Stepping Out of My Comfort Zone With Competitours

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In the time leading up to my Competitours trip, a million people asked me what I was most excited for on the trip and I wasn’t sure how to respond.  I was looking forward to my time abroad — I was going to Europe after all! — but I had no idea where I’d be going or what I’d be doing once I was there.  To be honest, I was a little worried I may not actually enjoy the trip as much as I normally do.  You see, I’m a compulsive travel planner, and letting someone else do the planning meant I didn’t have the same anticipation or build-up that I typically revel in.

Ghent, Belgium - a town I didn't plan on visiting but ended up loving.
Ghent, Belgium – a town I didn’t plan on visiting but ended up loving.

After an awkward conversation with border authorities before the tour officially started (“How long will you be in The Netherlands?” “I don’t know.”  “Well, where are you going next?” “I don’t know.”  “What will you be doing here?” “I don’t know.”), it sunk in that my husband and I were in Europe.  It took me awhile, but I finally felt those butterflies in my stomach that reminded me I was in for an adventure.

Day 4 Challenge: Climbing 750 meters on the via ferrata in Andermatt, Switzerland.
Day 4 Challenge: Climbing 750 vertical meters on the via ferrata in Andermatt, Switzerland.

Competitours is unlike any trip you’ve ever taken.  This 10-day annual trip through Western Europe is not a group bus tour to see the highlights of the continent.  Instead, it’s a series of challenges and activities led by a man who takes everything to the extreme.  The Chicago Tribune calls it the “Amazing Race for regular people” and that’s a pretty decent description except for the friendly fact that teams aren’t eliminated along the way.  One thing’s for sure, though: this isn’t a vacation through Europe.  It’s a competition that happens to be set in Europe.

competitours 2014

Owner and fearless leader Steve strives to accomplish three things on his tours:

  1. Focusing on sightDOING instead of sightseeing
  2. Encouraging new friendships within the group
  3. Gently pushing you out of your comfort zone
Challenge: Making Homemade Ravioli (sans recipe) on the Amalfi Coast, Italy
Challenge: Making Homemade Ravioli (sans recipe) on the Amalfi Coast, Italy

I had no doubt that Steve would be successful at incorporating the first two goals, but I was curious how he’d push me out of my comfort zone.  I’m very comfortable traveling through Europe and getting myself from Point A to Point B and there aren’t many activities I’m scared of doing.  Just like with everything else on this trip, I wasn’t thinking out of the box.  There was always a twist and a new way of approaching things.  Sure enough, by day 2 I realized that for me the main challenge had nothing to do with our competitions but that I would be giving up control.  I wouldn’t get to pick when to eat or sleep, where to go, or what to do.  I had to trust that our leader would plan an amazing trip.

We had one amazing experience after another and still it was hard for me to let things go.  It wasn’t until Day 5 when we traveling by train through the Swiss Alps that I remembered the obvious and was able to let go: it’s about the journey, not the destination.

switzerland train text

In the end, I can honestly say that spending 10 days on a Competitours journey was an extraordinary experience.  This wasn’t traditional travel, but it was exploration in every sense.  We left after making new connections, trying new things, and testing our personal limits.  I expected to leave with a handful of great stories and a few new Facebook friends and instead left having pushed myself out of my comfort zone and into a whole new realm of travel.

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A huge thank you to Steve Belkin, who invited me on this year’s adventure.  I feel incredibly fortunate to have been a part of Competitours!  Want to join next year’s Competitours trip?  Tell Steve I sent you!

I was not required to write this post, nor was I compensated for it, but I loved my tour so much I wanted to share.

4 thoughts on “Stepping Out of My Comfort Zone With Competitours”

  1. I would love to read a multi-series post ala MMS style about your adventures if you are willing. I am a huge AR fan and have read about Competitours in the past.

    1. @MarkD, I have more posts coming (I promise!) but if you have specific questions, please let me know. If you’re an Amazing Race fan, I think you’d love this experience!

  2. (From a fellow ‘Compititourista’ in June) I know EXACTLY what you mean about “…letting things go.” At all times while traveling, I HAVE to know where we are at all times & are going on a map….

    I finally “let it go” somewhat earlier than you on this trip, and as a result, enjoyed the trip immensely. Reminded me what someone once said “…if you give up your (control)… you will find true life.”

    Great photos, by the way!

    1. @Ed, I wish I had known you felt the same way on the trip…maybe you could’ve helped me “let it go” earlier on! Great quote and piece of advice, though. Words of wisdom, for sure.

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