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Travel Lessons

June 30, 2016

by Jeanine Izzo

Bhutan Girls

When I was ten years old, I went on my first plane ride.  The fact that my parents weren’t with me and it was a seven hour flight to Paris still bubbles up the gratitude I have for my parents enrolling me in the French/American exchange program.  My Mom was, and still is, Chief Worry Wart and my Dad…Mr. Tough Love (and a hidden softie), hence I’m still surprised that they let me go of their own volition.  All these years  later, the memories are still among my most vivid.  No doubt, this initial trip sparked my love of culture and travel.

For many years, I enjoyed my trips at face value…being away from home, seeing new sights, hearing new sounds, eating strange foods, meeting interesting people, finding inspiration, adrenaline, adventure.  Eventually, it became clear that the benefits of travel were much deeper than just being away from my norm for a week or two.  The experiences were altering my perspective in a way that led to more fulfillment in my personal life and more success professionally.  Thus far, I have jotted down over thirty lessons that I have learned about life through travel (perhaps a future book), below are eight that provided enhanced growth in my leadership abilities.

Change elevations to widen (or zoom in) your perspective.  Activities like sky diving, hiking mountains and scuba diving led me to this lesson.  You don’t know what is within your sight lines from different positions until you take the time to experience, or at least seek more knowledge about the differences.  Ask questions to Senior Staff, request to sit in on meetings, spend time on the manufacturing line or listening in on customer service calls.  (click here for a previous article on perspectives)

Increase curiosity to reduce judgment.  When I’m in other countries, I’ve discovered that I am automatically less judgmental.  I assume behaviors that in the states would aggravate me are cultural norms and I seek to understand before my blood pressure rises (usually).  Recognizing this less draining approach while away, helps me give others more of the benefit of the doubt when on home turf.

Stay calm in the face of uncertainty.  It wasn’t until the tiny plane that dropped us off along the side of the small grass runway took off again that we (my two traveling companions and myself) realized we were the only three people around.  On the outskirts of the Costa Rican jungle with a small thatched umbrella (a palapa) in place of an airport building, we weren’t sure what was to come.  It turned out to be an adventure that none of us could have imagined (nor would we have signed up for it if the details were fully disclosed up front) and we wouldn’t take back a single second…well maybe the ice cold trickle of a shower.  Nah…not even that.  Afterward, I was able to lead my team through unclear requirements, vendor contract breeches and other risk occurrences much more effectively.

Right size your plan.  Even when my goal was to travel without advance bookings in Southeast Asia, I still had a quasi plan.  I knew if I would be able to find Internet cafes and the availability of lodging and a sense of what it would be like to be a female traveling alone.  On other trips, a much more detailed plan was in order.  These experiences helped me ditch a one size fits all approach to workplace initiatives and instead find what would work best for the task at hand.  Planning goes hand in hand with the next lesson.

Flexibility can lead to enhanced experiences.  I extended my stay in Sorrento, Italy and Budapest, Hungary, moved out early in other places, and changed up my itinerary in East Africa to avoid political riots.  Don’t stay on a path or in a place just because that was the plan.  Proper planning leads to flexibility and being flexible, when you can, reduces stress and increases the chances for elevated results.

Distinguish between being able to figure it out on your own vs. needing to ask for help.  Yes, there is pride in being able to accomplish something on your own…and there are also advantages to asking for help.  While traveling, I spend a lot of time wandering to find places on my own.  Sometimes, I find interesting places along the way and sometimes I get caught in sketchy places after dark.  Asking for help from locals or other travelers, at least occasionally, can enrich the experience and shorten the learning curve…just like in the workplace.

Communication goes beyond verbal skills.  When two people don’t speak the same language…a lot can be communicated through props, gestures, intonation, context and desire.  In turn, when two people speak the same language…a lot can be missed.  Being exposed to foreign languages has trained my brain to look for the clues beyond words, to listen with more intent, and to confirm delivery of the message.

Struggles have a purpose.  When we’re in the thick of struggles it’s difficult to identify the reasoning, however when I’m traveling and I experience frustrations or delays, discomforts or unsavory sights they pass much more quickly than those on the home front.  Seeing this cycle of struggle and victory in a shortened way made me realize that those longer, home-grown struggles will also pass…and I will be stronger as a result of my ability to move through the tough times.

Below are some of my additional lesson descriptors to entice you to get out there and see what you can learn about leadership and life through new experiences.

  • Be overzealous
  • Go out in the rain
  • Into the depths, we rise
  • When things get choppy, look at the horizon
  • Illumination can happen in strange places

Forward Moving Tips:

  1. Take time away from work and from home to recharge and ignite your spark.
  2. While away, just be where you are.  No need to over think or search for the deeper meaning.
  3. Let the lessons come to you naturally while you are traveling and/or by reflecting at a later time.
  4. Realize that there is no time limit to discover your lessons and purpose for certain events.

In closing, I offer one more lesson.  Learn from those that have gone before you, yet never assume your experience will be the same as theirs.

For assistance with moving forward with more focus, confidence and success along your journey,  Contact Viage Partners today.

© Viage Partners 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Viage Partners with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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