Episode 0036

Travel Out of Your Comfort Zone!

Hi. I’m Lori Imsdahl, a writer from Minneapolis, Minnesota.

I became interested in places as a child. My parents prioritized travel — forgoing cable TV, a second car, and a larger house — in order to take my sisters and me on road trips across the continental United States.

My desire to see new places prompted me to enter the United States Military Academy at West Point. After graduating, I served for five years as an Army officer. While on active duty, I deployed to Afghanistan for fifteen months.

For me, Afghanistan was a pivotal place.

Afghanistan solidified my commitment to public service. Afghanistan gave me a greater appreciation for my material comforts and democratic freedoms. Afghanistan captivated me with her beauty. Afghanistan inspired me to get outside my comfort zone and try to understand the people within places.

At night in Afghanistan, I pored over Lonely Planet guidebooks. I bookmarked cities and began putting money into a travel fund. In 2010, after completing my Army obligation, I embarked upon a five-month backpacking trip through Asia, Africa, and Europe.

In 2013 I returned to my hometown of Minneapolis. Being home taught me that the act of "travel" is a mindset (a mindset steeped in curiosity and a willingness to get outside one's comfort zone), rather than a movement to a geographical destination. You do not need to spend thousands of dollars and fly thousands of miles to travel. Rather, travel can happen every day in your own community, anytime you visit a neighborhood you don't normally visit or talk to a person you don't normally talk to.

In Minneapolis, I work as a communication specialist for a local public health department. Through my job, I've been privileged to interview hundreds of people who are experiencing issues like homelessness, chemical dependency, mental illness, and chronic physical disease. Through listening to and writing these peoples' powerful stories, I feel like I've experienced a lifetime of "travel" experiences. Many of these stories are found on Healthy You, Healthy Hennepin (healthyhennepin.org), Hennepin County's online public health magazine.

Since returning to Minnesota I've also launched a personal website (loriimsdahl.com or pivotalplaces.com). The site is primarily focused on place-based writing.

Whether it's done personally or professionally, I believe that place-based writing can be a form of public service, a way to break barriers and promote understanding. In this way, a place (whether it's an international place, a local place, or even a psychological place) becomes pivotal, for it has altered our perception of the world. This is why I chose to name my site pivotal places.