Our Honda Element came with removable seats, a flat, plastic floor perfect for cleaning with a hose, and expectations. The marketing campaign presented a very specific lifestyle. The Element was shown in beautiful locales—a beach with surfboards spilling out of the back, a mountain base camp surrounded by trees, its attractive occupants staring at the stars through the moonroof.
Though not an enthusiastic backcountry explorer myself, it had a certain aspirational appeal. (A friend calls himself an indoorsman, a title I aspire to myself.) Once we acquired our Element, wilderness adventures felt like a requirement of ownership.
So, my young son and I set out for a lake and campground to test the waters. It was a low-key undertaking. We had fun exploring for a few hours, then reconfigured the seats for car camping and a late night of reading and joking around. I wrote a post about it later entitled, In and Out of Our Element.
The experience did not turn us into camping enthusiasts. We did take the Element on numerous trips up numerous mountains, but there was always a room waiting for us.
But I have always been grateful for the experience, and fascinated that we did it at all. Before we had that car, I really hadn’t given camping much of a thought. Just that tiny mind shift—When you own an Element, this is the sort of thing you do—made it reasonable and doable.
We see this with families all the time. When you grow up in a house of teachers, musicians, doctors, athletes, or jugglers, each of these things seem much more natural than if you didn’t. It’s easy to imagine, even if you decide it’s not right for you.
What’s out of one person’s comfort zone is the most common thing in the world for someone else. I’ve had friends take improv classes, which for me, is very difficult to imagine. For some, taking the class served that exact purpose; they wanted something that would make them uncomfortable and push them into new ways of thinking and interacting. For others, though, the class was just an extension of the performer and adventurer they are.
When we’re surrounded by supportive people who take chances, we’re much more likely to push our own boundaries of comfort. It helps to know that they’re cheering for you and refuse to see experiments as failures, regardless of the outcome.
Uncommon is proof of this. Time after time, many of us have stepped out of our comfort zone. We’ve told personal stories with honesty and vulnerability. We’ve contributed money and time to bring this unique community to life. We've walked into gatherings where we didn't know a soul. And it’s certainly not in most people’s comfort zone to talk on the phone for an hour with a group of strangers, yet people have gamely joined Table for Six conversations and absolutely loved it.
What’s funny is that these things aren’t in my comfort zone either! I do them because within this supportive community, it feels comfortable, even expected. I trust this community implicitly. I know people will be willing to try, tolerant of what might be undefined or unfinished, and find joy in the odd and unexpected.
Recently, a member found out she will soon be moving to a new country and asked if there are any Uncommoners in her adopted city. A few emails later, she was connected to delightful, friendly people eager to lend a hand however they could. At each step, we were all a bit out of our element. Within a community like ours, though, the whole thing was perfectly natural.
The latest dispatch asked, What's your favorite way to enjoy a sunset?
Last month I wrote a tool to automatically email me a daily personal sunset forecast. It draws a lot of cynicism from friends and coworkers, but it's completely changed my outlook on sunsets. Sure, if the forecast calls for an awesome sunset, I now make time to make sure I actually see it, but I find myself spending a lot more time thinking about what it is that makes a particular sunset awesome and whether I agree with the forecast. My wife is in on it too, so I'm now able to enjoy sunsets in the same way as all my other favorite things: by having a conversation about them with the people I care about the most.
Read the rest of the replies here, featuring a photo from Singapore, the pursuit of the perfect sunset photo, and other insights into the art of living.
A few members have also chosen sunsets as one of their 10 favorite things in the world. Enjoy these delightful stories, too, along with the beautiful icon we created.
If you're not a member yet, take a chance and join us. Uncommon is much more than an email in your inbox. We're a community of friendly, creative souls exploring ideas and finding inspiration in the uncommon we have in in common. There's a spot for you on the front porch.
When You Listen to Music, You’re Never Alone by Daniel A. Gross:
“I completely get it now,” Berube says. Silent disco turns a private experience into a public one. “You get in your own world and at the same time experience what you’re doing with a group. You’re in tune with yourself, and with everybody else.”
In California Desert, Father and Daughter Find the Sublime by Chris Colin:
It can be unsettling out here, Scott said: the aloneness, the sheer scale of the landscape. Of course that’s also the draw, and the feeling can be soothing.
When was the last time you were out of your element?