Turn Routine Travel into Exciting Story Telling

Stunning Ellora Caves outside Pune, India

In the consulting profession, I get the opportunity to see some amazing places as I meet with clients and IBM teams from around the world. When I first started traveling, I would do the same routine of… airport -> hotel -> client site -> hotel -> client site -> airport. Occasionally, I would go to dinner with an IBM team at the hotel restaurant after a client presentation before calling it a night.

… then I discovered TripAdvisor with its underlying philosophy of exploration and discovery. I assume most of you are familiar with the site but for those who are not, it’s a site/app where you go when traveling to a new, unfamiliar city and want to learn more about where to stay, places to eat, and things to do. You would enter the city/state/country you’re going to and from there get a community based ranking by others on the quality of food, service, sights, hotel accommodations, hipness factor, uniqueness, etc. Besides very rarely steering me wrong, when I contribute updates, I create a history of places I’ve been while earning digital badges — and who doesn’t like that?!

So what does this have to do with business? Great question! There are a few:

  1. You have a new story to share with others. With every new experience, there is a story. After awhile, retelling co-workers about how you love the fact that there is free hazelnut coffee at Hampton Inn gets old. But how about that unique bistro restaurant in Cleveland where one of your clients had a wedding rehearsal dinner, the Japanese Tea Garden in San Antonio that was built from quarry rock and has a rich history, or the fact that the last time you were in Death Valley it snowed — true story! No one laughs or bonds over hazelnut coffee (and this is coming from a guy who likes the stuff), but people do bond with others who can teach them something new and when someone has a positive attitude toward life and all that it has to offer.
  2. You can appreciate and embrace a city’s uniqueness. A general rule I follow is to stay away from chain restaurants in a city. Every city has local attractions and things to offer, from large city Broadway plays to small town antique shops, to mid-size town sporting events and running paths. What’s also fun about taking this attitude is that when I plan to go to a new city, I tend to make my way over to Wikipedia and other sites to learn more about the city I’m visiting to appreciate its history. I would encourage you to experience anything new that you cannot get at home, and sneak one of your adventures into a client meeting to show how you’re a complex, layered individual behind those pretty PowerPoint slides.
  3. You support local companies and communities. Another benefit of appreciating a town’s uniqueness is to support local restaurants, attractions, shops, etc. I’m a fan of Hilton properties so probably I fall short here except when traveling for fun and then I tend to favor bed & breakfast establishments. Just a few weeks ago, I traveled to two new cities for work, and both times I went to local restaurants for breakfast and dinner inviting client and IBM teams; I picked one restaurant from TripAdvisor and asked the client to pick the other, and both times I was not disappointed. You’re starting to see a pattern here: each new place you go to leads to a story that can be shared, ranging from a movie star sighting (good) to spilling french onion soup all over yourself (bad). But if I’m spilling soup, I would rather do it at Rosie’s Pub so us “locals” could have a good laugh, and hopefully spare some clean napkins.

I encourage you to sign up for TripAdvisor and make a monthly goal to: 1) try 2 to 3 new restaurants, 2) see at least one new site/attraction, and 3) break up your same travel pattern every couple of months and stay at a new hotel, even if it’s a short drive away in another town. Each of these experiences creates a personal story unique to you and that can be easily shared. For example, by talking about a new restaurant you want to try before or after a client meeting, you may agree on going together to this restaurant and through conversation you find out that this was the place that one of your clients went to with her parents to celebrate her acceptance into Indiana University’s business school; “Wait, you went to IU? So did I! Do you remember…”. And the storytelling and relationship development begins. We have an exciting world with lots to do and see. Be a person of exciting adventure, not one of boring Hazelnut.

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Originally published at https://www.linkedin.com on May 25, 2017.