It is often argued that travelling is the least productive passion to pursue, a waste of time and money, and nothing good actually comes from splurging on gallivanting the world. Some also insist that travel doesn’t really teach you anything you couldn’t have learned by yourself!
You can understand how such articles usually receive a lot of flak from the readers online. These might not be widely accepted or popular opinions, but it’s always good to encourage such discussions because they make you think. Do you think travelling is a waste of time? Has travelling not taught you anything?
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As a travel blogger and media entrepreneur myself, I feel more at ease writing about this subject than any other, primarily because travelling is what turned me into an entrepreneur in the first place! Being a traveller is so much more than just moving from one place to another. You’re getting out of your comfort zone, facing your fears, embracing new cultures, meeting interesting (most of the time) people from across the world, signing up for new experiences, and taking on new challenges! You absorb something from every experience, whether good or bad, and all of it becomes a part of you. Soon enough, you realise, you’re not the same person as before. You have changed. You have grown. And travelling has been the catalyst for this change!
Travelling, whether for a short period of time or long, exposes you to experiences that make you a stronger, more independent person. This growth happens over a period of time, gradually leaving you with certain leadership skills and qualities, which you can apply back to your work-environment and be a better resource to your company. Here are a few of them:
Travelling and meeting new, different, interesting, and challenging people over the years can make you a peoples’ person. You learn to communicate not just with words, but also with body language and gestures. You become curious to meet people, to hear their stories, to know more about their culture and lifestyle. This will make you a better communicator and listener – both highly essential traits, not just for being a good team leader, but in every aspect of life.
As a traveller in a foreign land, you often face several problems, problems you aren’t prepared for. Right from locals who don’t understand your language, to officials who’re waiting for you to put one foot out of the line, you have to learn to be quick on your feet. To not waste any time crying over the situation, but instantly get to working out a solution. To adapt quickly, and try solving the situation at hand in the best way possible! Similarly, as a leader, you have to handle not only your clients, but also your entire team. Problem solving and troubleshooting is, in fact, one of the biggest responsibilities under your profile. Being quick and responsive can be a handy trick to have up your sleeve.
A traveller has to learn to be vocal about how he’s feeling, especially if he doesn’t want to be taken for a ride by opportunistic looneys. You have to put your foot down and get things done but also keep in mind that you can’t be rude or offensive to the locals. As you travel more, you become more adept at resourcefulness, or as we Indians call it ‘jugaad’. This is a great life lesson. Learning to be assertive, to negotiate without being insensitive, to bargain, even – are all qualities valued in an ideal team leader!
You lost your way in a strange town at midnight with nowhere to go. You were chased by mischievous monkeys who kept trying to snatch your camera away. You lost your wallet on the subway, it had your passport, and you have to find a way to get back to your country. Travellers face so many challenges regularly that they become practically trained for any surprises life throws at you. As a leader who is working in a competitive, challenging and constantly changing work environment, staying strong under pressure is a great asset to behold.
Every traveller starts off as a nervous, overly-cautious newbie. But as you move ahead, and the more challenges you face, you start becoming more comfortable and relaxed. You realise you can’t have fun until you’re ready to take risks and be a little adventurous. Apply this very rule to your working and leadership style, and you’ve got a winner in the house!
You’d have been out there in the real world. You’d have seen a lot and tried understanding the reasons behind them. To a large extent, you’d have learned to not judge people by appearances, no one knows the real story until they do. Most importantly, you’d have allowed your mind to accept the unknown, embrace the strange, and befriend the eccentric.
When you put this open-mindedness into practice at your workplace, you will be open for discussions and debates, you will not criticise but educate and train, you will accept crazy ideas and make space for creativity to flow freely. These are admirable leadership qualities that one should always treasure!
Being a leader is tough. But you can’t go blaming yourself for things that don’t work out. You have to accept that not everything can go your way at every time! Travelling teaches you how to detach from situations out of your control and when to let go of things out of your reach!
A leader is only as good as the team he’s leading. A lot of being a good leader is about being a good companion to your team members. When you stop seeing them as employees who are paid to work under you, you begin to associate with them at a more humane level. And once they notice this, they allow themselves to accept your lead. This approval for mutual understanding and symbiosis is what you should aim for. After all, striving to be a better person is essentially the core of every good thing travelling teaches you!
So, when’s the next vacation?