I ventured to a new McDonald’s the other day. It was lovely, truly lovely, but I didn’t stay. I wanted to sit alone and work from my laptop. Unfortunately, the seating was similar to that which I’ve encountered on my travels to Europe. There are one or two large tables, and only a few booths scattered along the edges. This is great for a family of 15 that would typically be unable to sit together, but it’s hard to imagine a construction crew wanting to lunch with a mom and her passel of kids. Most of us prefer to wallow in our personal space, and enjoy the semi privacy afforded by separate tables.
I’m relatively outgoing, and can pretty much start a conversation with any living soul, but I feel uncomfortable seating myself at a table that’s already occupied. When in Rome, I do as the Romans do, but once home, I fall into the safety net of familiarity.
Traveling has stretched me out of my comfort zone in many areas. Actually, “stretch” is a mild word. Sometimes, I feel more like a boxer getting knocked out of the ring. I find myself staggering back to the center, and then bam! I’m against the ropes again.
Once I had to take one of my children to a truly forlorn hospital in an underdeveloped country.
Another time, when I was seven months pregnant and had a 15 month old on my hip, I found myself navigating alone through a Nicaraguan airport.
And there was the time I was separated from wasband due to rioting in Central America. And while we were apart, I developed a blood clot in my arm.
Another time, the kids and I were caught up in a swelling crowd of rioting neo-Nazis in a train station in Berlin.
Then there was the time I found myself skidding headlong towards a sewage ditch. It seemed every Haitian in a 10-mile radius was laughing at the sight of my skirt over my head.
In Belize, I had to make a decision about whether or not to kill the tarantula blocking my path to the front door. On the one hand, there was a tarantula blocking my path. On the other hand, at home he’d be worth 40 bucks!
I have repeatedly made a fool of myself by attempting to communicate in languages I can’t speak.
I have dragged my children through jungles, foreign cities and scary neighborhoods.
I have eaten foods that, at one time, would have never crossed my lips.
I have been splattered with someone else’s blood, and had no way to wash for several hours.
I have driven cars across countries in which I could not read the road signs.
I have attended churches with worship practices that are completely unfamiliar to me, and occasionally involve live chickens.
I have been kissed on the mouth by a very old Lithuanian man whose beard was crusted with spittle.
I have chased critters of various sizes and species out of hotel rooms.
I have seen naked people going about their daily business.
On numerous occasions, I have been forced to face my severe amphibaphobia.
I have been in close proximity to illness and diseases that made me want to run to the other side of the earth, but I stayed. And prayed.
I have navigated a taxi stand, bus station, and an airport while alone in a country where the only language was Arabic. I don’t speak Arabic.
I have been screamed at by men who were hurling things at me, and had a glass bottle violently smashed against my legs because I am an American.
Time and again, I have been pushed, pulled, tugged, and towed outside of my comfort zone, but now, I am home. So, please, don’t ask me to sit with strangers at McDonald’s.

Ginger Lumpkin is an author, motivational speaker, and mother of five. Follow her on Facebook (Ginger Claremohr), find her on the web: www.gingeretta.com, or contact ginger.columnist@gmail.com.