Great Smoky Mountains, Parks

The single most underrated way to step out of your comfort zone while on vacation

When it comes to travel, almost everyone likes the idea of stepping out of their comfort zones. The mere act of leaving our normal routines, friends, homes and entering new environments has a beautiful way of shaking up our perspectives on ourselves, our lives, and the world.

Many of the best, most transformative travel experiences are direct products of the unfamiliar and unexpected: doing things we wouldn’t normally do, meeting people we wouldn’t ordinarily meet, and learning new perspectives that make us better versions of ourselves.

However, for most travelers, the actual process of stepping out of our comfort zones can be uncomfortable, or daunting or downright scary — step too far and we risk remembering a vacation for all the wrong reasons. As a result, we tend to revert back to the safest, most predictable plans, taking solace in knowing exactly what we’ll get.

This is why I’m an advocate of single decisions that make the process of stepping a little bit outside your comfort zone on your next vacation easy, automatic, and even fun! From years working with the most innovative vacation rental hosts in the world on the Vacation Rental Marketing Blog, my favorite single decision lies in the kind of accommodations in which you stay: instead of booking a traditional hotel, choosing the right vacation rental property opens many doors and facilitates all kinds of meaningful experiences.

Embedding one’s self in a residential neighborhood away from groups of tourists means meeting local culture in an entirely new way. And in this environment, we’re more likely to encounter delightful surprises and explore more of the unknown. No matter where you’re heading for your next vacation, choosing the right vacation rental can be that single choice that makes all the difference.

Here are four ways in which choosing the right vacation rental can make your next trip almost by default more adventuresome, interesting, and memorable.

1. Automatic Local Friends

Since most vacation rental operators live in the area and love it, they make for the ideal destination ambassadors and therefore the perfect local: friends. The best vacation rental hosts are able to recommend their favorite haunts, introduce guests to the right guides or contacts, and even let visitors in on insider secrets. One of my favorite anti-comfort zone moves is to invite your vacation rental host out for lunch to their favorite restaurant.: Use this chance to pick their brains, to help you organize your itinerary, or merely to get a lay of the land. Very few hotel concierges are able to offer this level of personal attention due to the size of the business — a vacation rental host is that all-too-valuable connector you can’t do without.

2. The Excuse to Be Curious

Staying in a vacation rental as opposed to a traditional hotel means everything is less formulaic and that is the best way to digest local culture. Instead of relying on room service or overpriced hotel taxis, I like to encourage travelers to wander out and use the excuse of being a new neighbor to ask questions! Where’s a great place for a lazy afternoon lunch? What’s the best way to get downtown? What’s it like to live here? Preface any of these questions with the fact that you’re only playing neighbor for the week and you’re bound to get a warm reception and sense of place.

3. The Fun of Dining In

Eating out on vacation every day can get expensive, if not downright exhausting. A vacation rental’s kitchen is the ideal alternative and amenity that breaks down comfort zone barriers because it encourages local grocery shopping excursions and the improvisation of putting together a meal of your own. If you’re looking for inspiration, try to replicate a popular local dish or seasonal specialty… experiment with something you’ve never made before. If you’re feeling fancy, ask your host about a private chef. And if you’re feeling lazy, order delivery and enjoy lounging around the ultimate comfort zone — the living room.

4. The Permission to Get Lost

At home when we’re in our typical routines, getting lost is frowned upon: it makes us late for work, embarrassed before friends, and disappointed in ourselves. But when traveling, getting lost is a virtue — a plus that leads to some of the best vacation memories. By choosing a professional vacation rental instead of a traditional hotel, we remove the compass and maps of structured tourism and embrace the idea of not knowing exactly where we are or where we are going. This is not an endorsement to put anyone’s life in danger — it is permission to enjoy the journey and not just the destination. It is a good reminder to relish the beauty of travel at its core, which is the consent to relinquish a bit of control and find your own way.

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