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Emilee Nedoba

Venture Outside of Your Comfort Zone

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Getting outside of my comfort zone is something I feel I regularly do and I can honestly say, some of my coolest and most memorable life experiences have come from doing so!
This past April, I was traveling to Aspen, Colorado for some business meetings. My flight from Cedar Rapids to Denver was a breeze. The flight was on time and I didn’t run into any travel challenges. However, the next leg of travel from Denver to Aspen was entirely different. Some of you may remember hearing about the “Bomb Cyclone” snowstorm that hit Colorado and dropped several feet of snow along its tracks. Well as luck would have it, this was the day I was on my way to Aspen.
On Wednesday, April 10th, I boarded a small regional jet in route to Aspen and patiently waited along with the other passengers for the flight to take off. But shortly after boarding, our friendly pilot informed us over the intercom that our flight would be delayed due to poor landing visibility in Aspen. If you’re familiar with the Aspen airport, then you know that landing there is already challenging enough in good conditions due to the way the airport is sandwiched between the mountains (then pair this challenge with the frequent low hovering clouds). But, the pilot was confident that within a matter of time, the clouds would lift and we’d be on our way. This continued for roughly an hour and a half with him popping onto the intercom every 30 minutes to inform us we’d be taking off soon. Finally, the pilot informed us of the news we’d been dreading… our flight was canceled. Furthermore, ALL flights out of Denver were canceled for the remainder of the day due to this massive storm that was about to hit the area.
I immediately made my way over to the customer service counter to see what my options were. I wondered if there were any other airports I could fly into that were close-by to Aspen so if I needed to, I could drive the rest of the way to make my meetings. Sadly, I was informed that the earliest flight they could get me on was on Sunday. Keep in mind this was Wednesday and my meetings were slated to start the next day – so that clearly wasn’t an option.
While contemplating my next move, I overheard a gentleman behind me in line on the phone with his wife, explaining the situation to her as he was trying to make it back home to her in Aspen. I decided to introduce myself and asked for advice from a “local” on the best way to drive to Aspen. He assured me this was a frequent occurrence flying into Aspen during the winter months. I shared my situation with him and told him I had driven to Aspen from Denver before and was comfortable driving in winter conditions, but my primary concern was whether or not they’d close the interstate. He immediately looked up all the road closures for the state and noted that one of the major interstates I’d need to travel was closed. He explained that even those it was closed now, that they often re-open them after a period of time. If they didn’t, he knew of an alternate route that he could share with me that was 90 minutes out of the way – but could still get me up to Aspen.
After conversing for about five minutes, I told him I was planning on renting a car and driving to Aspen if he wanted to ride with. Mind you, this is a 3+ hour car trip and I’ve just asked a complete stranger if he’d like to hitch a ride. But, I knew I could help him and that he could help me navigate the back roads in the event that they didn’t reopen the interstate. He said he’s never hitched a ride before (nor have I) but he was eager to get back home to his wife and kids so he said, “Sure, this will be fun”!
In a hurry, we rented a car, grabbed our luggage, and headed off towards Aspen. Two complete strangers who had never met before, making the best of a situation and truly trusting one another to reach their final destination. It was a little over three and a half hours in the car and not once was the ride awkward. It was like we had known each other for years and the conversation flowed naturally the entire ride
Upon our arrival to Aspen, we thanked each other for making the trip and were in such a hurry to get about our day that we never exchanged contact information. So that night, I looked up the website for the company he works at and reached out to him via e-mail. I thanked him again for making the trip with me and shared that it was an experience I would not forget. He thanked me too and since then, we’ve reached out to one another a couple of times!
Because I left the security of my comfort zone, I gained a memorable life experience!