Finding comfort in discomfort: the surfcamp case | Mariam B.
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Finding comfort in discomfort: the surfcamp case

As far as I can remember, I have always had a complex relationship with socializing. Before that, I also had a complicated relationship with myself, but I think I managed to overcome this, through time…somehow. Maybe this is the reason why I like to challenge myself from time to time, or maybe I just like to spice up my life a little bit. I love travelling and I found out a few years ago that this combined really well with me trying to push myself to get out of my comfort zone, because at the same time I was doing something I love. So far, I haven’t once regretted my solo trips, nor had anything bad come out of it, so I keep doing it, every time I can.

Last year, I wanted to take a break in spring and booked a last minute trip to a surf camp in Spain. When I say last minute, I literally booked my flights and camp while running around at a punk festival in Belgium 3 days before.

…And so it begins

So here I am in the tiny village of Somo, in Cantabria (northern Spain), alone, trying to adjust to yet another supposedly uncomfortable situation. In the infinite panel of surf houses that the European Atlantic coast offers, I could have gone anywhere between France, Spain or Portugal, in some trendy and super well marketed and popular camps, but I chose the Wolfhouse; I can’t explain why exactly, except that I followed my instinct and that’s pretty much it. Remember I made this choice in the midst of a semi chaotic night at a festival so, you know, rationality must have been pretty low at that time.

The Wolfhouse surfcamp is more like a family house at a human size, where surfers and aficionados alike gather together and just live in good spirits and harmony. There’s nothing much to do in Somo, except going to the beach, surf, chill and relax at home, facing the mountains. Which is exactly what I like to do.

As a complete beginner in surfing, I picked a package that included surf lessons every morning, which was reassuring and actually taught me a lot. I had already surfed quite a few times before, but some things really clicked when I went out there with two of my housemates and our coach. A middle-aged man who surfed in Cantabria his whole life and now spends half of the year surfing in Peru. A real waterman who’s passionate about the ocean and transmitting his love and knowledge to the others. In Somo and Loredo, I learned about the currents for the first time but most importantly, I learned how to read the ocean and be comfortable in it. This also mean that I learned how to trust myself.

I love the feeling of being in the water because even though we went there as a group, I got to spend a lot of time with my own person in an unfamiliar environment, that I didn’t have control over and it’s hard to describe how therapeutic it can be. To me, it does the trick. In surfing, my success wasn’t standing up on my board at first but rather be at ease in the water, stop thinking too much and actually enjoying myself enough to have fun and let everything else happen naturally. It took me a couple days to achieve this but I eventually got there and it was already a victory to me.

Back to socializing then, my other big fear.
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In the house, I was alone the first day in the girls’ room, which gave me some time to familiarise with the location at my own pace. Apart from the owners, a very lovely couple (hey Alex and Camilla) a group of Italian friends (mostly guys) arrived the next day and were obviously immediately comfortable as if they were at their own place. From my understanding some of them already been there before and as Italians, they obviously felt at home, since basically everyone – including the owners – was Italian in the house. It was intimidating at first, but I’m good at foreign languages and I do understand Spanish. I’m not saying this is the same language but with a little effort, I could understand what conversations were about. I just couldn’t respond in the same language, so I spoke English and that was it.

Honestly everyone was super lovely and I couldn’t blame them for speaking their own language so I thought I had to make the effort to participate and be understood. I’m kind of an introvert and I’m shy so it took me a lot of effort and energy to do so, but I enjoyed spending time with the group and we actually had fun whether it was around a bbq, at the skatepark or during a book presentation. I even participated in a yoga class, which was conduced in Italian and I had zero trouble following, which I noticed kinda impressed my peers. I’m not trying to praise myself, but what I’m saying is that all these little efforts didn’t go unnoticed and contributed to make everyone at ease. There was the deal : I was different, but I was cool with it and overall avoided making things awkward. I shared a few meals and kitchen preps with the other guests, sometimes we went out skateboarding. Another solo traveler arrived later and we got along pretty well so we spent a lot of time together roaming around town, having a few drinks outside and long walks at the beach.

In the Wolfhouse I think I found the perfect balance between the down time I needed alone but also the human contact I was still craving and never managing to actually have in my everyday life because “real life” situations can be very overwhelming. There weren’t a lot of us in the house and it felt like home. I always felt safe and the home owners actually made me feel like I belonged there, I almost shed a tear the day they drove me back to the airport, along with a few other new friends I made there.

A year and a half later we’re still in touch via social media and they still manage to lift up my spirits. I believe the same goes with anyone who ever visited them, because they have this ability to bring their community together and spread love and positive vibes even from distance, which I find pretty amazing. I think the positive outcome of this week in Cantabria came from efforts on both ends combined, because I found a positive environment, which felt safe enough for me to be able to actually commit to learn how to push my own boundaries and leave my fears and insecurities behind.

I don’t think I’ll ever be able to completely win over these issues I’ve been struggling with since the day I was born. But I think I can live with it in a way that’s not going to harm me. In the words of the ever inspiring Myriah Rose Marquez, I am proud to say that I learned how to be “uncomfortably comfortable.”

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Further reading about solo travelling: “Aspire – Working My Way Through Freedom”

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