Over the holidays, I visited EstanciaTipiliuke, a fly fishing lodge in the northwest region of the Argentinean Patagonia.
It is one of the most beautiful and serene places I’ve ever visited, but it’s not a sit-by-the-pool kind of place. There’s hiking, archery, mountain biking, yoga, fantastic dining, malbec winetasting, bird watching, rafting, star gazing (from a spot on this earth with no ambient light!), empanada making, horseback riding and, of course, fly fishing.
It was the perfect place to close out 2018, because it gave me some perspective and distance from my daily life. And nothing frees my mind and jolts my creativity and inspiration like open skies, mountains, and new experiences.
It’s the new experiences part that’s most motivating, and it’s my theme for 2019. I’ve always loved trying new things – “Get comfortable with being uncomfortable” has been one of my go-to mantras for as long as I can remember – but this trip reminded me how important new experiences are to growing, learning, and finding purpose.
If I want to be the change I want to see in the world, then new experiences are the way I’m going to get there.
Empathy is one of the most powerful forces for good on earth. And one of the best ways to build empathy is to put yourself in new and uncomfortable situations. Simply being a fish out of water – whether that’s being, in my situation, the only woman or Asian person in a room, or it’s trying something completely foreign – builds your empathy muscles and helps you identify with those who face challenges you may never have to encounter.
Improving your empathy quotient can be as simple as visiting new neighborhoods in your hometown, volunteering for a local charity, or even reading a book or seeing a documentary outside your usual genre.
I also find that art helps me build my empathy quotient. Most artists create art to process their own feelings, so spending time with their art gives me a glimpse into their world and what forces and experiences shaped it.
Trying something new is often synonymous with failure. And most of us don’t love to fail. However, being terrible at something new is the first step to becoming really good at it.
I know, failing is hard. It’s disheartening and demoralizing, and it almost never, ever feels good. But learning to get back up after falling, to keep trying to get it right after you’ve done it wrong a dozen times, and sticking with something even though it’s neither enjoyable nor easy, builds character and resilience. It keeps us strong and teaches us that we can face down whatever the universe throws into our path.
That’s tremendously empowering – and it’s priceless.
Yes, this is a practical one, but it’s worth mentioning. One of the reasons I love to try new things that I love improving my skills. As we age, our bodies and our minds become a little less flexible, and the urge to keep doing the same things we’ve always done can be hard to resist. But that’s an urge we must fight.
I was definitely nervous to try fly fishing the first time. The casting is hard to get a hang of (and particularly challenging in the wind in Patagonia), and the fact that you’re standing in the middle of a running river makes it even harder to get it right. But I finally got the hang of it, and now, if I need to, I can catch a fish. Granted, I don’t think I’ll ever need to be able to catch a fish to survive, but it’s nice to know I could if it came to it.
Life is filled with unfamiliar and uncomfortable situations that we all need to make our peace with in order to get by. Networking events, black tie dinners, SAT exams, new schools, new jobs – it never, ever ends. By embracing new experiences – by always being the one to raise your hand – you build your skills and make yourself just that much more valuable.
So, the next time someone asks you to go to a party where you won’t know a soul, or to some other uncomfortable situation that sounds much less cozy than staying home on the couch and watching Netflix, choose the new.
Patagonia awaits, and Netflix isn’t going anywhere.
Some invaluable resources for your trip: