There’s no way that sitting in a cafe in Paris drinking a cafe au lait can help you start your own business, right? Well, it just might. Entrepreneurship requires many of the skills you can gain while traveling the world, and can help you bring back not only new perspectives on the problems and challenges of the places you visit, but an ability to collaborate, think independently, and believe in yourself that you didn’t have prior to hopping on a plane. So, before you hang out a shingle doing whatever you planned or dreamed of doing, consider traveling to both developed and undeveloped nations and exploring the issues that really matter first-hand. You might just develop entrepreneurial skills along the way.
Mark Twain said that “travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts.” Planning a trip and expanding your horizons is a privilege, but travel can also be seen as necessary to starting a new venture with a fresh mind, an expanded world view and improved managing and coping skills. When you are about to put yourself in the emotionally and probably financially vulnerable place of starting a new business, collaboration skills, confidence and even more ability to think on your feet gained while traveling can prove invaluable in the long run.
It is well documented that leaving your comfort zone and seeing new places can help you grow in so many ways – but most people don’t think about how this can relate back to their careers or help as they work on a start-up. Travel can not only be an indulgence but a teacher in the process of self-discovery as you plan your new business. From the moment you embark on a journey, you will need to be patient, accept wildly different cultures and manage your relationships with whatever travel companions are along for the ride. The experience can also change your relationship with material things and possibly even change or grow your business plan or intention.
Beyond changing your life and stretching you as a person, traveling can also enrich your professional life. You have perspective on life as a whole that you couldn’t have had before. It’s like looking at the Earth from the moon – you can’t imagine that way of looking at things until you see it for yourself. This helps with problem solving and dealing with things that come up at work and as you take charge of your own company. As challenges arise – which they will from the outset – you can think of something amazing you accomplished while traveling and understand that what you are facing is manageable.
Traveling before starting something new is therefore a way to make sure this is what you really want. You need time and space away from your daily life to actually accomplish this since you will be forced to shake up your usual routine and won’t be influenced by what’s at home. You may even realize there are basics of your new venture that you need to change or adapt that you hadn’t thought of before, or even jobs or careers you didn’t know existed that pull you in a different direction.
Travel can inspire you to learn to keep an open mind in all kinds of situations as well. If you don’t try new things, for example, you will miss out on local foods or experiences. Your newfound open mindedness can translate into an ability to accept difficult assignments and grow in how you approach your professional adventures. Maybe there’s a partner you hadn’t thought of approaching or a service your suddenly feel confident you can manage.
Another way travel can help in many aspects of life is the connection to other people you can find in the far reaches of the planet. Travel can show you hope in a unique way – since we are all more similar than we are different. Depending on where you travel, you may see very different ways of living and people of various socio-economic levels, but the ability to connect with people and find a way to relate to them no matter what their circumstances are can be invaluable in any professional setting.
Setting boundaries and knowing your limits is also crucial to master when traveling as well before you start a new venture. In a new environment or a different social setting you have to trust your instincts and go with them. It can even be important to your health and wellbeing to know when it’s time to leave and when it’s time to say no.
Perspective on the U.S. business culture can also help with stress management. Other parts of the world place more value on relaxation, family meals and time to rest, while still producing amazing products and services. When you put your professional reputation on the line for your business you also have to understand that sacrificing yourself will not help you succeed. Yes, hard work and long hours will be part of whatever you decide to do, but knowing when to go home and take care of yourself is also essential. Incorporating this balance is always a challenge, but one that can be better met through knowing what else is out there.
Appreciation for and understanding of how other cultures not only relax but do business can also come from traveling. This will come in handy if you plan to do business outside the country as manners and customs can be very different from what is expected here. We live in an increasingly globalized world and a consciousness of other cultures can be helpful for both you and your clients.
If you travel for any length of time or stay in one place, you may also be inspired to learn a new language. The need for bilingual employees is only growing and if you plan to work internationally with your new business and learn a language, it will not only be appreciated but you won’t have to hire a translator.
Curiosity about the world can also lead to being an active learner and someone who is always willing to shape and adapt on the fly. Trains run late, flights get cancelled, and you have to work with change, ask questions and in some cases start the journey again. This will also be true as you launch your new business. You will have a plan, you will be executing on that plan and then poof, something will happen and upend all your expectations, and you need to be ready. Rigid management doesn’t make long-lasting businesses.
While you may hear from friends and advisors that travel is only for the wealthy or a waste of time when you could be working on starting your business, there’s so much evidence to the contrary. There are lots of ways to travel inexpensively and employers and customers actually value someone who has travelled, recognizing that means you are adventurous and adaptable, curious and confident.
Who knows, you may come back not only ready to tackle the business you planned, but with ideas about how to make it better and perhaps maybe even a new business plan altogether. You’ll feel refreshed and ready to go, and no matter what happens with your new venture, you’ll be more resilient when things you aren’t expecting happen. Not only that, but you’ll have stories to tell anyone you meet along the way.