Often, when you learn something new or dare to do something you haven’t done before, it opens up new possibilities. Sometimes it feels like traveling actually creates more new destinations on your travel bucket list than it actually ticks off. For each mountain you climb you find ten more – and you decide you want to try paragliding as well. When you learn to surf suddenly there are five more countries you just HAVE to go to to try out the waves. It feels like the world gets bigger for each challenge you overcome and every uncomfortable thing you learn to deal with. I wanted to share ten personal challenges that made my world a little bigger as soon as I overcame them – and five I still am gathering the courage to try out.

1) Doing a 16 day trek

Before this trek I had only done day hikes, even though I’d always spent a lot of time in nature. I think I just didn’t believe I could manage that much walking – and with a heavy backpack as well! It sounded crazy. But this was really one of my best experiences ever, partly because it made me realize what I am capable of, even if I don’t go to a gym or run marathons. If any of the challenges opened up the world a little more it was this trek. Now there are so many treks around the world I want to do that I probably would need to do one every week to fit them all into this lifetime.

Hiking Annapurna Circuit

2) Driving abroad

I hate driving in my own country to start with. If it wasn’t having grown up in the countryside, I probably wouldn’t have gotten a drivers licence at all. But unfortunately I also love road trips more than anything else. Nothing feels as free as cruising through a country in a car with your favorite music on and the knowledge that you can go wherever you want. So I made a decision, and one summer I took the step and did a soft start by driving through Norway (our neighbor country). The summer after I felt ready to rent a car and drove around in Italy and later in the fall in Portugal. Suddenly the world opened up, and I no longer needed to be restricted to buses and trains. The roads were mine – and along with them, all the dream road trips I always wanted to do.

Driving in Norway

3) Going places without booking a hotel in advance

Not having accommodation booked when arriving at a new place is a scary thing; just booking something online the evening before makes you so much more relaxed. But after being forced to not pre-book hotels in Nepal (basically because it wasn’t possible to book anything online in the small villages where I was headed) I started to like the freedom it gave me. I could arrive in a town in the morning, have breakfast at a café and then walk around to find out in what area I would like to stay, or ask people if they had any recommendations. It’s a good way to find more unique or new places that aren’t on every other tourist’s radar, and they might even be amazing finds. Plus you can always have a look at the room before you decide to stay.

camping in the forest

4) Camping in the forest

I did a lot of camping when I was younger but then (after some horrible festivals with no sleep at all) I decided somehow that sleeping in a tent was not for me; too uncomfortable and not enough sleep. It was like I had decided that tenting on a quiet beach or in the forest would be exactly the same thing as tenting surrounded by thousands of drunks in a crappy sleeping bag. I was so wrong. Ten(!) years later I decided to try it out again. I bought myself a tent and had the most beautiful summer of my life. Suddenly every weekend could be an adventure! Now I’m dreaming of a camping trek in Patagonia and I can’t wait for the summer and all the new camping adventures I’ll have with my tent.

 

Indian streetfood chai

5) Eating street food in India

How many times have you heard, “Only eat food where the kitchen looks clean when traveling”, “Be careful with street food”, ”India? That’s going to be a nightmare for your stomach”.  Such a way to trick people into missing out on the food of their lives! When I arrived in Mumbai, I stayed in a room at an Airbnb where the host wanted to show me Bombay Street food. I’m so happy he did, since otherwise I would probably have had my mum’s voice in the back of my head the whole time, imploring me to “be careful with the food” and causing me to miss out on some of India’s very best fare. We had Panipuri, Samosa, Dabeli and loads of Chai from the street and this really gave me an amazing culinary starting point for my whole trip to Asia. Suddenly the food possibilities were never-ending – and mega cheap.

6) Taking the night train

It took me one month in India before I dared to take the night train, but for the last journey I would do in India – between Varanasi and Calcutta – I did it. And I was actually very happy with my choice. It was crazy cheap compared to a flight. I shared a ”room” (not really a room, more like groups of beds divided by thin walls and a curtain) with an old Indian couple that thought I reminded them of their daughter.  It was relatively comfortable, 12 hours late(!) but actually a really nice experience. I wasn’t scared, and the toilets were not nice, but bearable. However, most importantly – now I know I could easily do it again, both in India or in any other country. Sometimes you just have to push yourself to do something you think feels uncomfortable and most of the time, it’s way better than you thought. And if not – good, then you know you tried, and you never have to do it again.

 

Kayaking in Vietnam

7) Kayaking

Who knew kayaking was much fun? Just recently I did kayaking again for the first time in ages and I fell in love. I’m already looking for destinations for kayaking overnight trips and have one planned in a week from now.

8) Doing a one week meditation & yoga retreat

To be locked in on a retreat, leaving your phone turned off and getting up 05:45 each morning to do sunrise meditation is a really tough challenge for a lazy, Instagram-addicted person like me. But as with any challenge, there’s a reason that you find it challenging. You probably need it. I felt so relaxed and good inside in some weird way after that week and I am so happy I was in a place where I was “forced” to do all these exercises. Sometimes you need some outside help to be able to get focused and to stop talking – just doing. I really understand people who go to these kinds of retreats a few times every year, and I would love to do it myself.

5000 meter above sea level

9) Walking up to over 5000 meters above sea level

I had never been above 3000 meters before – probably not even close to that – so before I approached Thorong La Pass at 5416 meters in Himalaya, I was terrified about how my body would react to the height. I read a lot, took it mega slow, and…. I barely noticed anything. Besides feeling like I had the body and fitness of a 70 year-old full time smoker, I was fine. As soon as I had walked over the pass and was headed downwards, I started thinking about what other mountains are out there to climb. Suddenly I felt like I was Superwoman, and that I could do anything!

10) Taking last minute decisions

We all want to plan so much and be in control of everything. What if that retreat get fully booked, or if that flight gets too expensive? I am exactly the same. In the beginning I felt really uncomfortable with losing my grip on planning everything in perfect detail, but after a while it actually made me relax more. I know that I never have to stress my way through a country since I now often don’t even book the flight before I feel like it’s time to leave. I know that I will (almost) never make the wrong decision about where to go because I decide in real time, rather than weeks in advance from my room back home. When I take last minute decisions, I can follow my feelings and the weather, and just go with the flow.

5 challenges I still need to gather courage to do – but that would make my world gigantic

1) Learn to use a compass and a map – To be able to handle this properly would make me so much more relaxed in the wild.

2) Coachsurfing – This seems like the best way to meet new people and to get friends for life!

3) Rock Climbing – Must be such an amazing way to see the nature!

4) Surfing – Nothing looks more dreamy than riding the waves.

5) Learn to save and invest money – More money = More travel

 

What are your personal travel challenges? Have you overcome them? Tell us your stories in the comments!