What entrepreneurs can learn from travel.

Six years after I started a company, travel remains by far the most valuable investment. Here´s what I learnt about entrepreneurship through travel throughout Asia, Australia, South America and Europe.

  1. Have a vision, but don´t plan too much.

Travel has taught me the value in establishing a clear vision, but being flexible as to how it happens.

After my experience of planning too much vs not planning at all both in business projects and in travel plans, I´ve found the most effective solution for both is to:

  1. Establish a vision (what you want to achieve and have a few vague ideas of how to do it).
  2. Do enough research for you to take the first few steps.
  3. Get started.
  4. Self-correct along the way.

If you do this in travel and in business, you allow yourself to adapt based on who you meet, mistakes you make and new situations that arise. You become light and lean.

You´re able to apply lessons on the go, rather than trying to plan everything out in advance based on hypothetical situations.

In my view, great things happen if you let the experience guide you.

2. Talk to people and truly listen.

The experiences that help you grow happen when you get uncomfortable and reach out to people.

They happen when you strike up a conversation with the stranger on the bus from the airport. You learn about hidden lane-way bars, cool people to meet and dishes to try. You often make a new friend.

Once I realised how interesting and rewarding these interactions were, it was like a lightening bolt to my personality.

You can´t help but become more bold in other areas of life.

It taught me the value in proactively meeting people and to truly listen to them. I started truly listening to our customers, suppliers and sought out new opportunities constantly.

I realised it´s too easy to focus internally on our products, which leads to risky assumptions and almost guaranteed failure.

3. Have fun.

If you paid thousands of dollars for a holiday and something wasn´t right, you would do what you can to fix it so you can start having fun again, right?

Whether it be your hostel, your flight or your hire car, why would you sacrifice a fun experience if you knew you could change something? It´s a no-brainer.

So why do we sacrifice fun so much when it comes to our work?

I think it may be because time is harder to quantify in our minds than money. In reality though, time is an infinitely more valuable resource than money.

This might not be true for all entrepreneurs, but at some point in my role as managing director of a media company, the fun I was having when we started the company was replaced with anxiety about its growth. Cash flow and sales were guiding my decisions about the future, instead of the reason I started the company. This wasn´t how I wanted it to continue.

Travel reminded me that if I´m not enjoying my job, something needs to change.

4. Fall in love.

I saw an interview with Jerry Seinfeld and he mentioned this. This doesn´t refer to love in the romantic sense. It´s more to do with stopping to take a moment to appreciate the beauty of the world and how we interact with it.

Did you have a great meal?
Stop. Just reflect on that… it´s not always good. It could have been terrible, but it was delicious!

How good was your coffee this morning? How much better was it than that vomit-worthy coffee you had last month?

I think travel helps to put you in situations where you are forced to take notice of how others appreciate their own interaction with the world, and you can´t help but gain perspective.

It shines a light on how people with very little appreciate so much.

For entrepreneurs, it brings our sometimes scattered minds back to earth, and reminds us that the world is a beautiful place already, and although we are trying to make it better, it´s important to live in the moment and appreciate how good we have it.