A lot has been said about the value travelling add to your life. Some say that it's therapeutic, changes your world view,makes you a better person, and that the money spent on travel is better than money in the bank.
Having travelled about a tenth of the planet thus far, and intending to cover most of it while I’m still kicking, I agree with most of what is said about travel. Travel, like any other experience in life, is sublime.But, it's what you take from your travels that matters more than what your travels have thrown at you. You could come back and complain about the back-breaking flight-hopping you put yourself through to save eight grand on your airfare, or you could return and still marvel at the sunrise you caught after trekking 14 hours to the top of Kilimanjaro.
As to what an entrepreneur can take away from travel, I would say,one heck of a lot. Travelling, like entrepreneurship, is challenging;its all about moving out of all things familiar, your comfort zone, and exploring newer horizons, facing previously insurmountable challenges and navigating one’s way through uncertainty.
Hardships, unexpected surprises, delays, financial challenges, communication issues, the whole nine yards ofproblemsare interchangeable between travelling and entrepreneurship.Therefore, lessons learnt on one realm can be applied to the other.
I could ramble on about various ways travel helps you as an entrepreneur but what I’d really like to focus on is a rather untouched-upon facet of travel’s contribution to one’s entrepreneurial journey:making an entrepreneur a better presenter.
Entrepreneurs today need to constantly put on face-paint, flash the most disarming smile from their repertoire and make presentations. Presentation to boards, VCs, media, employees, government departments and virtually anyone who has the remotest of interest in their business. Top-notch presentation skills are not optional anymore; one slip-up can cost you the next round of funding, a contract, media image, or result in a misunderstanding with the regulator.
I’m sure nobody travels to make better presentations, like nobody took aspirin to prevent a stroke, but both help in their respective unintended positive consequence. I haven't studied enough bio-chemistry to illustrate the secret of aspirin as an effective anti-coagulant, but have made enough presentations and travelled fairly well to decode the contribution of travel to your presentation skills, so here you go:
- Travel robs you of familiarity:Most of us are verbose in our familiar surroundings, the wittiest and most confident in our comfort zone. Presenting to an unknown set of people in unknown territory is where the most verbose often become like a deer caught in the headlight. When you travel often, you get used to constantly adjusting to different locale, cuisine, people and culture, and it brings the time taken to acclimatiselower every time, till one day it becomes second nature. You could be in and out of diverse meetings and presentations with Chameleonic ease, shifting gears as per your surroundings, and often leading the discourse with authority and ease.
- Travel forces you to be patient: When you travel often, you don't have a choice but to be patient. Flight delays, inordinately long hotel check-ins, language issues, incomprehensible food menus and bad service; all of these or some prey on your patient self, much like the irritating members of an audience to whom you are making your case. The seemingly dumb questions, vitriolic observations, constant interruptions can all usually make you lose your head. But when you travel enough you know you’ve got to wade through this maze and just take it with a pinch of salt without once losing sight of your goal and the purpose of why you are there.
- Travel makes you more observant: The human brain is lazy; it does the minimum required and relies on conditioning to determine response. When in familiar surroundings, we often slip into auto-response mode, where a set of stimuli evoke a set of responses. Not so in travel, where, with all its vagaries one needs to constantly align and realign patterns. You relearn and re-calibrate to decipher road signs, driving rules, eating etiquette and mode of communication. In a presentation, the speaker needs to be awake and observant to re-calibrate their pitch according to audience response. Travel often and see how it fastens your gear shift.
- Travel gives you a wider perspective: Of all things that travel does to your personality,what is the most beneficial takeaway is it widens the spectrum of your thought. It helps you draw co-relations, connect the dots, draw anecdotes from the shelves of your memory and use them to your advantage when engaging an audience. It is not a coincidence that the earliest of scholars were people who travelled to new frontiers. Names like Hsuan Tsang, Ibn-Batutaand Ptolemy are as integral to travel as they are to culture and shaping the world we live in today, for they were the earliest storytellers and presenters.
One could argue that a person could be a great presenter without travelling far and wide. You do not have to run out of passport pages or accumulate air miles to be an effective presenter; but one also doesn't just accumulate air miles when one travels. Try it, it won’t hurt.
About the Author
Upkar Sharma is the founder of Crea, a brand merchandising company. An avid reader, traveller and a autodidact, Upkar devotes two months a year to the endeavor learning newer disciplines. He uses his time on travel to absorb new locales, cuisines, cultures while unlearning and purging the "know all attitude" that we all are besieged by.
(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of YourStory.)