by Annette Bridges. © 2007. All rights reserved.

My husband and I finally did it. We finally went somewhere other than Disney World or the beach. All through our daughter’s growing-up years, other than the occasional venturing elsewhere, we’ve spent family vacations going to the places our daughter and we loved most.

Routines are easy to fall into. We can be trapped by them. Many people have a tendency to do the same things every day, day in and day out. We get up, go to work, come home, fix dinner, eat, do chores, watch television, and so forth. By the end of the day, we’re so tired that we go to bed, only to begin our routine again the next day. Yet we feel comfortable traveling within our own little comfort zone, surrounding ourselves with what is familiar.

I hadn’t realized that our vacations had become routine — like the rest of our life. That is, until now. I’m writing this column while my husband is out fly-fishing with a friend who recently moved to Oregon. Fly-fishing is something he has never experienced before. Earlier today, I went on an hour-and-a-half hike by myself, something I’ve never done — until this trip.

In fact, our entire vacation has been filled with experiences and activities we’ve never done before or imagined doing. We’ve crossed mountains, traversed canyons and hiked trails. We’ve seen the deepest lake, crossed the highest bridge, visited the largest sea cave, seen the most photographed lighthouse, the tallest waterfall, the oldest and biggest trees, and we’ve traveled the windiest roads, rockiest coastline and the highest and most narrow road of our lives to date.

Phrases like “branch out” and “stretch yourself” suddenly have fresh meaning. Lyrics written by Tim Rice to Elton John’s famous song “Circle of Life” also have new meaning for me: “There’s more to see than can ever be seen, more to do than can ever be done, more to find than can ever be found.” Doing things I never thought I could or would has me hungry to experience more.

There’s a valuable lesson to be learned when hiking the longest trail you’ve ever hiked. I finally understand that it truly isn’t as much about the destination as it is the journey. Although the destination may be worthy and of value, the journey is even more incredible and fulfilling in and of itself. Each moment walking the trail included inspiring vistas and discoveries I would not have wanted to miss, even if I had never reached the trail’s end.

Comfort zones are self-created and imposed. In designing these comfortable and reliable pathways, we tend to limit our possibility and potential for new experiences.

Stretching is powerful, healing and transforming. The Lord told Moses to “stretch out thy hand over the sea” and the waters parted (Exodus 14:16). Jesus told the man with the withered hand to “stretch forth thine hand,” and his hand was restored whole as his other (Matthew 12:13). This vacation has stretched my view of myself from a woman of limited abilities to a woman of God’s creating with infinite abilities and potential.

Being willing to challenge myself to move out of my familiar beliefs and to fearlessly approach new opportunities has resulted in a broadened concept for the rest of my life. My horizon has indeed been expanded, the place of my tent enlarged (Isaiah 54:2). I welcome more new possibilities, discoveries and adventures into my life journey. Yes, I have put on a fresh lens for viewing what I can and could do that is untouched, undimmed and unimpressed by any beliefs and opinions about age.

Are you trying to find a way out of a mundane routine? Do you feel stuck in a rut and can’t figure out what is holding you back?

Branch out and stretch yourself by doing something — anything — you wouldn’t ordinarily do. I guarantee you will be glad you did and will not be disappointed. It’s just that simple! Every time you stretch, you enlarge your comfort zone to include more of the great big world out there waiting to be explored, and you let go of old, limiting beliefs that have been holding you back from seeing your infinite potential.