My dorky "I'm so excited to have a passport" face!

My dorky “I’m so excited to have a passport” face!

“Have you received any gifts recently that you might have in your bags?”

“No.”

“Because you know, one time a boy gave his girlfriend a gift to take with her and it ended up to be a bomb. Do you have a boyfriend? Did he give you any gifts? Even for you to give to family members?”

“No.”

“Are you sure?”

“Yes…”

At TBEX Dublin, I felt a little out of place. There I was, surrounded by people who have seen the world…and I got my passport just last year. Yes, my first passport. Being from the United States, I had been to Canada once as a child before passports were necessary, but until October 2012, I had never been farther away from my East Coast home than California.

But although I haven’t traveled to lots and lots of places, I have checked off a destination that many bloggers still have on their bucket list: My very first international travel experience was to Israel.

To travel bloggers who are used to visiting locations like North Korea Β or Yemen or Afghanistan, Israel might not seem like a big deal. But to me, the idea of packing my bags and flying half-way around the world to Tel Aviv for a press trip was enough to make me want to lose my lunch. I’m already a nervous traveler. So as I stood in front of the no-nonsense El Al Airlines interrogator employee peppering me with ridiculously personal questions, like whether or not I had any Muslim friends and if I had recently received any gifts, it was all I could do not to turn around and go home. I seriously almost had a Road Runner moment – you know, where he beep-beeps and leaves Wiley Coyote in a cloud of dust.

But I got on that plane (albeit, after all of my bags were flagged as suspicious and double-checked), and headed to a country where I didn’t know a single person. I had the cell phone number of my guide that I was to meet when I landed, but not much else. I took a lot of deep breaths to stay calm, but I made it.

And I had an amazing time. A life-changing time (and that’s not a term I throw around willy-nilly).

My second international trip would be to TBEX Dublin, and I found myself feeling oddly confident, even though I am not an experienced traveler. It certainly helped that English is a first language in Ireland, and that I was traveling with people I knew. But my experiences traveling to Israel also made me feel like I could conquer the world.

That’s an amazing feeling.

Still, I lost a little bit of that wonder I had when I was standing at the airport in Tel Aviv looking out at Israel for the first time. I certainly don’t feel like I challenged myself by traveling to Dublin.

So, my last night in Dublin, I did something scarey: I stayed up late, donned some heels, and went out dancing to experience Dublin nightlife.

Now I understand that just like traveling to Israel, this doesn’t seem scary to most of you. But to someone who deals with social anxiety, like myself, the thought of going to a super crowded club is uncomfortable at best and terrifying at worst. Every cell of my body said “Don’t go. Just have a quiet night in the hotel room and get to bed early so you’re rested for your travels home in the morning.”

There’s something powerful in doing something that scares you a little, though. You have amazing experiences that you’ll never forget. You get inspired. You see the world a little differently. You build your own confidence. And you write better blog posts.

So I’ll ask you this: When is the last time you pushed yourself to do something you you find even a little scary?

Think back to that first international trip you ever took, or the first time you traveled by yourself, or the first time you set off on a trip without clear travel plans. Remember that excitement? Remember that heightened state of wonder? Remember that moment of trying to keep your lunch down while resisting the flight part of the fight-or-flight response?

This is my challenge to you: Get back to that state again. Push yourself to not only have new experiences, but get outside of your comfortable little box and do something you wouldn’t normally do.

That might mean traveling to an area of the world that frightens you. Maybe it means facing your fears to try something like skydiving or swimming with the sharks. Or for some people, going dancing is what they find truly scarey – and hey, that’s okay! The point is to do something you wouldn’t normally do. It doesn’t matter what other people find scarey.

It’s only by pushing ourselves that we grow personally and professionally. When you take on new challenges and do things that scare you, you begin to see the world in a different way. And that, my friends, is one of the best ways to write better blog posts, no matter what your niche.

So if you feel like your blog has plateaued a bit lately, take my challenge. Go out and do something you find scary, then tell your readers about the experience!

Also, I want to invite everyone to share their plans here. What are you going to do that is scary? Or what have you recently done that scared the you-know-what out of you? Leave a comment so we can all encourage one another!