Starting a business while travelling. Photocredit: Transferwise

Why are so many ‘Founders’ seeking out travel?

There are a growing number of stories about ‘how I started a company while travelling 20 countries’ or ‘how to become a travelling entrepreneur’ but the question this raises in my opinion, is why are founders travelling so much? What is it that drives people to travel around the world, starting or running a business while they do it. I think the question that must first be raised is, what causes people to want to travel? Is there some higher calling that some are able to connect with that causes them to want to travel?

Many successful business owners are well travelled, but is it possible to directly link travelling, with the success of a person? There’s no argument that travelling allows people the opportunity to experience new cultures, to learn about other lifestyles around the world, and adapt quickly to changing environments, but does this in turn lead to a positive effect when starting a company? There are lots of case studies, and even success stories from ‘Digital Nomads’ from all around the world that have built a successful company while travelling or after returning, but what is it that gives them that extra motivation and the advantage over others?

The Digital Nomad

The term ‘digital nomad’ is something of a buzz word at the moment, but some define it as: ‘Individuals who leverage telecommunications technologies to perform their work duties, and more generally conduct their lifestyle in a nomadic manner.’ These tend to be people invested in companies that can be run digitally, allowing them the freedom to work while they travel, fundamentally rejecting the idea of being tied down in once place. Natalie Sisson, writer of the bestselling book ‘The Suitcase Entrepreneur’ talks about building companies while on the move; companies that are entirely digitally based, and that can be managed from anywhere in the world. Not only that but she lives by this philosophy, having travelled to over 65 countries across the world, while still running her own business. So what are the benefits of becoming a ‘digital nomad’ or travelling while starting your own business?

Benefits of travelling while starting a business

I’m going to start with a quote by Paul Fussel who said:

“Before the development of tourism, travel was conceived to be like study, and its fruits were considered to be the adornment of the mind and the formation of the judgment.”

Already made clear is one of the key benefits that can exist from travelling. While travelling around the world, you pick up all forms of education, through culture, through adaptation and more. However, there are also a number of other benefits that can be called upon when thinking about picking up sticks and travelling around the world.

Jay Meistrich, co-founder of Moo.do decided to sell everything he had, and ‘move into a 40-liter backpack’ to travel the world. There were a number of reasons that he did this, but one of the most surprising in my mind was because of the cost. Jay found that living in San Francisco would cost him on average around $4800 per month, with $2400 on housing alone. While travelling, his expenses per month were on average $2900, saving him nearly $2000 each and every month that he travelled. This meant for him, that it was more economically viable to travel around the world and build a company, than to try and build a company in San Francisco.

But these aren’t the only benefits that come from adopting a lifestyle of a nomad. Better productivity, learning and witnessing new cultures, and new opportunities are also benefits from moving around the world while starting a company. I’m sure that many of you will find that you’re most productive when travelling from A to B. Why is that? The answer largely comes down to the fact that there are fewer distractions. Being more productive when out of the house is a proven fact. However, there are drawbacks of travelling around the world while working on a business.

The downsides of becoming a ‘Digital Nomad’

Those that miss home, will find it much more difficult to become a digital nomad. The strings that you find yourself attached to, the culture that you are used to are all going to be very difficult things to shake. However, I would not rule yourself out at this point. Instead of assuming it’s not for you, try it first, and see if you’re able to get by and enjoy yourself.

There are of course negatives to becoming much more remote, with the lack of a ‘base’ being one. It’s more difficult for people to contact you, and you’re always going to be relying on technology. If you have difficulty finding connectivity, it will slow down your productivity. You constantly need to adapt and change according to your surroundings, which can be a tiring process. However, I think that a number of skills that you learn while travelling can be transferred to starting a company. Just living in a culture for a small amount of time gives you the opportunity to develop your own ideas, as well as how your customer fits these ideas.

How do the skills you learn transfer to a start-up?

One of the most important things that you will learn from disconnecting from your usual culture and lifestyle is that you can’t be dependent. Being able to rely on others is an important aspect of team building, but being able to adapt to new surroundings, and move away from a routine is equally as important when starting a business.

From my own experience, I was able to learn about where my product would sit in a new market, due to the cultural differences in a different country. The way that people live changes according to their culture. I found myself adapting to these changes, as well as becoming more confident, more rounded and more understanding of others. All of these are things that you need to have when starting a business. I also found myself becoming more interested in the way that people live and suffer from their day-to-day ‘problems’ and how I myself could perhaps solve these problems.

I found myself adapting my business to my customer, pivoting where necessary to really validate my business, and my target market. All the skills that I’d learned while living in a new city, with a different culture were suddenly transferrable to my own company. It may seem obvious, but just stepping outside of the ‘bubble’ that many live in will give you a new and fresh perspective on your ideas, as well as you as a person. It will allow you to focus on what you want to achieve, and how you aim to do it. Plus, if you can save money while doing it like Jay was able to, then there really is no excuse to not go out and see the world. In conclusion, the reason that we see more and more founders looking to travel comes down to the skills that many learn while travelling and living a life in a foreign culture. Trying to fit in becomes less and less of a focus, and learning about others will move up the list. As Jay Meistrich said:

‘Working in an office is a relic of the past’

Tom Charman (Co-Founder of Ember Club Ventures & Hidden Planet)

Follow me on Twitter (@CharmanTom)

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