A lot of people think of travel only as a vacation. Just a break in a their routine, where they're not gaining any skills but just indulging. While travel can definitely be only a much needed break, it also is a tremendous learning experience where you gain lots of skills useful in your life and career. Here are 5 ways in which travel can make you more successful.
1. Travel makes you more adaptable. No matter how well you plan out every last detail of your trip, something will go awry. Trains get missed by only a minute, flights get delayed and connections get missed, museums are closed the one day you're in town; and you're going to have to roll with it. Being able to quickly adapt to a situation and make a new plan is something that happens constantly when you're traveling, and also in your job. Deadlines get missed, clients change their minds and presentations get rescheduled. Being able to switch gears and adapt quickly to the new reality will prove incredibly useful.
2. Travel teaches you to make realistic budgets. No feeling is worse while traveling than knowing you're spending money you don't have. It creates anxiety and keeps you from being in the moment and enjoying yourself. Instead of putting a trip on a credit card (never!), learn to plan a realistic budget, and save the money you need. Being good at making a realistic budget includes being honest with yourself about your earning, your spending and knowing the experience you want. If you are running your own business or working as part of a team, budgets will be a part of your job in some capacity, and knowing how to make them and work within them is a valuable skill.
3. Travel forces you to ask for help. Standing in the middle of Grand Central Station, staring up at the departures board, and being totally clueless about what train you need or which platform to go to can be terrifying and you can't fake your way out of it. You need to find an information station, or ask a total stranger for help. Both of those options may seem scary, but not as scary as getting on the wrong train. In work, people are often afraid to ask for help, for fear that it will make them seem stupid or unqualified. It doesn't, asking for help when you need it shows you're self aware, and don't want to waste time.
4. Travel helps you understand personal differences. When traveling, you must be respectful of the culture and a gracious guest to the people of that country. You don't have to like it, you don't have to understand it, but you do have to be sensitive to it, respectful of it and act appropriately. In Italy I covered my shoulders with a scarf before entering any church, and in Istanbul I covered my head with a scarf before entering any mosque. Being able to keep your personal beliefs and opinions in check while being respectful is also important in your career. It helps you keep in perspective that other people are coming from a completely different set of experiences than you are. You may not agree with them, but you can still be respectful of them, hear them out, and work together.
5. Travel encourages you to take more risks. In 1998, on a boat off the coast of Capri, I jumped into the water and swam through the green grotto. The same person who (at home) was so uncomfortable in water she didn't even like driving over a bridge. I remember thinking, "Who is this Kristin? I like her!" There's something electric about being someplace you've never been before, with all your senses heightened. Everything is new and you need to be focused. Without your usual routine, habits, and hangups (not to mention your usual cast of characters), things suddenly seem a lot less risky. Knowing you may never have this chance again, makes it easier to take that chance. If you can tap into that at home, being willing to take risks will make you better at your job and further your career. Taking risks makes you more creative, a better collaborator and better at pushing toward your next goal.
What skills have you gained from traveling? Have you put them to work in your job?