What can you gain as a leader from traveling more?
I meet many hard working leaders who do not travel much unless they have a specific business-related task tied to it. As if traveling was a luxury they do not deserve just yet.
Or they feel like it is just simply a waste of time for a busy person pursuing a large goal.
I believe that leaving travels for later disempowers leaders and holds them back from their full potential.
As traveling has been my No. 1 investment every year for the past 10 years, I decided to dig into that fact to understand why and share those findings with you to reflect.
Five Benefits of Traveling
Leaving behind business tasks such as market research or networking lets us focus on that difficult to measure value that is generated by travels. Below you can find the benefits of traveling through my eyes. Those benefits that make me happier and help me be more productive and helpful to others.
- Wider perspective – in our every day life we tend to stick to people who are like us. That gives us a false perspective of reality and may lead us to “first world problems” that diminish our empathy and happiness levels. While meeting random people in the streets, hostels or local bars around the globe I often realize what a different map of reality another person can have. That sheds a new light on my own priorities and challenges. Thanks to that I have become a minimalist and feel more pleasure in getting rid of material things than in buying them. That has also changed my motivation in business from making money to making a positive impact and having fun.
- Space for creativity – we often live each day under the pressure of tasks. That may develop our problem-solving muscle, but narrow our perspective. Maybe we spend a lot of time solving the wrong problems? Do we really know why we do what we do for 50-70-or-more hours a week? When I travel I let myself get bored and lazy. In that blank space great ideas tend to pop up. One time I realized that the constant feeling of anxiety just doesn’t have any purpose and should be ignored, as fear is supposed to be a useful tool to reflect on in very specific situations. Permanent fear mode has no meaning. That in itself was a huge relief.
- Practical inspiration – observing the role of food in the lives of people in Japan, listening to the majestic waterfalls of Iguazu roar or watching a storm that hits the waters of lake Victoria in Tanzania – broadens the library of ideas about the World. I found patterns and concepts that may become the source of value to some project in the future. Reading books while traveling and having time to underline and digest ideas (good examples from my trips are “The 4 Hour Work Week” by Tim Ferriss and “The Code of An Extraordinary Mind” by Vishen Lakhiani) is a value in itself. I observe differences and similarities to what I already know. Thanks to that I find new forms of behavior that work far away from home and can be tested when I get back. For example, customer service in restaurants and retails stores around the US has served as a huge inspiration for me in working with clients in Poland.
- Risk-taking muscle – taking that uncomfortable step against fear and deciding to go white water rafting or scuba diving for the first time. Eating street food from a dirty stall somewhere in Southeast Asia, sleeping in a tent in the middle of a plain, hearing animals sniffing around in the middle of the night, trying to find my way in Japan without a map and nobody speaking English. I love that feeling of discomfort that leads to satisfaction from self-reliance in problem solving. I believe this is how entrepreneurs develop their antifragility muscle. Once I have to make a difficult decision back home, such as killing a project I have been working on for a long time, when I see it’s not performing, I do it with no hesitation.
- Curiosity towards others – so much time and attention on being with other people in person not on social media. Just in one car, hostel or restaurant. Embracing cultural differences and understanding that a simple smile can mean something else to a person in the US than in China. To not get offended and try to understand. Walking down a trail. Talking about values. Developing empathy. I love traveling with my close ones because it is easier for me to focus 100% attention on others and really enjoy their company. That leads to better understanding of how people make decisions and what is important to them. This has helped develop one of my most important skills in designing business strategy.
Some inspirations to hit the road
Maybe you now feel convinced and you are looking for specific ideas that can inspire you to buy that ticket and take some time off from your daily routine. I keep a bucket list of places I want to visit. I check that list when I feel like going somewhere.
I made a list of six reasons to travel that I found in 2016. All these journeys have improved my happiness level and feeling of fulfillment. You can add traveling to such activities:
- Expanding hobbies (half-marathon in Rome and scuba diving with friends on Malta)
- Spending quality time with friends (a weekend in Istanbul and a road trip around New Zealand)
- Reconnecting with parents (a trip to Madrid)
- Cherishing time with my loved one (a road trip around the US, Canada and Mexico)
- Networking and researching new markets (speaking engagements in Oxford and Kiev)
- Improving skills through self-development programs (Swedish Institute Management Programme in Sweden and Latvia)
Ready to go? I am very curious about your perspective on the benefits, reasons and methods of making traveling a pleasant and enriching hobby. If you feel you are not traveling often enough – what is limiting you?
If you still hesitate, I encourage you to read “Vagabonding” by Rolf Potts. It has made me love traveling even more.
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