The month of February was the travel period at Discover Year – a time when our students were given complete freedom to travel anywhere they wanted, as long as they chose a destination that piqued their curiosity and would expose them to places, people and situations that would teach them something new.

When we asked our students why and how they chose their destinations, Sarah, who travelled to Portugal for 3 weeks, told us: “I've never been outside of Canada, so I wanted to go out of comfort zone. It seemed to be different enough while still being relatively safe. I find the difference in culture very interesting.”

Stepping outside your comfort zone is a key component of Discover Year.

Whether it’s networking with mentors and coaches involved in the program, speaking in front of a crowd of strangers, or sharing their innermost feelings with their peers, our students are continuously encouraged to step outside their comfort zones to learn more about themselves, the people they surround themselves with, and the world around them.

One of the most extraordinary parts of witnessing students step outside their comfort zone is that it will never look the same for any two people. For some of our students, stepping outside their comfort zone will involve giving a speech to a room of over 100 people. For others, it will simply involve sharing their opinion with a group of eight other students – and that’s completely fine. At Discover Year, there is no benchmark for success, and we don’t enforce guidelines about what students must do to “step outside their comfort zone.” This is up to them to discover.

With this said, for many of our students (if not all of them), the February travel month is one of the most profound, exhilarating and terrifying periods of their Discover Year. During this time, students stretch their skills and experience, and find themselves in entirely new environments that they’re completely unfamiliar with.

This is especially true of this year’s cohort. With students travelling to destinations as far as Japan, South Africa, Costa Rica, New Zealand, Vietnam, France, and Argentina, Discover Year has been well represented around the world throughout the month of February. Other students have opted to stay closer to home and explore the great white North, travelling to provinces such as British Columbia and Newfoundland to embark on their own Canadian adventures.

When we asked our students about their main concerns and worries about their travels, we received a wide range of responses. For example, Hannah, who is travelling to Europe for 6 weeks, told us she is worried about “being away from home for that amount of time.” Laura – who also toured Europe – expressed her fears about not knowing the local languages, and the possibility of missing a plane or train and not knowing what to do. Or Nik, who told us: “I'm a bit nervous about getting injured. We're planning to rent scooters in Vietnam and traffic can be a bit scary over there.” Being aware of the realities of the cultures, languages and landscapes we visit is incredibly important, and approaching any new adventure with cautionary awareness and an open mind are the keys to a successful journey.

Regardless of our students’ final destinations, many identified “the unknown” as one of their main fears – the unknown events that what will unfold, the unknown people they will meet, and the unknown situations they will find themselves in. And that is totally okay! Each and every one of our students will face challenges they’ve never experienced before during their travel period: travelling alone; navigating their way through a foreign city; communicating with others whose mother tongue may be different than their own; wrapping their heads around daunting local transportation systems; and many more.

It is completely normal to feel worried about the unknown. No amount of planning or research can prevent lost luggage, flight cancellations, car breakdowns or bus delays, and this is exactly why stepping outside your comfort zone is the very first step of travelling. However, rather than fearing the unknown, we encourage students to adopt a “learner’s” mindset. We encourage them to accept that we all face new challenges while travelling, but rather than letting these unknown challenges prevent us from having a life-changing experience, we must find ways to adapt to our new environments in order to overcome these challenges.

When our students do this, they quickly realize that the most magical and memorable moments of travel come from “the unknown” – like finding an amazing restaurant after taking a wrong turn down an “unknown” street; or meeting friendly locals after hopping on a “unknown” city bus; or making life-long friends with “unknown” fellow travelers in a foreign hostel. By the end of their Discover Year, our students leave with a deep sense of confidence in facing the unknown, and their ability to navigate the challenges that lie ahead effectively.

In “the unknown” lies beauty, adventure, and memories galore – and we can’t wait to hear about what the unknown has brought our students.