compared with 34 percent who chose material goods…As experiences turn into memories, we tend to appreciate them more, even the lousy ones.”
The article is peppered with quotes by other writers and researchers on the subject of human happiness. My favorite is: “The more I say yes, the more variety there is in my life. Do I want to see a play? Yes. Do I want to take a trip? Yes. I force myself to say yes because brain health and physical health are directly tied to novelty and change. Every time I’ve said yes, it’s paid off.” Rick Foster, coauthor of Happiness and Health.
A week ago I wrote about my husband’s and my plan to take summer day trips, the first destination being the Woodland Park Zoo. Week two we ventured farther to the Kitsap Peninsula: Gig Harbor, Port Orchard and Bremerton. Our only adventure involved getting lost for about half an hour; still, it was a small step toward leaving our comfort zone.