I was lying comfortably in a massive bed, feet stretched out, as I looked out the window at the ocean, waves rolling peacefully into the shore. A fresh cup of coffee sat at my bedside table as I reveled in a lazy morning at a lavish hotel.
Then the bagpipes started playing.
I woke up violently - it sounded like the bagpipes were being played from right beside my tent! Yes, I said tent, because the above lavish hotel morning was just a dream I had been in the midst of.
I rolled over in my tent, soaked from the humidity of the South African temperature swings, to check the time.
5:15 am - right on schedule.
I opened the fly and stepped out into the tent village as the bagpipe player walked down the next row of carefully placed tents.
I was in the midst of the Cape Epic mountain bike race, an 8 day race across the Western Cape of South Africa that has been dubbed the Tour de France of mountain biking, and I was very familiar with the routine bagpipe wake-up call that event organizers used to wake the racers in their tents each morning.
And I was dreaming of a comfy hotel bed because the tents and cheap mattress pads available for racers were not exactly a life of luxury. After racing across the rugged terrain of South Africa each day, clocking anywhere from 80-110 km each stage, I craved a proper comfy bed to rest and recover in.
But there was no time to feel sorry for myself - I set about the morning routine, eating, preparing the bike gear for the day, and packing up my wheeled duffel that race organizers would transport to the next race village. As I rolled to the start line on my mountain bike, ready to tackle another day, I thought I wouldn’t change it for the world. It was the perfect vacation!
Watch this short Intro to the Cape Epic video from race organizers to get a brief glimpse of what the Cape Epic is all about:
Finding Yourself Outside of Your Comfort Zone
I may have lost a few of you by calling 625 km of mountain biking a perfect vacation. Don’t get me wrong, there is a time and place for a relaxing, lavish, low-key or luxurious vacation. But travelling outside of your comfort zone can be one of the most rewarding experiences you’ll ever have!
For me, tackling the world’s most challenging mountain bike race was a way to find out what I was capable of. In 2019, the race covered 625 km and an eye-watering 16,650 metres of vertical climbing across 8 days. We braved frigid rain, wind and cold up staggeringly steep mountain passes; baked in the hot African sun with temperatures up to 44 degrees; rode through deep sand, bone-jarring rock gardens, and rough and tumble vineyard paths and roads; and much, much more across a truly testing 8 days.
Working my way up one of the many long, arduous climbs of the Cape Epic
After the first few days, myself and my teammate would wake up, body aching, unsure if we could handle the 8 or more daunting hours of mountain biking ahead of us for the next stage. But we’d throw a tired leg over our mountain bike, turn over the pedal, and just keep moving forward. It was a lesson on how to push the limits, how to manage feelings of overwhelm, and so much more. I’ve learned more about myself and lessons for life in those 8 days of racing than I’ve learned in entire years. All because I spent some time out of my comfort zone.
Stability is the Enemy of your Brain’s Capability
Research shows that stability is linked to decreased brain activity. Inversely, instability, such as doing something outside of your comfort zone, increases brain and neural activity.
An idle brain isn’t fun - it’s a lot easier to learn about yourself, learn about the world around you, and have more meaningful moments when you do things outside of your comfort zone. It’s like a jumpstart of stimulation for your mind!
Get out of that Comfort Zone!
Travelling outside of your comfort zone can take on a variety of meanings. For me, it has often been ultra-endurance sports, but there are plenty of other ways to travel outside of your comfort zone that are less extreme or physically taxing.
Solo travelling, going to a destination you don’t speak the language, travelling somewhere rustic, or just hopping on a plane or train without a set plan can push many of us outside of our comfort zone. And it’s worth it!
So start planning! Need further inspiration? Stop in to your local Campers Village and talk to one of the Store Guides. Each and every single one of them has some great travel stories or tips, and can get the brainstorming started for you.